Match Game ’75/Match Game P.M.

Last Update: March 17, 2001 -- Reruns section updated, two links added.

Airing: Match Game ’75: 3:30-4 p.m. Monday-Friday January 1-August 15 and December 1 on, 3-3:30 p.m. Monday-Friday from August 18 through November 28, CBS. Match Game P.M.: weekly in first-run syndication from September 8 through the rest of the year.

Personnel: Gene Rayburn, host; Johnny Olson, announcer. Regular panelists: Richard Dawson, Charles Nelson Reilly, Brett Somers. Frequent panelists (appeared at least once a month): Betty White, Fannie Flagg. A Mark Goodson-Bill Todman Production. Taped in Los Angeles.

Description: Fill in the blank, and hope your answers match the celebrities.

Game Play: Two contestants competed, a champion and a returning challenger. Rayburn read a statement, usually similar to the following: "Norm said, ‘I wish my mother-in-law would stop barging in our house. Last night, she came in while my wife and I were blanking on the couch.’" Six celebrities would write down their responses on cards, and the host would solicit an answer from the contestant. The contestant would receive one point for every time their response matched that of the celebrities. Two rounds were played (three in Match Game P.M.), with the low scorer going first in the final round. Celebrities who matched the contestant in the previous rounds didn’t play in subsequent ones, thus six points was the maximum score. The contestant with the most matches at the end of the game won $100 and went on to the end game. If there was a tie, an additional round was played. (In Match Game P.M., the tie-breaker was reversed, and the contestants would write down a response to a simple fill-in-the-blank, such as blank pudding. The first celebrity would give a response, and the first contestant they matched won.)

End Game: Also known as the Super Match. In the first portion, the Audience Match, a fill-in-the-blank like the one above was revealed, answers to which had been given in a poll of a "recent studio audience" (which could have been an audience from any G-T game, in either LA or NY). The contestant solicited responses from three celebrities. (This could be very difficult if you were the third celeb chosen and the good responses were taken.) The contestant could choose any of these three as their response, or one of their own. The three top responses according to the audience poll were revealed in reverse order of popularity, and were worth $500, $250, and $100. If the contestant’s response didn’t match any of the top three responses, the end game was over.

The final portion of the end game, the Head-to-Head Match, was played with a celebrity of the contestant’s choosing (generally Richard Dawson). Rayburn read another simple fill-in-the-blank, and if the contestant matched the celebrity, they won 10 times the amount awarded in the Audience Match, or up to $5,000. (In Match Game P.M., two Audience Matches were played before the Head-to-Head Match, so the total payoff was a maximum of $10,000.)

Background: Match Game was invented by either G-T staffers Robert Noah or Frank Wayne, depending on which source you read. On NBC from 1962 to 1969 at 4 p.m., it was a pretty staid affair, with two contestants and one celebrity playing in teams and questions along the lines of "Name a kind of muffin." When CBS brought the game back four years later, Goodson reconfigured the show so that more celebrities could play. The original fill-in-the-blanks weren’t dissimilar from the ‘60s MG, but had the possibility of ribald answers. As Ira Skutch recalled, "The old show was things like ‘Name a kind of duck.’ We changed the line of questioning to things like, ‘John always puts butter on his blank.’ The first time we did that we got screams."

MG ’73 became the top-ranked daytime program for two seasons, 1973-74 and 1974-75. The most risqué game show at the time aside from maybe The Newlywed Game, it was a huge hit with teenagers coming home from school.

Well-Matched: And MG ’75 was ranked #3 in daytime in the 1975-76 season, first among game shows.

Rayburned: The most famous Match Game moments were bloopers. In the Head-to-Head Match segment, when confronted with "Cuckoo blank," a contestant surprised everyone with her response "Cuckoo, Fran, and Ollie." Rayburn’s most famous gaffe occurred when trying to compliment contestant Karen Lesko’s dimples; the word "nipples" came out instead.

Match Game Starts a Family: The Audience Match segment led Mark Goodson to create a new game around it, featuring contestants guessing answers to poll questions that had been posed to 100 people. (Ironically, the questions for the new game could have come from the ‘60s Match Game – "Name the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning" could be a typical question.) Goodson drafted Match Game’s most popular celebrity, Richard Dawson, to host the show, christened Family Feud, which debuted in 1976 on ABC, and eventually surpassed MG in popularity.

Dawson’s (up the) Creek: As Richard Dawson became more and more popular in the wake of Feud’s success, he became increasingly difficult to deal with on Match Game. Adding the Star Wheel in 1977 didn’t help matters; it shook up the Head-to-Head Match a bit by having the contestant spin a wheel that chose which celebrity they would play with (possibly doubling the stakes to $10,000 as well). But the introduction of this element also took away a part of the show that had been Dawson’s exclusive domain. He "stopped participating" (in Gene Rayburn’s words), leaving altogether MG in 1978.

