Match Game

Air Dates: December 31, 1962 – September 20, 1969

NBC-TV, 4:00-4:25 PM EST (Live)
Host: Gene Rayburn
Announcer: Johnny Olsen
The original MG bore little resemblance to the version we all know and love. Two three-member teams competed, each consisting of a celebrity and two civillians. Gene would ask a simple question, such as “Name the word you think is used most often in everyday speech” or “Fill in the blank: To a rich man, *blank* dollars is nothing.” Each member of each team would write down an answer. If two members of a team matched, they recived 25 points; should all three match, 50 points were awarded.

The game continued until one team reached 100 points or, if both teams tie at 100 or more, whenever the tie is broken. The two players of the winning team split $1 per point won.

The winning team then played the “Audience Match,” where they tried to predict how a previous studio audience (or, occasionally, special groups like 100 men, 100 teenagers, etc.) answered similar questions. Each member had a guess at each question, with the team winning $50 for each match (for a top possible payout of $450).

Unfortunately, only nine episodes of this MG – including the pilot – are known to exist, as NBC destroyed tapes of many of their early daytime shows (being a live show for part of its run, MG may have been recorded infrequently to begin with). The existence of long-lost kinescopes, however, is up for specualtion. Eight of the nine episodes are in the TV collection of the Library of Congress.

Aired: 1973-1979 (CBS Daytime as “Match Game ’73, ’74,” etc.);1979-82 (Syndicated Daytime as “Match Game”);1975-1981 (Syndicated weekly nighttime as “Match Game pm”)

Host: Gene Rayburn
Brett Somers, Charles Nelson Reilly, Richard Dawson
Semi-regulars: Betty White and a whole bunch of others
Announcer: Johnny Olsen
Match Multimedia (more photos and videos!)

Gene Rayburn has said in interviews that the ’70s version of Match Game was, basically, a “silly” idea for a game show. When you look at the format, he was absolutely correct. But, the interaction between Rayburn, the contestants and the stars took the “silly” format and made into one of the most entertaining shows ever on television.

Two contestants compete. The challenger starts round 1 by choosing one of two questions, A or B. A question with a blank is read, such as “Bob said: My wife must be the world’s worst cook… she even burns [blank].” The stars then deliberated and wrote down their answers on 4×6 cards. Potential answers would include “Minute Rice”, “Cereal”…you get the idea. After all had finished, the contestant gave his/her (usually her) answer. Then Gene would get the celebrities’ responses, one at a time. One point was awarded per match. The returning champion then did the same with the remaining question. As time passed, recurring characters began to pop up in MG questions; they included Dumb Dora, Ugly Edna, Weird Willie, and, of course, Gene’s brilliant dramatization of Old Man Perriwinkle.

In the second round, players only tried to match the stars they hadn’t in the first round (usually, the first round questions were so vague and played for laughs that few matches were made). If necessary, a tie-breaking third-round was played using all six stars. The player with the most matches received $100 and advanced to the “Super Match”.

The first part of the “Super Match”, called the “Audience Match”, involved filling in a simple phrase, such as “[blank] Bear”. This phrase was given to a previous studio audience, at the three most commonly-given answers were concealed behind the board. The contestant took suggestions from three of the six stars (which could include “Grizzly”, “Smokey”, “BJ and the”, and so on), and could either use one of their answers or one of the contestant’s own. The audience answers were then revealed in reverse order; the contestant received $100 for the third-most-often given answer, $250 for the second, or $500 for the most popular answer.

If the contestant’s answer appeared anywhere in the top three, s/he then got to play the “Head-to-Head Match” for ten times the money ($1000, $2500 or $5000). The contestant chose one celebrity to try to match on another blank phrase for the jackpot. Win or lose, the contestant faced another challenger and could continue until reaching the CBS winnings limit of $25,000.


On Match Game PM, the rules were slightly modified: each game consisted of three (originally two) rounds, and the winner played two “Audience Matches”, with the winnings totaled together to determine the amount to be multiplied by ten in the “Head-to-Head Match”. Therefore, a top prize of $10,000 was available. There were no returning champions on the weekly show; two new contestants appeared each week.

