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I've Got a Secret is a weekly panel game show produced by Mark Goodson and Bill Todman for CBS television. Created by comedy writers Allan Sherman and Howard Merrill, it was a derivative of Goodson-Todman's own panel show What's My Line?. The original version of the show premiered on June 19, 1952 and ran until April 3, 1967. This version began broadcasting in black and white and switched to a color format in 1966, by which time virtually all commercial network programs were being shown in color.

The show was revived for the 1972-1973 season in once-a-week syndication and again from June 15 to July 6, 1976, for a Summer run. Another production ran on the Oxygen cable channel in a daily version, with original episodes airing from 2000 through 2003. GSN ran a revival from April 17 to June 9, 2006 with an all-gay panel. In October 2006, GSN opted not to renew the show for a second season, although reruns remained on its schedule for some time afterward.

Hosts and panelists

The show was originally hosted by radio and television personality Garry Moore. After several months of an ever-changing panel, the show settled down to include game show host Bill Cullen, acerbic comedian Henry Morgan, TV hostess Faye Emerson, and actress Jayne Meadows. In 1958, Emerson left the show to star in a play and was replaced by actress Betsy Palmer. The following year, Meadows moved to the West Coast to live with her husband Steve Allen and was replaced by former Miss America Bess Myerson. At various times, guest hosts substituted for Moore, including panelists Morgan, Palmer, among others. Additionally, other comedians and celebrities guested for the panel when they were away.

Garry Moore left the show after the 1963-64 season, after his comedy program The Garry Moore Show was canceled, and he decided to retire from television to journey around the world with his wife. Moore was replaced by Steve Allen on September 21, 1964. Allen also hosted the show during the 1972-1973 revival. Former panelist Bill Cullen hosted the show for its brief 1976 CBS summer run. The panelists on this revival were Richard Dawson, Henry Morgan, New York-based entertainment critic Pat Collins, and Elaine Joyce.

The Oxygen channel version of the show was hosted by Stephanie Miller until August 2001. Regular panelists in the Oxygen version included Jim J. Bullock, Jason Kravits, Amy Yasbeck, and Teri Garr. The GSN version was hosted by Bil Dwyer; the panelists were Billy Bean, Frank DeCaro, Jermaine Taylor, and Suzanne Westenhoefer.

Original series

Game play

Each typical episode featured two regular contestant rounds, followed by a celebrity guest round, occasionally followed by an additional regular round.

Standard rounds

Each round was a guessing game where the panel tried to determine a contestant's "secret". The concept of a "secret" was fairly wide reaching. Secrets were always intended to be unusual, amazing, embarrassing or humorous. They commonly included such types as something which happened to a person, owning something, or an occupation, hobby, achievement or skill.

One or more contestants would enter. The host would introduce the contestant or ask their name and hometown. He would then ask them to "whisper your secret to me, and we'll show it to the folks at home." The contestant would then ostensibly whisper their secret to the host, while the audience and viewers were shown the secret via text overlay on the screen. Then the host would give the panel a clue, for example, "the secret concerns something that happened to [Contestant's Name]." The host would then select a panelist to begin questioning.

When the show debuted, each panelist had 15 seconds of questioning at a time, running through the panel twice, in order. Each segment of questioning which passed without the panelist guessing the secret won the contestant $10, for a top prize of $80. In mid-1954, the format changed to only once around the panel, with a $20 prize for each panelist stumped. The time limit was no longer fixed, and the buzzer which ended questioning was instead at the discretion of the production staff. This was due, in part, to the program airing live, and sometimes requiring to lengthen or shorten the time allowed for questioning in order to keep the show running on time. Increasingly later in the run, the panelists were sometimes buzzed out when they were getting too close to the secret, were suspected to be about to get it, or simply at a point that would get a laugh; this was precipitated in part by the fact that, like What's My Line, the top payoff never increased with inflation, and the money eventually became somewhat secondary to the gameplay, with the cash awards not even mentioned at all by the end of the series. Similarly, the panelist chosen to question first eventually became a strategy by the producers. When a secret fell within an area that a panelist was knowledgeable on (most commonly Cullen with mechanical, scientific or sports secrets), they would often be chosen first, to give them no preceding clues during their questioning. On occasion when a secret referenced a panelist, the order was usually chosen to put them last.

