Top Card

Top Card
Genre Game show
Created by Allen Reid
Mady Land
Directed by Ken Vincent
Presented by Jim Caldwell (1989–1991)
Dan Miller (1991–1993)
Blake Pickett (1989–1991)
Paige Brown (1991–1993)
Narrated by Don Dashiell
Brad Staggs (substitute)
Composer(s) Mike Johnson
Allen Reid
No. of seasons 4
Executive producer(s) Allen Reid
Mady Land
C. Paul Corbin for TNN
Running time 30 Minutes
Production company(s) Reid-Land Productions
Original network TNN
Original release April 3, 1989 – March 26, 1993

Top Card is a game show that aired on TNN and produced by Reid-Land Productions, replacing TNN's original game show Fandango. The show aired from April 3, 1989 to March 26, 1993 and was based on the card game Blackjack.[1]

Jim Caldwell was the original host of Top Card, with Blake Pickett serving as his hostess. The two remained until the beginning of the series' third season in 1991 and were replaced by Dan Miller and Paige Brown. The announcer for the show's entire run was Don Dashiell, with Brad Staggs substituting for several weeks in the third season. The longest returning champion was Mark Downey from Memphis, Tennessee (1991).

Top Card was replaced the Monday following its cancellation by 10 Seconds, a music-based game show which was also hosted by Dan Miller.


Three contestants, one usually a returning champion, competed in a question-and-answer game. Originally, the questions were varied as to their subjects, but by the third season they were strictly music based.

Main game

Three rounds were played, with nine cards hidden behind categories on a three-by-three grid. The outer eight spots on the grid displayed specific categories while the one in the center was a Wild Card category which could be about anything.

Each question was a toss-up question, and buzzing in with a correct answer awarded the contestant a playing card that was behind the category. The player could then choose to take the card and its corresponding value or reject it and take the top card from an oversized deck of cards. Cards numbered two through ten were worth the face value in points, with kings, queens, and jacks each worth ten. Unlike in actual blackjack, an ace could only be played for one point and not a choice between one or eleven.

In the first season, if a player chose to take the top card instead of the card in play, the card and category it was behind remained in play. Afterward, the card was taken off the board regardless.

If at any point during the round a player felt he/she had a high enough score to stop and not risk busting, he/she could elect to "freeze" and stop playing while the other player(s) continued the round. If one of the other two players passed the frozen player's score, that player was given the option to freeze and the first player returned to the game to try and top the other player's score.

Play in the first round continued until either of the following things happened:

  • one player reached 21, automatically winning the round
  • all three players had either busted or elected to freeze, with the highest score (not over 21) winning the round
  • two players busted, with the third player winning the round by default
  • all of the categories had been played, with the highest score winning the round
  • time expired for the round, with the highest score winning the round

The winner of the first round advanced to the third and final round while the other two players played in the second round for the right to advance to play the first round winner. Initially, a Wild Card question was asked to determine control, but beginning in season two the upper left category on the grid was played first. All the rules from before were also in play, with the winner being either the first to hit 21, avoid busting, or have the highest score when either all of the categories were played or time was called.

The third round was called the "Championship Round" and played the same way as the second round, with the winner of this round declared the day's champion.

Changes after season one

The number of subjects was reduced to eight and the Wild Card category was replaced by a Top Card question, which could only be played if it was the only remaining category. All questions were about music, with the majority of them country music-based. Also, the cards Ace through 10 were shuffled and placed behind each category, and only appeared once. No duplicate cards were found on the board.

Top Card Plus

The champion played the bonus round, called "Top Card Plus", for a chance to win a grand prize.

Season 1

In the first season of Top Card, six prizes were available for the champion to choose from. One of these was usually a vacation trip, with two others being merchandise prizes such as a piano or fur coat and the other three being cars. Before the round started, Jim Caldwell gave the contestant the choice of six cards with each having the name of a prize printed on it. The champion picked one and revealed the prize to the audience.

Eight of the nine squares on the board now featured smaller prizes, with each having a certain value displayed and a hidden card behind them. The Wild Card space hid a mystery prize and did not have a value on it, but if the contestant chose it at any point the remaining bankroll was exhausted. A joker was also placed on the board, which the champion was trying to avoid uncovering.

Five cards were drawn from the top of the oversized deck to start the round. The values of those cards were multiplied by $100 to give the contestant a starting bankroll, with the maximum possible being $5,000.

The champion began picking prizes, and each one selected earned him/her the prize. The champion could also choose to keep the card behind the prize or take the top card instead. After each selection, the champion could choose to stop and take whatever prizes he/she had earned to that point or keep playing. If a chosen prize's card would result in the player busting, the top card was automatically given to the champion.

If the champion reached 21, he/she won the grand prize and all other prizes and retired undefeated. Finding the joker or busting ended the round and cost the champion everything. Regardless of the end result, if the car was not won the champion continued to play until either the grand prize was won or he/she was defeated.

Seasons 2–4

In the second through fourth seasons, the champion was shown several cars and picked one to play for.

The object was to reach 21 in four turns or less. This time, in order to claim a card, the champion had to correctly answer a question from one of the eight main game categories. Correctly answering a question won a prize that was revealed after the category selection and the champion was given a choice of either keeping the card or trading it for the top card as before. Answering a question incorrectly gave the contestant nothing.

Once again, the champion won the car and whatever prizes he/she had won by reaching 21. If the champion could not reach 21 in four turns, the round ended. If the player did not bust or find the joker, he/she kept whatever prizes won and returned on the next show.

Consolation game

If the joker was revealed on the first pick, the champion could still win something. The champion chose another prize/category and play continued, with the player still having the choice to either take the selected card or the top card. After that, each card in the deck was revealed one at a time until the contestant was in a position to bust, at which point they could decide to either stop and take $10 a point or continue. If the player reached 21, the player won that selected prize.


  1. Schwartz, David; Ryan, Steve; Wostbrock, Fred (1999). The Encyclopedia of TV Game Shows (3 ed.). Facts on File, Inc. p. 230. ISBN 0-8160-3846-5.
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