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Match Game (also called The Match Game, Match Game '7"X", and Match Game PM) is an Americanmarker television game show featuring contestants attempting to match celebrities' answers to fill-in-the-blank questions. It was hosted for most of its time on air by Gene Rayburn.

The most famous versions of the 1970s and 1980s, starting with Match Game '73, were remembered for their bawdy and sometimes rowdy humor and involved contestants trying to match six celebrities.

Game play

Two contestants competed. On the CBS version, the champion was seated in the upstage (red circle) seat and the opponent was seated in the downstage (green triangle) seat. On the syndicated versions, which had no returning champions, positions were determined by a backstage coin toss. The object was to match the answers of the six celebrity panelists to fill-in-the-blank statements.

The main game was played in two rounds (three on Match Game PM after the first season). The opponent was given a choice of two statements labeled either "A" or "B". Rayburn then read the statement. The six celebrities wrote their answers on index cards. After they finished, the contestant verbally gave an answer. Rayburn then asked each celebrity, one at a time beginning in the upper left hand corner of the panel, to respond.

While early questions were similar to the NBC version (e.g., "Name a type of muffin" and "Every morning, John puts _________ on his cereal"), the questions quickly became more humorous. Comedy writer Dick DeBartolo, who had participated in the 1960s Match Game, now contributed broader and saucier questions for host Rayburn. Frequently, the statements were written with bawdy, double entendre answers in mind. A classic example: "Did you catch a glimpse of that girl on the corner? She has the world's biggest _________."

Frequently, the audience responded appropriately as Rayburn critiqued the contestant's answer (for the "world's biggest" question, Rayburn might show disdain to an answer such as "fingers" or "bag", and compliment an answer such as "rear end" or "boobs", often also commenting on the audience's approving or disapproving response). The audience usually would groan or boo when a contestant gave a bad answer, whereas they would cheer and applaud in approval of a good answer. There were a handful of potential answers that were prohibited, the most notable being any synonym for genitalia.

Gene Rayburn greets two contestants and several million Americans on Match Game '75.

The contestant earned one point for each celebrity who wrote down the same answer (or reasonably similar as determined by the judges; for example, "rear end" matched "bottom" or a similar euphemism) up to a maximum of six points for matching everyone. After one contestant played, the second contestant played the other question.

Popular questions featured "Dumb Dora" or "Dumb Donald". These questions would often begin, "Dumb Dora/Donald is/was so dumb..." or "Dumb Dora/Donald is/was REALLY dumb..." To this, the audience would respond en masse, "How dumb IS/WAS he/she?" Then Rayburn would finish the question (or, occasionally, deride the audience's lack of unison and make them try the response again). Other common subjects of questions were Superman/Lois Lane, King Kong/Fay Wray, panelists on the show (most commonly Brett Somers), politicians, and Howard Cosell.

Rayburn always played the action for laughs, and frequently tried to read certain questions in character, such as "Old Man Periwinkle" or "Old Mrs. Pervis". Regular panelist Charles Nelson Reilly, a Broadway director, would often respond with comments such as "I like when you act" and "That was mediocre," to the amusement of the audience. Some questions dealt with the fictitious (and often sleazy) country of "Nerdo Crombezia".

In the second round, the players attempted to match the celebrities whom they had not matched in the first. On the CBS version, the challenger always began round 2. This meant that a champion who had only answered one question could be ahead of a challenger who had played both questions, rendering the final question moot. On the syndicated versions, the leader after a round played first in the next round. In case of a tie score, the player who had begun the previous round played last in the tiebreaker round.

The first round questions usually had a number of plausible answers, while the second round questions were generally easier and were usually puns with an obvious or "definitive" answer (for instance, "Did you hear about the new religious group of dentists? They call themselves the Holy _____.", where the definitive answer would be "Molars"). This was to help trailing contestants pick up points quickly.

On Match Game PM, a third round was added after Season One as the games proved to be too short to fill the half-hour. Again, the only celebrities who played were those who did not match that contestant in previous rounds.

