He did it all, quite literally. As a host or permanent panelist of over thirty game shows between the early ’50s and 1987, Bill become everybody’s favorite houseguest. Bill hosted The Price is Right for nine years, The $25,000 Pyramid for five, and Three on a Match for three – but his true legend comes from taking weaker formats like Pass the Buck or Hot Potato and turning them into classic TV as well. In addition to his legendary hosting career, Bill provided his keen wit from the panelists’ table for 23 years combined on I’ve Got a Secret and To Tell the Truth. Bill also had significant work in daytime network radio and sportscasting, but he will forever be known as the greatest emcee in game show history.
The man who made Password an American institution. After years of doing double-duty, Allen reluctantly gave up moderating G.E. College Bowl. The decision was fruitful, as The Famous Word Association Game rolled through the ’60s and ’70s among daytime’s best. Of course, this also meant frequently working with his wife, game show überplayer Betty White. Allen returned in 1979 with Password Plus and remained with the show until forced off in 1980 by the illness to which he would eventually succumb, but is fondly remembered for his gentlemanly manner on-screen.
Already a television superstar, Garry furthered his legend as the longtime host of I’ve Got a Secret and the ’70s revival of To Tell the Truth. Garry’s substantially-popular variety series of the time helped Secret attract even more fans, who pushed the panel show to the top of the nighttime charts. Garry “retired” from TV in 1964, but the greats never stay away long. He finally stepped away for good in 1977 to simplify and enjoy his life after heart trouble. Garry left us in 1993, but true TV superstars like him are never forgotten.
Bud presided over two of the most disparate shows of the 1950’s and ’60s – the dignified To Tell the Truth and the rowdy Beat the Clock – and handled both flawlessly. On Truth, he handled the proceedings with class, erudition and sincerity (“Thank you for coming. Good night, and God bless”). On Clock, he was energetic, raucous, and, well, noisy. Collyer’s skills were wide-reaching, and fortunately for later generations, well-preserved on kinescope. He remains “America’s Number One Clock Watcher,” and a TV legend.
The longtime host of Jeopardy! carried himself with class and pinnacle through twelve daytime seasons on NBC, along with a short-lived ’79-’80 revival. Art was a gentleman throughout, making catchphrases out of pleasantries as his commercial outcue: “Please watch… thank you!” Art was not stodgy, however, as every episode contained at least one jab at producer George Vosburgh. In addition, arguably no host ever enjoyed his contestants’ success as much as Art. Jeopardy! is a bigger hit than ever today, but Alex owes his version’s popularity to the original that Art built into a lunchtime ritual of the ’60s and ’70s.
The perfect straight man for the wild celebrities and pseudo-stars crammed into the televised cocktail party that was The Match Game. Gene, a former Broadway actor and Tonight Show announcer, presided over a number of shows, but it was MG – especially in its bawdy ’70s version – that made him a legend. Of course, he didn’t always play it straight; Gene hit on female celebrities and contestants in a way that made panelist Richard Dawson’s later antics seem prudish, and occasionally burst into hilarious fits that often led to massive set damage or cameraman abuse. All in good fun, of course, from the man who made a living out of making audiences laugh – and laugh they still do, as MG is among the highest-rated shows on Game Show Network.
The First Lady of panel shows. In 1949, she became the first female to host a game show (Blind Date), a job she held for three years. But her lasting imprint on the genre comes from her continuing presence on What’s My Line? Arlene joined the panel on the second broadcast in 1950 and stuck around for the entire seventeen-year run on CBS, then was the only regular panelist to continue on to the syndicated daytime version, which lasted until 1975. Arlene, who passed in 2001 at the age of 92, leaves behind a legacy of sophistication and stellar game play that will probably never be matched.
The Voice of Goodson-Todman game shows for four decades, Johnny started in the late ’40s as the host of the forgotten Fun For the Money. But only after stepping behind the camera did the man find his place in TV lore, announcing the long-running hits What’s My Line?, Play Your Hunch, To Tell the Truth, Match Game – oh, and of course The Price is Right. For the first 14 years of the CBS version, Sir John commanded excited contestants to “come on down!” for their chance to take “a new car!” from Bob Barker. Soon enough, Johnny was back on-camera, taking part in showcase sketches that helped make Price the timeless classic it remains. There have been many game show announcers since, but nobody will ever match the excitement and warmth Johnny brought to the microphone.