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Make the Grade

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Make the Grade
Created byMichael Klinghoffer
Developed byBonni Grossberg
Robert Mittenthal
Herb Scannell
Nina Silvestri
Cyma Zarghami
Presented byLew Schneider (1989โ€“1990)
Robb Edward Morris (1990)
Narrated byMaria Milito
Composer(s)Edd Kalehoff
Country of originUnited States
No. of seasons3
No. of episodes160[1]
Executive producer(s)Geoffrey Darby
Kristin Martin
Andy Bamberger
Production location(s)New York, New York (1989)
Universal Studios
Orlando, Florida (1990)
Running time23โ€“24 minutes
Original networkNickelodeon
Original releaseOctober 2, 1989 (1989-10-02) โ€“
December 29, 1991 (1991-12-29)
External links
[{{#property:P856}} Website]

Search Make the Grade on Amazon.

Make the Grade is a children's game show that aired from October 2, 1989 through December 29, 1991 on Nickelodeon.

Broadcast history[edit]

Make the Grade premiered on Nickelodeon on October 2, 1989, with three seasons worth of first-run episodes airing weekdays. Reruns then aired until December 29, 1991. Reruns later aired on Nick GAS from January 2, 2000 to April 2, 2004.

The first season was hosted by Lew Schneider, and taped in a small New York studio with no live audience and pre-recorded crowd noise. For the second and third season, the show moved to the newly-opened Nickelodeon Studios at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida, this time with a studio audience, with Robb Edward Morris taking Schneider's place as host for the third and final season. New York-based disc jockey Maria Milito was the announcer for the entire run.


Main Game[edit]

Three contestants – each situated at either a red, green, or blue desk โ€“ competed to answer trivia questions and acquire squares on a 7x7 split-flap game board. The category icons and grade levels lit up on the front of each desk when a question was answered correctly. Grade levels, which ranged from elementary school and grades 7 through 12, ran along the top of the board; six subjects plus a "special elective" ran down the left. The contestants' goal was to answer enough questions to light every category and grade level on the desk.

In the first season, each episode had a different set of all seven categories. In the second and third seasons, the last category was a "Special Elective", which was represented by a checkmark.


  • History
  • Music
  • Science
  • Home Ec.
  • Geography
  • P.E.
  • Mathematics
  • English
  • Arts
  • Social Studies
  • Current Events

Most squares contained questions. If a contestant answered the question correctly, he earned that square for his desk and control of the board. If incorrect, the other two had a chance to answer once the host had re-read the question. If no one answered correctly, the square turned black and could not be selected again, which Schneider referred to as a "dead square". Additionally, several squares contained "wild card" panels that could ultimately alter the outcome of the game. The wild cards were:

  • Take: Allows a contestant to steal any square from an opponent.
  • Lose: Forces a contestant to give up a square of his/her choice, which would be placed back on the board as another question or wild card.
  • Free: Gives the square to the contestant who picked it without having to answer a question.
  • Fire: Leads to a "Fire Drill," a physical challenge for all three contestants.

Fire drills[edit]

Like other Nickelodeon game shows, Make the Grade allowed contestants to participate in (sometimes messy) challenge stunts called "Fire Drills." Fire Drills took place when a contestant selected a square with the Fire wild card. All three contestants participate.

The goal of each Fire Drill was to complete the challenge first, thereby earning first choice at the three desks. When contestants answered questions correctly, the squares they earned belonged to the desks at which they were seated, rather than the contestants themselves. Once the Fire Drill was completed, the first place contestant picked whichever desk he or she desired, usually the one with the most grade levels and subjects completed. The second place contestant got his/her choice of the remaining two desks, and third place took the last desk remaining.