A Bad Match: Besides Dawson’s departure, Match Game suffered from a time slot switch to 11 a.m. in November 1977, a decision made by CBS head of daytime Mike Ogiens. (Ogiens was also a former staffer at Chuck Barris Productions, fired because he threw Barris out of a costume party he and his girlfriend were hosting because Barris came in street clothes.) Rayburn looked less than thrilled on episodes announcing the change, and with good reason: many of MG’s biggest fans were students who couldn’t watch the show in the mornings. CBS realized its mistake and moved MG back to 4 p.m. six weeks later, but the ratings continued to decline and the show was canceled in April 1979. Goodson-Todman immediately launched a syndicated daily first-run edition (which aired on some stations, including WCBS in New York, in the same slot it had been in before) which ran an additional three years. The only change was that contestants each played two games, retiring after that regardless of how well they did. The weekly syndicated version ran until 1981.

NBC Creates a Match: In October 1983, NBC brought back MG as part of The Match Game-Hollywood Squares Hour. Co-hosted by Rayburn and Jon Bauman ("Bowzer" in the group Sha-Na-Na), this version had two challengers play two rounds of MG with Bauman and five other celebrities and Rayburn hosting. The winner then played Hollywood Squares against the returning champion with Bauman hosting while Rayburn and eight other celebrities played, and then a Super Match with a possible $30,000 payoff and Rayburn again hosting.

Mark Goodson Productions managed to negotiate successfully with the film studio Orion (which had the rights to HS at the time) to create this show, but a few decisions worked against them. Bauman was a less than suitable host (why not Peter Marshall, who was available at the time?), while Rayburn, who had been hosting a talk-variety show, Saturday Morning Live, on WNEW in New York, wasn’t thrilled with commuting again to Los Angeles again, and the combination was unhealthy. (In announcer Gene Wood’s words, from an interview with David Hammett: "Rayburn was dragged kicking and screaming into that hour. Bauman was likable, but his character was so foreign to TV. Jon's fate was of not keeping the show moving, plus his occasional ‘pose’ as Bowzer seemed out of place. Instead of being looked up to, he was doing shtick... and it didn't fit.") The show also went out of its way early on not to use regulars from either MG or HS; thus, no Charles Nelson Reilly, Brett Somers, George Gobel, or Rose Marie on a regular basis – instead, lots of NBC soap stars. This version lasted nine months before giving way to the soap opera Santa Barbara. There were thoughts of launching a new syndicated Match Game in 1985, but it apparently didn’t come off. (One TV reference book says the show actually did air first-run episodes that year, but there’s no evidence that episodes were made. Some observers noted that when Entertainment Tonight wished Gene Rayburn a happy 65th birthday in the spring of 1985, station managers’ interest in the show dried up.) Rayburn wound up hosting the Richard Kline-produced Break the Bank for a few months that fall, and ran American Movie Classics’ Movie Masters for a bit from 1989 to 1990. He passed away at age 81 November 29, 1999.

Lost Match: ABC brought back Match Game for another go-round in 1990. Bert Convy was originally selected as host (Rayburn was 72 at the time, and deemed too old by ABC execs), but Convy’s illness forced him to the sidelines (he died of a brain tumor the following year). Standup comic Ross Shafer of the USA game Love Me, Love Me Not got the nod instead, and at the noon time slot, with low affiliate clearances, the show lasted just a year. It’s primarily remembered for the unnecessary addition of Match-Up, a rapid-fire series of fill-in-the-blank questions that took away the flow of the game. Shafer was an okay host who suffered in comparison with his predecessor. Gene Wood again: "Ross Shafer was nice, came out of the comedy circuit. But he was put into the middle of some heavyweights, like Charles Nelson Reilly. When Rayburn did it, he was in charge. I told Ross, ‘You're one of the stars... you've got to get them to accede to your wishes.’ But it was hard for him. The game may have come back a year or two too soon."

Our Latest Match: Goodson/All-American, with Tribune Entertainment, mounted a pilot in 1997 with actress Charlene Tilton, of all people, at the helm; that version was deemed unfit for human eyes and ears and was quickly destroyed. Tribune Entertainment is fortunately no longer working with All-American (which has since been acquired by Pearson Entertainment), and the new pilot led to a new series that debuted September 21, 1998. Mike and Maty and Family Challenge host Michael Burger was a good host; maybe slightly better than Shafer (although it’s close), game show veteran Jay Wolpert (Whew!, Hit Man) joined on as executive producer partway into the project. Nell Carter, George Hamilton, Vicki Lawrence, and Judy Tenuta were regular celebrities, with the number of celebs on the panel dropping to five.