If the players had the same score at the end of "regulation", the scores were reset to 0-0. On PM (or on the syndicated daytime show if time was running short), a time-saving variant of the tie-breaker was used that reversed the game play. The contestants would write their answers first on a card in secret, then the celebrities were canvassed to give their answers. The first celebrity response to match a contestant's answer gave that contestant the victory; if there were still no match (which was rare), the round was replayed with a new question. On the CBS version, the tie-breaker went on until there was a clear winner. If it came to the sudden-death tie-breaker, only the final question (the one that ultimately broke the tie) was kept and aired.

The CBS daytime version had returning champions and the show "straddled"–that was, episodes often began and ended with games in progress. On this version, champions could stay until they were defeated or won $25,000. Originally, this amount was the network's winnings limit; anything above that amount was forfeited, but the rule was later changed so that a champion retired after winning $25,000 and kept up to $35,000. During the six-year run of Match Game on CBS, only one champion retired undefeated.

On the daily 1979-1982 syndicated version, two contestants played against each other twice, and then both retired. The show was timed so that two new contestants appeared each Monday; this was necessary as the tapes of the show were shipped between stations, and weeks could not be aired in any discernible order (a common syndication practice at the time, known as "bicycling"). On Friday episodes which ran short, in order to fill time audience members played a question similar to those used in the Super Match for a small cash prize.

Episodes of Match Game PM were self-contained, with two new contestants each week.

Super Match

The winner of the game went on to play the Super Match, which consisted of the Audience Match and the Head-To-Head Match segments, for additional money. On the CBS version, the winner of the game won $100.

Audience Match

A two-to-four-word phrase was given, with part of the phrase blank, and it was up to the contestant to fill in the most common response based on a studio audience survey. The contestant consulted three celebrities for suggestions, and could choose their favorite of those answers, or one of their own. The top three answers were then revealed in ascending order; the most popular answer in the survey was worth $500, the second-most popular $250, and the third most popular $100. If a contestant failed to match any of the three answers, the bonus round ended. Two Audience Matches were played on Match Game PM. On at least one occasion on Match Game PM, a contestant failed to win any money on either Audience Match; the contestant then got to play a fill-in-the-blank with the entire panel for $100 per match as a consolation prize, or a possible $200 per match when the Star Wheel was instituted. This rarely occurred.
A contestant playing the Audience Match of the Super-Match.

Head-To-Head Match

A contestant who won money in the Audience Match then had the opportunity to win ten times that amount (therefore, $5,000, $2,500 or $1,000) by exactly matching another fill-in-the-blank response with one celebrity panelist. Originally, the contestant chose the celebrity; later, the celebrity who played this match was determined by the Star Wheel. Multiple forms of the same word, e.g. singular or plural, were usually accepted whereas synonyms were not. On the CBS version, a maximum of $5,600 could be won per game: $100 for winning the game, $500 for choosing the top answer in the Audience Match, and $5,000 for winning the Head-to-Head Match. This increased to $10,600 when the Star Wheel was introduced and the possible payout in the Head-to-Head Match doubled. On Match Game PM, a maximum of $11,000 could be won: $500 for the top answers in each of two Audience Matches, and $10,000 for the Head-to-Head Match. The Star Wheel increased this amount to $21,000, which was won at least twice.

Richard Dawson was the most frequently-chosen celebrity in the 1970s version. His knack for matching contestants was so great that producers tried to discourage contestants from repeatedly choosing him, even before the introduction of the Star Wheel; in 1975, a rule was briefly imposed that a returning champion could not choose the same celebrity more than once for the Head-To-Head Match.

Star Wheel

The "Star Wheel" was introduced in 1978 and was used for the remainder of this version of the show. Contestants spun the wheel to determine which celebrity they played with in the Head-To-Head Match, and could double their potential winnings if the wheel landed on a central area of 5 gold stars over each celebrity's name (later reduced to three individually-spaced single stars per celebrity to increase the difficulty of obtaining a double). The wheel was added to prevent people from constantly choosing Richard Dawson– , although the first time it was used it landed on Dawson nonetheless. This caused the rest of the panel to get up and leave, leading fellow star Charles Nelson Reilly to refer to it on that episode as "the famed and fixed star wheel". A version of the "Star Wheel" was also used in the 1990 version of the show (see below).