Fire Drill Events[edit]

Season 1

  • Meteor Shower - Players toss meteors at a spinning planet until two of a certain color stick to the insides of the planet.
  • Black Hole - Players toss frisbees at the center of a black hole, signified by a target, until a player successfully hits the target. (Also used in Season 2)
  • Going to Pieces - Players assemble 12 panels of a painting on a canvas, until complete.
  • Interplanetary Space Darts/Spit Wads - Players toss suction darts/spit wads inside a circle. the player who sticks two darts/spit wads first, wins. Another version with planets instead of circles is called Rockets to the Moon. (Also used in Season 2)
  • Three in a Line - Players roll balls on a skeeball game, until they make a pattern, be it horizontally, vertically or diagonally.
  • Hold Everything - Players pick up everything off their shelf to win. (contains books, a backpack, a lunchbox, and binders)
  • Shooting Stars - Players shoot basketballs at the hoop until making three points.
  • One Great Leap for Frogkind - players place frogs on one side of the teeter totter, and will use a hammer to fling the frog until one frog is on the podium.
  • Milky Way - Players toss baseballs at four milk bottles until they are knocked down.
  • Space Boulders - players roll balls on skeeball games, to acquire 250 points and win.
  • Lunar Lob - players toss foam balls at targets of their own color. Whoever gets 2 balls on their colored targets, wins. (Also used in Season 2, except that the players toss the ball into the craters)
  • Lunar Orbit - players toss colored balls to the colored targets of their own. The player who gets two on their color, wins.
  • One Great Leap for Frogkind - players use hammers to slam a board to get their frog to their respective area. Whoever does that, wins.
  • Space Skittles - players fling a ball attached to a pendulum to knock down five toy rocket ships. Whoever completes first wins.
  • Lunar Craters - players putt their golf balls to inside a crater, and whoever gets two balls in the holes, wins.
  • Toss Your Lunch - Players has to throw a sandwich at the lunchbox. Whoever does it first, wins.
  • Invasion of the Universe - players aim water hoses at the aliensโ€™ mouth to fill up their respective balloons, whoeverโ€™s balloon pops first, wins.
  • Space Shuffle - Players use shuffleboard sticks to smack the discs to the areas. Lighting up whatever the discs cross. The player with the highest score wins.
  • Rings of Saturn (a.k.a. Saturn Ring Toss) - players toss rings at two planets. One planet will revolve, but whoever gets a ring on each planet wins. (Also used in Season 2)
  • Race to the Moon - players toss balls at the target to make the shuttle rise. The player who gets the rocket to the top first, by smacking the target three times, wins.

Season 2

  • Rocket Reducer - players use tennis ball cannons, to knock out the five parts of a rocket to win.
  • Lunchbox Bowling - players roll lunch boxes at bowling pins looking like space rockets, the player who knocks down the 10 pins first wins first pick.
  • Trash the Lab - Players toss balls at a pyramid of flasks, and whoever knocks over or down the flasks first, wins.
  • Rat Launch - A rat version of One Great Leap for Frogkind, except the mouse has to set off the mouse trap on the platform.
  • Skeeball Tic-Tac-Toe - Players roll or bounce miniature basketballs on a skeeball board. whoever gets a line complete, wins.
  • Atom Smasher - A game where contestants wear safety goggles. Players turn a wheel clockwise, lifting up a weight, and when the weight reaches the top, it crushes the atom. and the player who does it first, wins. (Also used in Season 3)
  • Ski Pinball (Skinball) - Players roll skeeballs at the white brackets. whoever lights up 6 brackets first, wins.
  • Space Hockey - Players use a hockey stick to slapshoot pucks up a ramp and into a scoring zone, to win.
  • Cafeteria Chaos - Players are to pick up all the trays and hold them to win.
  • Triple Trouble - Player toss beanbags at a tic-tac-toe grid, where they hope to reveal colored shapes (Not the logo or the caricature of Lew Schneider) in a horizontal, vertical or diagonal line. (Also used in Season 3)
  • Flip Your Lid - a difficult version of Toss Your Lunch, where the lunch boxes automatically open and close.

