What's My Line?

What's My Line?

copyedit = April 2008
long = April 2008
onesource = April 2008
tone = April 2008
unencyclopedic = y
infobox television
show_name = What's My Line?

caption = Show logo, c. 1974–1975
format = Game show
rating = TV-G
runtime = 30 minutes with commercials
producer = Mark Goodson Bill Todman
starring = John Charles Daly (host, 1950–1967)
Wally Bruner (host, 1968–1972)
Larry Blyden (host, 1972–1975)
Arlene Francis (1950–1975)
Dorothy Kilgallen (1950–1965)
Louis Untermeyer (1950–1951)
Hal Block (1951–1953)
Bennett Cerf (1951–1971)
Steve Allen (1953–1954)
Fred Allen (1954–1956)
Soupy Sales (1968–1975)
country = USA
network = CBS, Syndicated
first_aired = February 2, 1950
last_aired = 1975
num_episodes = 876 (original run, 1950–1967) + 1315 (second run, 1968–1975)
related = I've Got a Secret|

"What's My Line?" is a weekly panel game show which was produced by Mark Goodson and Bill Todman for CBS television. The original series, which was usually broadcast live, debuted on Thursday, February 2, 1950 at 8:00 p.m. ET and aired on alternating weeks. On Wednesday, April 12, 1950, the broadcast was moved to alternate Wednesday evenings at 9:00 p.m. ET. On Sunday, October 1, 1950, CBS moved the show to weekly on Sundays at 10:30 p.m. ET, where it would remain until the end of its network run.

The original series ran for eighteen seasons, ending its run on September 3, 1967. It is the longest-running game show in the history of prime time network television.Fact|date=March 2008

From 1968 to 1975, a daily (Monday to Friday) revival was produced by Goodson-Todman Productions for syndication, and was distributed by "CBS Enterprises", which was renamed Viacom Enterprises in 1971. During its run, "What's My Line?" won three Emmy Awards for "Best Quiz or Audience Participation Show," in 1952, 1953 and 1958.

Original CBS series (1950–1967)

Hosts and panelists

The original series was hosted by veteran radio and television newsman John Charles Daly. During much of the show's run, from 1953 through 1960, Daly was a vice president of the ABC network's news division and principal anchor of that network's nightly newscast, while simultaneously hosting "What's My Line" weekly on CBS. That made him almost unique in American television in his time for regular weekly appearances on two competing major TV networks. Eamonn Andrews (host of the British version of "What's My Line?"), Clifton Fadiman, and Bennett Cerf all substituted as host between the four occasions on which Daly was unavailable.

The show featured a panel of four celebrities who questioned the contestants. The composition of the panel was unsettled early on; The first regular panel consisted of columnist Dorothy Kilgallen, poet Louis Untermeyer, actress Arlene Francis, and comedy writer Hal Block. Kilgallen and Untermeyer made their debuts on the show's premiere episode, while Francis first appeared on the second episode, and Block on the third. Panelists would often take vacations or pursue other engagements and be replaced with celebrity guest panelists for one or more weeks. Random House publisher and co-founder Bennett Cerf first guested for Block in October 1950, and replaced Untermeyer as a permanent panelist in March 1951. The trio of Killgallen, Francis and Cerf would remain the core of the panel for over a decade until Killgallen's death in 1965. The latter pair would continue until the show's final episode.

Hal Block was replaced by comedian Steve Allen in 1953, who was subsequently replaced the next year by comedian Fred Allen when Steve Allen left to launch "The Tonight Show". Fred Allen remained on the panel until his 1956 death. Upon both his and Kilgallen's deaths, their places on the panel were left open to a weekly guest panelist and were never filled regularly again. The most frequent guest panelist was Arlene Francis' husband Martin Gabel, who appeared 112 times as a guest panelist.

Regular announcers included Lee Vines (1950–1955), Hal Simms (1955–1961), Ralph Paul (1961), and Johnny Olson (1961–1967).


Each typical episode of "What's My Line?" features two standard contestant rounds, sometimes a third if time permitted (and very rarely a fourth), and one mystery guest round.

tandard rounds

Each standard round was guessing game in which the panel tried to identify the line of a contestant. The contestant was quickly greeted and introduced by Daly who would seat the guest. For the first few seasons, the contestant would first meet the panel up-close so they could "inspect" the contestant, and the panel was allowed one initial "wild guess" as to the contestant's line, but this practice was cut in later seasons (beginning with episode 254, season 6), and the contestant instead met the panel during their exit after the game.