Ticket plugs

Match Game director Marc Breslow used a technique merging two of the celebrities' and/or contestants' faces into one image in the background while the address for ticket requests was displayed on screen. These types of ticket plugs first appeared in June 1975, and again were shown on each daily syndicated episode between 1979 and 1982. Match Game PM did not contain ticket plugs since most of the stations that aired the show were ABC affiliates.

Broadcast history

The Match Game (1962-1969, NBC)

The pilot for the original version of The Match Game, created by Goodson-Todman staffer Frank Wayne, bore little resemblance to its more famous descendant. Filmed on December 5, 1962 with Gene Rayburn as host, Peggy Cass and Peter Lind Hayes each headed a team of two non-celebrities who attempted to match answers to simple questions. All six players wrote down, then revealed, their answers. Two matching answers on a team earned $25 for the team, and if all three answers matched, the team earned $50. The first team to score at least $100 won the game. The winning team moved on to a bonus round, guessing the answer to a recent audience survey. Each correct match was worth $50 for a top possible prize of $450. The series premiered on December 31 with Arlene Francis and Skitch Henderson.

In 1963, NBC canceled the series with six weeks left to be recorded. Question writer Dick DeBartolo came up with a "funny sort" of question along the lines of "Mary liked to pour gravy on John's _____", and submitted it to Mark Goodson. With the knowledge that the show couldn't be canceled again, Goodson gave the go-ahead for the more risque-sounding question (and more of them) – a decision that caused a significant boost in ratings and an "un-cancellation" by NBC.

The Match Game consistently won its time slot, with its ratings allowing it to finish third among all network daytime games for the 1963–1964 and 1967-1968 seasons (in the latter, the top two games were NBC's own, both of which would also enjoy long runs and multiple revivals: Jeopardy! and Hollywood Squares). Although the series still did well in the ratings, it was canceled in 1969 along with other games in a major daytime programming overhaul, being replaced by Letters to Laugh-In which, although a spin-off of the popular prime time series Laugh-In, ended in just three months on December 26.

The show continued through September 26, 1969 on NBC for 1,760 episodes, airing at 4:00 PM Eastern (3:00 Central), running 25 minutes due to a 5 minute newscast. Since announcer Johnny Olson split time between New York and Miamimarker to announce The Jackie Gleason Show, one of the network's New York staff announcers (such as Don Pardo or Wayne Howell) would fill in for Olson when he could not attend a broadcast.

On March 27, 1967 the show added a "Telephone Match" game, in which a home viewer and a studio audience member attempted to match a simple fill-in-the-blank question similar to the 70's Head-To-Head Match. A successful match won a jackpot which started at $500 and increased by $100 per day until won.

Match Game '7x (1973-1979, CBS)

In the summer of 1973, Mark Goodson and Bill Todman resurrected the show as Match Game '73 for CBS, with Rayburn returning as host. The year in the title was updated on the New Year's Eve broadcast for the next six years. The gameplay for this version had two solo contestants attempting to match the answers given by a six-celebrity panel. Richard Dawson was the first regular panelist. Due to CBS News coverage of the Watergate hearings, the network delayed the premiere one week from its slated date of June 25 to July 2.

The first week's panelists, in seating order, were Michael Landon, Vicki Lawrence, Jack Klugman, Jo Ann Pflug, Richard Dawson, and Anita Gillette. Rayburn reassured viewers of the first CBS show that "This is your old favorite, updated with more action, more money and as you can see, more celebrities."

The first few weeks of the show were somewhat different from the rest of the run. At first, many of the questions fit into the more bland and innocuous mold of the earlier seasons of the original series. In addition, many of the frequent panelists on the early episodes were not regulars later in the series, including Klugman, Arlene Francis, Bert Convy and Steve Allen, who was host of The Tonight Show when Rayburn served as announcer. (Convy would later be chosen as host of the show's 1990 revival before being diagnosed with a brain tumor which eventually took his life.)

