Game shows, also known in the early days of radio as “quiz” shows, have been a staple of network radio and television since the 1930’s. Some shows are highly intelligent, others are just wacky and funny. And the people that hosted these shows had and have talent – so here’s my list:
1. Bob Barker (The Price Is Right, CBS): unquestionably the King of the Game Show. A native of Missouri, Barker also hosted Truth Or Consequences on NBC in which people found themselves in awkward situations at times if they didn’t answer a question correctly, at which time Beulah The Buzzer went off . Bob had a 40 plus year run on The Price IS Right until his retirement. A game show host’s host.
2. Groucho Marx (You Bet Your Life, NBC): Marx had had a great career in vaudeville and feature films, but moved to radio in the 1940’s hosting this game show before it move to NBC Television in 1950. With announcer George Fennemen, two couple per show come on stage and Groucho would interview them for a view minutes (usually at their expense), then the game started with questions from a subject category selected ahead of time. If there were three wrong answers, the game was over but no one ever left without something, so Groucho would ask some inane question (“who’s buried in Grant’s tomb?”) so that the couple took some cash home.
3. Richard Dawson (Family Feud, ABC): you may remember Dawson as a co-star of the CBS hit comedy Hogan’s Heroes as British Corporal Newkirk but he had a great run as the host of ABC’s Family Feud. You know the premise of the game. Always dressed in a flashy three piece suit, he loved kissing the girls! “Survey says..?” Bing or Buzzer!
4. Dick Clark ($25,000 Pyramid, CBS): while most people still think of him as America’s Teenager, American Bandstand, and New Year’s Eve, Dick was also the host of The $25,000 Pyramid on CBS Daytime. This simple word-association game had two opposing teams, with both teams have a celebrity and a non- celebrity. Dick was the only host of the network version.
5. Bud Collyer (To Tell The Truth, CBS): originally a radio DJ, Collier hosted this Goodson/Todman game show on CBS. Three people would appear on stage, purporting to be the same individual. It was the job of the celebrity panel to guess who was “telling the truth.” The famous closing line from Collyer at the end of the round was “will the real so and so please stand up!” Show ran on CBS from 1956-1967.
6. John Daly (What’s My Line, CBS): one of the Edward R. Murrow “boys” from CBS News during World War II, Daly hosted this weekly Sunday night show and was the longest running game show in the history of prime time network television. Always in a tuxedo, the game was simple: contestants were asked yes or no questions by the celebrity panel to determine what sort of occupation they had. For each time the contestant answered “no” they received $5. A total of ten no’s ended the game. Panelists included Arlene Francis and Bennett Cerf. I can still hear Daly say with perfect manners, “That’s three down and seven to go, Mr. Cerf!”
7. Alex Trebak (Jeopardy, NBC and local syndication): Canadian by birth, Trebak has been hosting Jeopardy for well over 30 years, both on the network and syndicated versions of the show. Jeopardy today ranks as one of the top syndicated shows in the country and still going strong.
8. Pat Sajak (Wheel Of Fortune, NBC and local syndication): A Vietnam vet who was on the air on Armed Forces Radio (AFR) Saigon during the 1960’s and 70’s, Sajak and sidekick Vanna White have been doing this show since the late 1970’s (original host was Chuck Woolery). Show created by the late Merv Griffin who also created Jeopardy. Show was originally on NBC Daytime before moving to syndication in 1983.
9. Allen Ludden (Password, CBS): the late husband of actress Betty White, this show had two celebrities and two non- celebrities who would drop clues to each other to correctly guess the “password”. The audience knew it was it so they could root for whatever team they were pulling for. Show also ran on NBC and ABC.
10. Gene Rayburn (Match Game, NBC, CBS, and syndication): Like Bud Collyer, Rayburn was a former radio DJ and a great game show host. The game consisted of six celebrities and two non-celebrities. A sentence would be read, usually one that was somewhat titillating and pushing the envelope a bit, and ended with a “blank” and the contestants had to match the answers with the celebrities. Legendary announcer Johnny Olson open the show introducing the panel (usually Charles Nelson Reilly, Brett Sommers, Richard Dawson, Fannie Flagg, Marcia Wallace, and others) and then say, “as we play the star-studded, big money Match Game!”. Rayburn was also a personality on the NBC Radio Network show “Monitor.”
11. Jim Lange (The Dating Game, ABC): another former DJ from KMPC in Los Angeles and commercial voice over guy from Minnesota, Lange hosted this Chuck Barris show during the 1960’s whereby three bachelors had a chance to land a date with a beautiful gal after they answered certain questions from her (some of which were pretty racy for that day). The winner and the girl then won a trip “selected especially for them”.
12. Bob Eubanks (The Newlywed Game, ABC): A DJ from KRLA in Los Angeles, Eubanks hosted this show where questions were asked of the brides and grooms (separately without the other knowing the answers) to see how well they knew each other. Most of the couples laughed when the answers didn’t match but some got very angry with each other. Eubanks had that surprise look on his face when they answered the questions but in reality he was probably thinking something else!
There are so many others to choose from such as Bill Cullen, Steve Allen, Steve Harvey, Tom Kennedy, Bert Convey, and a host of others. These listed above are the ones that made the biggest impressions on me.
See you next time.
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