Starting with the 1978-79 season of the daytime MG and continuing into the daily syndicated run, a big wheel was spun to determine which celebrity would take part in the “Head-to-Head Match”. In addition, portions of each star’s segment of the wheel were starred; should the wheel stop there, the possible prize would be doubled, for a potential $10,000 payoff (or $20,000 on MG pm). Before the wheel, the contestants had picked the by-then departed Richard Dawson to play the “Audience Match” virtually every time.

In the 1979-82 daily syndicated show, two contestants played against each other in two matches, with a “Super Match” after each. Both contestants retired after the two matches.

NBC Daytime: October 31 1983 – July 27 1984, 3:00-4:00

Hosts: Gene Rayburn and Jon Bauman
Announcer: Gene Wood
Show open, with Gene Wood (621 KB .wav)

The MG/HS Hour was a television first: the combination of two classic game shows into a single, one-hour package. Gene hosted MG, while Bauman hosted Squares; the two also served as panelists for each other’s portion, sitting in the lower left.

With Bauman and five celebrities on hand, Gene played three rounds of ’70s-style MG with two new contestants. As in the ’70s version, players attempted to match each star only once. After three rounds or a tie-breaker, the winner advanced to play the defending champion in Hollywood Squares, with Bauman as host. An additional tier of the panel swung in from offstage, and three more celebrities came out in the meantime.

As during its 1966-82 run, the object of HS was to win tic-tac-toe. Players won their Xs and Os by agreeing or disagreeing with a celebrity’s response to a question from Bauman. In this version, players received $25 for each star captured and a bonus for completing a tic-tac-toe, starting at $100 and increasing by $100 each game until time expired.

The player with the most money at the end of the game became champion and joined Gene to play the Super Match. The Audience Match responses in this version were worth $1000, $500, and $250, with the player receiving $100 if their answer did not appear.

The player then chose a celebrity to play the Head-to-Head match with, and that celebrity then revealed the lucky number in front of them: Head-to-Head Match was worth that amount multiplied by the player’s Audience Match prize. Four stars had “10”s, four had “20”s, and one had the ever-elusive “30”, making the top possible prize $30,000.

The MG/HS Hour was a joint venture of Mark Goodson Productions and Orion Television. The rights to Squares are now owned by King World, so reruns likely won’t be airing in the foreseeable future.

Aired: July 1990-July 1991, ABC

Host: Ross Shafer
Regular: Charles Nelson Reilly
Announcer: Gene Wood
Semi-Regulars: Brad Garrett, Vicki Lawrence, Ronn Lucas and friends,
Sally Struthers, Marcia Wallace

The All-New, Star-Studded MG was able to survive one full season despite terrible clearance due to its 12 noon time slot (and resulting preemptions for local news).

Two contestants, one a returning champion, competed in two rounds of Classic MG with a twist: all six celebrities played each question, and $50 was awarded for every match. In addition, after each round of classic MG, a round of “Match-Up!” was played.

In “Match-Up!”, Ross read a blank phrase (a la the classic Head-to-Head Match), and the contestant saw two choses on a hidden screen. The player secretly made his/her selection, and the choices were then offered to the celebrity. The first “Match-Up!” lasted 30 seconds and payed $50 per match, while the second lasted 45 seconds and payed $100 per match. Whoever had the most money after the second “Match-Up!” went on to the Super Match – played in the same way as the ’78-’82 version, with the Audience Match Values increased to $500, $300, and $200, and the Head-to-Head Match worth ten times that (or twenty with a good Star Wheel spin). If a player bombed out in the Audience Match, s/he played for $1,00 (or $2,000 if doubled) in the Head-to-Head Match.

Aired: August 1998-August 1999, Syndication

Host: Michael Burger
Regulars: Vicki Lawrence, George Hamilton,
Nell Carter and Judy Tenuta
Announcer: Paul Boland

Soon after Pearson Television took control of Mark Goodson Productions, they launched an all-new, five-day-a-week version of MG for syndication. The new version featured a five-celebrity panel and ditched the questions’ “A” and “B” notations in favor of pun-laden categories. Unfortunately, the show suffered from little clearance and many post-midnight time slots…and many of those who did see the show weren’t thrilled with the updated format. Despite being guided by legendary producer Jay Wolpert, this MG faded after a single season.

