Match Game

Match Game
Match Game
Mglogo copy.jpg
The Match Game logo used from 1978–1982.
Format Game Show
Created by Frank Wayne
Directed by Marc Breslow (CBS)
Presented by Gene Rayburn (1962–1984)
Ross Shafer (1990–1991)
Michael Burger (1998–1999)
Narrated by Johnny Olson (1962–1982)
Gene Wood (1983–1984, 1990–1991)
Paul Boland (1998–1999)
Country of origin United States
No. of episodes The Match Game: 1,760
Match Game '7x: 1,455 (16 unaired)
Match Game PM: 230
Match Game (1979–1982): 525
Match Game (1990–1991): 250
Producer(s) Ira Skutch (1973–1982)
Running time 30 minutes
Production company(s) Mark Goodson-Bill Todman Productions (1962–1982)
Mark Goodson Productions (1983–1999)
Celebrity Productions, Inc. (1973–1982)
The Match Game Company (1973–1982)
Orion Television (1983–1984)
The MG Company (1990–1991)
Distributor Jim Victory Television (1975–1982)
Pearson Television (1998–1999)
Original channel NBC (1962–1969)
CBS (1973–1979, 2006)
ABC (1990–1991)
Syndicated (1975–1981, weekly; 1979–1982 [1985–1986 in reruns] and 1998–1999, daily)
Picture format Black and White (1962–1969, kinescopes)
Color (NTSC) (1962–1999, videotapes)
Audio format Mono (1962–1984)
Stereo (1990–1998, plus recent reruns of the Rayburn version)
Original run The Match Game
December 31, 1962 (1962-12-31) – September 26, 1969 (1969-09-26)
Match Game '73-'79
July 2, 1973 (1973-07-02)– April 20, 1979 (1979-04-20)
Match Game PM
September 8, 1975 (1975-09-08) – September 1981 (1981-09)
Match Game
September 10, 1979 (1979-09-10) – September 10, 1982 (1982-09-10)
The Match Game-Hollywood Squares Hour
October 31, 1983 - July 27, 1984
Match Game
July 16, 1990 (1990-07-16) – July 12, 1991 (1991-07-12)
September 21, 1998 (1998-09-21) – September 17, 1999 (1999-09-17)

Match Game (also called The Match Game, Match Game '7"X," and Match Game PM) is an American television game show in which contestants attempted to match celebrities' answers to fill-in-the-blank questions. Gene Rayburn is the host most commonly associated with the show.

The most famous versions of the 1970s and 1980s, starting with Match Game '73, are remembered for their bawdy and sometimes rowdy humor involving contestants trying to match six celebrities. The series has been franchised around the world, often under the name Blankety Blank(s).


The Match Game (1962–1969, NBC)

The Match Game sometimes held all-celebrity weeks. From left: Bennett Cerf, Henry Morgan, Robert Q. Lewis, Joan Fontaine, Betty White, and Peggy Cass.

The pilot for the original version of The Match Game, created by Goodson-Todman staffer Frank Wayne, bore little resemblance to its more famous descendant. Taped December 5, 1962 with Gene Rayburn as host, Peggy Cass and Peter Lind Hayes each headed a team of two non-celebrities who attempted to match answers to simple questions. All six contestants wrote down their answers to a question. If two team members matched answers the team earned 10 points, and if all three team members matched, the team earned 20 points. The first team to score at least 50 points won the game and received $100. The winning team moved on to a bonus round, attempting to guess the answer to a recent audience survey. Each correct match was worth $25 for a possible top prize of $300.[1] The series premiered on December 31 with Arlene Francis and Skitch Henderson. The show was taped in Studio 8G at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York City, which was later used for The Phil Donahue Show and The Rosie O'Donnell Show and now houses NBC Sports.

A team scored 25 points if two teammates matched answers, or 50 points if all three players matched. The first team to score 100 points won $100 and played the Audience Match, which featured three survey questions. Each player who agreed with the most popular answer to a question earned the team $50, for a possible total of $450.

The questions used in the game were commonplace: "Name a kind of muffin" or "John loves his _____." In 1963, NBC canceled the series with six weeks left to be recorded. Question writer Dick DeBartolo came up with a funnier set of questions, like "Mary liked to pour gravy on John's _____," and submitted it to Mark Goodson. With the knowledge that the show couldn't be canceled again, Goodson gave the go-ahead for the more risque-sounding questions – a decision that caused a significant boost in ratings and an "un-cancellation" by NBC.

The Match Game consistently won its time slot from 1963–1966 and again from April 1967-July 1968, with its ratings allowing it to finish third among all network daytime games for the 1963–1964 and 1967–1968 seasons (in the latter, the top two games were NBC's own, both of which would also enjoy long runs and multiple revivals: Jeopardy! and Hollywood Squares). Although the series still did well in the ratings (despite the popularity of ABC's horror-themed soap opera Dark Shadows,) it was canceled in 1969 along with other games in a major daytime programming overhaul, being replaced by Letters to Laugh-In which, although a spin-off of the popular prime time series Laugh-In, ended in just three months on December 26.

The Match Game continued through September 26, 1969 on NBC for 1,760 episodes, airing at 4:00 p.m. Eastern (3:00 Central), running 25 minutes due to a five-minute newscast. Since announcer Johnny Olson split time between New York and Miami to announce The Jackie Gleason Show, one of the network's New York staff announcers (such as Don Pardo or Wayne Howell) would fill in for Olson when he could not attend a broadcast.

On March 27, 1967 the show added a "Telephone Match" game, in which a home viewer and a studio audience member attempted to match a simple fill-in-the-blank question similar to the 70s' "Head-To-Head Match." A successful match won a jackpot which started at $500 and increased by $100 per day until won.