The contestant's line was then revealed to the studio and television audiences, and Daly would tell the panel whether the contestant was salaried or self-employed, and later in the series, whether they dealt in a product or service.

A panelist chosen by Daly would begin asking the contestant yes-or-no questions. If the panelist received a "yes" answer, they continued questioning; if they received a "no," the questioning passed to the next panelist, and $5 was added to the contestant's prize, tallied on a stack of cards in that Daly would flip over the front of his desk. A contestant who received ten "no" answers won the game and a prize of $50 (or, as Daly colloquially noted at various times, "10 flips and they [the panel] are a flop!"). If time ran out on a contestant, Daly would flip all the cards and end the game with a full win. Later in the series, Daly "threw all the cards over" with increasing frequency and arbitrariness; evidence that the prize was always second to the gameplay. Daly explained, at the end of the show's run, that the maximum payout of $50 ensured that the game would be played only for enjoyment, and that there could never even be the appearance of impropriety.

Each panelist had the option of passing to the next panelist. They could also request a group conference from Daly in which the four members had a short time to openly discuss their ideas about the occupation or possible lines of questioning. Daly would often chide the panel in a friendly manner if they discussed the line without asking for one, though in later years this was more a pretense to silence panelists who had deduced the correct line.

The panel usually adopted some basic binary search strategies, often beginning with several common broad questions, such as whether the contestant dealt in a product or service (in the days before this information was given by Daly), whether the contestant worked for a profit-making or non-profit organization, and whether a contestant's product was alive (in the animal sense), worn, or ingested. Because "no" answers were to be avoided, panelists would often phrase their questions in the negative so that a "yes" answer would be more probable, starting questions with "it is something other than..." or "can I rule out..."

The show popularized the phrase, "is it bigger than a breadbox?" A slight variation of this question was first posed by Steve Allen on January 18, 1953, during his tenure as a regular panelist. Over several subsequent episodes, he refined his breadbox question. Soon, other panelists were asking this question as well, often crediting Allen, and continued to do so until the end of the series.Fact|date=January 2008

Mystery guest rounds

:"See also: List of mystery guests"The third round of an episode involved blindfolding the panel for a celebrity "mystery guest" (originally called "mystery challengers" by Daly), who the panel had to identify by name, rather than occupation. The questioning process was initially the same as in the standard rounds, but in 1955 (episode 254) a rule was added limiting each panelist to one question at a time regardless of the answer.

Mystery guests would usually try to conceal their identities by disguising their voices, much to the amusement of the studio audience. Sometimes, two mystery guest rounds were played in an episode, with the additional round as the first round of the episode. Mystery guests usually came from the entertainment world, either stage, screen, television or occasionally sports. Famous contestants from other walks of life, or non-famous contestants who the panel might know from personal acquaintance, were usually played as standard rounds, although the panel might be blindfolded, or the contestant might sign in simply as "X", depending on whether they would be known by name or sight.

According to Cerf, the panel would often determine the identity of the mystery guest fairly quickly, as they knew which celebrities were in town; particularly early in the series before the practice of disguising one's voice was employed. To provide the audience an opportunity to see the guest play the game for a while, the cast would typically let the questioning go around at least once before they guessed who it was. [cite interview
last = Cerf
first = Bennett (session 16)
subjectlink = Bennett Cerf
interviewer = Robbin Hawkins
title = Notable New Yorkers
program = Columbia University Libraries Oral History Research Office
city = New York City, New York
url = http://www.columbia.edu/cu/lweb/digital/collections/nny/cerfb/audio_transcript.html
date = 1968-01-23
accessdate = 2008-04-27
at p.744, 54:37.


"What's My Line?" is known for its attention to manners and class. In its early years, business suits and street dresses were worn by the host and panelists, but by 1953, the men wore black suits with bow ties (a few guests actually wore tuxedos) while female panelists donned formal gowns and often wore gloves. The two exceptions to this dress code were on the broadcasts immediately following the deaths of Fred Allen and Dorothy Kilgallen, in which the male cast members wore straight neckties and the women ordinary dresses instead of evening gowns.

