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Russian Roulette (game show)

Russian Roulette
Created by Gunnar Wetterberg
Presented by Mark L. Walberg
Narrated by Burton Richardson
Country of origin United States
No. of seasons 2
No. of episodes 131
Location(s) Sony Pictures Studios
Culver City, California
Running time 22 minutes
Production company(s) Gunnar Wetterberg Productions
Columbia TriStar Television (season 1)
Sony Pictures Television (season 2)
GSN Originals
Original channel GSN
Original release June 3, 2002 (2002-06-03) – June 13, 2003 (2003-06-13)

Russian Roulette is an American game show created by executive producer Gunnar Wetterberg that ran for two seasons on Game Show Network from June 3, 2002 to June 13, 2003.


  • Gameplay 1
    • First round 1.1
    • Second and third rounds 1.2
  • The $100,000 Bonus Round 2
    • First season 2.1
    • Second season 2.2
  • International versions 3


The Russian Roulette set consists of a circle with six trapdoors, four of which are occupied by the episode's contestants.

First round

The four contestants are each given $150 at the beginning of the episode, and questions in the first round are all worth that same amount.

One contestant, randomly selected to start the game, is read a question by the host, and must challenge another contestant to answer correctly. Once a contestant has been selected to answer the question, the multiple-choice options are given (three choices in the first round, four thereafter, all increasing in difficulty as the round progresses). The challenged contestant has ten seconds to answer. If the challenged contestant gives a correct answer, they receive money and control of the next question.

If a challenged contestant gives an incorrect answer or if time runs out before an answer is given, that contestant forfeits all their accumulated winnings to their challenger and is forced to play Russian Roulette by pulling a handle in front of them.

The trapdoor of the contestant who answered incorrectly is unlocked. The contestant then pulls a handle adjacent to their trapdoor, which triggers the active red drop zone lights to begin spinning around the field. In season one, the result of the spin was determined at random. In season two, the contestant controlled the length of the spin by how long he or she held the handle.

The number of red lights on the field indicates the number of active drop zones. At the start of the round there is only one drop zone active. After each additional question, another drop zone is added, increasing the odds that the contestant will be eliminated after providing an incorrect answer. From the fifth question onward, there are always five drop zones.

If the drop zone light stops on the trapdoor on which the affected contestant is standing, that trapdoor opens and drops the contestant three feet into a room below. Once a contestant drops out of the game, the round is over and the next round begins following a commercial break.

If the contestant avoids being dropped, the game continues until an undefined time limit expires, with the contestant avoiding the drop becoming the challenger for the next question. Following a signal noting time has expired, the winnings of all remaining contestants are compared. The person with the highest score is escorted to the center of the stage, and is safe from dropping. He or she pulls a handle in the center which starts a random-elimination spin in which a single red light revolves around the cylinder until it stops on one of the remaining contestants. That contestant is eliminated from the game, and the winnings of the eliminated contestant are distributed equally among the remaining three contestants. If more than one contestant is tied for the lead, the host pulls the lever and all four contestants are in danger of dropping.

Second and third rounds

The second round is played similarly to the first, with the three remaining contestants answering questions valued at $200 each. One contestant is eliminated in this round, with the two remaining contestants competing in round three.

The two contestants who survive to round three compete against each other by answering questions valued at $300 in season 1 and $250 in season 2. In the third round, after being asked the question, the contestant has two choices, either to answer the question themselves or pass the question to his or her opponent. Answering correctly adds the value of the question to their bank. Answering incorrectly causes the contestant to lose all accumulated money to his or her opponent and forces the contestant to play Russian Roulette. If neither contestant has been eliminated before time runs out in round three, the contestant with the higher score is declared the champion, adds their opponent's score to their own, and their opponent is dropped. As before, if both contestants are tied, a random round of Russian Roulette is played to determine the winner of the game, with the host pulling the lever himself.

The $100,000 Bonus Round

First season

The winning contestant is moved to the top-left zone and has 60 seconds to answer five "brain-teaser" questions referred to by the host as "Five Killer Questions". These usually consist of word jumbles, math problems and general-knowledge questions. The timer begins ticking while the host asks the first question. After every ten seconds, one drop zone opens on the playfield. If time runs out or the contestant at any time gives an incorrect answer, he or she drops, but receives $500 for every correct answer. The contestant has the option to pass on a question and return to it if time allows. Also, the contestant must say "My answer is..." before their answer so that thinking aloud is not mistaken for an answer.

If the contestant answers all five questions correctly, the clock stops and he or she wins $10,000. He or she then has the option of exchanging the money for one final round of Russian Roulette, with the number of drop zones unopened being safe. If the contestant risks his or her winnings and survives the round of Russian Roulette, their prize increases to $100,000. If the contestant does not survive, he or she drops and loses the money accumulated in the bonus round and wins only the money won in the first three rounds.

If the risk is refused, the contestant pulls the lever to see what would have happened had the contestant taken the risk. However, the contestant steps off the trapdoor.

Second season

The endgame is similar to the first version, except the contestant must answer 10 multiple-choice questions (each with three choices) in 60 seconds in order to win $10,000. The timer only starts ticking after the first question has been read. If the contestant fails, an additional $300 is given for every correct answer given. Saying "My answer is" before the answer is no longer required. As before, should all 10 questions be answered correctly, the clock stops, and the contestant then has the option of risking their bonus round winnings for a final pull.

International versions

On all versions of Russian Roulette outside of the U.S., U.K., Portugal, and Poland (in season two), there are also displays of the contestants' heart rates on the screen (examples include Russia's, Poland's (season one), and Hong Kong's versions), and most versions even have the contestants themselves asking questions to their opponents. There is also a camera underneath each of the trapdoors to catch footage of the contestant dropping from another angle. Some may also have a maximum time limit of 15 seconds instead of 10 to answer questions. The Polish version has 30 seconds to answer the question in season one and 20 seconds in season two. Most versions of the show (except for the versions in the U.S., Greece, Taiwan and India) run for an hour rather than a half-hour. As of 2013, there are no versions of the show still in production internationally. However, China's religional broadcaster Shandong TV revived the show in Spring 2015 in substitution of the previous edition using the format of The Million Pound Drop, this version using a format that a little different to other ones - and the daily prize fund always starts at RMB¥50,000, and each correct answer before the final round earns RMB¥1,000 to the final pot. The Chinese version is broadcast live on weekdays,

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