Definition (game show)

Definition is a Canadian television game show, which aired on CTV from September 9, 1974 to March 10, 1989, and filmed at its flagship studio of CFTO-TV, Scarborough, Ontario. For most of its run, it was hosted by Jim Perry.

GenreGame show
Created byNick Nicholson and E. Roger Muir
Directed byElena Jasechko
Presented byBob McLean (1974-75)
Jim Perry (1975-89)
Narrated byJim Perry (1974-75)
Dave Devall (1975-89)
Opening theme"Soul Bossa Nova"
Country of originCanada
Original language(s)English
Executive producer(s)Gerry Rochon
Producer(s)Bill Burrows
Production company(s)Glen-Warren Productions
Original networkCFTO-TV (CTV)
Original releaseSeptember 9, 1974 
March 10, 1989


Nick Nicholson and E. Roger Muir,[1] the creators of The Newlywed Game, created Definition, resulting in the show being syndicated for some international audiences as well. The series was produced by Glen-Warren Productions for CTV.

Dave Michaels hosted the pilot for Definition. Michaels had previously announced the Nicholson-Muir game show Matches 'n Mates with Art James and later anchored news for KABC-TV, WXIA-TV, and CNN during the first Gulf War. For its first season, the show was hosted by Bob McLean, with Jim Perry as announcer. Beginning the next season, Perry moved in front of the camera to take over as emcee, with veteran Toronto weatherman Dave Devall filling the vacancy in the announcer's booth, positions they both held for the rest of the show's run.

Definition was one of the longest-running game shows in Canadian television (and the third longest-running daytime game show in North American television, behind Concentration and The Price Is Right), and made host Perry a household name during the 1970s and 1980s.

Beginning in the 1980s Definition encouraged viewers to send in their own puzzles via mail, with at least one chosen per episode. A viewer would have his definition acknowledged on air by Perry if it was chosen.


Definition's format was loosely based on the word game Hangman. Two teams of two competed, originally a contestant and celebrity and from 1986 on two pairs of regular contestants. The teams would take turns guessing letters in a phrase for which Perry had offered a pun as a clue. The game is similar to Wheel of Fortune, which debuted around the same time.

The challengers began the game with one teammate "giving away" a letter to their opponents. The usual strategy involved "giving away" a rare letter, such as Q, Z or X. However, the longer a puzzle went unsolved, the more difficult it would become to safely choose a letter that wasn't in the phrase, and some phrases did contain the rare letters as well. If the giveaway letter did not appear in the puzzle, the other player "took" a letter that he believed to be in the puzzle. If the letter wasn't in the puzzle, control passed to the opposing team. However, if the letter was in the puzzle, the team got a chance to guess. Failure to guess correctly passed control to the other team. If the team's giveaway letter was in the puzzle, they lost control and the other team was given a free guess before taking their turn. Play continued in this manner until someone correctly guessed the puzzle.

The first team to solve two puzzles — changed to three in 1986 — won a prize and advanced to a bonus game. In the bonus game, the champion team faced one final definition, in which the letters would be revealed one by one in alphabetical order. If they solved the puzzle the team received $10 for each unrevealed letter. If they failed to solve the puzzle, $10 was given as a consolation prize. Five consecutive wins allowed the players to play for a bigger prize, such as a refrigerator. After the bonus round the champion switched sides to play with the other celebrity and continued switching until beaten or retired. The civilian teams did not switch sides.

The show was frequently mocked for the cheapness of its prizes (monetary awards in $10 amounts, small appliances or pen and pencil sets).

Theme music

The show's theme song was taken from "Soul Bossa Nova", an instrumental jazz piece by Quincy Jones. Later seasons of Definition used a new arrangement of the song which was not as readily recognizable.


A British version of Definition aired on the ITV network from 1978 until about 1986, produced by HTV West and was originally hosted by Don Moss and then by the late Jeremy Beadle. Theme music was provided by guitarist Wout Steenhuis. British audiences were also able to witness the Jim Perry-hosted version when it aired on UK cable station, Living TV (formerly UK Living) in the 1990s.


  1. Hevesi, Dennis. "E. Roger Muir, 89, Dies; Backed Howdy Doody", The New York Times, October 28, 2008. Accessed October 28, 2008.
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