"Hi, everyone. I'm Todd Donoho. And welcome to Time Out For Trivia, America's only nationwide sports-trivia game show.... Who's playing Time Out For Trivia?"
So begins another rapid-fire half hour of sports questions and answers on cable television's hottest game show, Time Out For Trivia. Hosted by Todd Donoho, the self-proclaimed commissioner of trivia, TOFT can be seen live on weeknights from 11:30 to midnight (EST) and on Sundays for a full hour at 8:00 p.m. The show runs on the SCORE service of the Financial News Network, to which 20 million homes across the U.S. and Canada subscribe.
Score offers a variety of sports programming, including the Canada Cup hockey series, championship boxing, the Major Indoor Soccer League and NCAA basketball games. But its most popular program is Time Out For Trivia.
TOFT works very simply. Donoho asks questions dealing with all kinds of sports and invites viewers to call in the answers. Correct responses are worth prizes ranging from hand-held vacuum cleaners to barbecue grills, VCRs and compact disc players. As the show progresses, a ticker runs the day's closing stock prices and a sports ticker carries up-to-the-minute scores along the bottom of the screen.
Donoho: " Benito Santiago...he did it, that's right. What'd he do? He's the catcher for the San Diego Padres, and he had such a good season this year that he was named National League Rookie of the Year.... Who was the last catcher to win the NL Rookie of the Year before Santiago? That's the question. Who's playing Time Out For Trivia?"
Caller: "Richard from Chicago. Earl Williams."
Donoho: "There you go; 1971 with the Atlanta Braves."
This simple format has developed a cult following. Gary Nuhn, a columnist for the Dayton Daily News, has called TOFT "cable TV at its best," and Wendell Barnhouse, radio/TV columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, says it is "one of life's joys."
Since SCORE has only recently subscribed to the Nielsen rating service, its audience count cannot be released until the spring, but executive vice-president-general manager Arnie Rosenthal has seen the early numbers, and he's pleased. "I can tell you that they are higher than we expected and incredibly encouraging," he says. Rosenthal got his start in the cable-TV trivia business in 1976, creating a game show called The Big Giveaway, which was aired in New York City. In June 1985 Rosenthal, then with FNN, helped start SCORE to fill the postbusiness hours and, in September of that year, launched Time Out For Trivia from a studio in Santa Monica, Calif.
Producer Eric Corwin writes the show's questions, which are often preceded by a related sports history lesson or tied in with the events of the day. Humor is almost always an ingredient, particularly in the multiple-choice questions, which often include an obvious nonsports figure as one of the possible answers.