Very few episodes of the 1960s The Match Game survive (see "Episode Status" section below).

Match Game '7x (1973–1979, CBS)

In the summer of 1973, Mark Goodson and Bill Todman resurrected the show as Match Game '73 for CBS, with Rayburn returning as host and Olson returning as announcer. The year in the title was updated on the New Year's Eve broadcast for the next six years. The gameplay for this version had two solo contestants attempting to match the answers given by a six-celebrity panel. Richard Dawson was the first regular panelist. Due to CBS News coverage of the Watergate hearings, the network delayed the premiere one week from its slated date of June 25 to July 2.

The first panelists and Gene Rayburn in 1973

The first week's panelists, in seating order (top left to top right, then bottom left to bottom right), were Michael Landon, Vicki Lawrence, Jack Klugman, Jo Ann Pflug, Richard Dawson, and Anita Gillette. Rayburn reassured viewers of the first CBS show that "This is your old favorite, updated with more action, more money and as you can see, more celebrities." Dawson would maintain his bottom center seat for his duration on the show.

The first few weeks of the show were somewhat different from the rest of the run. At first, many of the questions fit into the more bland and innocuous mold of the earlier seasons of the original series. In addition, many of the frequent panelists on the early episodes were not regulars later in the series, including Klugman, Arlene Francis, Bert Convy and Steve Allen, who was host of The Tonight Show when Rayburn served as announcer. (Convy would later be chosen as host of the show's 1990 revival before being diagnosed with a brain tumor which eventually took his life.)

However, with the double entendre in the question "Johnny always put butter on his _____" marked a turning point in the questions on the show. Soon, the tone of Rayburn's questions changed notably, leaving behind the staid topics that The Match Game had first disposed of in 1963 for more risqué humor.

Famous celebrity panelists Brett Somers (Klugman's wife) and Charles Nelson Reilly began as guest panelists on the program, with Somers brought in at the request of Klugman. Klugman and Somers were married at the time, and he felt she would make a nice fit on the program. The chemistry between Somers and Reilly prompted Goodson-Todman and CBS to hire them as regular panelists; Somers, who occupied the top center seat, remained on the show until 1982, while Reilly (top right) continued appearing through the 1983–1984 and 1990–1991 revivals, with a brief break from 1974–1975 when Gary Burghoff, Nipsey Russell, and the equally flamboyant Rip Taylor substituted for him. Reilly was late for the taping of two episodes; Goodson filled in for him for the first few minutes of one, and announcer Johnny Olson did the same on the other.

Celebrity panelists usually appeared in weeklong blocks, due to the show's production schedule. A number of celebrities, including Betty White, Dick Martin, Marcia Wallace, Bill Daily and Fannie Flagg, were semi-regulars, usually appearing in several weeklong blocks throughout the year.


Two contestants competed. On the CBS version, the champion was seated in the upstage (red circle) seat and the opponent was seated in the downstage (green triangle) seat. On the syndicated versions, which had no returning champions, positions were determined by a backstage coin toss. The object was to match the answers of the six celebrity panelists to fill-in-the-blank statements.

The main game was played in two rounds (three on Match Game PM after the first season). The opponent was given a choice of two statements labeled either "A" or "B." Rayburn read the statement and the six celebrities wrote their answers on index cards. After they finished, the contestant verbally gave an answer. Rayburn then asked each celebrity, one at a time beginning in the upper left hand corner of the panel, to respond.

While early questions were similar to the NBC version (e.g., "Every morning, John puts _________ on his cereal"), the questions quickly became more humorous. Comedy writer Dick DeBartolo, who had participated in the 1960s Match Game, contributed broader and saucier questions. Frequently, the statements were written with bawdy, double entendre answers in mind. A classic example: "Did you catch a glimpse of that girl on the corner? She has the world's biggest _________."

Frequently, the audience responded appropriately as Rayburn critiqued the contestant's answer (for the "world's biggest" question, Rayburn might show disdain to an answer such as "fingers" or "bag" and compliment an answer such as "rear end" or "boobs," often also commenting on the audience's approving or disapproving response). The audience usually groaned or booed when a contestant gave a bad answer, whereas they cheered and applauded in approval of a good answer.

The contestant earned one point for each celebrity who wrote down the same answer (or reasonably similar as determined by the judges; for example, "rear end" matched "bottom" or a similar euphemism) up to a maximum of six points for matching everyone. After one contestant played, the second contestant played the other question.

A handful of potential answers were prohibited, the most notable being any synonym for genitalia. In instances where a celebrity gave a censorable answer, the word "Oops!" was superimposed over the index card, accompanied by a slide whistle muting the spoken response.

Popular questions featured "Dumb Dora" or "Dumb Donald." These questions often began, "Dumb Dora/Donald is/was so dumb..." or "Dumb Dora/Donald is/was REALLY dumb..." To this, the audience would respond en masse, "How dumb IS/WAS he/she?" (a routine taken from The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.) Rayburn would finish the question (or, occasionally, deride the audience's lack of unison and make them try the response again). Other common subjects of questions were Superman/Lois Lane, King Kong/Fay Wray, panelists on the show (most commonly Brett Somers), politicians, and Howard Cosell. Questions also often featured characters such as "Ugly Edna" (later "Ugly Ulfrea"), "Horrible Hannah," "Rodney Rotten," and occasionally "Voluptuous Velma."

Rayburn always played the action for laughs, and frequently tried to read certain questions in character, such as "Old Man Periwinkle" or "Old Mrs. Pervis." He also did the same with Confucius or Count Dracula. Regular panelist Charles Nelson Reilly, a Broadway director, often responded with comments such as "I like when you act" and "That character was really very good. Along with the other two that you do," to the amusement of the audience. Some questions dealt with the fictitious (and often sleazy) country of "Nerdo Crombezia." Another common subject of questions dealt with the world's greatest salesman who could sell anything to anyone.

