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Bob Stewart created this Mark Goodson-Bill Todman Game Show in 1961 after the company searched for parlor games that could be played for modest stakes following the quiz show scandals. Stewart suggested a game whose players asked themselves a simple question — "How well can I communicate with just one word?"

Password debuted in October 1961 on CBS as the first game to have celebrity guests as teammates for civilian contestants. Allen Ludden left General Electric College Bowl to moderate Password, which ran until 1967 on CBS daytime and primetime. Frequent guests included the stars of Bewitched.

Ludden returned as host of ABC's 1971-75 Revival, which went through two Theme Tunes and two sets. The changes were made for Password All-Stars (November 1974 to February 1975), after which members of the public were once again allowed to compete.

Two more daytime revivals appeared on NBCPassword Plus from 1979-82, and Super Password from 1984-89. Both of these series used Password Puzzles, wherein each round consisted of five passwords that described another person, place, or thing; for instance, "Wiki", "Lampshade", "Hanging", "Topics", and "Egregious" might be used to describe TV Tropes. These versions also featured a Bonus Round ("Alphabetics" on Plus, "Super Password" on Super) where the celebrity had to describe ten passwords, each beginning with consecutive letters of the alphabet, in 60 seconds for a bonus of at least $5,000.

In June 2008, CBS debuted Million-Dollar Password for a brief primetime run on Sunday evenings with Regis Philbin as host. CBS then ordered a second set of episodes, which began airing in January 2009. The show was canned after 12 episodes because, despite winning its timeslot more often than not, it wasn't drawing the demographics the network wanted.


Game Show Tropes in use:

  • Bonus Round: Lightning Round (the Trope Maker) on CBS/ABC, 20:20 Password on All-Stars, Alphabetics/Super Password (same game) on Plus and Super respectively, and Million-Dollar Password on Million-Dollar.
  • Bonus Space: To an extent, the Cashword on Super, which was played in every game following the second puzzle for $1,000 plus $1,000 each game until claimed.
  • Celebrity Edition: While many all-celebrity weeks were done over the years (none on Million-Dollar) and All-Stars was built on this Trope, there was a massive influx of them in 1974 during what can only be described as an immense pre-All Stars gimmickfest.
  • Game Show Appearance: A famous 1972 episode of The Odd Couple featured Felix and Oscar on a New York-based version of ABC, with the duo Lampshading the obvious difference in sets. Allen Ludden and Betty White, naturally, played themselves.
  • Personnel:
    • The Announcer: Jack Clark announced on CBS, while John Harlan filled these duties on ABC (including All-Stars). Gene Wood announced most of Plus with occasional substitutes. Rich Jefferies announced the first few weeks of Super until Gene took over on that show as well (Jefferies moved to helping Gene as an audience warm-up).
    • Game Show Host: Allen Ludden was the first and most popular, holding the position from 1961-80. Bill Cullen filled-in for four weeks in 1980, and Tom Kennedy hosted from late 1980 to 1982. Bert Convy hosted Super and Regis Philbin hosted Million-Dollar.
    • Studio Audience
  • Show the Folks At Home: "The Password is..."
  • Unexpectedly Obscure Answer: While the main-game passwords on Plus and Super were sometimes a bit tough, they paled in comparison to the Cashword. Some of these words were nothing short of impossible to convey using just one-word clues, even given three chances. (Prime example: "Backgammon".)
    • Three clues: Dice; Checkers; fronT? (read that last clue with a rising tone, as to convey an opposite).

This show provides examples of:

