“Today, these three players are after high stakes! But they have to avoid the Whammy as they play the most exciting game of their lives!!!”
As one of my favorite television shows in the world, I’ve studied “Press Your Luck” ever since I first saw it on the Game Show Network in 2002. The show originally ran on CBS Daytime from 1983 to 1986 as a spin-off of a short-lived 1976 game show “Second Chance,” also created by Bill Carruthers. I spent much of my youth learning the chords to the show’s theme song (Score Productions, 1983), as well as building models of the set. I was also up to date on the downloadable games as well, especially Big John’s Press Your Luck and Press Your Luck: Expert Edition, a fully customizable PYL game.
With two decades of immense knowledge of the show inside and out, I’ve used my knowledge of 3D modeling to take PYL to a whole new level.
I used to model the set with old cardboard boxes, poster boards and Christmas lights in high school, taping my own episodes with the large Sony camcorder my grandfather got me as a present in 2001. I even covered the theme song on a regular basis using my Casio keyboard, a microphone, my karaoke machine and my grandfather’s stereo.
Fast forward to 2010, I designed my current set on PowerPoint, building the Big Board out of project display boards and Christmas lights; it was never completed and the project was ultimately scrapped. Three years later, my covers of the pulsating theme were still popular on YouTube, and my modernization of the classic set had PYL fans ready for more.
“PRESS YOUR LUCK” SET DESIGN (2013)
Squares. They are the basis of the show. They are what the gameplay is based on, and also they formed the shape of the classic set. Because of that, the simple shape of a square served as the basis of my entire design.
PYL taped inside Studios 33, 41 and 43 at Television City in Los Angeles with a simple design consisting of the Big Board, the rotating contestant island and a series of panes on either side of the stage. During the pilot episode, a star field hovered behind the studio audience, replaced with the effect of blue windowpanes throughout the show’s actual run. The mood lighting on the cyc outlining the stage would also change colors: red during the intro, Big Board rounds and closing, and blue for everything in between. These and other subtle nuances were taken into account during the design phase.
Despite what was drafted on PowerPoint, the stage played a key factor in the set’s overall design. Taking pages from “Deal or No Deal,” “America’s Best Dance Crew,” “Game$how Marathon” and 80s “Hollywood Squares,” the audience was divided into risers with a T-shaped catwalk jutting out from the main stage, causing two pits on either side for the audience to sit.
Blue for the quiz rounds.
Changing colors in between rounds.
Red for the Big Board rounds.
The “Press Your Luck” set in its early stages, showing two of the five risers, plus the “mosh pit” on either side of the catwalk.
A view from inside the Big Board showing the remaining audience risers, as well as detail from alongside the catwalk and stage.
Black served as the base color to allow the set pieces to stand out. This is why my set pieces changed colors, as opposed to the stage like the actual show. Paying tribute to the old windowpane motif, I made giant panels for each riser, complete with their own wash lights to change colors with the rest of the set. Not to be left out, I took the star field concept from the pilot episode and used that as the backdrop behind the host, replacing the panes on the real stage.
The contestant island was derived from the 2002 GSN revival, “Whammy! The All New Press Your Luck.” Divided into two tiers, the main tier had monitors that combined graphics from both PYL and “Whammy!,” and the bottom tier hosted the contestants’ individual scoreboards, as seen on the classic show. The original contestant island was large and elevated, featuring a slightly smaller copy of the show’s logo seen before and after commercial breaks. I integrated that into the catwalk—an LED screen that would show the same footage as the Big Board.
The basis of the show, this was exactly how my Big Board was built in my room, minus the LED panels surrounding it. This CGI game board was outlined in LED strips behind red acrylic, as custom LED panels would serve as the eighteen spaces. The logo itself would be another LED screen, lined with brick glass and backlit with red LEDs.
On the original show, the “Press Your Luck” sign was replaced with feeds from one of the cameras inside the hollow black spaces inside it (representing the buttons pressed during gameplay). Here, the cameras were behind the skeleton of the Big Board, with the projection screen alternating between the logo and the contestants at different points throughout the game.
In 2017, I started work on an updated version of the set, thanks to my increased experience with virtual set design. The project was scrapped two years later due to the return of “Press Your Luck” on ABC, as well as limited free time. But I owed it to the fans of my PYL work to give one final spin before finally moving on.