Gene Rayburn greets two contestants and home viewers on Match Game '75.

In the second round, the contestants attempted to match the celebrities whom they had not matched in the first. On the CBS version, the challenger always began round 2 (unless that contestant matched all six stars; in this situation, the champion selected from the two questions available). This meant that a champion who had only answered one question could be ahead of a challenger who had played both questions, rendering the final question moot. On the syndicated versions, the leader after a round played first in the next round. In case of a tie score, the contestant who had not selected their own question in the previous round made the selection in the tiebreaker round.

The first round questions usually had a number of plausible answers, while the second round questions were generally easier and were usually puns with an obvious or "definitive" answer. For instance, "molars" would be the definitive answer for "Did you hear about the new religious group of dentists? They call themselves the Holy _____."

On Match Game PM, a third round was added after the first season as games proved to be too short to fill the half-hour. Again, the only celebrities who played were those who did not match that contestant in previous rounds, and third round questions tended to be even more "definitive" in their responses.

If the contestants had the same score at the end of the game, the scores were reset to 0-0 and the contestants played one tiebreaker question each, again attempting to match all six celebrities. On Match Game PM (or on the syndicated daytime show if time was running short), a time-saving variant of the tie-breaker was used that reversed the game play. The contestants wrote their answers first on a card in secret, then the celebrities were canvassed to give their answers verbally. Originally, this included regulars Somers, Reilly and Dawson only, but when Dawson left the show the canvass was expanded to include all six panelists in the usual order. The first celebrity response to match a contestant's answer gave that contestant the victory. If there was still no match (which was rare), the round was replayed with a new question. On the CBS version, the tie-breaker went on until there was a clear winner. If it came to the sudden-death tie-breaker, only the final question (the one that ultimately broke the tie) was kept and aired.

The CBS daytime version had returning champions and the gameplay "straddled" between episodes, meaning episodes often began and ended with games in progress. On this version, champions stayed until they were defeated or won $25,000. Originally, this amount was the network's winnings limit; anything above that amount was forfeited, but the rule was later changed so that although champions retired after winning $25,000, they kept any winnings up to $35,000. During the six-year run of Match Game on CBS, only one champion retired undefeated.

On the daily 1979–1982 syndicated version, two contestants played against each other in two games, and then both retired. The show was timed so that two new contestants appeared each Monday; this was necessary as the tapes of the show were shipped between stations, and weeks could not be aired in any discernible order (a common syndication practice at the time, known as "bicycling"). Usually, three pairs of contestants competed in a total of six games over the five episodes for each week. On Friday episodes which ran short, in order to fill time, audience members played a question similar to those used in the Super Match for a small cash prize.

Episodes of Match Game PM were self-contained, with two new contestants appearing each week.

Super Match

The contestant who matched the most celebrities at the end of the game won the game and went on to play the Super Match, which consisted of the Audience Match and the Head-To-Head Match segments, for additional money. On the CBS version, the winner of the game won $100.

Audience Match

A Super Match round in progress.

A two-to-four-word phrase was given, with part of the phrase blank, and the contestant attempted to fill-in the most common response based on a prior studio audience survey. The contestant consulted three celebrities for suggestions, and chose their favorite of those answers or one of their own. The top three answers were then revealed in ascending order. The most popular answer in the survey was worth $500, the second-most popular $250, and the third most popular $100. If a contestant failed to match any of the three answers, the bonus round ended. The idea for Family Feud was derived from the Audience Match.

Two Audience Matches were played on Match Game PM, for a possible total of $10,000, or $20,000 after the Star Wheel was introduced. On one 1976 episode of Match Game PM[citation needed], a contestant failed to win any money on either Audience Match; the contestant then got to play a fill-in-the-blank with the entire panel for $100 per match as a consolation prize.

Head-To-Head Match

A contestant who won money in the Audience Match then had the opportunity to win ten times that amount (therefore, $5,000, $2,500 or $1,000) by exactly matching another fill-in-the-blank response with one celebrity panelist. Originally, the contestant chose the celebrity; later, the celebrity who played this match was determined by the Star Wheel. In the very start of the 70's series, Rayburn read the question before choosing a celebrity, but was changed after a few weeks. The contestant was instructed that their response must be an exact match, although singular/plural matches were usually accepted (whereas synonyms were not).

Richard Dawson was the most frequently chosen celebrity in the 1970s version, as he had a knack for matching contestants often. The producers tried to discourage contestants from repeatedly choosing him, even before the introduction of the Star Wheel. In 1975, a rule was briefly imposed that a returning champion could not choose the same celebrity for the Head-To-Head Match chosen for their previous visit to the bonus round. However, this rule was dropped after six weeks.

Star Wheel

The Star Wheel was introduced in 1978 to determine which celebrity a contestant played with in the Head-To-Head Match. The wheel was divided into six equal sections, one for each celebrity. Each celebrity's section featured a bar with five gold stars in it, and if the wheel stopped in the starred area, the potential Head-To-Head Match payout was doubled. In 1979, each celebrity's section was modified to feature only three separately-divided sections, each featuring one gold star instead of the larger connected area with multiple stars.

The wheel was added because contestants consistently kept choosing Richard Dawson for the Head-to-Head Match, and the producers wanted to ensure that other panelists had the chance to participate. Ironically, the first time the wheel was spun, it landed on Dawson, inspiring four of the panelists (including Dawson) to stand up from their places and leave the set momentarily out of disbelief.[2]

A version of the Star Wheel was also used on the 1990 version of the show.