The guessing game had a feeling of formality and adherence to rules. Daly usually addressed panelists formally by their surnames when passing the questioning to a particular panelist, although he sometimes used first names at other points; particularly in later years, when the cast was more familiar with each other. Despite his responsibility to keep things moving, Daly was not above trading "bon mots" with the panelists during the game. Daly would often have to clarify a potentially confusing question, but his penchant for verbose replies often left the panelists more confused than before. After a while, he played up the joke by making his replies even longer. Panelists would often joke about Daly's replies, implying that they did not learn anything from his confusing comments. On more than one occasion, Daly "led the panel down the garden path," a favorite phrase used when the panel was misled by an answer. In producer Gil Fates' book of reminiscences about the show, he mentioned that this practice once led Groucho Marx to crack, "You do know, John, that nobody is listening to you."

Production practices


When the series began, both the panelists and host began the program in their seats. The first panelist would be introduced by the announcer following the show's introduction, and each panelist would introduce the next in turn, with the last introducing Daly. Hal Block sat in the final seat during his tenure and began the practice of introducing Daly with a pun. Upon his departure, Bennett Cerf took over this position and expanded these introductions, often telling long jokes which he tied to Daly in some way. Starting in 1954, the panel and host began the show offstage and would enter the set through a built-in entrance as they were introduced. This was a response to letters the show received asking what the panelists looked like away from their seats.cite book
last = Fates
first = Gil
authorlink = Gil Fates
coauthors =
title = What's My Line?: TV's Most Famous Panel Show
publisher = Prentice Hall
year = 1978
location = Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey
pages =
isbn =
id =
] page number

At the beginning of a round, Daly would invite the contestant to "come in and sign in, please." In late 1960, this evolved to the more familiar phrase, "enter and sign in, please." The contestant would write his or her name on a small sign-in board attached to the wall. If the contestant was female, Daly asked if she should be addressed as "Miss" or "Mrs." In addition, Daly would usually ask the guest where she or he lived. In the early days, when the panel was allowed to inspect the contestant at the start of the round, they would often ask the contestant to make a muscle, or to see the contestant's hands or the label on his or her suit.

While ostensibly a game show, "What's My Line?" also was an opportunity to interview celebrities and people with interesting occupations. If there was time after the game, Daly would talk with the contestant about their line, or for the mystery guests, about their careers and latest works. However, despite frequent hopes or requests by the panel (particularly Arlene Francis), there were very rarely demonstrations, unlike on sister show "I've Got a Secret" and the later syndicated reincarnation that combined the two shows. According to executive producer Gil Fates, Daly was not fond of this practice.page numberDubious|date=March 2008


After the first four episodes, the show gained its initial sponsor: Stopette spray deodorant made by Jules Montenier, Inc. This involved featuring the product in the show's opening sequence, on the front of the panel's desk, above the sign-in board, and on the scorecards on Daly's desk. Bennett Cerf explained that Dr. Montenier was ultimately ruined by his refusal to abandon or share sponsorship of the program as it continued to enter new markets and become too expensive for him. [cite interview
last = Cerf
first = Bennett (session 16)
subjectlink = Bennett Cerf
interviewer = Robbin Hawkins
title = Notable New Yorkers
program = Columbia University Libraries Oral History Research Office
city = New York City, New York
url = http://www.columbia.edu/cu/lweb/digital/collections/nny/cerfb/audio_transcript.html
date = 1968-01-23
accessdate = 2008-04-27
at p.730, 33:24.
] After Dr. Montenier finally sold out, the series was sponsored by a variety of other sponsors which were at some points regular, and at other points rotating from week to week. Other sponsors were afforded the same exposure on the set that Stopette had been. Near the end of its run, the sponsors would be introduced in the opening title, and would be given commercials during the show, but would not be displayed on the set at all.

