CATCH 21: A Potential Hit for GSN!

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CATCH 21: A Potential Hit for GSN!

Recently wrapped as of yesterday, GSN just may have a new original hit game show on their hands. We’ll know better once it airs starting July 21st! The show is called “Catch 21”. HOLLYWOOD JUNKET was on the set for two full weeks of taping, and a sure sign is, crew members could be seen and heard playing along. The last time I witnessed such an event on a game show was during the first pilot of “Deal or No Deal”.

The show is very low budget and has a nostalgic 1980’s game show look and feel to it.

Actor, Alfonso Ribeiro makes a great host on “Catch 21”.


“Catch 21” is hosted by ex-“Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” co-star Alfonso Ribeiro who is a great host for this show. He has great energy, and just as much fun as the game show itself. His co-host is equally well casted, Mikki Padilla who fits the Las Vegas show-girl/dealer perfectly.

In between takes. Mikki Padilla (far right) deals cards behind her podium.


About the game. It’s simple enough, yet addicting. Three contestants are pitted against each other in this Black Jack style game. The object of the game is to reach a hand that is 21 or as close to that as possible without going over and keeping the highest number among the contestants. Each contestant is dealt a card as their starting number. After that, current pop-culture trivia questions are asked by Ribeiro, and the player who buzzes in first with the correct answer, gets dealt a card by Mikki. They can choose to either keep the card or pass it to another player in an attempt to “bust” them which is what happens when a player reaches a number over 21, as a result, they lose that round. A contestant can keep playing the game in hopes of reaching a score of 21, or they can choose to “freeze” which holds their cards at a number close to 21 and keeps them on hold for the rest of that round. The other two contestants keep playing until one of them gets a 21 or a higher number than the one frozen. If one of them reaches a number higher than the one frozen, without going over 21, they win the round. There are never any ties in “Catch 21”. Players with same scores must continue to answer questions and draw cards until one of them either “busts” or reaches 21.

Contestants on “Catch 21”. Game show viewers will also see Vivicca (far right) on an upcoming daytime episode of “Deal or No Deal”.

Once two players reach an over 21 score and “bust”, the third player automatically wins that round. If a number is passed to a contestant from another contestant in which, for example” occurs in a score of 18 or 19, that player can not “freeze” his or her score until they have control of the board (or basically, they need to answer a trivia question correctly). If a contestant buzzes-in and answers a question incorrectly, they loose their turn and may not answer again until the next question is asked. Players have multiple choice answers of three from each question. Once two players buzz-in with two wrong answers, the game moves on to the next question. The third player does not get to answer the obvious correct answer by default.


The show consists of four rounds, moves fast and is a quality packed half-hour. The player with the lowest score at the end of the second round is out-of-the game for good. Two players play the third round. The contestant who wins the third round, goes on to play the final round where he/she has the chance to win up to $25,000. The bad news is, it’s very difficult, almost impossible to win the $25,000. The contestant plays three hands in the final round. They must achieve a 21 on each hand in order to win the $25,000. The contestant has the option of stopping at any point. If they stop after “catching 21 once” they win $1000; stop after “catching 21 twice” they win “$5000 (total of $6000). But, if at any time they bust one hand, they loose all of their earnings up to that point, except for their winnings during the previous rounds. Most players stop after the first 21, some after the second. Out of all of the 41 shows shot for GSN, only two players were able to catch 21 all the way across during the final round.
For each previous round the contestant won, they are given Catch 21 “power chips” that they may use to pass on an unfavorable hand.


At the beginning of each show, host Alfonso Ribeiro announces that the cards have been shuffled and cut before the show start. Now, this is true. The cards are in plain view of audience members, and the Standards and Practices (S.P.) worker is clearly visible shuffling and cutting the cards. After the final cutting of the cards, half of them are placed in the podium for Mikki to deal, and the other half is taken off stage with Standards and Practices where they are placed upon a table and remain until after the third round. Before the final round starts, the S.P. worker shuffles and cuts the cards once again at the dealer’s podium.

The advantages of shuffling and cutting cards before the start of show are, saves valuable air time, but also, if someone wanted to shuffle a favorable or dis-favorable hand before the final round, that would be plausible. Even with Standards and Practices present, one other person (whom I will not identify) was seen shuffling and moving some cards around.

An official from Standards and Practices shuffles and cuts the cards before the game begins.

A mishap occurred during the start of one of the games. Mikki dealt one of the players a 7 card. Producers shouted “hold”. The cards were handled. When filming picked-up again, the same player was dealt an Ace card, then the next player was dealt the 7 card. No one ever questioned it, or made any comments to what had occurred. I think no one understood why the order of the cards made a difference.

Because the game was new, there were instances where when a tie occurred for the first time, or when a question or answer was worded a certain way, the producers and Standards and Practices had to stop the show and discuss the rules of the game. By the last week of filming, it was smooth sailing all the way. The show wrapped Saturday, June 14th at KCET studios in Hollywood. After the final episode was shot, hosts and executive producers spent a half hour playing the show themselves and having fun.

Padilla, Ribeiro and the show’s executive producer went on to play two rounds of the game after the shows final episode of filming wrapped on Saturday.


For viewers who are sure to become faithful addicts, they’ll be able to play “Catch 21” at home online at No mention if prizes or money is available to win.

Some of the contestants on the show were flown-in to Los Angeles to play the game by winning the trip on



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