Ticket Plugs

Director Marc Breslow used a technique in which two celebrities' and/or contestants' faces were combined while Johnny Olson announced information on how to obtain tickets to a taping. This type of ticket plug debuted during the summer of 1975, but were much more common during the daily syndicated 1979–1982 version. Match Game PM did not feature ticket plugs.

Staffing and ratings

The 1973–1982 versions were produced by veteran Goodson-Todman producer Ira Skutch, who also wrote some questions and acted as on-stage judge. Marc Breslow directed, while Robert Sherman was associate producer and head writer.

Dawson, Reilly, Somers, and Rayburn in 1977.

When CBS revamped Match Game in 1973 with more of a focus on risqué humor, ratings more than doubled in comparison with the NBC incarnation. Within eleven weeks, Match Game '73 was the most watched program on daytime television. By summer 1974, it grew into an absolute phenomenon with high school students and housewives, scoring remarkable ratings among the 12-34 age demographic. The best ratings this version of Match Game saw were in the 1975–1976 season when it drew a 12.5 rating with a 15 share, higher numbers than that of some prime-time series; this was due in part to the fact that it had been paired with The Price Is Right, a hit in its own right, during this time. It surpassed records as the most popular daytime program ever with a record 11 million daily viewers, one that held until the "Luke and Laura" supercouple storyline gripped viewers on ABC's General Hospital some years later.[citation needed]

Every New Year's Eve, when the two-digit year designation in the Match Game sign was updated, there was a New Year's party with the cast and studio audience. Up to and including the 1977–1978 changeover, a new sign was built each year. Coinciding with a redesign of the set, a new sign was built with interchangeable digits that could be swapped as the years changed. Additionally, this sign allowed for a "PM" logo to be attached for tapings of the syndicated program instead of using an entirely different sign.

In 1976, the show's success, and celebrity panelist Richard Dawson's popularity, prompted Goodson-Todman to develop a new show for ABC entitled Family Feud with Dawson hosting. This show became a major hit in its own right, eventually surpassing the parent program. Feud was said to be based on Dawson's expertise on Match Game's "Super-Match".

Meanwhile, Match kept its high standing in the ratings despite a short-lived move ahead one half-hour during summer and fall 1975. In late 1977, however, CBS made a fatal mistake regarding the show's time slot. Impressed with the ratings boon that resulted when Price and Match were paired in afternoons, CBS soon realized[original research?] that in the morning slot that Price had left behind, they had a ratings crisis. CBS moved Match along with Price back to the morning time slot. However, because much of Match's audience was composed of students who were in school at that time of day, ratings began to sag and eventually free fall; many of these students did not return. As a result, Family Feud quickly supplanted Match as television's highest-rated game show.

CBS attempted to correct the problem on December 19, 1977, with a scheduling shuffle among Match, Price, and Tattletales. In a move that turned out to do even more damage, the network moved Match to its 1960s timeslot of 4:00 PM, a time slot which by this point many local stations were preempting in favor of local or syndicated programming. As a result, Match Game was unable to get the audience it once did in the 1960s at 4:00.

1978 changes and cancellation

On June 28, 1978 the "pick a star" format used in the Head-to-Head Match was replaced with the "Star Wheel". While the show's top prize nearly doubled (partly to counter the high inflation of the era) and the new feature allowed more celebrities the chance to participate in the end game, it also eliminated what effectively was Richard Dawson's "spotlight" feature.

On July 19, a new Match Game set was built by CBS, changed from the original bright orange to a new set with blue and white colors, as well as revamping the logo from the curved letters to a straight-line lettering it would use for the rest of the run. This was mainly for convenience;[citation needed] with a new Match Game set and sign, a whole new sign no longer had to be built each year as had been done previously. An attachment designating the year was simply taken off the end of the revamped Match Game '78 sign and replaced with a new one numbered 79 on New Year's Eve 1978 (aired January 2, 1979) becoming Match Game '79. (An alternate attachment was used for Match Game PM.)

At 4:00 PM, the show trailed Feud, Price, and NBC's Wheel of Fortune, and fell out of the top three game shows in 1979 for the first time in the CBS run (as opposed to a solid and twice top-3 hit in the 1960s). The 1,439th and final CBS episode aired on April 20, 1979 – however, the show did not air on April 5, causing the Friday episode from that week to air on April 9. The last nine aired episodes were culled together from three separate taping sessions, leaving six unaired. In addition, the last two weeks recorded went completely unaired.[citation needed] Match Game was replaced by Whew! at 10:30 A.M., which required a move of The Price Is Right to 11:00 (the time slot where it remains to this day), which in turn required Love of Life to move from 11:30 to 4:00.

Weekly syndicated version: Match Game PM (1975–1981)

On September 8, 1975 the first syndicated version, a weekly nighttime series dubbed Match Game PM, premiered. The series, sold to many ABC affiliates (including the network's owned and operated stations such as WABC in New York), was produced by Goodson-Todman and distributed by Jim Victory Television, G-T's syndication partner for Concentration.

Match Game PM was designed to be self-contained, the first version of the game to have that distinction. The front game was originally played the same way as the daytime Match Game with two rounds of questions, but beginning in September 1976 a third round of questioning was added to fill time in the half-hour. The maximum score a contestant could achieve remained six points, with matched celebrities not playing subsequent questions.

Tiebreakers were conducted differently than on the daytime version. A "Super-Match"-style question was asked, and the contestants wrote down their answers, then called on celebrities for a match. Until Dawson's departure in 1978, only the three regular panelists (Sommers, Reilly and Dawson) played in the tiebreaker, but afterwards all six celebrities were used.