However, the turning point came with the question "Johnny always put butter on his _____." The (perhaps unintentional) double entendre marked a turning point in the questions on the show. Soon, the tone of Rayburn's questions changed notably, leaving behind the staid topics that The Match Game disposed of in 1963 for more risqué, schticky, and double entendre-laden humor.

Famous celebrity panelists Brett Somers and Charles Nelson Reilly began as guest panelists on the program, with Somers brought in at the request of Klugman. Klugman and Somers were married at the time, and he felt she would make a nice fit on the program. The chemistry between Somers and Reilly prompted Goodson-Todman and CBS to hire them as regular panelists; Somers remained on the show until 1982, while Reilly continued appearing through the 1983-1984 and 1990-1991 revivals, with a brief break from 1974-1975 when Gary Burghoff, Nipsey Russell, and the equally-flamboyant Rip Taylor took his chair in his absence. Reilly was late for the taping of two episodes; Goodson filled in for him for the first few minutes of one, and announcer Johnny Olson did the same on the other.

The 1973-1982 versions were produced by veteran Goodson-Todman producer Ira Skutch, who also wrote some questions and acted as on-stage judge. Marc Breslow directed, while Robert Sherman was associate producer and head writer.

When CBS revamped Match Game in 1973 with more of a focus on risqué humor, ratings more than doubled in comparison with the NBC incarnation. Within eleven weeks, Match Game '73 was the most watched program on daytime television. By summer 1974, it grew into an absolute phenomenon with high school students and housewives, scoring remarkable ratings among the 12-34 age demographic. The best ratings this version of Match Game saw were in the 1975–1976 season when it drew a 12.5 rating with a 15 share, higher numbers than that of some prime-time series; this was due in part to the fact that it had been paired with The Price is Right, a hit in its own right, during this time. It surpassed records as the most popular daytime program ever with a record 11 million daily viewers, one that held until the "Luke and Laura" supercouple storyline gripped viewers on ABC's General Hospital some years later.

Every New Year's Eve, when the two-digit year designation in the Match Game sign was updated, there was a New Year's party with the cast and studio audience. This lasted through the end of the network version in 1979.

In 1976, the show's success, and celebrity panelist Richard Dawson's popularity, prompted Goodson-Todman to develop a new show for ABC entitled Family Feud with Dawson hosting. This show became a major hit in its own right, eventually exceeding the parent program. Feud was said to be based on Dawson's expertise on Match Game's "Super-Match".

Meanwhile, Match kept its high standing in the ratings despite a short-lived move ahead one half-hour during summer and fall 1975. In late 1977, however, CBS made a fatal mistake regarding the show's time slot. Impressed with the ratings boon that resulted when Price and Match were paired in afternoons, CBS soon realized that in the morning slot that Price had left behind, they had a ratings crisis. Thus, CBS decided to move Match along with Price back to the morning time slot. However, because much of Match's audience was composed of students who were in school at that time of day, ratings began to sag and eventually free fall; many of these students did not return. As a result, Family Feud quickly supplanted Match as television's highest-rated game show.

CBS attempted to correct the problem on December 19, 1977, with a scheduling shuffle among Match, Price, and Tattletales. In a move that turned out to do even more damage, the network moved Match to its 1960s timeslot of 4:00 PM, a time slot which by this point many local stations were preempting in favor of local or syndicated programming. As a result, Match Game was unable to get the audience it once did in the 1960s at 4:00.

1978 changes and cancellation

On July 3, 1978 the "pick a star" format used in the Head-to-Head Match was replaced with the "Star Wheel". While the show's top prize nearly doubled (partly to counter the high inflation of the era) and the new feature allowed more celebrities the chance to participate in the end game, it also eliminated what effectively was Richard Dawson's "spotlight" feature.

On July 24, a new Match Game set was built by CBS, changed from the original bright orange to a new set with blue and white colors, as well as revamping the logo from the curved letters to a straight-line lettering it would use for the rest of the run. This was mainly for convenience; with a new Match Game set and sign, a whole new sign no longer had to be built each year as had been done previously. Instead an attachment, designating the year, was simply taken off the end of the revamped Match Game '78 sign and replaced with a new one numbered 79 on New Year's Eve 1978 (aired January 2, 1979) becoming Match Game '79. (An alternate attachment was used for Match Game PM.)