Season 3

  • Spaceman Rescue - Contestants would throw a life preserver at the astronaut, pulling him by the arm, and pulling him in. the player who pulls in his/her astronaut, wins.
  • Meteor Shower Bounce - Contestants bounce balls shaped like meteors into a basketball hoop, signifying a black hole. Whoever succeeds first, wins.
  • Tricky Tri-Tube Toss - Contestants bounce foam balls inside a bowl, until four balls fill up a player's chute.
  • Erlinmeyer Ektoplazm Slingshot - Players use a slingshot to shoot down flasks full of ectoplasm. whoever knocks down the first four flasks wins.
  • Dribble Tac Toe - Players roll miniature basketballs on a skeeball game, until they make a pattern, be it horizontal, vertical or diagonal.
  • Lunar Rover - Players use a remote control truck to get an asteroid and return to the starting point to win.
  • Expanding Alien Ring Toss - Players toss rings until they get one ring around an animatronic alien's antenna.
  • Blast Off - A game where players wear safety goggles. Players turn a wheel lifting up a rocket with a sharp tip, popping five balloons. whoever does it successfully, wins.
  • Bean Bag Lab Rat Trap - Players use catapults to fling beanbag rats at the giant mouse trap until it snaps. whoever does it first wins.
  • Iron Claw - Players use levers to maneuver their claw to pick up an asteroid and put it in the bucket to win.
  • Pinwheel Maze - Players turn a crank to make a circular maze turn in order to make a ball navigate through the maze from the top to a bucket at the bottom.
  • Roll in a Hole - Players roll balls on a skeeball game, to acquire 300 points and win.
  • Feed the Alien - Players fire food pellets from Alien food dispensers towards the mouths of colored-decorated Aliens that move back and forth. One pellet wins it.

Because of this structure, a contestant could do poorly in answering questions but successfully complete Fire Drills to win the game. In extreme situations, a contestant completed their cards and won the game with one correct answer. While it was theoretically possible to win a game without answering any questions (by winning a fire drill, being only one square away from victory, and picking a "free" or "take" square), this never happened.

After two trivia rounds, the first contestant to light up 14 squares on their desk, or the contestant with the most squares in as many grade levels and subjects as possible, won $500 and goes on to the Honors Round. In the event of a tie for most lights lit up at the end of the game, the player who has the most squares in their current color on the category board wins. The other two contestants received $50 and two or three consolation prizes and all contestants were given British Knights sneakers to take home.

Honors round[edit]

In this round, the winner is offered their choice of three question categories. Each category contains questions from each of the seven subjects in the main game. The contestant has 45 seconds to answer one question correctly from all seven subjects.

First season[edit]

Each subject contained only one question and the contestant was only able to give one answer to each question. Each correct answer won $100, and getting all seven questions right augmented the bonus round total to $1,000.

Second and third seasons[edit]

The bonus round was played as before, but missing or passing a question moved to the next subject, and a contestant was able to return to the subject missed with new questions if time permitted. Each of the first six correct answers won $100, and the seventh correct answer won a trip to Universal Studios Florida.

Time-filling segments/University Round[edit]

In the first season, where the game finished early and there was additional time to fill in the program, it was filled with clips of host Schneider going to malls and asking questions, and during the third season, studio audience members were asked questions to win T-shirts and other small prizes. On a few episodes, a contestant won the game so early that they started another game with a second set of contestants, playing the second game in abbreviated time. On one occasion where the game ended early, the contestants played a physical challenge prior to the Honors Round, where the winner earned another $50 towards their winnings.

In second and third-season episodes, a University Round would occasionally be played, in which the day's winning contestant took part in. A series of five questions were asked, for $50, $100, $200, $500, and $1,000, respectively. The contestant could stop and take the money at any time. Any cash and prizes won in the earlier rounds was safe and never risked, so any cash won in the University Round was added to the winnings from the earlier rounds.


  1. โ†‘ The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows: 1946-Present by Tim Brooks and Earle Marsh

External links[edit]