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File:Matchgame rayburn 5708.jpg

Get ready to match the stars!

The Match Game began in the 1960s on NBC as a simple parlor game: Host Gene Rayburn read questions such as "Name one of Columbus' three ships." Two teams, each consisting of two contestants and a celebrity captain, earned points by matching answers. This first series ended in 1969.

The format everyone remembers debuted on CBS in 1973, again with Rayburn as host. This time, two contestants tried to match answers with six panelists, including regulars Brett Somers, Charles Nelson Reilly and Richard Dawson. By 1976 or so, the questions — and the stars' answers — featured Double Entendre and Unusual Euphemisms. Beginning in July, Dawson began hosting a new show over at ABC called Family Feud; subsequently, he became more and more bored with Match Game until finally leaving in 1978. Concurrently with the CBS series, Rayburn was the host of Match Game PM in Syndication until 1981.

There were three revivals of the CBS format: The Match Game Hollywood Squares Hour on NBC with Gene Rayburn and Jon Bauman, a 1990-91 run on ABC with Ross Shafer and poor affiliate clearance, and a syndicated 1998-99 run with Michael Burger and only five panelists. None of the revivals lasted long. This show has become difficult to revive: In the 1970s, the panelists had to show some creativity to answer the dirty-sounding setup questions while still falling within the bounds of daytime television acceptability. By the 1990s, standards had relaxed enough that panelists would go ahead and give the obvious answer, which defeated the purpose and got boring very quickly.

It was featured on the penultimate episode of Gameshow Marathon in 2006, hosted by Ricki Lake, with an impressively detailed replica of the original set.

The British version was called Blankety Blank, hosted by Terry Wogan (1979-83) and Les Dawson (1984-90) during its original run on BBC1. It was resurrected in 1997, hosted by Lily Savage (aka Paul O'Grady) first on BBC1 (1997-99) and then ITV1 (2001-02). It also became Blankety Blanks in Australia when Graham Kennedy hosted a version of it on Network Ten from 1977-1978.

Not related to Dream Match Game or Match Three Game.


Game Show Tropes in use:

  • Bonus Round: Super Match, which consisted of the Audience Match (a carryover from NBC) and the Head-to-Head Match.
    • On the Rayburn version, the contestant originally chose a star to play against in the Head-to-Head Match, with most of them picking Richard Dawson because he was so good at it. In 1978, the Star Wheel was introduced to randomly determine which star would play and whether the stakes would be doubled. (A previous attempt to vary things up forced a contestant playing their second Head-to-Head Match to select a different celebrity than their first attempt.) Guess whose name it stopped on when it was used for the very first time?
      • This caused one of the many (joking) walk-outs on the part of the celebrities.
  • Bonus Space: The star spaces on the Star Wheel (circles on the ABC version), which doubled the pot. Originally five stars in a row, they were changed to three spaced-out stars when the daily syndicated version began in 1979.
  • Confetti Drop: Not for big winners, but balloons were released at the end of the New Year's Eve episodes as the title sign indicating the year was changed.
  • Personnel:
    • The Announcer: Johnny Olson announced from 1962-82. Gene Wood (who had been a panelist for a week in 1974) held these duties on the ABC version. Paul Boland announced the 1998-99 version.
    • Game Show Host: Gene Rayburn hosted from 1962-82. Bert Convy filmed pilots for what became the ABC revival, but was ultimately replaced by motivational speaker Ross Shafer due to Convy being diagnosed with a brain tumor (Convy died after this version ended in 1991). Michael Burger hosted the 1998-99 version.
    • Studio Audience
  • Speed Round: Match-Up, played at the end of each round during the Shafer version. The first playing was $50 per question in 30 seconds; the second was $100 per question for 45 seconds.
  • Think Music: A variant; music plays while the stars write down their answers on the cards.
Tropes used in Match Game include:
  • Brief Accent Imitation: Most of the regulars and Gene would occasionally do this- notably Gene, when reading Old Man Periwinkle questions, would often do an old man voice. (Similarly, when he portrayed Dracula.)
  • Camp Gay: Charles Nelson Reilly, the Goodson-Todman answer to Heatter-Quigley's Paul Lynde. Reilly wore a caftan on national television.
  • Catch Phrase: "Get ready to match the stars!"
    • Rayburn typically said "Slide it, Earl!" when asking to reveal the $500 answer in the Super-Match.
    • Sometimes when the questions got a little too un-PC, Charles would say "We're gonna get letters..."
    • For Brett, it was "Good Gravy Marie!"
    • Whenever neither contestant made any matches during the first round, Gene would point to the 0 - 0 and say "My, we have a real pitcher's duel going on here!"
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Patti Deutsch is probably the best example among the panelists. Her answers generally had some sort of warped internal logic to them, but they were still far removed from anything either the contestants or the other regular panelists might offer. In some cases her answers may have been more entertaining for their bizarreness, but it did undermine the goal of giving an answer which the six panelists would match if one panelist had a penchant for extremely unlikely answers.
    • To her credit, she usually gave the oddball answers only in the first round, usually constructed with questions which had more than one obvious fill to the blank..
  • Creative Closing Credits: In the 1973-82 era (with the exception of the first few episodes), on a full credit roll (usually on Fridays), the credits roll sideways from right to left, instead of vertically.
  • Crossover:
    • The Match Game Hollywood Squares Hour.
    • A few times Gene Rayburn would host Bert Convy's Tattletales and Bert, while not actually hosting officially, would read a Match Game question or two so Gene could play.
    • The main cast from The Carol Burnett Show (including MG regular Vicki Lawrence) made a special appearance and played a round where Gene threatened to replace Brett with Vicki permanently.
    • Match Game and The Price Is Right shared the same announcer (Johnny Olson) and much of the same production staff; also, Bob Barker was a semi-regular, leading to several in-jokes. One of the best was a Super Match with "Come On _____" and the contestant did not call on Barker first.