Behind the Scenes

Unknown to the public, mystery guests were paid $500 as an appearance fee, whether they won or lost the game.Fact|date=January 2008 This was in addition to the maximum $50 game winnings, which guests sometimes donated to charity. Guest panelists were paid $750 as an appearance fee.Fact|date=January 2008 The regular panelists were under contract and were paid "much more," according to Fates.page number Bennett Cerf explained that when he became a permanent member of the program, he was paid $300 per week, and by the end of the series, they were being paid "scandalous" amounts of money. [cite interview
last = Cerf
first = Bennett (session 16)
subjectlink = Bennett Cerf
interviewer = Robbin Hawkins
title = Notable New Yorkers
program = Columbia University Libraries Oral History Research Office
city = New York City, New York
url = http://www.columbia.edu/cu/lweb/digital/collections/nny/cerfb/audio_transcript.html
date = 1968-01-23
accessdate = 2008-04-27
at p.733, 37:30.

The final CBS network show

CBS announced in early 1967 that "What's My Line?", along with a number of other game shows, was to be canceled at the end of the season. Bennett Cerf said that the network decided that game shows were no longer suitable for prime time, and that the news was broken by the "New York Times" before anyone involved with the show was notified. [cite interview
last = Cerf
first = Bennett (session 16)
subjectlink = Bennett Cerf
interviewer = Robbin Hawkins
title = Notable New Yorkers
program = Columbia University Libraries Oral History Research Office
city = New York City, New York
url = http://www.columbia.edu/cu/lweb/digital/collections/nny/cerfb/audio_transcript.html
date = 1968-01-23
accessdate = 2008-04-27
at p.750, 1:03:30.

The 876th and final CBS telecast of "What's My Line?" aired on September 3, 1967; it was highlighted by clips from past telecasts, a visit by the show's first contestants, and the final "mystery guest," who was none other than John Daly himself. Daly had always been the emergency mystery guest in case the scheduled guest was unable to appear on the live broadcast, though this never occurred. Mark Goodson, Bill Todman and Johnny Olson appeared on-camera as well.

yndicated revival (1968–1975)

With the original "What's My Line?" gone in September 1967, Goodson-Todman decided to strike a deal with CBS' syndication arm (now Viacom) the next year to syndicate a new videotaped edition of "What's My Line?", which ran either weekdays or once a week depending on the station, for seven seasons and 1,315 episodes. The new version would become a staple of local stations' afternoon and early evening schedules throughout the U.S., especially from the 1971-72 season onward, when the Federal Communications Commission forced the networks to cede one half-hour of their evening lineups to their affiliates in the Prime Time Access Rule. Originally, the mandate was intended to permit local stations to produce news and public affairs programming, but as practically all stations outside the largest markets found it unprofitable, they turned to programs like "WML" to fill those slots.

The revival was considered by producers to be a merger of "What's My Line?" and its 1950s spinoff "I've Got a Secret". Reminiscent of the sister show, contestants on this version frequently demonstrated their skill or product after their game ended, often with the help of the panelists. As on "Secret", the interviews and demonstrations became the dominant element of the show, with games often being cut extremely short because the demonstrations required so much time. The dollar signs for the "no" answers — which were retained early in the run — were eventually removed and replaced by sequential numbers 1–10. Mystery guest rounds were no longer scored and were simply played until the guest was guessed or time ran out.

Also, a new game, "Who's Who," was played on occasion; four audience members stood on stage with four occupations indicated on cards. The panelists would attempt to place the occupations with the correct contestants. In a manner reminiscent of "To Tell the Truth", the audience member team split $25 for each panelist that failed to correctly match their careers, with a $100 possible prize.

The color animated intro used during the final CBS season was reused for the new version's main title sequence. Wally Bruner was the original host and was succeeded by Larry Blyden in 1972. Arlene Francis and comedian Soupy Sales were regular panelists; Bennett Cerf continued to make frequent appearances until his death in 1971. Other panelists included Alan Alda, his father Robert Alda, Joanna Barnes, Dr. Joyce Brothers, Bert Convy, Joel Grey, Sherrye Henry, Elaine Joyce, Ruta Lee, Meredith MacRae, Henry Morgan, Gene Rayburn, Nipsey Russell, Sue Oakland, Gene Shalit and Dana Valery. To indicate the daily scheduling of the show more than anything else, panelists discontinued the formal dress of the CBS years in favor of street clothes, as did hosts Bruner and Blyden. Although Bruner had an on-air style somewhat reminiscent of Daly and kept things moderately formal, Blyden, a comedy actor, approached his duties with a considerably more casual attitude, probably in order to reflect general cultural trends of the time against pretension, with an aim of attracting a younger audience.

