Twenty-One (1956–1958)

TV Series  |  TV-G  |   |  Game-Show
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Two contestants were placed in separate isolation booths. Each player in turn would be given a category and asked how many points, from 1 to 11, he wanted to risk. Points increased with the... See full summary »

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Title: Twenty-One (1956–1958)

Twenty-One (1956–1958) on IMDb 7.1/10

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1958   1957   1956  


Series cast summary:
Charles Van Doren ...
 Himself (3 episodes, 1956-1957)
Jack Barry ...
 Himself - Host (3 episodes, 1956-1957)
Herb Stempel ...
 Himself (2 episodes, 1956)


Two contestants were placed in separate isolation booths. Each player in turn would be given a category and asked how many points, from 1 to 11, he wanted to risk. Points increased with the questions difficulty. A correct answer earned the stated number of points, whereas a wrong answer would result in the points being deducted from the player's score. The first player to get 21 points won, unless the other player matched the score and forced a tie. Players could also end the game early if they felt they had enough points to win. Written by Eric Sorensen <>

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Release Date:

15 September 1956 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

21  »

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Did You Know?


When the questions became so difficult that many games ended in 0-0 ties, ratings plummeted. Producers then decided to give certain contestants the answers beforehand, to boost audience appeal. See more »


Spoofed in The Critic: Lady Hawke (1995) See more »

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User Reviews

On the principles of blackjack
25 March 2015 | by (Buffalo, New York) – See all my reviews

I should have been in bed at the age of 9 when Twenty-One came on. But I would try to listen on the stairs as this quiz show got all of America buzzing as to who would make 21 and win.

The show operated on the principles of blackjack. Instead of drawing cards you drew questions with a difficulty level from to 11. The first to reach 21 won the prize. If you drew number one the question might be something on the order of Who's buried in Grant's Tomb? But no one drew those.

Reportedly Jack Barry and Dan Enright tried to make it legitimate at first but the ratings almost sank the show. After that it was trying to get contestants like you would search today for a reality series.

The high water mark of the show and by this time there were any number of other quiz shows doing the same, some under the Barry-Enright banner, some not was when Charles Van Doren, the Columbia professor with the distinguished family name became the reigning champion defeating geeky Herbert Stempel from Queens. In his own way Stempel became the Howard Beale of quiz shows, eliminated for bad ratings.

But Herbie wouldn't stay down. He blew the lid and Van Doren who was something of an intellectual matinée idol was ruined. As the probe from Congress extended to the rest of quiz shows they went during the late Fifties in a massacre. The only ones left were the harmless parlor game type shows with small pay outs.

I remember Jack Barry was a good host who never let his own personality intrude into the contestants and their mission. Which was apparently to put on a good show rather than really show off their knowledge.

I remember to this day a line from the Ed Sullivan Show by I believe Alan King who said, "who would have thought the most honest thing on television was wrestling?"

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