1 July 2008
Dorothy Kilgallen was a well-known journalist who wrote a column about things having to do with Broadway, and who covered the infamous Sam Sheppard trial (later made as a TV movie, with George Peppard staring as the doctor convicted to bludgeoning his wife to death...and who served 10 years in jail and was later, thanks to atty F. Lee Bailey, exonerated)
Bennett Cerf was the co-founder of Random House, and an author of several compilation books of jokes and puns.
Arlene Francis was an actress and radio talk show host.
John Charles Daly was a radio announcer, the vice president of ABC and the son-in-law of Chief Justice Earl Warren
I never knew them by those identities, however. To me, as a kid of the 50s, they, along with Steve Allen (I knew about him) were the regular panelists (and moderator Daly) on the quiz show What's My Line?, where people with strange occupations would come on and the panelists, by asking yes or no questions, had to guess the contestants' occupation. If the contestant stumped the panel he or she would go home with a whopping $100.
Toward the end of each show, a famous person would come in and "sign in, please!" The panelists were blindfolded and had to guess the identity of the person.
Among many other subjects, one thing we discussed at our sleepover was old quiz shows ... and current quiz shows. I guess it started with my asking if anybody had seen the new Million Dollar Password, the latest incarnation of another of my favorite quiz shows.
I was a real quiz show junkie during my adolescence. I watched them all. I've been watching Jeopardy since Art Flemming hosted it, since before Alex Trebek went grey. I love Jeopardy, but would make a lousy contestant. While I have a head full of useless facts, I am not good at getting them out quickly, and am worse at that the older I get. When was the last time you saw a champion older than 50?
Gilbert was hooked on Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune and we always watched it, either at his apartment, or we would go to the greasy spoon, The Big Heart, which always had them playing on the huge screen. I have to admit I'm not all that enamored of Wheel, but Jeopardy is one show that I record on the DVR.
Nobody at Jeri's remembered Beat the Clock, which was a forerunner of later stunt shows like Fear Factor (which I never watched). But the interesting thing about Beat the Clock when you catch it today on the Game Show network is that the contestants were usually a married couple. The guy was always in a suit and the woman wore high heels, often a hat and/or gloves and the host (Bud Collyer) always referred to her as Mrs. So-and-so. Then Joe and his wife, Mrs. So-and-So would play games that got them wet or covered with shaving cream, or just made to look pretty ridiculous, all within a certain time limit. They probably won something like a whopping $100.
I remember when The Price is Right was a show where four contestants sat at a desk and tried to guess the price of various items. Bill Cullen, who seemed to be Mr. Quiz Show during the 50s, was the host. It bore very little resemblance to the extravaganza that Bob Barker hosted for so many years. I never got involved in the bigger Price is Right. I liked it when it was small.
I love word shows like Password and the double-entre rich Match Game, hosted by Gene Rayburn, where the panelists had to write down their answers to a question and the contestant had to match the largest number of panelists. There were heavy sexual overtones to that show and sometimes you wondered how they got away with what they managed to get away with.
Password was always fun and I loved watching Betty White, who was a regular celebrity player after she married host Allen Ludden. I was disappointed when they brought back Password a few weeks ago, with the ubiquitous Regis Philbin hosting, that the celebrity guests were Neil Patrick Harris and Rachael Ray. "It would have been very classy if their first celibrity contestant was Betty White," I thought, later thrilled to discover that Betty White was the next celebrity contestant.
It's too bad that the shows that are revivied (with the exception of Jeopardy) come back with so much glitz and hype. The basic show was plenty. Enough tension, fun for home audience participation and without all the flashing lights. But I guess to satisfy the viewing audience now you have to offer thousands of dollars and lots of smoke and mirrors and special effects.
I won't watch shows like Deal or No Deal, which is just tension for the sake of tension, and little or no "skill" involved in it. I like the challenge of answering along with the TV contestants.
But I am really glad that that some of the shows I've been
watching for more than 50 years are still around, in some format or other. I wish
they'd bring back Hollywood Squares again. But it was never the same
without Paul Lynde!
PHOTO OF THE DAY
MILES TO NOWHERE: 55 miles