In 1971, Bennett Cerf died after having taped episodes during the months prior to his death. His last five-episode taping day occurred three weeks before his death. Television stations continued to air shows where he was a panelist, sometimes up to 18 months after his death. This resulted in confusion among some fans, who were seeing "new" episodes with Cerf, long after hearing about his death. Not everyone understood the workings of television syndication, which, in the 1970s, involved affiliate stations sharing the master tapes, with some having to air episodes later than others. This prompted producer Gil Fates, who recalled the situation in his book, "What's My Line?: TV's Most Famous Panel Show", to send a form letter to fans who had written in complaining about the late Bennett Cerf's failure to disappear. Some said the television stations were using poor taste. Fates explained that Cerf indeed had died, but television was practicing a time-honored tradition of celebrating one's work long after their passing. As he wrote in his book, Fates knew in the early 1970s, but did not tell viewers, about the production costs that would have gone to waste had his company acceded to the demands, some of them coming from station managers around North America, to scrap the Cerf tapes.page number

Johnny Olson, who had been the show's announcer dating back to the early 1960s, continued with "What's My Line?" during its early syndication years (as he did with another G-T show, "To Tell the Truth".) He left "Line" and "Truth" in 1972, when he was tapped to announce the revivals of "The Price Is Right" and "I've Got a Secret" in Los Angeles.

Olson was succeeded by Wayne Howell and later by Chet Gould; Howell was a staff announcer for NBC, to whose Rockefeller Center studios "Line" and "Truth" moved in the early 1970s. Both shows had been taped at CBS facilities in New York during their network and the (early portion of) syndicated runs. "Line" used two sets during its run, the latter one during its final season in 1974–1975.

The last tapings aired in most parts of North America in the fall of 1975. The advance taping schedule for the show had concluded in December 1974. Larry Blyden, who was informed the program's termination in 1975 and then offered a job hosting a new Goodson-Todman game show in Los Angeles, was killed in a car accident in Morocco at the age of 49, a few weeks after taping the pilot.

New versions of "WML" were planned as early as 1981, with Harry Anderson announced as the host of a 2000 revival. The most recent version, taped in 2002, was hosted by Alex Trebek.Fact|date=February 2007 However, none of the revivals made it to air. In comparison, "Line's" sister show "Truth" has appeared in no fewer than "three" revivals (two in syndication, one on NBC) since it ended its original syndicated run in 1978, and "Secret" has been brought back three times since 1973, once for a short 1976 summer run on CBS, again in 2000 for a three-year run on the cable channel Oxygen, and again during the mid-2000s on GSN.

Episode status

All of the series' episodes were originally recorded via kinescope onto film. A practice sometimes utilized by networks in the early 1950s was to destroy the film used for these recordings to recover the silver content for profit. [ "Albert Hodge: 'Captain Video' Of TV" Washington Post edition of March 22, 1979, p. C12. Notes this was done to "Captain Video" and other series by DuMont.] CBS regularly profited from "What's My Line?" kinescopes through this practice until July 1952, when Mark Goodson and Bill Todman, having realized it was occurring, offered to pay the network for a film of every broadcast.Fact|date=January 2008 As a result, only about ten episodes exist from the first two years of the series, including the first three broadcasts. The entire run of the color syndicated series was recorded directly on color videotapeFact|date=January 2008 and still exists.

25th anniversary special

In early 1975, with production of the syndicated version of the series on break, the show's staff went through the annual process of selling the syndication rights to TV stations across North America. That year, there were not enough takers to justify further production.Fact|date=January 2008 Just days after disbanding their technical crew, Goodson and Todman pitched the idea of a retrospective network special to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the program's CBS debut. The programming department at CBS turned down the ideapage number but ABC bought it. The special was broadcast by ABC on May 28, 1975, and is currently available for viewing at The Paley Center for Media.

