Friday, March 21, 2014

Remembering a Game Show Classic: "Match Game"

There's a good show about the game show "Match Game" that was uploaded to You Tube. It's called "The Real Match Game Story, Behind the Blank". This popular show aired from 1973-1982. A key to its success was the host, Gene Rayburn (1917-1999). He had worked in the early days of television as an announcer for Steve Allen's Tonight Show in the 1950s. Known as a game show host, he also acted in Broadway shows and appeared on TV shows such as "Love Boat" and "Fantasy Island".

There was a version of "Match Game" hosted by Rayburn in the 1960s, but the 1970s version was more successful and well known. The version from the 1960s featured appearances by Rod Serling, Florence Henderson and Betty White. "Match Game" had a group of 6 celebrities and 2 contestants. The contestants needed to match the answer given by the celebrities. Some of the celebrities became popular recurring characters on the show, known for their wit and charisma. Between 1973 and 1982, Rayburn hosted 225 episodes. Popular celebrities on the show included Brett Somers (102 episodes), Charles Nelson Reilly (66 episodes) and Richard Dawson (93 episodes). Dawson had gained notoriety for starring in the sitcom about WWII prisoners of war, "Hogan's Heroes". As time rolled on he got tired of doing the "Match Game" and left for greener pastures. He hosted his own game show with much success, "Family Feud". The show on You Tube says that Dawson was popular with contestants, but his fellow celebrities on "Match Game" felt just the opposite. The show on You Tube is interesting since it talks about the ups and down of the show in the ratings, the fights with the network over content, and the behind-the-scenes trivia. Many attribute the success of the show to its funny questions, written largely by Mad Magazine writer Dick DeBartolo.

Later versions of the show were tried but they did not have the success of Rayburn's show. Gene Rayburn had a hard time adjusting to life after the show left the air since it was a big part of his life. For anyone who is a fan of game shows or TV history, check out the show here.

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