Bern Bennett (Sub in 1975)
|Studio 33, CBS Television City, Los Angeles, California|
|Mark Goodson-Bill Todman Productions|
|Jim Victory Television (1975-1982)|
Match Game (7x/P.M.) was the comedy game show where celebrities match contestants and vice versa, simply by filling in the blanks. If the contestants do it very well, they win lots of money.
Gene Rayburn greets two contestants and several million Americans on Match Game '7?/PM. Two contestants, including a returning champion, competed. The champion was seated in the upstage (red circle) seat and the opponent was seated in the downstage (green triangle) seat. On Match Game PM and the daily syndicated version, a coin toss was held backstage to determine the positions. The object was to match the answers of as many of the six celebrity panelists as possible on fill-in-the-blank statements.
The main game was played in two rounds. The opponent was given a choice of two statements labeled either "A" or "B". Rayburn then read the statement. While the contestant pondered an answer, the six celebrities wrote their answers on index cards. After they finished, the contestant was polled for an answer. Gene then asked each celebrity — one at a time, beginning with #1 in the upper left hand corner — to respond.
While early questions were similar to the NBC version (e.g., "Name a type of muffin" and "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, now contributed broader and saucier questions for Gene. 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 Gene critiqued the contestant's answer (for the "world's biggest" question, he 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 would groan or boo when a contestant gave a bad answer, whereas they would cheer and applaud in approval of a good answer. There were a handful of potential answers that were prohibited, the most notable being any synonym for genitalia.
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" could be matched by "bottom", "behind", "derrière", "fannie", "hiney", etc.) up to a maximum of six points for matching everyone. After play was completed on one contestant's question, Gene read the statement on the other card for the opponent and play was identical.
Popular questions featured "Dumb Dora" or her male counterpart, "Dumb Donald". These questions would often begin, "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?" Then Gene would finish the question. 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. Gene always played the action for laughs, and he frequently tried to read certain questions in character; for example, he would recite questions involving a made-up character named "Old Man Periwinkle", or "102-year-old Mr. Periwinkle", in a weak, quavering voice (he also did Periwinkle's female counterpart, "Old Mrs. Pervis"). Charles Nelson Reilly, who admitted in '77 he was Brett Somers's rival (as they often argued), one of the regular panelists and one who was often involved with directing Broadway plays, would often make remarks regarding Gene's acting such as "I like when you act" and "That was mediocre" when Gene did a voice like this; this tended to draw a big laugh from the audiences. At times, questions would deal with the fictitious (and often sleazy) country of "Nerdo Crombezia".
On Match Game PM and the daily syndicated version whichever player was ahead in points after Round 1 always began by choosing a question first in Round 2. This rule ensured that both players would be able to play two meaningful questions. (Without this rule, a player who had only answered one question could be ahead of another player who had played both his/her questions, rendering the final question moot.) Only celebrities that a contestant did not match could play this second round. On the CBS version, challengers always chose a question first in the next round.
The second round questions were generally easier and were usually puns that had a "definitive" answer (for instance, "Did you hear about the new religious group of dentists? They call themselves the Holy _____.", where the definitive answer would be "Molars"), whereas the first round usually had a number of possible answers. This was to help trailing contestants pick up points quickly.
On Match Game PM, a third round was added after Season One as the 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.
The player who matched more celebrities at the end of the game is declared the winner. If the players had the same score at the end of "regulation", the scores were reset to 0-0. On 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 would write their answers first on a card in secret, then the celebrities were canvassed to give their answers. Originally, the regulars (Brett, Charles & Richard) would give their answers, later it was changed to having all six celebrities play. 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 show "straddled" – that is, episodes often began and ended with games in progress.
On the CBS daytime show, champions could stay until defeated or reached the network's limit of $25,000. Originally, that was the maximum earning for any champion, but the rule was later changed so that while champions were still retired after exceeding the $25,000 limit, they got to keep everything up to $35,000. During the six-year run of Match Game on CBS, only one champion retired undefeated.
On the daily 1979-82 syndicated version, two contestants would play two games against each other, and then both were retired. The show was timed out 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"). If a Friday show ran short, audience members sometimes got to play the game; this occurred on only three occasions.
Episodes of Match Game PM were self-contained, with two new contestants each week.
The winner of the game went on to play the (Big Money) 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.
The Super Match was referred to as the "Jackpot Match" in the 70s pilot.