In producing the special, the only existing records of the original series on kinescope film were removed from storage and brought to a Manhattan editing facility that Goodson-Todman Productions rented.Fact|date=January 2008 There, company employees Gil Fates, Bob Bach, Pamela Usdan and Bill EganFact|date=April 2008 worked round-the-clock for three days to compile the 90-minute special under deadline pressure from ABC network official Bob Shanks.page number In the process of viewing and editing the films for the special, they accidentally damaged or destroyed several kinescope films which spanned the entire run of the original series, including a few that did not make the final cut of the retrospective.page number In addition, some unspooled film remained on the floor after the group's rented time at the facility ran out.page number An April 1967 episode featuring Candice Bergen as the mystery guest was lost in its entirety, as was a June 1967 episode featuring both Betty Grable and F. Lee Bailey. Other episodes sustained only partial damage, such as a 1965 episode that is mainly damaged during the mystery guest appearance of Marian Anderson.Fact|date=January 2008

DVD Releases

Alpha Video released a DVD containing 4 episodes on February 26, 2008. This is an unofficial release of public domain episodes, and it's unclear if an official release will occur. Fact|date=May 2008

Other U.S. versions

U.S. radio (1952–1953)

A weekly American CBS radio version of "What's My Line?" was produced from May 1952 until July 1953. The regular panelists Dorothy Kilgallen, Bennett Cerf, Arlene Francis and Hal Block, along with host John Daly, premiered the radio version of their show on Tuesday May 20, 1952, while still performing the Sunday telecast. The debut mystery guest, in her only "What's My Line?" appearance, was Marlene Dietrich. Marlon Brando made his only "What's My Line?" appearance on the radio program that aired on December 3, 1952. The radio show continued through the "Hal Block era" into the "Steve Allen era" while once moving its broadcast to Wednesday. The final radio broadcast was July 1, 1953. Recordings of some episodes of this year-long radio version are easily available to visitors to The Paley Center for Media in New York City and Beverly Hills, CA. Other radio episodes are at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., where procedures for someone to access them are more complicated.

It is unknown how the radio show's staff let the audience know what the contestants' occupations were. Possibly, announcer Lee Vines, who was that era's TV and radio voice of "WML", might have delivered the contestants' occupations or the names of the mystery guests in a low voice, sotto voce. If the producers followed a format similar to the TV show, this method would have informed the radio listeners of the facts. If this were the case, it predated by nine years what Goodson-Todman Productions did with the password on their television series "Password."

Live stage version (2004–present)

From November 2004 through July 2006, Jim Newman and J. Keith van Straaten produced one-hour live stage versions of the show at the ACME Comedy Theatre in Los Angeles, California, titled "What's My Line? — Live On Stage". The Los Angeles version of the live show went on hiatus when van Straaten relocated to New York, then resumed in June 2007.

The production debuted in New York at the Barrow Street Theatre on March 24, 2008 for an announced run of six shows. The show is now an authorized production, licensed by FremantleMedia, the owners of "What's My Line?". As of April 12, the New York Mystery Guests have been George Wendt, Moby, and Tony Roberts. Panelists have included Michael Riedel, Stephanie D'Abruzzo, Frank DeCaro, Jonathan Ames, and original TV version veterans Betsy Palmer, and Julia Meade. The first guest on the New York show (#75 in the production overall) was Pat Finch, who was the first guest on the first CBS TV episode.

In Los Angeles, "Live on Stage" panelists have included, among others, Carlos Alazraqui, Alison Arngrim, E.G. Daily, Andy Dick, Paul Goebel, Danny Goldman, Annabelle Gurwitch, Mariette Hartley, Elaine Hendrix, Marty Ingels, Cathy Ladman, David L. Lander, Kate Linder, Ann Magnuson, Troy McClain, Jayne Meadows, Lee Meriwether, Patt Morrison, Rick Overton, Jimmy Pardo, Lisa Jane Persky, Charles Phoenix, Nancy Pimental, Greg Proops, Barry Saltzman, Mink Stole, Nicole Sullivan, Marcia Wallace, Matt Walsh, Len Wein, Wil Wheaton, Gary Anthony Williams, Debra Wilson, April Winchell, and Andy Zax.

