Almost Anything Goes
Last Update: December 11, 2004 -- URL on one link updated.
Airing: 8:00-9:00 p.m. Thursdays, July 31 through August 28, ABC.
Personnel: Charlie Jones, play by play; Lynn Shackleford, color commentary; Dick Whittington, field interviewer (possible -- see below; Sam Riddle, announcer. A Bob Banner-Robert Stigwood Production. Taped in various locations throughout the United States.
Description: Average Americans do wacky stunts to represent their home town.
Game Play: Three teams, comprised of (I believe) five people, both men and women, represented various towns in a given state. They were required to compete in competitive stunts such as:
(And this was just the first episode.)
All three teams would compete in these events (not two at a time as I erroneously reported here earlier). In the second season, 10 points went to the team finishing in first, five to the second-place team, and three to the last-place team. (The final event was scored 20-5-0.) First-season scoring varied from this norm: some events were scored based on first/second/third finishes, others based on how the team did overall regardless of their placement. (Thanks to Don DelGrande for the corrections.)
End Game: None.
Background: Almost Anything Goes was developed from a British show, It’s a Knockout, which had been airing in the U.K. since 1967 and which itself came from a French show, Jeux Sans Frontiers (translation: “Games Without Frontiers” [or Borders] – Peter Gabriel used this as a reference point for his 1980 hit of the same name). The British and French versions aired on BBC from 1966 to 1987, with a new version airing on Channel 5 in the UK starting in 1999. AAG served as a summer replacement series on ABC, replacing The Odd Couple (which had ended its run) and Barney Miller (for a few weeks, it would return in September).
The producers were an interesting pair. Bob Banner had worked in American television for years (he won an Emmy in 1958 for directing Dinah Shore’s variety hour). Robert Stigwood, on the other hand, is probably best known on these shores for launching many musical careers, including the Bee Gees, Andy Gibb, and others. His RSO record label released two huge soundtrack albums in 1977 and 1978, Saturday Night Fever and Grease. (Of course, their next soundtrack was to the movie version of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, but that’s another story.) Stigwood got his start working for Brian Epstein, the Beatles’ manager. I suspect his name was on the production credits of this show, but he probably had little day-to-day involvement.
Almost Everyone Watches: AAG turned out to be a surprise hit in its limited summer run, so ABC brought the show back in January 1976 on Saturday nights at 8 p.m., replacing the unlamented variety extravaganza Saturday Night Live With Howard Cosell. (I am not kidding.) Dick Whittington, the field announcer (and Los Angeles radio personality), was out, replaced by Regis Philbin, who was also hosting The Neighbors on ABC weekday afternoons. (Side note: Sam Riddle, announcer and producer of the show, wrote in to note he doesn’t remember Dick Whittington on the original series; the sources are several television history books, but they all could have gotten this information from the same incorrect source.) ABC didn’t reckon with strong competition, however – the summer shows had run again reruns of The Waltons on CBS and, uh, something on NBC. The new run of the show bumped up against The Jeffersons on CBS (then an emerging top 20 hit), and the solid Emergency on NBC). The new edition ran 3½ months and was quietly cancelled, as ABC found itself a much stronger network with the addition of series both popular with critics (Rich Man, Poor Man) and viewers (Laverne & Shirley). Charlie Jones would go on to host Pro Fan in 1978. Regis Philbin, of course, has hosted several talk shows since AAG; he’s currently hosting a fairly popular game show as well.
Almost All the Winners: There were five episodes in the summer 1975 season, with teams representing the North, South, East, and West. Boulder City, Nevada won the 1975 competition -- thanks to Larry Hall for this information.
For the 1976 season (boldface indicates winner):
Boulder City then took on Chambersburg and a third team of celebrities, with Boulder City winning.
Special thanks to Rusty Muse, Jason Carter, and Don DelGrande for the information!
Junior-Sized: Not willing to let the show go altogether, however, ABC gave it another shot in the fall on Saturday mornings, with a half-hour format and the new title Junior Almost Anything Goes. Soupy Sales was inserted as the host, with sportscaster Eddie Alexander doing the announcing. Teams represented the same city this time, rather than different cities in the same state (the photo in the first edition of The Encyclopedia of TV Game Shows shows a red team, a white team, and a blue team for Sepulveda, which is a suburb of Los Angeles). The show aired across the network at 12 noon, right before Dick Clark’s American Bandstand., until January, when it was shifted to Sunday mornings. (Sunday mornings were when ABC aired underachieving children’s programming or really, really cheap reruns – reruns of The Bullwinkle Show aired there for nine years). Sales was quoted a few years ago in a book on Saturday morning television that the show received lousy time slots. It did about the same as Jack Barry and Dan Enright’s similar Way Out Games, which aired for a year on CBS (mostly on Saturdays at 12:30 or 1 p.m., but also on Sunday mornings toward the end of the run) with TV veteran Sonny Fox as host.
All-Star Blitzed: The producers took yet one more shot with the program, selling into first-run syndication as All-Star Anything Goes, with two four-person all-celebrity teams competing. Bill Boggs (who had been hosting a noontime talk show in New York) was tapped as the host, with Judy Abercrombie as the score girl and Jim Healy doing the play-by-play. The teams were linked together by their backgrounds – for example, The Brady Bunch (comprised of Barry Williams (Greg), Christopher Knight (Peter), Susan Olsen (Cindy), and Geri Reischl (“Fake Jan” – she replaced Eve Plumb in the short-lived The Brady Bunch Variety Hour) faced off against The DeFranco Family (a couple years after their hit single “Heartbeat – It’s a Lovebeat”). Other teams included cast members from Eight Is Enough, The Waltons, and Little House on the Prairie, along with odder groupings (Hugh Hefner and three Playboy Playmates?). The show ran a year and quickly disappeared.
The Home Game: None, obviously. You could accomplish similar results with either a home game from either Beat the Clock or Nickelodeon’s Double Dare. (Well, maybe not the handheld model.)
Reruns: None as far as I know. There would be too few episodes of any of the versions to run except as occasional specials on a cable channel such as TV Land.
Revivals: None that I’ve heard of.
Curt Alliaume, Executive Producer: You know, I would have scoffed at this show ever being presentable again a year or two ago. But with the success of (shudder) Survivor, Fear Factor, and other loathsome shows that call themselves games (but really aren’t), this could stand a chance on a more wholesome channel. (ABC Family, this is your cue.)
My Grade: C+.
Read More About It:
Almost Anything Goes, Junior Almost Anything Goes, and All-Star Anything Goes are copyrighted titles of Bob Banner-Robert Stigwood Productions. This page is in no way affiliated with or endorsed by Bob Banner-Robert Stigwood Productions, RSO, their subsidiaries, affiliates, or successor organizations. No challenge to their ownership is implied. Top two photos originally appeared on eBay. All-Star Anything Goes photo appears with permission of Ted Nichelson.