 Bob Barker: Gene, where did you find this girl?

      • And the same studio (Studio 33, now the Bob Barker Studio)! The fact that both shows used turntables extensively is not a coincidence. Same turntables.
      • Models Janice Pennington and Holly Hallstrom both appeared on the panel as well. Holly a few times, including after the show left CBS.
      • Bob was also known to make jokes referring to the "other" show, including offering refrigerators to the entire audience.
  • Distinguished Gentleman's Pipe: Charles Nelson Reilly.
  • Early Installment Weirdness:
    • The early 1970s episodes can seem quite weird, since the questions were far more generic (no "Dumb Dora" or "boobs"-type questions), and the overall mood less silly since the panel had not yet had time to gel.
    • The first season of PM (1975-76) used two rounds per game just like the daytime version. All episodes afterward used three rounds per game, because two rounds led to lots and lots and lots of filler.
  • Freudian Slip: Gene in regards to a female contestant: "Doesn't she have pretty nipples... er, pretty dimples?"
  • Gender Blender Name: One of the two female contestants on the first aired episode of Match Game 73 was named Stanley.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: The 1970s version built its reputation on seeing how much they could. Any question involving a female and a pluralized blank usually led to at least one person (not always on the panel) offering "boobs" as an answer.

 Contestant: I haven't tried Betty yet.

Gene: I've tried Betty.

  • Halloween Episode: The 1990 revival had host Ross Shafer(Dracula), the celebrities(including Charles Nelson Reilly as Superman[!] and Vicki Lawrence as Little Bo Peep)and the contestants in costume.

 Charles: [having been the only person not picked for a Match-Up] No one ever picks Superman anymore!