Times are tough for half-hour syndicated shows, and Match Game didn’t make it. Lots of reasons can be cited: poor promotion, poor writing, celebrities that didn’t mesh. Match Game, though, is not a great game structurally; the ’70s edition was a big hit because it pushed the envelope on what was acceptable on television, as well as the chemistry between Rayburn and the celebrities. The envelope can’t be pushed much more without bleeping out answers, as they discovered quickly, and the celebrities, well, just weren’t as charming, for some reason. Maybe they’ll try again in ten years, but this edition’s last episode was Friday, September 17.

Key Phrases:

The Home Game: Milton Bradley issued three editions of the ’70s version of the game in the middle part of the decade. I owned the first one, and I can honestly say it’s nowhere near as fun as watching the show, and is only really of use as a collectible. The find is actually the ’60s box game, which went through six editions. For actual game play, it’s the far better value.

Reruns: Game Show Network is currently running Match Game ’76 at 6:30 p.m. Eastern and Match Game ’79 at 9:00 p.m. Eastern on weekdays, with another Match Game episode Saturday and Sunday at 6 p.m. Eastern and a Match Game P.M. episode Sunday evenings at 9:30. They’ve run the Ross Shafer version in the past, but it isn’t on the schedule right now, and I don’t believe they have the rights to the Michael Burger version. Eight episodes from various vintages will rerun on Game Show Saturday Night April 7 from 8 p.m. to midnight Eastern.

Tapes and/or kinescopes from the ’60s NBC version (which may have been live early in the run) have been destroyed except for a precious few, while the MG-HS Hour is unavailable due to the cross-ownership (Rayburn probably wouldn’t have cleared his appearances either).

Revivals: Three versions have failed in the last 15 years, so it may be awhile before we get another chance.

Curt Alliaume, Executive Producer: In my ideal version of Match Game, it’s played in three rounds, with all six celebrities participating in each round. Each correct match is worth one point in Rounds One and Two; two points in Round Three (to give the trailing contestant a chance to catch up). The winner receives $500 and goes on to the Super Match.

The first part of the Super Match jettisons the Audience Match (polls have been done to death between Card Sharks and Family Feud) and resuscitates Match-Up from the 1990-91 edition. The contestant picks one of the six celebrities, and they then try to match on 10 fill-in-the-blanks. The first five are worth $100 each and they choose between two answers; the second four are worth $200 each and they choose between three answers; the last is worth $500 and they choose between four answers. This is done within a 60-second limit, and would be quicker than an Audience Match, thus allowing for three rounds in the front game. The contestant then plays for 10 times the amount won in Match-Up (for a maximum of $20,000) in a Head-to-Head Match with one of the five remaining celebrities. The games don’t straddle between episodes, and players who win five consecutive games retire undefeated. I have no problem with Michael Burger as host; the ‘70s music should be retained.

My 1975 Grade: A+.

Read More About It:

Sound + Vision:

  • ’80s TV Theme SuperSite to download the theme music for the ’70s version, the ’80s hour-long hybrid, and the 1990-91 version.
  • TVParty.com contains a streaming Real Audio file of a show opener in its Game Shows section, and has a nice article on Brett Somers as well.
  • Match Game.org (formerly The Basset Hound Zone) has piles of screen grabs and audio files from various versions of the show (including MG-HS), and a very complete list of celebrity guests from all versions.
  • Shelly Palmer Productions to download a truly cool promo clip of the new version in Real Video. Shelly hasn’t removed the clip yet, so go for it!
  • Michael Klauss’ tv-gameshows.com has a lot of promo photos in his Match Game Gallery that must be seen. Michael has also given me permission to post a couple on my page. Heck, take a few minutes and look at the whole page; inevitably there will be something to tickle your fancy.
  • Match Game Moments is exactly that -- screen captures and .wav files galore.
  • Joe Madigan’s Match Game 2000 has even more screen grabs and MP3 clips. Joe just added a feature on the overlooked 1990 edition of the show.
E-mail Me With Your Memories of Match Game ’75/Match Game P.M.

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Match Game ’75 and Match Game P.M. are copyrighted titles of Mark Goodson Productions/Pearson Television. This page is in no way affiliated with or endorsed by Mark Goodson Productions, Pearson Television, their subsidiaries, affiliates, or successor organizations. No challenge to their ownership is implied. Match Game box game copyright Milton Bradley Company. Top photo of Dawson, Somers, Nelson Reilly, and Rayburn and color group photo both courtesy of Michael Klauss; all other photos originally appeared on eBay.

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