Two contestants competed in two rounds of Classic MG; matches were worth one point in Round One and two points in Round Two. The questions frequently scuttled the clever double entendres evident in the earlier shows for rather crass, blunt humor.

The higher scoring contestant moved on to the “Super Match,” played exactly like the 1973-78 (pre-Star Wheel) years – right down to the exact same $5,000 grand prize, which didn’t buy as much as it did 25 years earlier.

Host Michael Burger had quite a television resume prior to gaining the MG gig, hosting the talk shows Mike and Maty and Home and Family, along with the game shows Personals and The New Family Challenge. Six days a week, you can catch Michael hosting the live version of Wheel of Fortune at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. He’s also offered play-by-play for the recent Iron Chef USA specials on the UPN Network (also from the MGM Grand), and occasionally appears on To Tell the Truth.

Vicki Lawrence, the star panelist, has a rich game show history, previously hosting Win, Lose or Draw and making multiple appearances on the Pyramids and Match Games dating back to Gene’s version. Of course, she also spent 12 years on one of America’s most popular variety shows, The Carol Burnett Show; starred for six years on the sitcom Mama’s Family; and had a #1 pop hit in the ’70s with The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia.

Match Game around the world

The Match Game format, usually known as Blankety Blanks,
has been a hit in many countries.
Perhaps the best translations have come
from Australia and Great Britain.

Blankety Blanks originally aired from 1978 to 1981 on the Ten Network. Hosted by comedian Graham Kennedy, it became a primetime mega-hit. Game play was unchanged from the American version, except for a top possible prize of $1000AUS in the Head-to-Head Match. (No star wheel here.) Regular panelists included Stuart Wagstaff, Noeline Brown, and comic “Ugly Dave” Gray. There have been two revival attempts; in 1985 with host Daryl Somers and Noeline back on the panel, and in ’96, with emcee Shane Bourne. Both revivals, which aired on the Nine Network, flopped. (Note: BB, like MG, saw a regular go on to host his own game show, as Ugly Dave Gray later presided over Celebrity Tattle Tales — yep, the same as our Tattletales.) Kennedy hasn’t done much television since the show ended, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been asked. Host Graham Kennedy reads a question Graham readies for Dave’s answer while Noeline looks on
Great Britain

Blankety Blank bowed on BBC1 in 1979 and was, perhaps, an even bigger hit there than MG was in America. Hosted by Terry Wogan until 1983, then by Les Dawson until 1991, BB’s format deviated slightly from the American standard. There were no returning champions; two sets of two players each played two rounds, with the winner advancing to the SuperMatch — at this point, only the Audience Match was played. The top three answers payed off in 150, 100, or 50 points (called “blanks”) – which could be redeemed for rather small prizes of descending crappiness (The Beeb never gave away big prizes on their game shows, until Weakest Link offered £10,000 in 2000). Whichever winner scored higher in the SuperMatch then played a Head-to-Head Match for a prize roughly twice as nice as the one they’d won before.

Blank came back in 1998 with Lily Savage (played by a cross-dresing Paul O’Grady) as the host. The game was deemphasized to focus on Savage’s antics (not unlike Groucho Marx’s You Bet Your Life); however, a rather decent vacation was now offered as the grand prize. BBC1 dropped the new version in 2000, but ITV quickly snapped it up.

The hallmarks of BB throughout all versions were the catchy/annoying theme song (“Blankety blank Blankety blank *boom boom* blankety blank blankety blank…”), and the consolation prize of the ages: a Blankety Blank checkbook (sorry, chequebook) and pen!

Your Hosts: Terry Wogan…. …Les Dawson… …and Lily Savage.
Terry and contestants on one of about two dozen different sets used over the years Semi-regular panelist Kenny Everett usually just bent Terry’s mic. Must have been a bad day!
Kenny again, during the Beeb’s brief cutback on the show’s electricity