  • Ascended Extra: Tom Kennedy on Password Plus, having been a celebrity partner before becoming host.
  • Berserk Button: If anyone used a sound-alike rhyming word as a clue in the original version, Allen would lightly scold them, saying that while such words are legal to use, in his opinion they go against the spirit of the game and hence discourages their use. By Plus, such words were regularly used without comment from Allen.
  • Catch Phrase:
    • "The password is...", whispered by The Announcer on all versions except All-Stars (and the following ABC revamp), Plus, and Million-Dollar.
    • "Hey, doll..." was Allen's greeting to Betty White's mother Tess at the beginning of nearly every show. Tess appeared on ABC as a celebrity challenger during the aforementioned gimmickfest (week of September 23-27, 1974).
    • "Next word, (IF you) please," regularly used by Bert Convy on Super.
  • Crossover: On an episode of I've Got a Secret, the panel of Bill Cullen, Betsy Palmer, Henry Morgan and Bess Myerson introduced "the great new CBS series Password" by playing a few rounds. All four of them (as well as Secret host Garry Moore) would ultimately wind up appearing on the actual show in individual episodes.
  • A Day in the Limelight: Several.
    • Jack Clark occasionally filled-in for Allen on CBS.
    • For three weeks in 1974 (July 15–26 and September 23–27) during ABC's gimmickfest, Allen played as a celebrity guest while Monty Hall guest-hosted.
    • Allen then played as a celebrity guest shortly after All-Stars ended (March 24-28, 1975), with Betty White guest-hosting.
    • Tom Kennedy once played as a celebrity partner on Plus in March 1982, with his brother Jack Narz hosting. It was the last time Narz emceed a game show.
  • Expy: You Don't Say, another word-association game which debuted in 1963, began with a virtually-identical set but quickly moved the host's podium from the center to the far left.
    • Also, The Object Is, a short-lived 1963 ABC game show (the first hosted by Dick Clark) which was a curious hybird of Password and You Don't Say.
    • More blatant is Goodson-Todman's Snap Judgment (one of the only Goodson-Todman games that has been entirely wiped), which debuted on April 11, 1967. For most of its run, Snap was a contrived word-association game of its own, but for the last three months (December 23, 1968 to March 28, 1969) it was Re Tooled as a 100% clone of original-recipe Password.
  • Grand Finale: The last episode of ABC in 1975 featured a final game played by four Goodson-Todman staffers. Neither team got to the normal format's 50-point goal.
  • Halloween Episode: For one Halloween Week on Super, Bert had two bags — one orange marked "Treats", one black marked "Tricks". For each puzzle, the winning contestant would pick a prize at random from the "Treat" bag (toys and little gifts such as magnetic balls) and the loser a prize from the "Trick" bag (things like a random piece of wood or assorted pocket lint).
  • In and Out of Character: Carol Burnett and Vicki Lawrence were the celebs for one early week on Plus. At one point, Allen suggested they come back at a later date as their characters Eunice and Mama. They did just that a few weeks later, playing in character against McLean Stevenson and Joanna Gleason's Hello Larry characters Larry and Morgan.
  • Leave the Camera Running: Several.
    • December 23, 1980: It took nearly five minutes to get Plus back on track after Tom Kennedy cracked up over Dick Martin's reaction to giving "France" as a clue for "French". In 2008, Kennedy donated a copy of the unedited master tape to the Television Production Music Museum, and it quickly spread to YouTube.
    • January 1982: During one puzzle, the word "Hairy" was ruled unacceptable for the password "Harry". Marcia Wallace contested this (since homophones of words are accepted), so the next day Tom hauled out a chalkboard and gave everyone a phonics lesson.
  • Missing Episode:
    • An episode of Plus where George Peppard ranted about NBC's standards and practices (which he thought were like a "police mentality") never aired during the show's original run. GSN has occasionally aired it, however.
    • February 1981: An entire round was mistakenly erased due to a camera error. The show dubbed in a clip of Tom summarizing the round while celebrity partners Wink Martindale and Gene Rayburn ribbed him.
    • At one point, Charles Nelson Reilly was supposed to appear as a celebrity guest, but that particular week had Bill Cullen in his place...despite Cullen having appeared on the show only a few weeks before.
  • Literal Minded: Following a celebrity accidentally giving the Cashword as a clue on Super, Bert asked the producer what they did in that situation. Upon being told to "throw it out," he picked up the Magic Toaster and threw it behind him, asking what to do next as he did so. The Toaster broke as it hit the floor. Cue an Oh Crap look on Bert's face when the celebrity informed him that he broke the Toaster. Here's a link.
  • Negated Moment of Awesome: A winner on Super walked away with $58,600 (including a record-setting $55,000 jackpot in the Bonus Round)... but it was later revealed that he was a convict who had entered the show with a pseudonym. More information here.
  • Nintendo Hard: The time frames and/or word difficulty on Million-Dollar, coupled with the inane "clue-response-clue" rule (see below) and forcing each half-hour to be self-contained, meant there was no way anybody was going to win the Million.
