Meal or No Meal

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Meal or No Meal
Directed by John Woo
Written by N/A
Starring Robert Blake
Homeless people
Produced by American Broadcasting Corporation
Distributed by American Broadcasting Corporation
Air date April 20th, 1969
Runtime 54 minutes (without commercials)
60 minutes (with commercials)
Language English
Budget One ham sandwich
IMDb page

Meal or No Meal is an American television gameshow, hosted by bankrupt actor Robert Blake, which premiered on April 20th, 2006 on ABC. The show is an original competitive spin-off from ABC, competing against NBC's Deal or No Deal. While shows like Who Wants To Be A Millionaire and Show Me The Money appealed to the middle-class with their high-stakes prizes of big bucks, Meal or No Meal is the only gameshow which appeals to the homeless with prizes varying from a ham sandwich to a lobster dinner.


A memorable contestant after winning a ham sandwich! Alright!

The basic format of Meal or No Meal consists of 26 cases, each containing a different food item. Not knowing the items locations, the bum picks one case which potentially contains the bum's prize in the very beginning of the game. The bum then opens the remaining cases, one by one, revealing the "meal" each contains.

At predetermined intervals, the bum receives an offer from the restaurant (run by "The Waiter") to purchase the originally chosen case from the bum, the offer being based on the potential value of the bum's case (for example, The Waiter might recommend a turkey sandwich if the liquor is still in play). The bum must then decide whether to take the deal from the restaurant, or to continue opening cases. If the bum decides not to take the deal and reveals low value cases, then the next restaurant offer is likely to be higher (say, a casserole; as the bum's case is proven not to contain these low value meals). Alternatively, there is risk in revealing higher values, lowering future offers from the restaurant. The aim of this system is to try to make an exciting and suspenseful game. Each offer from the restaurant is typically significantly less than the expected value of the bum's case, especially early in the game. However it is not uncommon for the restaurant's offer to exceed the bum's expected value very late in the game, where it seems the restaurant becomes much more risk-averse.

Case Values[edit]

Boiled uranium
Lettuce milkshake
Banana skin
Dog food
Smoked cumquats
Horse bile
Low-fat mayonnaise
Bread mold
Cow tongue
Frozen peas
Refried beans
Ham sandwich
TV dinner
Venison jerky
Chow mein
12 oz. Steak


The show only features contestants who live below the poverty line, also known as "bums", "homeless people", "hobos", "soup kitchen zombies", "vagrants", or "Vietnam War veterans". Never short of contestants, the show recruits in such areas as North Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Little Rock, Brooklyn, and Seattle.

To qualify as a participant of the show, would-be contestants must meet standards. They must not only present themselves as homeless, but have at least a blood-alcohol concentration over 0.08%, proof of their current cardboard box and/or shopping cart's location, and have no more than six teeth. Having been on Bum Fights is a plus, as is having at least one missing limb or finger (toes don't count).

The Host[edit]

Robert Blake, the former film and television star and murderer,[1] chosen to host the show by ABC executives in early 1968 after beating out other potential hosts and bankrupt celebrities such as Michael Jackson, MC Hammer, Gary Coleman, and Meat Loaf [2]. Blake currently has a 20-year contract with ABC for the show, though some doubt he will live that long.

Blake, a sufferer of homophobia and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), had shaved his head in early 1969; he explained that the lack of hair made him feel, "more butch." Of course, ABC executives have had to make special accommodations for Blake's homophobia and OCD. Male contestants are not allowed to hug or sodomize Robert, or talk with a lisp on the show. Greetings are limited to informal and brief handshakes, as winks, nods, and pats on the ass are considered too sexually charged and make Robert very uncomfortable.


  1. Not the Irish dentist, the hockey player, the 17th century English military commander, or the British historian (see here).
  2. Oh, what a disaster that would've been.