Match Game PM's Super-Match used two Audience Matches, with the answer values combined and multiplied by ten for the Head-to-Head Match, with a maximum of $11,000 available. When the Star Wheel was introduced, that potential payout grew to $21,000 if a contestant spun a double. On the only episode when a contestant did not score in either Audience Match, she was given the opportunity to play a consolation question using the front-game format for $100 per match, and won the maximum $600.[citation needed]

Match Game PM ran until the end of the 1980–1981 TV season. For its last two seasons, the show's affiliate count went down significantly due in large part to a daily syndicated version that debuted in September 1979 (although some markets, like New York, kept both shows on the air as WABC-TV continued to air episodes of Match Game PM into its final season). The show aired 230 episodes over six seasons, and remains the longest-running version to air in syndication.

Later revivals

(The) Match Game (1979–1982, daily syndication)

After the cancellation of Match Game '79, there was still enough interest in the series for Goodson-Todman and Jim Victory Television to consider a continuation of the daily series in syndication as the weekly Match Game PM was still airing and had not stopped production. The consideration eventually came to fruition as a daily syndicated Match Game, without a year attached and often referred to on air as The Match Game, debuted on September 10, 1979.

The rules and gameplay were the same as before, including the Star Wheel Bonus, but the format was altered slightly. Each contestant on this version of Match Game played a two-game match against another contestant, and the Super Match was played after each game. As on Match Game PM, a contestant did not win any money for winning the game. There were also no returning champions on the daily syndicated series, as two new contestants began each match.

The maximum payout for a contestant was $21,000 (two $500 Audience Matches and two $10,000 Head-To-Head Match wins), the same its syndicated sister series Match Game PM was offering during this time.

For the first two seasons Bill Daily, Dick Martin, Richard Paul, and Bob Barker were among the male semi-regulars who filled Dawson's old spot on the panel. McLean Stevenson, who had done so once in September 1978 and twice near the end of the second year of this version, appeared in nearly all of Season Three (1981–1982) and became a regular from the eleventh taped week through the end of the run.

The fee plugs which had aired in the middle of the show on the CBS version were featured during the closing credits. The ticket plugs were now shown on every episode. Each ticket plug had two people's faces merged into one image by putting a man's face on a woman's head, putting a mustache on a woman's face, or putting a pair of red lips on a man's face or simply putting two halves of the faces together. The 1990 ABC version used a similar sequence to introduce the stars.

The syndicated Match Game helped exacerbate the perception of the 4:00 PM time slot being a "death slot" for network programming. After CBS cancelled Match Game '79, the network moved the long-running soap opera Love of Life into the vacant timeslot. Although the syndicated Match Game was not a direct cause of the ratings problems Love of Life faced – the 4:00 PM timeslot, the last network daytime slot, had been a problem for CBS, NBC, and ABC for years and Love of Life had seen a precipitous drop in ratings since the April 1979 move to the late afternoon – many stations ran the syndicated series against the veteran soap opera and, in the case of some CBS affiliates and owned-and-operated stations, preempted Love of Life in favor of the new Match Game. (Love of Life aired its final episode on February 1, 1980, twenty-one weeks after the debut of the new Match Game.)

The daytime syndicated show produced 525 episodes, running until September 10, 1982 – exactly three years after its debut.

MG's 1973–1982 run was taped in Studio 33 at CBS Television City in Los Angeles, except for one week of shows in 1974 in which it was shot in Studio 41.[3]

The Match Game-Hollywood Squares Hour (1983–1984, NBC)

The Match Game-Hollywood Squares Hour logo.

In 1983, producer Mark Goodson teamed up with Orion Television (who had recently acquired the rights to Hollywood Squares) and NBC to create The Match Game-Hollywood Squares Hour. Rayburn, after a year as a morning show host in New York, agreed to return as host. However, few of the regular Squares cast appeared on this version. Jon Bauman ("Sha Na Na") served as the lone regular panelist on this version, and the two swapped seats for Hollywood Squares with Bauman serving as host and Rayburn as the lower-left-hand square. Gene Wood served as announcer, with Johnny Olson and Rich Jeffries substituting.

These rules were roughly the same as those of Match Game PM with both contestants given three chances apiece to match each panelist once. The major difference was in the tie-breaker. Four possible answers to a Super Match-like statement (example: "_____, New Jersey") were secretly shown to the contestants (examples: "Atlantic City", "Hoboken", "Newark", "Trenton"). They each chose one by number. The host then polled the celebrities for verbal responses. The first panelist to give an answer selected by one of the contestants won the game for that contestant. The winner of the Match Game segment played the returning champion in the Hollywood Squares segment with the eventual winner of Squares playing the Super-Match. The Audience Match featured payoffs of $1,000, $500 and $250, while non-matching contestants were given $100. For the Head-To-Head Match the contestant picked a celebrity who revealed a hidden number (10, 20 or 30); that number was multiplied by the contestant's Audience Match winnings to determine the grand prize ($30,000 being the top possible amount). Champions remained on the program for up to five days unless defeated.

The Match Game-Hollywood Squares Hour ran from October 31, 1983 to July 27, 1984. Several music cues from the program are still used today as background music during prize descriptions on The Price Is Right.

Match Game (1990–1991, ABC)

The Match Game logo from the ABC version.

In 1989, ABC, which had not carried a daytime game show since Bargain Hunters in 1987, revived Match Game. The producers (including Jonathan Goodson, who took over the show at this time) selected Bert Convy, a former Match Game panelist in the early days of the program, as host. Convy filmed a full week of pilots for the show, but in April 1990 (three months before the show was scheduled to premiere) was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor and forced to relinquish hosting duties. (Convy died from the tumor on July 15, 1991, three days after Match Game ended its run on ABC.)