A two to four word fill-in-the-blank phrase was given, and it was up to the contestant to choose the most common response based on a studio audience survey. After consulting with three celebrities on the panel for help, the contestant chose an answer they liked the best, or chose one of their own that they thought of themselves. The answers were then revealed; 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. Two Audience Matches were played on Match Game PM. On at least one occasion on Match Game PM, a contestant failed to win any money on either Audience Match; the contestant then got to play a fill-in-the-blank statement with the entire panel for $100 per match ($600 in total) as a consolation prize, or a possible $200 per match when the Star Wheel was instituted. This has rarely occurred.
The contestant then had the opportunity to win an additional cash prize equal to 10 times what he or she won in the Audience Match (therefore, $5,000, $2,500 or $1,000) by matching another fill-in-the-blank response with a celebrity panelist of his or her choice. In order to win the money, the contestant had to match his or her chosen celebrity's response exactly; this meant that multiple forms of the same word, e.g. singular or plural, were usually accepted whereas synonyms were not. If successful, he/she won the extra money (the total prize being $1,100/$2,750/$5,500). Thus, a maximum of $5,600 ($100 won for winning the game) could be won on the daytime version per game & Super Match ($10,600 when the Star Wheel was instituted). On Match Game PM, a maximum of $11,000 could be won ($21,000 when the Star Wheel was instituted). The latter has occurred at least twice.
Richard Dawson was the most frequently-chosen celebrity in the 1970s version. His knack for matching contestants was so great that producers tried to discourage contestants from repeatedly choosing him, even before the introduction of the Star Wheel; in 1975 a rule was added, stipulating that a returning champion could not choose the same celebrity again for the Head-To-Head Match - this only lasted six weeks.
The "Star Wheel" was introduced in 1978 and was used until the syndicated version ended in 1982. Contestants spun the wheel to determine which celebrity they played with in the Head-To-Head Match, and could double their potential winnings if the wheel landed on an area of gold stars under each celebrity's name (later changed to three individual stars per celebrity to increase the difficulty of obtaining a double).
The wheel was added to prevent people from constantly choosing Richard Dawson, although the first time it was used it landed on Richard nonetheless. This caused the rest of the panel to get up and leave, leading fellow star Charles Nelson Reilly to refer to it on that episode as "the famed and fixed Star Wheel". The Star Wheel was also used in the 1990 version of the show.
The idea for the bonus round (Super/Audience Match) would later be spun off as Family Feud hosted by famed Match Game panelist Richard Dawson from 1976 (1977 in the syndicated version) until 1985, then again from 1994 until 1995.
This series exists in its entirety, and it is currently on GSN and Buzzr.
Match Game in Popular Culture
Match Game was depicted in a 2012 episode of the Nickelodeon sitcom Victorious called “April Fools Blank”. Here, it was called Match Play. The title character Tori Vega (Victoria Justice) ran onto the set of this parodied game show to which Sikowitz (Eric Lange) was the host and Tori's friends was the panel. Like Match Game the host read a statement with a blank at the end or near the end and the contestant must then fill in that blank with a word or phrase he/she thought any of the celebrities would say. If the contestant's answer matched any of the panelists, he/she won $5000. However, each time there was no match, the Dancing Lobster appeared and attacked the contestant down to the ground. On this playing, the question was: "Dumb Debbie (as opposed to Dumb Dora) was so dumb (HOW DUMB WAS SHE?!) she didn't realize April First was April Fools __________." Tori's answer was "Day" (the obvious one), but due to the crazy nature of that episode, none of the panelists said “Day”, causing Tori to be attacked by the lobster all six times minus two (explanation later) and losing $5000 because of it. The answers the panel gave were as follows:
- Andre (Leon Thomas III): "Lobster"
- Jade (Elizabeth Gillies): "Berry"
- Robbie (Matt Bennett): "Foot"
- Cat (Ariana Grande): "Blank" (The Dancing Lobster was not brought out for that, because Cat misunderstood the question.)
- Beck (Avan Jogia): "Onion Rings"
- Trina (Daniella Monet): "Cut to the Next Scene" (Which [truth in advertising] sent Tori & Trina to their living room for the next scene and the remainder of the episode)
In the 1994 episode of The Simpsons called Bart Gets Famous, it is implied that the set of Match Game 2034 would be similar to the post-modern atmosphere of The Jetsons. The panelists that appeared on the episode were Billy Cyrstal, Farrah Fawcett-Majors-O'Neil-Varney, The I Didn't Do It Boy, ventriloquist Loni Anderson, Spike Lee and the lovely and vivacious head of Kitty Carlisle. (NOTE: This also was a reference to Marcia Wallace, who was a semi-regular on the 1970's Rayburn version of Match Game.) In the 2010 episode called Elementary School Musical, Bart and Homer search for evidence on the Internet that can release Krusty the Clown from the International Court of Justice. They find a clip on Mytube (obviously a parody of Youtube) of him appearing on Match Game PM where he confesses to "self-mutilation".