  • Obvious Rule Patch: Several.
    • CBS went from one pair of contestants playing only one round, to the same pair playing two rounds after switching partners, to the whole half-hour featuring just those two players switching partners after every round.
    • ABC introduced the play-or-pass option of passing the first opportunity to give a clue to the other team if the player felt the word needed a minimum of two clues to be guessed (as can be seen in the Odd Couple episode).
    • For the first few weeks of Plus, Allen went out of his way to remind everyone that although the clues still had to be one non-hyphenated word, the passwords themselves could now be two words like "New York" or "Twenty-Four".
      • On April 23, 1979, Plus made antonyms illegal clues. Unfortunately, some words are very hard to convey using one-word clues that aren't the opposite...
      • Similarly, Plus changed its Alphabetics jackpot in 1981 to increase by $5,000 until claimed, with illegal clues deducting $1,000 (later 20% of the current total being played for).
    • Super reversed the Plus antonym rule (making them legal again), the Bonus Round rules (once again denying the ability to gain the jackpot if an illegal clue was given), and removed the play-or-pass option.
  • Oh Crap: Bert's reaction to blurting out the password, which he did quite often. He gets a particularly good moment here.
  • Progressive Jackpot: On Password Plus and Super Password:
    • On Plus, late in the series' run, an accuring jackpot was added to the bonus round (then called "Alphabetics"), starting at $5,000 and increasing by $5,000 per playing until won.
    • On Super, the accruing bonus round jackpot was returned; the top value it reached was $55,000. In addition, a new mini-game called "Ca$hword" was added early in the run; a contestant who won the second puzzle was given a chance to guess a difficult password (using a maximum of three clues) for a cash bonus of $1,000 plus $1,000 for each show unclaimed. The top amount the "Ca$hword" reached was $17,000.
  • Real Life Relative: On the original — Lucille Ball & Garry Morton (and in one instance joined by Lucy's kids), Jimmy & Gloria Stewart, Steve & Carol Lawrence, Jayne Meadows & Steve Allen, Jack & Joan Benny; On Plus John and Patty Duke Astin. And, of course ... Betty White & Allen Ludden.
  • Replaced the Theme Tune: The ABC version changed its set and theme tune for the transition to Password All-Stars. Robert Israel's synthesized theme was replaced by Bob Cobert's "Bicentennial Funk".
    • In 1963, the first theme-- Kurt Rehfeld's Holiday Jaunt--was replaced with a Bob Cobert composition many believe to be called "You Have The Password."
  • Running Gag: It was common on Super for someone to throw a roll of tape at Bert if they thought he was on the verge of blurting out the answer.
    • Also on Super, if neither Bert nor the teams knew the answer to a puzzle, Bert would sometimes ask announcer Gene Wood if he knew, to which Gene would always cheerfuly respond, "Yep!"
  • Scenery Porn: All of the show's sets were bright and colorful with attention paid to every detail (including the parts not normally seen on-camera)...except the Million-Dollar set. It might have been cool to some, but it certainly wasn't bright or colorful.
  • Shout-Out: Every once in a while the writers included a password that had a meaning for one of the celebs, such as "Secret" for Betsy Palmer, "Crane" for Bob Crane, "Ukulele" for Arthur Godfrey, "Court" for The Defenders' E.G. Marshall, "Huddle" for Frank Gifford — and, perhaps most famously, "Skipper" for Bob Denver.
    • Lest we forget "Miser" for Jack Benny. His clue to his partner: "Me!"
    • It once happened in reverse — Florence Henderson got the word "Bunch" about three years before she became Mrs. Brady.
    • One Plus episode had the first three puzzle clues "STUFFED" "RED" "HEAD". Lucille Ball jokingly guessed "Me!" (The actual answer was cabbage.)
    • One Super puzzle during the week that Star Trek stars James Doohan and Michael Dorn played against each other contained the word "Scottish". Dorn gave the clue "Doohan", and despite all the nodding he did to the other side he could not make his partner understand that he did not say "Doing".
  • Trash the Set: The aforementioned incident with Betty and the Magic Toaster.
  • Up to Eleven: The original intro to Plus went "It's more than Password, it's Password Plus!"
  • Urban Legend: It has been rumored for many years that an African-American contestant (or sometimes, an African-American celebrity such as Nipsey Russell), given the clue of "Doe" (for the word "Deer"), answered with "Knob". According to Snopes, there is no record of this having ever happened; further, if it did happen and it was on CBS (daytime) or ABC, there's a pretty good reason why there's no record.
    • This incident has also been rumored to have happened on the Pyramid franchise, although Snopes immediately knocks it down by pointing out that Pyramid clues are far more descriptive and on there, "Doe" by itself would be an awful clue.
    • Although often debunked as a case of racist humor {ridiculing the speech patterns of African-Americans}, there is a plausible, non-racist explanation — the African-American contestant or celebrity simply misheard the clue-giver, and in a moment of absentmindedness thought s/he had heard "Door" (in which case "Knob" would be a very logical guess).
  • Word Association Test: The Game.
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