Among those considered to replace Convy was Gene Rayburn, who had just finished The Movie Masters for AMC and had expressed interest in returning. The producers were uninterested in the 72-year-old original Match Game host, however, and chose stand-up comedian and former Late Show host Ross Shafer as Convy's replacement. Charles Nelson Reilly returned as a regular panelist and Brett Somers served as a guest panelist for several weeks. Vicki Lawrence, Sally Struthers, Brad Garrett, Bill Kirchenbauer, and Ronn Lucas were among the semi-regulars for this version of the show. Gene Wood returned as announcer, with Bob Hilton filling in for one week.

On this version, matches were worth money instead of points. Each match during the two Match Game rounds was worth $50. All panelists played both questions for each contestant, regardless of whether they matched in the first round.

After each round of questions, contestants were given a chance to build their scores further by playing a new round called "Match-Up!" with a panelist of their choice. This was a rapid-fire series of Super Match-style questions, each having two possible answer choices, and the round was played similar to the Head-to-Head Match. The contestant was shown both potential answer choices and secretly chose one. The question choices were then revealed to the celebrity, who made their own choice; the contestant won money if both answers matched. Both Match-Up! rounds were played to a time limit; the first round was played for 30 seconds and each match was worth $50, while the second was played for 45 seconds with $100 earned for each match. Whoever had the most money at the end of the second Match-Up! round won the game and kept the money; the loser went away with parting gifts and prior winnings if they were a returning champion.

The Super Match was played identically to the 1978–1982 version of the round. Originally, the payoffs of $500–$250–$100 for the Audience Match were identical to the CBS version's payoff structure, but changed after three weeks to $500–$300–$200. Unlike the 1970s Match Game and its syndicated counterparts, a contestant was not eliminated from the Head-to-Head Match if an answer did not appear on the Audience Match board. Instead, the contestant was allowed to play for a minimum of $500 as a consolation; this was doubled to $1000 once the payoff structure for the Audience Match was changed.

Once the contestant's Audience Match winnings were determined they then faced the Star Wheel to determine the stake for the Head-to-Head Match, with a maximum amount of $10,000 available. The Star Wheel round was slightly modified for this Match Game series – instead of spinning the wheel itself, the contestant spun a green arrow, and instead of three stars underneath each panelist's name there were two red dots. The red dots served the same purpose as the stars, meaning that if the arrow landed on one of them the contestant's Head-to-Head Match stake would be doubled. Otherwise, play was the same as before: the contestant and panelist had to match exactly in order to win the Super Match. Champions on the ABC version could remain for up to five days.

Because many ABC stations in major Eastern Time markets carried local news at 12:00 Noon, the show was mostly seen in smaller markets and on independent stations in some larger markets without network clearances, and was canceled after one season. A proposed move to another network (rumored to be CBS) for the 1991–1992 season had been announced on the finale, but never materialized. Match Game has the distinction of being ABC's last daytime game show to date.

Match Game (1998–1999, daily syndication)

The Match Game logo from the late–1990s version.

Michael Burger was chosen as host of this revived version of the show, while Paul Boland served as its announcer. The only celebrity guests who had appeared on previous versions of the show were Vicki Lawrence (who appeared on two weeks of the 1970's version and regularly on the 1990–1991 version) and Nell Carter (who had appeared on the final week in 1991). The regular panelists on this version were Carter, Lawrence, and Judy Tenuta, and semi-regulars were George Hamilton, John Salley, Coolio, and Rondell Sheridan. Production returned to Studio 33 at CBS Television City on this version.

This incarnation of Match Game was played with rules nearly identical to that of the 1973–1982 versions with a few minor exceptions. The show featured a panel of only five celebrities instead of the usual six. Questions in this version were not labeled A or B, instead titles with puns were a clue as to the content (à la Win Ben Stein's Money). Each match was worth one point in Round One and two points in Round Two. As on the 1990–1991 version, all five panelists played each round regardless of whether they matched a contestant on the first question.

After two rounds, the highest scorer played the Super-Match, which was played identically to its 1973–1978 incarnation, including the $5,000 top prize. If no match was made in the Audience Match portion of the Super-Match, the contestant played for $500 in the Head-To-Head Match.

This version was noted for its sometimes over-the-top risqué humor of the celebrities and contestants. For instance, the prohibition on answers such as genitalia was no longer existent. On many episodes, answers that were deemed inappropriate for daytime TV were edited out with a "cuckoo" dubbed over the audible answer and a "CENSORED" graphic over the answer card and sometimes the person's mouth.

While Burger generally received positive reviews for his hosting, the series was mostly panned. Its humor was seen to have crossed the line from risqué into the out-and-out dirty and many stations pushed it into late-night slots. Its low budget and lack of returning champions (staples of several modern game shows) were also focal points for criticism. This was especially since two of the previous three versions to air all featured returning champions and offered cash prizes well in excess of $10,000 in an era when purchasing power was roughly twice that of 1998.

This version lasted one season, running from September 21, 1998 to September 17, 1999.

Gameshow Marathon (2006, CBS)

On June 22, 2006 Match Game was the sixth of seven classic game shows featured in CBS' month-long Gameshow Marathon hosted by Ricki Lake and announced by Rich Fields, and the second of two "semi-final" games in the tournament. The contestants were Kathy Najimy and Lance Bass with Betty White, George Foreman, Kathy Griffin, Bruce Vilanch, Adam Carolla, and Adrianne Curry as the panel. White retained her normal sixth-seat position and was the only one from the original series to appear for this segment of Gameshow Marathon.

Lake used the same signature long-thin Sony ECM-51 telescoping microphone Rayburn used during the CBS version, and the set was rebuilt to be almost an exact match of that used from 1973–1978. Najimy won the game, scoring five matches to Bass' three.

The format was that of Match Game PM, except that in the Super-Match the Head-To-Head Match was played for 50 times the amount won in the two Audience Matches ($50,000), which was won.