"Live on Stage" mystery guests have included, among others, Ed Begley, Jr., Stephen Bishop, Mr. Blackwell, LeVar Burton, Brett Butler, José Canseco, Drew Carey, Andy Dick, Michael and Kitty Dukakis, Hector Elizondo, Nanette Fabray, Peter Falk, Bruce Jenner, Larry King, Kathy Kinney, Bruno Kirby, Tara Lipinski, Lisa Loeb, Shelley Long, Leonard Maltin, Rose Marie, Wink Martindale, Sally Struthers, Rip Taylor, Judy Tenuta, Alan Thicke, Dick Van Patten, Lindsay Wagner, Wil Wheaton, Noah Wyle, and Sean Young.

Panelists and guests who appeared on the original TV version and who have also appeared on the stage version include Shelley Berman, Lee Meriwether, radio commentator Michael Jackson, Jayne Meadows, Nanette Fabray, Joanna Barnes, Julie Newmar, Margaret O'Brien and Marty Ingels. Usually when such a veteran appears, he/she along with panelists and the audience are treated to a pristine-quality DVD screening of the old kinescope featuring him/her on a plasma screen that is above the stage. This has also been done for ordinary contestants from yesteryear who have come forward expressing an interest in the presentation at the ACME Comedy Theatre. In July 2007, a lifelong Los Angeles-area resident appeared on stage to challenge the panel with her line, after which she reminisced about how she had ended up traveling 43 years earlier to New York, where Arlene Francis identified her as a parking meter maid. A clip from this kinescope, too, was played for everyone.

In addition, the show has featured relatives of the original cast: Jill Kollmar (daughter of Dorothy Kilgallen and Richard Kollmar), Nina Daly (daughter of John Charles Daly), and Vinton Cerf (co-inventor of the Internet and distant cousin of Bennett Cerf). It also included a segment in which Vint Cerf's son, Bennett, named after the more well-known Bennett Cerf, appeared as a guest.

International versions

United Kingdom

A British version of "What's My Line?" ran from 1951 to 1963 on BBC Television. It was briefly revived in 1973, and then again by ITV (produced by Thames Television) from 1984 to 1990.

Eamonn Andrews hosted the original British series, except in the first episode where the host was Gilbert Harding. In the UK, the host's position was called the "chairman." Panellists on the original show included Elizabeth Allan, Lady Isobel Barnett, Katie Boyle, Jerry Desmonde, Gilbert Harding, Barbara Kelly, Ghislaine Alexander, Cyril Fletcher, Marghanita Laski and David Nixon.
* [http://www.andmas.co.uk/television/television_2.htm See photo from original series at this TV history link]

At this time, there was also a parallel radio version of the show for British listeners on Radio Luxembourg, sponsored by Kellogs Cornflakes. Because Eamonn Andrews and Gilbert Harding were on exclusive contracts with the BBC, their places were taken on radio by Peter Martyn [and then Bernard Braden] and Richard Attenborough respectively. David Nixon, Barabara Kelly and Lady Isobel Barnett all featured on radio.

From 1973 to 1974 the show aired on BBC2, hosted by David Jacobs with regular panellists William Franklyn, Lady Isobel Barnett,
Kenneth Williams and Anna Quayle (who was later replaced by Nanette Newman).
* [http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbcfour/cinema/features/photogallery/kenneth-williams8.shtml See photo from 1973 series at this BBC TV link]

Eamonn Andrews returned to host a revival of the series on ITV in 1984 with John Benson as his announcer. The revived version continued to air in prime time and although mainly recorded, some episodes were screened live (John Benson would open the show with "Tonight from London it's time for What's My Line" on taped episodes or "Live from London it's time for What's My Line" on live editions). Regular panellists included Angela Rippon, Ernie Wise, George Gale, Jeffrey Archer, Barry Sheen and novelist Jilly Cooper. After Andrews died in 1987, actress Penelope Keith assumed the role of chairperson. The programme then aired for a further two series from 1989 to 1990 with Angela Rippon taking over as host. All episodes of the Keith and Rippon versions were pre-recorded and screened in the ITV daytime schedule.

The show was revived once again by Meridian Television in the mid-1990s, hosted by Emma Forbes. A special one-off edition hosted by Hugh Dennis was produced for BBC Four in 2005, as part of a season about British culture in the decade immediately following World War II. An edition of the original series (from 5 October 1957) was also shown on BBC Four as part of this season.


