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I KNEW KING World, which has spun the "Wheel of Fortune" to the tune of millions, has had difficulty simplifying the board game "Monopoly" for a TV audience.

But I thought it would have been easier to understand than Donald Trump's finances.

The premiere showed why it took King World so long to get someone to play "Monopoly." ABC accepted a package deal in which it carried a proven syndicated champ in "Jeopardy" in return for agreeing to carry a game that has been nothing but problems.

From 8 to 9 p.m. Saturday, ABC really had little to lose. It has been a ratings disaster all year. And the game show premieres gave ABC its best ratings there in some time.

"Super Jeopardy" won its time slot and "Monopoly" was a close second. Of course, the "Monopoly" name probably drew viewers the first time. The game itself will have to do it this Saturday.

Channel 4's owners have been developing "Monopoly" for years. I watched it on tape twice and still can't figure out if collecting hotels and other buildings helps the builder more than his opponents.

We see far too little of the board and are told even less about the rules. It is hard to get involved in a game when you can't figure out if there is any strategy involved.

However, Merv Griffin hasn't lost his touch in picking pretty girls. A tall woman named Kathy Davis joins host Mike Reilly on "Monopoly" as the girl with nothing to do. She even has less to do than Vanna White on "Wheel of Fortune."

After the first round, Kathy was asked to introduce the three contestants. She has a great voice. And, uh, great legs.

Later, she spun the dice for the three enthusiastic thirty- something contestants. The best part of the show -- the 1960s musical theme -- also appeals to this audience.

Still, Kathy looks great in a gold dress. If I were Vanna, I'd start looking over my shoulder. Kathy could break her monopoly on "Wheel."

Pat Sajak needn't worry. Reilly, who won this job after being a contestant on a Griffin show, is stiffer than the "Monopoly" game board you may have at home. He looks as if he is impersonating a game show host. Badly.

"Thank you, thank you," he said as the show started. He was welcoming us "to the quickest, richest game on TV."

He also looks like someone who might have been a college cheerleader and sounds like a play-by-play announcer. When the contestants blew an answer, Reilly said: "Oh, a collective groan. No harm, no foul."

Brent Musburger he isn't.

Actually, he looks like an actor. Clue: "An Officer and a Gentleman."

Right, Richard Gere. A short Richard Gere, although that might be redundant.

Now on to the game. I won't explain all the rules for the simple reason that I haven't a clue. The questions are about as easy as the one I just gave you. Three contestants are given a crossword-type clue and told the first letter of the correct answer.

For instance: The clue is Dog Sled Directive and the first letter is M.

Answer: Mush.

The clue is command for Kate and the first letter is K.

Answer: Kiss Me.

You don't exactly have to be a Rhodes scholar. Actually, the smarter the contestants are the less entertaining the game.

The show's highlight came when the clue was Bulls' and Bears' Home and the first letter was W.

"Woods," said one contestant. No bull.

No one got the correct answer, "Wall Street."

Then, there was the time the clue was Camelot Candidate and the first letter was K.

"Kismet," shouted the lone female candidate.

"(John F.) Kennedy," replied the eventual champ.

In fairness, the contestants have to be as quick as a Wall Street trader, because they get only a few seconds to respond. If they get a correct answer, they collect the money equivalent of the piece of property they land on and also get to keep the piece of property. Two contestants eventually battle for a monopoly of three properties together.

They use money from the first round to add buildings on their properties for the second round of questions. By the end of the second round, I not only wasn't sure who was ahead, I didn't care.

The eventual winner earned about $6,000. That hardly makes "Monopoly" the richest game on TV.

As Griffin proved with his "Wheel of Fortune," the key to a successful game show can be summarized by the acronym for the letters KISS.

Answer: Keep it Simple, Stupid.

What will happen to "Monopoly"? The clue is "Elvis," "Sunset Beat" and "H.E.L.P." and the first letter is C.

If you've been following ABC on Saturday nights, you know my answer is canceled.

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