The set was repackaged and sent to Studio 33 for the taping of the failed Match Game revival for TBS (see below).

Episode status


Only 11 episodes are reported to survive[4] – the pilot and ten kinescope recordings. Other sources[who?] report that there are 100 or more kinescope recordings still in existence. As the show was originally broadcast live from New York, most episodes were not recorded for posterity. The Paley Center for Media holds nine episodes as black-and-white kinescopes and one color episode (from 1969, and presumably also a kinescope).

In 1965, The Match Game began to be produced on color videotape; however, none of the tapes are known to have survived the wiping and re-use procedures of NBC during that period as none of the surviving episodes is in color.


All three versions that aired during this period are presumed[by whom?] to be intact, and currently air on GSN. GSN has also aired all 16 episodes that were recorded in 1979 but not aired by CBS at the time.


All episodes are intact, but due to cross-ownership – CBS Television Distribution owns the rights to Hollywood Squares (at the time of MGHS it was owned by Orion Television) while FremantleMedia owns Match Game – has never been rerun.


All episodes of this version are intact, along with all five Convy pilots. GSN aired this version as recently as 2004, and the VH1 miniseries Game Show Moments Gone Bananas aired a clip from a Convy pilot, as well as a clip with Ross Shafer.


The series is intact; however, it has not been rerun. Brief clips have been seen on various game-show blooper specials.

Unsold pilots


Plans were made to re-launch Match Game as a stand-alone series in daily syndication in conjunction with the revival of the nighttime version of The Price Is Right. Rayburn was once again to serve as host, but he had already committed to Break the Bank at the time, and was unavailable. The project was postponed, and reruns from the 1979–1982 daily series aired instead.


Rayburn was fired from Break the Bank after 13 weeks and several disputes with the producers, and by late 1986 was once again available. The January 19, 1987 issue of Broadcasting & Cable featured a trade advertisement promoting another five-day-a-week revival attempt in syndication, again with Rayburn as host. The advertisement featured a red-colored version of the 1978–1982 logo and was promoted as featuring "the biggest names in entertainment" plus "big cash prizes".[5]

However, around this time Entertainment Tonight allegedly[citation needed] reported that Rayburn was 70 years old; he was in fact only 69, however this was still several years older than most producers thought he was. With this, plus his production feuds on Break the Bank and The Match Game-Hollywood Squares Hour still relatively recent, the revival project was scrapped.

After this incident, Rayburn hosted only one more series – AMC's The Movie Masters, which ran from August 2, 1989 to January 19, 1990. Rayburn claimed that the leaking of his age subjected him to age discrimination for the rest of his life.[citation needed]

Match Game 2 (1996)

A pilot was shot in September 1996 at KTLA Studios in California for a revised version called Match Game 2 with Charlene Tilton (a panelist on the 1979–1982 version) as host.[6] The panel for this show included Downtown Julie Brown, David Chokachi, Gil Gerard, Rondell Sheridan, and Kathleen Kinmont.

The format featured gameplay not used in any other version:

  • Instead of celebrities writing answers and contestants providing verbal responses, MG2 switched the roles, similar to the tiebreaker in Match Game PM.
  • A "Panel Poll" took the place of the Head-To-Head Match in the Super-Match. Each celebrity was given a choice of three adjectives, and the contestant guessed who picked what at $100 per match. This was done twice, after which the Audience Match was played.
  • In the Audience Match, instead of having the third, second, and most popular answers worth money, they each multiplied the contestant's earnings. The third most popular response doubled the "Panel Poll" winnings, the second most popular tripled their winnings, and the most popular multiplied their winnings by five for a top prize of $5,000.

Many elements of this pilot, such as a change from a six celebrities to five, were kept in for a second pilot shot a year later with Michael Burger as host.

What The Blank! (2004, FOX)

Vanity Fair and reported in May 2004 that a pilot called What the Blank! was taped for FOX and hosted by Fred Willard for air during the Summer 2004 "off" season.

It was said that the game was an incorporation of 21st-Century elements into the classic game as well as an added feature that people from along the streets would be able to participate for matching with contestants and celebrities in Street Smarts-style.

FOX abruptly canceled the series before the show made it to air; the status of any episodes produced is unknown.

2008 proposed revival (TBS)

TBS commissioned a pilot for a revived Match Game as part of an overhaul of its late night television programming. On June 21, 2008, Andrew Daly hosted a pilot episode with Sarah Silverman and Norm Macdonald among the panelists, using the Gameshow Marathon episode's set. TBS eventually passed on the project in favor of Lopez Tonight.


The 1973–1982 incarnations are shown in reruns daily on Game Show Network. Virtually all episodes of this version are still extant, although some reportedly are not shown due to celebrities' refusals of clearances.[7] On November 26, 2006 the network broadcast an hour-long documentary titled The Real Match Game Story: Behind The Blank featuring rarely-seen footage of the 1960s version, many odd or memorable moments from the main 1973–1982 runs, plus interviews with Rayburn, Somers, Dawson, DeBartolo, producer Ira Skutch, and others involved in the show's production.

The 1990 version has also had runs on GSN, most recently throughout 2002-2004. The 1998 version has never been rerun.


Match Game featured several theme songs throughout its various runs. From 1962–1967, Bert Kaempfert's instrumental A Swingin' Safari was used as the theme; a slightly different rendition (Billy Vaughn's cover of the same song) was used on the pilot. From 1967–1969, a new theme composed by Score Productions was used.