  • Hotter and Sexier: Questions on the 1998-99 version tended to be more overtly sexual (translation: lots of Bill Clinton jokes) than on any previous version. Nearly every episode had at least one answer that had to be beeped out and have the panelist's card censored (although that happened at least once on the ABC version, and at least four times in the 1973-82 run).
    • As one example of how bad that version got: a contestant trailed in Round 2 by nine points after his opponent had finished her question, meaning that he needed to match all five panelists (at two points per match) to win the game. The question was read, the stars wrote down their answers, and the contestant gave an answer — one that was promptly censored so viewers could neither hear nor lip-read what was said...and one that all five stars also wrote. The contestant had achieved an amazing come-from-behind victory with an answer that nobody watching at home would ever see.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: Dumb Dora/Donald, Old Man Perriwinkle (and his wife), Ugly Edna (changed in 1980 to Ulfrea), and Weird Willie are the most well-known. And that's not counting the real-life stable of semi-regulars, who were "characters" in and of themselves...
  • Luck-Based Mission: Whether a contestant won or lost the Head-to-Head Match depended on whether s/he got a question with only one possible answer or one with many.
  • New Year Has Come: The CBS version updated the sign every New Year's episode (Match Game '73 --> Match Game '74), accompanied with party favors for the panel, balloons and streamers, and the singing of "Auld Lang Syne".
  • Nice Hat: Charles Nelson Reilly had quite the collection of hats.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: "Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhnteepahhhhhhhhhhhhstooooo", said by Gene Rayburn and Richard Dawson to get themselves to imitate Boris Karloff for the "Mad Doctor/Dr. Frankenstein said..." questions.
  • Notable Commercial Campaigns: Many then current ad campaigns were regular fodder for questions, including The Pillsbury Dough Boy, The Jolly Green Giant and his niblets,Euell Gibbons and Grape Nuts, Mr Whipple, and the Ty-D-Bowl Man.
  • Off the Rails: The show was really designed around this (like this segment), but the School Riot is a rare actual example.
  • Opening Narration: "Get ready to match the stars!" [lists off all six stars, whose faces appear framed in a rotating orange box] "As we play the star-studded, big money Match Game!" The 1990 version was largely identical, except the celebs' faces were cut into thirds that "slid" on-screen one at a time, creating mix-and-match faces in the transition; also, "star-studded, big money" became "all-new, star-studded".
    • 1962-1969: "From New York City, it's time to play... [logo appears] ...The Match Game. This portion of The Match Game brought to you today by... [lists sponsor and plugs their product] And now here's your host, Gene Rayburn!"
    • 1998-1999: [undercranked footage of audience getting in their seats with stock "running" sound effect] "Wanna have the most fun you've ever had watching a game show?" [stock crowd reply of "YEAH!"] "All you need is a set…" [set pieces fall into place] "…Wonderful stars, like [lists off five stars]… two contestants, like [names of contestants]… and the guy that makes it all happen, our host, Michael Burger! All here on Match Game! [slow-motion zoom onto sign]" Somewhere along the way, this was changed to a "door opening" graphic over the first sentence, and the next part changing to "Well, come on in! We've got five wonderful stars like…"
  • Real Song Theme Tune: The NBC version used Bert Kaempfert's "A Swingin' Safari". The 1962 pilot used Billy Vaughn's cover of the same song.
  • Rearrange the Song: The ABC revival used a mellower, harmonica-based re-orchestration of the 1970s theme.
  • Running Gag: Fannie and Brett's catfights, among others. Many questions had recurring characters, such as Old Man Periwinkle, Dumb Dora (how dumb was she?), Weird Willie, Ugly Edna (later Ugly Alfreida), et al. The ticket plugs featured a headshot of a funny face by superimposing a celebrity's/contestant face or mouth on another celebrity's/contestant's head[1]. These type of ticket plugs were more common in the daily syndicated version.
    • Betty White (sitting in the sixth position) would often roll up Gene's pantlegs (supposedly without his knowledge) as he talked to the upper-level celebs. One time after she did the deed, Gene mentioned that one time she did it previously someone in the audience got a picture of him in said condition, which eventually got printed in both the NY Daily News and TV Guide.
  • Self-Deprecation: Charles and Brett would sometimes dis the 'think' music played while the celebrities wrote down their answers.
  • Shout-Out: Sister show Tattletales got a lot of them, be it Bert Convy showing up as a surprise as the next contestant is revealed, Convy and Rayburn talking about the show, or Johnny Olson's end tag "Stay tuned for Tattletales, next over most of these CBS stations!"
    • On the introduction of the Star Wheel, Dawson joked that if the player landed on the star markings on the wedges, "Chuck Woolery comes out and punches you in the mouth."
    • From a 1975 episode: "Johnny Olson's wife said, 'Last night it was really hard to get to sleep. All night long, Johnny kept shouting, '____!'" The contestant said "Come on down", which two of the panelists matched. Johnny even demonstrated the line.
  • Smoking Is Cool: Panelists frequently smoked (and drank!) on the air.
  • Spin-Off: Somewhat; the Super-Match was the inspiration for Family Feud. The questions used on Feud were patterned after the original Match Game questions ("Besides the White House, name something in Washington D.C.") In addition, Richard Dawson was selected to host the new show based largely on his Match Game popularity.
  • Suspiciously Similar Song: The 1998-99 revival's theme started out almost identically to the 1973-82 one, complete with the scratchy guitar work, but then went off in its own direction. Almost a spoof, really.
  • Talk Like a Pirate: For some reason, Paul Boland always growled "Nell Carrrrterrrrr" in a pirate-like voice.
  • Take That:

 Gene Rayburn: The bank teller said, "I think there's something wrong with this dollar bill. Instead of a picture of George Washington, it has a picture of George..."

Contestant: Wallace.

    • The first panelist was Scoey Mitchell, who gave the contestant a Death Glare before revealing that his answer matched...well, sort of.

 Scoey: Had the old boy let me go to school, I'd have learned how to spell his name. (holds up card with "Walass" written on it)


Now stay tuned for Tattletales, over most of these same CBS stations!

Notes

  1. this ticket plug style later served as the inspiration for the 1990 version's opening, featuring the celebrities' faces split into thirds and sliding in different formations
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