The German version was called "Was bin ich?" which translates from German to English as "What am I?" and was hosted by Bavarian Robert Lembke. The show ran from 1955 to 1958 and again from 1961 until Lembke unexpectedly died in 1989. It was broadcast on the TV station ARD (First German Television). Lembke, at that time head of the news division of the state-owned Bavarian Broadcasting Establishment "Bayerischer Rundfunk" (BR), bought the rights to the television format during a visit to the English BBC in 1954. Lembke later was the head of the German Olympic Center for the Olympic Games at Munich, 1972.

The best-known German panel consisted of district attorney Hans Sachs, actress Marianne Koch, TV announcer Annette von Aretin, TV announcer Anneliese Fleyenschmidt, and Guido Baumann, head of the Swiss radio and TV station DRS. The guests received 5 Deutschmarks (DM) for each "no" answer, for a total prize of 50 DM if their profession was not guessed by the time the panel had given 10 "no" answers. Prize money was given to the guests in a porcelain Piggy Bank, and Lembke would insert a 5 DM coin into the slot of the Piggy Bank each time the answer was "no," producing a loud and characteristic sound. Related to this is Lembke's most famous line from the show, "Welches Schweinderl hättens denn gern?" ("Which piglet would you like to have?", spoken in Lembke's strong Bavarian accent), which referred to the differently colored Piggy Banks guests could choose from before questioning began.

A new version of the show aired weekly on Kabel 1 from 1999–2005. The show was hosted by Björn Hergen Schimpf. The panel consisted of entertainer and comedian Herbert Feuerstein, talk-show host Vera Int-Veen, former German minister of labour and social affairs Norbert Blüm and entertainer and comedian Tanja Schumann.

Canada (French-speaking)

The French Canadian version of "What's My Line?" was called "Chacun son Metier", which translates from French to English as "To Each His Job" or "To Each His Trade". In 1959, the host of the French Canadian version, Louis Morisset, appeared as a contestant on the American version, on Episode #448 on January 18 1959. This alternate Canadian version was aired in Canada from 1954 to 1959. Canadian panelist Nicole Germain appeared as a contestant in the first round on the American version on Episode #242 on January 23 1955 and sat in on the panel next to Bennett Cerf for the second round.


The Brazilian version of "What's My Line?" was called "Adivinha o que ele Faz?" which translates from Portuguese to English as "Guess What He Does?" In 1956, the host of the Brazilian version, Heloísa Helena, appeared as a contestant on the American version, on Episode #341 on December 16 1956.


In 1963, a panelist on the Korean version, Miss Keun Oh Kim, appeared as a contestant on the American version, on Episode #674 on July 28 1963. The Korean version began in 1956, and was owned by the Korean government and run as a non-profit organization.


The Venezuelan version of "What's My Line?" was called "Mi Trabajo y Yo" which roughly translates from Spanish to English as "My Job and I." In 1961, the director and moderator of the Venezuelan version, Jacques Lemoine, appeared as a contestant on the American version, on Episode #594 on December 24 1961.

ee also

* "That's My Line" (1980–1983 CBS daytime reality program based on "What's My Line?")
* "Front Page Challenge" (Canadian CBC Television game show similar to "What's My Line?")
* "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask)" (1972 Woody Allen film in which the segment "What Are Sex Perverts?" features a gameshow called "What's My Perversion?" based on "What's My Line?")


External links

* [http://www.tv.com/what-s-my-line/show/5501/summary.html Complete Episode Guide for "What's My Line?" at TV.com]
* [http://tv.groups.yahoo.com/group/whatsmylineoncbs/ Yahoo Groups Discussion Forum for "What's My Line?"]
*imdb title|id=0042168|title=What's My Line? 1950-1967
*imdb title|id=0133323|title=What's My Line? 1968-1975
*imdb title|id=0335777|title=What's My Line? 1951-1963 UK
*imdb title|id=1036979|title=What's My Line? 1973-1974 UK
* [http://www.ukgameshows.com/page/index.php?title=What%27s_My_Line%3F UK Gameshows "What's My Line?" site]
* [http://www.whirligig-tv.co.uk/tv/adults/quiz/whatsmyline.htm UK Whirligig "What's My Line?" site]
* [http://www.whatsmyline.org/ What's My Line? — Live On Stage]
* [http://www.archive.org/details/Lucy_Desi Lucy Desi episode of "What's My Line?" at the Internet Archive]

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