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"Hi, My name is [guest], and I've got a secret!"
—Standard teaser opening leading into the credits.
Game Show from Mark Goodson-Bill Todman Productions, and basically a Retool of What's My Line. Here, a person of some notoriety entered and gave his or her secret to the host, and the celebrity panel questioned them about it and tried to guess it. Each celeb had 15 seconds to question and/or guess the secret. Each stumped panelist earned the contestant money, and a full stump included bonus money. Celebrity guests with secrets were common.
The original show lasted from 1952-67. One-season revivals aired from 1972-73 and in 1976. Another revival aired from 2000 to 2003 on the Oxygen cable network, hosted by Stephanie Miller, and yet another version aired on Game Show Network in 2006.
Game Show Tropes in use:
- Home Game: One was published by Lowell in 1956, and Don Ameche used it to create a secret.
- The Announcer: Johnny Olson handled these duties on the syndicated and 1976 versions.
- Game Show Host: Garry Moore hosted from 1952-64, followed by Steve Allen until the show's original end in 1967 (plus the one-season syndicated revival). Bill Cullen emceed the 1976 version, and Stephanie Miller hosted the Oxygen revival. Bil Dwyer hosted the GSN version, and was introduced as the "straight man" to the panel.
- Studio Audience
- Show the Folks At Home: ...The contestant's secret.
- Abraham Lincoln: One elderly contestant had the secret that he was the only still-living person that witnessed Lincoln's assassination by John Wilkes Booth in 1865. He was five years old when it happened.
- Adorkable: Good ol' Bill Cullen (the "just so darn sweet" variety), especially in the earlier episodes.
- Broadcast Live: Garry Moore's run. Steve Allen lived on the West Coast and preferred to film a number of episodes at a time to reduce air travel.
- The Bus Came Back: After being fired following a lame segment involving Tony Curtis on June 11, 1958, series creator/producer Allan Sherman returned in 1961 as a special guest riding on the success of novelty songs such as "Hello Mudder, Hello Fadder" and "My Son the Nut".
- Camp Gay: The 2006 panel (Billy Bean, Frank DeCaro, Jermaine Taylor, and Suzanne Westenhoefer). Jim J. Bullock was a regular on the Oxygen version.
- Chew Toy: If the crew had something sneaky planned, the "victim" was most likely Henry Morgan. For example, he would be sent on an exotic trip (which started the moment the live broadcast ended) such as a safari in Africa, or working as a hired hand on Roy Rogers' Dude Ranch.
- Or carrying a spear in that night's production in the Metropolitan Opera. Or the fact that he was going to play Santa for some needy kids...or Arnold Stang's secret on a Halloween episode that he used Henry's actual bedsheets for the ghost costume he's wearing.
- Christmas Episode: A regular tradition during the original series. One year, GSN used all 15 of a week's Black and White Overnite slots to show them.
- Crossover: Vivian Vance had the panel play a few rounds of "the exciting new CBS morning show" Password.
- A Day in the Limelight: Panel regulars Bill Cullen, Henry Morgan, and Betsy Palmer each got a chance to guest host during Garry Moore's frequent boating vacations.
- Deadpan Snarker: Henry Morgan.
- Everything's Better with Monkeys: Zippy the Chimp's secret was "I'm going to shine Henry Morgan's shoes". When he did so, he happened to flash the sole towards the camera, revealing a small hole. The next week, Garry Moore opened the show recounting the incident and talking about the great amount of mail that was sent to the show remarking about the hole, including some cobblers offering to fix it, some people sending in a few dollars so "poor" Henry could get some new shoes, and even a few pairs of shoes (both new and used).
- Expy: Of What's My Line. When Secret creator Allan Sherman brought the idea to Goodson-Todman, they initially rejected it as being a copy of Line. Reportedly, Sherman replied that Line was so popular that somebody was going to copy it...so why not copy themselves?
- Halloween Episode: One just about every year, with secrets such as a man lighting a Jack-O-Lantern with an electric eel. The earlier seasons really got into the spirit of the holiday much heavier than later seasons, with one Winston episode in particular being downright creepy.
- Let X Be the Unknown: The standard way of introducing a guest, such as Soupy Sales, whose name might be known to the panel. Lampshaded in one episode in which Garry Moore introduced three men as Mr. X, Mr. Y, and Mr. Z. Their secret? Their real names were Mr. Ecks, Mr. Yie, and Mr. Zee.
- Missing Episode: Until the creation of Black and White Overnite, the Winston-sponsored episodes were banned from airing on GSN due to said Winston logos being on-set.
- Two of the four 1976 episodes also seem to be MIA, although CBS quit erasing in September 1972. The premiere circulates among private collectors, and the finale exists on audio tape.
- Obvious Rule Patch: Early episodes had the panel question the contestant in two passes, each buzzer giving the contestant another $10. This was quickly changed to the "once around, $20 a buzzer" format.
- Originally, celebrity secrets were actual things about them or that had happened to them (i.e., Boris Karloff's "I'm afraid of mice"). This became both boring and limiting, and the gag/stunt secrets quickly evolved.
- Off the Rails: Several instances (such as a cow dropping "pies" live on the East Coast), but none moreso than George Burns forgetting his secret during the syndicated run.
- Pie in the Face: As part of his secret, Soupy Sales showed Garry how to get a laugh with a pie in the face.
- Product Placement: As was the usual custom at the time, the sponsor's logo would be seen on the front of the panel's desk, as well as on a small sign between Garry and the contestant. When Winston was the show's sponsor packs of their cigarettes would be given to the contestants along with the money, and whenever possible the distinctive Winston theme song would be worked into a secret such as being played on an "electric brain", or Jayne Meadows singing it in Chinese.
- Real Life Relative: One episode with Jack Benny as guest also featured his daughter Joan on the panel, filling in for the vacationing Bill Cullen.
- Rearrange the Song: The 1976 version's Theme Tune was later heard on Second Chance, and then in reorchestrated form on the Australian version of Family Feud in the 1980s.
- Stage Money
- Theremin: One Moore episode featured a theremin demonstration.
- Those Two Guys: Bill Cullen and Henry Morgan. Being the two most consistent parts of Secret while hosts and female panel members changed around them, Bill and Henry seemed to share a genuine admiration and friendship for each other, and could often be seen leaning back talking to each other behind the seat of Jayne Meadows or Betsy Palmer between them.
- Trans Atlantic Equivalent: Mentioned in an episode with a man whose secret was "I appeared on the Japanese version of I've Got A Secret"; said Japanese version was called "Please Guess My Secret", had a panel made up of scholars and philosophers, and in Garry Moore's words — unlike the UK versions of Secret's sister shows — "The Japanese just took the concept and made their own show" with no assistance from (or royalties paid to) Goodson-Todman.
- Treehouse of Fun: To help promote a change in day and timeslot, a female Flagpole Sitting Champion lived in a small treehouse built atop a pole in the middle of the stage from the last segment of the last Wednesday episode to the first segment of the following Monday's episode.
- Twenty Minutes Into the Future: A number of secrets involved things that were still in the experimental stage during the Moore/Allen era, but commonplace now — such as microwave ovens, Krazy Glue, and even a very primitive version of a computer audio file.
- William Telling: On one live episode, Johnny Carson's secret was that he would shoot an apple atop host Gary Moore's head. He did it too...with Moore safely behind a sheet of pexiglass.