Following the revelation of a guest's secret, either by guessing or by the host's revelation once the game was over, the host typically either interviewed the contestant about their secret, or, if applicable, the contestant did some kind of demonstration of their secret. These demonstrations sometimes included the host, and occasionally one or more of the panelists.

A number of notable people appeared with secrets including Col Harland Sanders ("I started my restaurant with my first Social Security check"), Philo T. Farnsworth ("I invented electronic television"), Pete Best ("I used to be one of THE BEATLES"), and an elderly man Samuel Seymour who was the last surviving eye witness to Abraham Lincoln's assassination (he was 5 years old at the time).

Guest rounds

On each typical episode, a celebrity guest came on the show with a secret. The celebrity usually opened the episode by coming out from the behind the curtain and saying "my name is [Name] and I've Got a Secret!", though sometimes they would say "and this is I've Got a Secret!". Early in the show's run, the celebrities would indeed have a secret. These would sometimes be actual personal secrets similar to the other contestants. Other times the secret would be about something they were there to do. The guest segment frequently was a guise for a demonstration of some new technology or product, which the guest usually interacted with in some way, which was their secret.

An increasingly common activity for the guest was to challenge the panel in some sort of alternate game. Eventually, this became the primary use of the guest segment, and the pretense of having the panel guess the guest's secret was dropped. The guest would simply come out with a challenge for the panel; sometimes ostensibly related to the guest or their current project, but other times not related to the guest at all. Several of these challenges predated future game shows which used the same concepts, such as a game in which Woody Allen challenged the panel guess words based definitions written by children, which became the basis for Child's Play, and a pair of segments with Peter Falk and Soupy Sales in which the panel had to identify celebrities based on a series of photos starting with infancy and progressing older. which featured in the format of the show Face the Music.

Often, secrets would involve Henry Morgan in some manner. Since Morgan put forth a 'loveable sourpuss' type of attitude, he attracted a certain "lets see how we can 'get' Henry this time" playfullness from the writers. Sometimes he would be sent on week long trips (often starting as soon as the live broadcast ended) which would be filmed and highlighs shown the following week. Some of these trips included being sent to England to buy a proper English Christmas meal from a famous English restaurant while dressed in a stereotypical English derby and morning coat outfit, spending a week at Roy Roger's dude ranch as a hired hand, and going on an African safari (after the secret was revealed Morgan got his passport photo taken and shots given to him by a nurse on stage as Moore told him about his trip). Other Henry secrets included him being invited to be a background spearholder in an opera at the Met, him playing the dead body in a murder mystery Broadway play, a Christmas episode in which Morgan is dressed up to play Santa for disadvantaged kids, and a Halloween episode in which Arnold Stang came on stage in a traditional bedsheet ghost costume with the secret "This costume was made from Henry Morgan's bedsheet". After the game Moore said "Dont worry Henry, we promise to put these back where we found them", at which point the center stage curtain rose to reveal (what is assumed to be) Morgan's bed.

History and style

I've Got a Secret was more informal than sister show What's My Line? in most respects. The panel and host were generally on a first-name basis. As noted, the formal time limit on questioning was removed early in the show's run, and time limits were set more for entertainment. The men on the panel always wore normal suits or even sport jackets, though both Morgan and Moore sometimes chose bow ties over straight ties. Until the later years of the series, both Moore, and members of the panel smoked cigarettes on the air, with Moore doing so right up until his last episode. The panel was introduced at the start of each episode by the host, usually with a series of descriptive puns.

Only yes-or-no questions were supposed to be asked by the panel, but the format was often relaxed, and other questions slipped through. Unlike on What's My Line?, the host often offered hints and suggestions when the panel was off in the wrong direction, or when an answer might be misleading. Unlike on What's My Line?, the panelists were not allowed to formally confer with each other, though later in the series, there was no chastising of the panelists for whispering ideas to each other.