When the program returned in 1973, Goodson-Todman once again turned to Score Productions for a music package. A new theme, which was titled "The Midnight Four", was composed by Score staff composer Ken Bichel with a memorable "funk" guitar intro,[8] and similar elements and instruments from this theme were also featured in the numerous "think cues" heard when the panel wrote down their answers. Alternate think cues were extracted from the music packages for Tattletales and The Money Maze. In keeping with the zany atmosphere, the music supervisors also used other notable musical works to add to humorous situations. Among the non-Score Productions music heard on occasion was the "burlesque" music titled "The Stripper". The alternate theme is heard today on the WFLZ version of The MJ Morning Show

The music for The Match Game-Hollywood Squares Hour was composed by Edd Kalehoff. None of the music used from the 1970s version was used in this version. The main theme song and several of its cue variations are still used on The Price Is Right.

In 1990, Bichel re-orchestrated his 1970s theme with more modern instruments with new think cues (with the classic intro/think cue re-orchestrated). The 1998 version again used music from Score Productions.

International versions

United Kingdom

In the UK, Match Game was known as Blankety Blank and was presented by Terry Wogan, Les Dawson, and Lily Savage.


Several versions were made in Australia. The original 1960s The Match Game was imitated, with the same name, and hosted by Michael McCarthy.

The second, more commonly-known version was Blankety Blanks and based upon the 1970s version, running from 1977–1978. It was presented by Graham Kennedy and became a ratings hit for Network Ten. Like many Australian game shows during the 1970s–1990s (mostly those done by Reg Grundy) this version was remarkably similar to the American show right down to the set, "spinning box" opening, and "Get ready to match the stars!" tagline. The signature music from the American version was not used, however, but was instead replaced by original tracks that were very similar.

A later version appeared on the Nine Network in 1985 hosted by Daryl Somers, and again in 1996 hosted by Shane Bourne.

(This show is not to be confused with an unrelated American show by the same name, which aired on ABC and was hosted by Bill Cullen in 1975.)

The Netherlands

The Netherlands also had its own version during the mid-1980s with the same title as the UK version.


Match Game had a 150-episode run as Punkt, Punkt, Punkt (Dot, Dot, Dot–an allusion to an ellipsis) in the early 1990s on satellite and cable network Sat.1. The show was hosted by Mike Krüger.

On the 1970s "Match Game," Gene Rayburn occasionally mentioned another German version of the show titled "Schnick Schnack" (literally "Something, Anything" as there is no German word for blank.)


The game was called Espacio en Blanco (Blank Space) and was hosted by Mauricio Barcelata in Televisa. The show had a 40-episode run in 2006.


A Francophone version of Match Game called Atomes Crochus began airing in 2010 on V.[9] The host of the show is Alexandre Barrette, and the show features regular guests as did the original Match Game. Among the most regular of the guests are Alex Perron (formerly of the Quebec comedy troupe Les Mecs Comiques), Tammy Verge and Stéphane Fallu.

The format of the program more closely matched the 1990 American version, including a round similar to the Match Up round. Scoring was different (in the main game, matches in round one were worth 25 points and worth 50 points in round two; the Match Up round matches were also worth 50 points). The Super Match and Star Wheel rounds were also played in similar fashion as on the American version.


The game was called Şansını Dene and aired in the early 1990s on Show TV. The show was hosted by Mehmet Ali Erbil.

Home version

Several home game versions based on the '60s' and '70s' American version were published by Milton Bradley from 1963 through 1978, in multiple editions.

"The Match Game" Home Version (1963–1969)

Milton Bradley made six editions of the NBC version starting in 1963. Each game would contain 100 perforated cards, six questions per card, a plastic scoreboard tray with colored pegs and chips, 6 "Scribble Boards", crayons and a "generous supply" of wipe-off papers. After the first edition, the vinyl "scribble boards" and crayons were replaced with six "magic slates" and wooden styli.


The main object of the game is for contestants to simply try to write answers to questions that will "match" their partners' answers. The rules for a six contestant game are the same as the actual TV show (with the scoring done similarly like the TV show (you get some points for matching two, more for matching all three), but the home game also has variations for fewer contestants. No bonus game is included.

Special Editions

Milton Bradley also created a Fine Edition and a Collector's Edition with more questions, now on slick playing cards. The magic slates came enclosed in a gold-looking folder, plus a dial to keep score instead of the pegboard. The scoring and point values is just like the TV show. The only difference between the Fine Edition and the Collector's Edition is, instead of being packaged in a normal cardboard box, it came in a nicer leatherette case with buttons on the front apron.

Milton Bradley also created a "travel" version of the game.

"Match Game" Home Version (1974–1978)

Starting in 1974, Milton Bradley went back to Match Game and created three more editions, now with the format based on the most famous CBS version. Each edition would contain a game board with plastic stand, two game booklets (one with instructions) with material for 92 complete games (368 Main Game Questions and 92 "Audience Match" and "Head-to-Head Match" questions), two magic slates and styli (only of the Head-to-Head portion), and play money.


Just like the '70s version, two contestants have two chances to match as many of the six "celebrities" as possible. Celebrity answers are printed in the booklets, and after the contestant gives her answer, the M.C. reads the celebrity responses one by one, marking correct answers on the game board. A contestant can get up to six matches in one game. The contestant with the most matches gets to play the "Super Match" round (the MC simply reads the question and the responses) for a chance to win money (with an "Audience Match" and a "Head-to-Head Match" similar to the TV show) for up to $5,000.

Unlike some game show adaptations, the questions and answers from the main game are the show's celebrity panelists and the Super Match answers are exactly as answered by the show's studio audience. As it says on the insert of the box cover, these answers are from the actual TV show. The questions and answers for first edition were much more simple and straightforward (ex: "Mary likes to look at _________ in the morning."), similar to the early episodes of the '70s version. The second edition questions were simple and straightforward, but some were the start of the comical questions from the show. However, in the third edition, all questions are similar to the ones used on TV.


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