Jackpot Bowling

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Jackpot Bowling
Directed by David Brown (1960-61)
Presented by Leo Durocher (January 1959)
Mel Allen (January – April 1959, October 1959 – April 1960)
Bud Palmer (April – October 1959, April – June 1960)
Milton Berle (1960-1961)
Country of origin United States
No. of seasons 2
Producer(s) Buddy Arnold (1960-61)
Running time 15 minutes(1959-60)
30 minutes (1960-61)
Production company(s) NBC Productions (1959–1960)
Sagebrush/Bayuk Productions (1960–1961)
Original network NBC
Original release January 9, 1959 – March 13, 1961

Jackpot Bowling (also known as Phillies Jackpot Bowling[1] and Jackpot Bowling Starring Milton Berle) was a professional bowling show on NBC from January 9, 1959, to March 13, 1961.[2]

Jackpot Bowling was the first national TV bowling show since Bowling Headliners aired in the early days of television (1948–50). Jackpot Bowling originally aired on Fridays at 10:45 PM following the Cavalcade of Sports Friday Night Fight.

Leo Durocher was the show's first host, but bowed out after only two shows and was replaced by Mel Allen.[2] Allen's lack of bowling knowledge made him an unpopular host, however.[3][4] On April 10, 1959, Bud Palmer became the show's third host.[5]

Allen returned in October 1959 and remained with the show until April 1960, after which Palmer returned and hosted through June.

The show was put on a summer hiatus after the June 24, 1960, episode, as its Cavalcade of Sports lead-in had ended its run on NBC. When it returned on September 19, 1960, a retooled version hit the airwaves; the series not only moved to Monday nights at 10:30, Brunswick became a co-sponsor with Bayuk's Phillies Cigars, the Hollywood Legion Lanes replaced Wayne, New Jersey's T-Bowl as the show's venue, and Milton Berle was installed as host[6] with Chick Hearn providing play-by-play. (NBC installed Berle as host in part because the network was desperate to burn off its 30-year contract with Berle, whose popularity had been in steady decline, and also to emphasize more comedy as the nation's taste for high-budget contests had waned in the wake of the 1950s quiz show scandals.) The show now ran 30 minutes, and the professional bowler challenges were supplemented with a late-night-style monologue from Berle and segments of celebrities being interviewed by Berle and then rolling a shot for charity.

The series would run only another six months with Berle as host and would end on March 13, 1961.


Two players competed to bowl up to nine strikes. After each bowler took nine turns, the player who bowled the most strikes won $1,000. Any player who rolled six strikes in a row won a jackpot which, in the earlier seasons, started at $5,000 and increased $1,000 each week it was not won.

In the final season hosted by Milton Berle, two matches were played in each show. Rolling six strikes in a row in the first match won a flat $5,000. The winner of the first match played against the "king of the hill" bowler for another $1,000, and the right to return the following week as "king of the hill". Rolling six strikes in a row in this match won the jackpot, which now started at $25,000, and $5,000 was added each week that it was not broken.

Episode status[edit]

The show's status is unknown. Five Berle episodes exist, including the January 2, 1961, episode on which Detroit's Therm Gibson won a record $75,000 jackpot,[7] the January 16 episode with British sex symbol Diana Dors bowling (and her husband Richard Dawson in the audience), and the January 23 episode where comic Harry Ritz bowled himself down the lane and got a strike.[8]