The series began in black-and-white, and only in 1966 switched regularly to color, though like most programs of this era, existing records are in black and white. Much of the series was sponsored for its entire run, with the opening of the show featuring a promotion for whichever company was the sponsor, signage on the set, and commercials being included during the show. Some sponsors provided samples of their wares for each contestant, in addition to theirwinnings. Late in the series' run, sponsorship was discontinued.

The series itself had a cameo in the 1959 film It Happened to Jane, in which the title character appears as a contestant on the show. Moore and the entire panel played themselves in the fictional episode of the show. A home game of I've Got A Secret was created by the Lowell Toy Manufacturing Corporation of New York.

An Australian version of the show was produced and aired in Brisbane on QTQmarker Channel 9 from 1967 until 1973. It was hosted by Newsreader Don Secombe and like it's American inspiration featured regular celebrity panelists including Ron Cadee, Babette Stevens and future wife of Australian Game show impresario,Reg Grundy, Joy Chambers.

Changes in the revivals

1970s revivals

The format of the 1970s revivals were essentially unchanged from the original series, though celebrity secrets, rather than challenges to the weekly-changing panel, did return.

Oxygen revival

On the Oxygen revival, the contestant earned $200 for each stumped panelist, and stumping the entire panel earned a total of $1,000 for the challenger. Stephanie Miller hosted this version and the show's set resembled an upscale city apartment.

GSN revival

On GSN's revival, each panelist had 40 seconds for questioning, with one conference allowed. Stumping the entire panel won the contestant $1,000 and "dinner for 2 in Beverly Hills." The fine print at the end of the show disclosed that contestants were also paid an appearance fee. Losing contestants also received some unspecified parting gifts. Several minor show business professionals demonstrated their performances on the show, including piano juggler Dan Menendez. Another element in the revival was that all the panelists were openly gay. This was played upon as host, Bill Dwyer, was introduced as "the straight man to the panel".

Episode status

As with What's My Line?, early episodes from the original series' first season in 1952 appear to have been lost. From late 1952 until the 1967 cancellation, most episodes appear to exist as a digital transfer of the original black-and-white kinescope films.

GSN concluded its most recent airing of I've Got A Secret's run on July 13, 2008 at 3:30 AM (ET), paired with What's My Line? at 3:00. However, they began their run in mid-2007 with episodes from late 1961 or early 1962. A good portion of the series is unlikely to be aired, due to the show's longtime sponsorship by Winston cigarettes, which remains an existing brand. It is unclear whether this is mandated legally, or simply a choice by GSN. In addition, the network skipped several episodes through its run which are known to have been skipped in previous runs of the show; this may mean that other episodes are lost or in bad enough condition for GSN not to air them.

All subsequent revivals of Secret exist in their entirety. GSN has occasionally aired single episodes from the 1972-1973 season, the latest being an episode featuring Bob Barker as the celebrity guest, to commemorate his retirement from The Price Is Right in mid-2007. GSN also occasionally adds reruns of its 2006 revival to the regular schedule.

Theme music

The first theme used on the show from 1952-1961 was "Plink, Plank, Plunk!" by Leroy Anderson (this theme can be heard on the album "Classic TV Game Show Themes"; however, the theme on the CD was credited to Norman Paris).

The second theme, used from 1961-1962, was an upbeat arrangement of the Theme to "A Summer Place" by Max Steiner.

The third theme was used from 1962-1967. It was an upbeat, spritely march featuring piccolo and xylophone, composed by the show's musical director Norman Paris and played by a live studio combo. It quoted a familiar melody widely associated with schoolyard taunts, to which the words "I've got a secret!" might be sung by children in a teasing manner.

In addition to being used as a tag for his entrance on CBS episodes he hosted, Steve Allen's composition "This Could Be the Start of Something" was used as the opening theme in 1972. The closing theme to the 1972 version was written by Edd Kalehoff. The theme from the 1976 version with Bill Cullen was used one year later on the ABC game show Second Chance. A remix of that theme was also used in the Australian version of Family Feud.

Tim Mosher and Stoker are credited with the 2000 theme, while Alan Ett and Scott Liggett contributed an up jazz theme for Bil Dwyer's 2006 version of the show for GSN.


External links

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