In the 2001 Family Guy episode called Mr. Saturday Knight, Chris is seen watching reruns of Match Game with Gene Rayburn reading a question to the panel: Forgetful Freddy was so forgetful, every time he tried to remember someone's name he drew a _____.
Homestar Runner referenced Match Game not once but twice: the first was in the 2003 episode called Email The Show, used as a commercial bumper music is partially lifted from the show's theme music, and in the 2006 episode called Email 4 branches, where The Show was renamed to The Show AM alluding to Match Game's rebranded title as Match Game PM.
Saturday Night Live referenced Match Game in a parody of Inside The Actor's Studio, featuring Alec Baldwin as Charles Nelson Reilly. In 2001, Will Ferrell as James Lipton raves about the show in flowery terms, making up a word scrumtrilescent to describe its brilliance. On a later episode, the show was parodied as a faux-70's show called It's A Match. In the skit, the game wasn't played because the host had been murdered, and a detective came out instead to question the panel about their whereabouts. In true fashion, the panel responded by writing their answers on the response cards and revealing them as called on.
An episode of Will & Grace showed the main characters watching eight back-to-back episodes of Match Game '73 with Karen Walker (played by Megan Mullally) humming the theme song and remarking how she loved the Game Show Network.
Mystery Science Theater 3000 made references to the show while watching movie segments and in one of the sketches, Crow T. Robot does a one-man show (Give 'em Hell Blank) about Match Game, playing as Gene Rayburn as well as all six of the panelists including Nipsey Russell and Charles Nelson Reilly. He closes with an unusually somber monologue (as Rayburn) about growing old.
In January 2001, TV Guide listed Match Game as #10 as one of The 50 Greatest Game Shows of All-Time.
In December 2005, TV Guide and TV Land joined forces and created a television special which counted down a list of the 100 most unexpected TV moments. Match Game '77 “School Riot” episode is one of them, in which Debralee Scott and Richard Dawson revolt when the judges did not accept “Finishing School” as a match for “School” was ranked as #82 on the list.
In 2006, GSN ranked Match Game #1 as one of The 50 Greatest Game Shows of All Time, the special series itself was hosted by Bil Dwyer.
In July 2006, it was mentioned as a topic in VH1's nostalgic miniseries I Love The 70's Volume II’s 1973 episode.
Match Game is a recurring segment on radio programs such as The Don and Mike Show and The Dan Patrick Show, as well as on local morning shows across the country.
Vicki Lawrence has made multiple appearances on Match Game. She was in the pilot and she also made an appearance when The Carol Burnett Show cast made a visit to the show. She was also a semi-regular on the 1990's ABC, 1998 Syndicated and 2003 WMS Gaming slot machine versions.
A modified version of Match Game would occasionally be played on MTV's Remote Control. Host Ken Ober's questions would generally be raunchier than Match Game standards, and the contestants scored points for matching either co-hosts Colin Quinn, Kari Wuhrer or musician Steve Treccase.
In 2006, GSN listed Match Game #1 of The 50 Greatest Game Shows of All-Time. The special was hosted by Bil Dwyer.
Match Game was referenced once on The Price is Right as one of their Showcase themes.
Match Game is mentioned numerous times in Charles Nelson Reilly's 2006 documentary film The Life of Reilly.
The reality series RuPaul's Drag Race has played a version of Match Game, called "Snatch Game", since season two. The queens imitate their favorite celebrities and sit on the panel, while two celebrity contestants, usually the special guest judges for that episode, try to fill in the blanks and match the queens.
"The Midnight Four" by Ken Bichel, Ray Crisara, Herb Harris, Jay Leonhart, Mike Redding & Lou Volpe along with Robert Israel of Score Productions, Inc.
Two unused think cues from the 1974 version of TattleTales were recycled into Match Game 73-79/PM.
The main think cue from Match Game 73-79/PM was recycled for use as the main think cue during the first half of the 1998 revival. Halfway through this new song, it switched from the original melody to a new one based on the show's then-theme.
The Main from Match Game 73-79/PM is used as a showcase cue on The Price is Right during the Carey years and again as the closing theme on the April Fools' Day show in 2009.
The think cue from Match Game 73-79/PM was used in the April Fools' Day 2009 show on The Price is Right for games that require thinking such as Push Over and Cover Up instead of their respective cues.
CBS Television City, Hollywood California