Dawson, increasingly unhappy with his role on Match Game and more strongly committed to Family Feud by that time, left the show on August 25, 1978.
Gene Rayburn and a happy contestant in 1979.

At 4:00 PM, the show trailed Feud, Price, and NBC's Wheel of Fortune, and fell out of the top three game shows in 1979 for the first time in the CBS run (as opposed to a solid and twice top-3 hit in the 1960s). The 1,439th and final CBS episode aired on April 20, 1979 – however, the show did not air on April 5, causing the Friday episode from that week to air on April 9. The last nine aired episodes were culled together from three separate taping sessions, leaving six unaired. In addition, the last two weeks recorded went completely unaired.

Match Game PM (1975-1981, Weekly Syndication)

On September 8, 1975 the first syndicated version, a weekly nighttime series dubbed Match Game PM, premiered on local stations (mainly ABC affiliates such as WABCmarker). The series was produced by Goodson-Todman and distributed by Jim Victory Television, G-T's syndication partner for Concentration.

Match Game PM was designed to be self-contained, the first version of the game to have that distinction. The front game was originally played the same way as the daytime Match Game with two rounds of questions, but beginning in September 1976 a third round of questioning was added to fill time in the half-hour. The maximum score a contestant could achieve remained six points, with matched celebrities not playing subsequent questions.

Tiebreakers were conducted differently than on the daytime version. A "Super-Match"-style question was asked, and the players wrote down their answers, then called on celebrities for a match. Until Dawson's departure in 1978, only the three regular panelists played in the tiebreaker, but afterwards all six celebrities could be used.

Match Game PM's Super-Match used two Audience Matches, with the answer values combined and multiplied by ten for the Head-to-Head Match, with a maximum of $11,000 available. When the Star Wheel was introduced, that potential payout grew to $21,000 if a contestant spun a double. On the only episode when a player did not score in either Audience Match, she was given the opportunity to play a "consolation" standard front game question, for $100 per match, and won the maximum $600.

Match Game PM ran until the end of the 1980-1981 TV season, the last two seasons with a reduced affiliate count as many of its markets were also showing the daily syndicated series that debuted in September 1979. The show aired 230 episodes over six seasons, and remains the longest-running version to air in syndication.

(The) Match Game (1979-1982, Daily Syndication)

After the cancellation of Match Game '79, there was still enough interest in the series for Goodson-Todman and Jim Victory Television to consider a continuation of the daily series as the weekly program was still airing and had not stopped production. Match Game, now without a year attached to the title and referred to occasionally on-air as The Match Game, returned to television five months later on September 10, 1979 and once again airing daily.

In this series, two players played against each other in two games with a Super-Match being played after each game. There were no returning champions and contestants no longer won $100 for winning a game (which resulted in the occasional "winner" being sent home with consolation prizes). Everything else from the CBS era was carried over, including the Star Wheel.

The maximum payout for a contestant was $21,000 (two $500 Audience Matches and two $10,000 Head-To-Head Match wins), the same its syndicated sister series Match Game PM was offering during this time.

For the first two seasons Bill Daily, Dick Martin, Richard Paul, and Bob Barker were among the male semi-regulars who filled Dawson's old spot on the panel. McLean Stevenson, who had done so once in September 1978 and twice near the end of the second year of this version, appeared in nearly all of Season Three (1981-1982) and became a regular from the eleventh taped week through the end of the run.

The fee plugs which had aired in the middle of the show on the CBS version were featured during the closing credits. The ticket plugs were now shown on every episode. Each ticket plug had two people's faces merged into one image by putting a man's face on a woman's head, putting a mustache on a woman's face, or putting a pair of red lips on a man's face or simply putting two halves of the faces together. The 1990 ABC version used a similar sequence to introduce the stars.

The syndicated Match Game helped exacerbate the perception of the 4:00 PM time slot being a "death slot" for network programming; within weeks, the show that replaced Match Game in the lineup, the soap opera Love of Life, was canceled.

The daytime syndicated show produced 525 episodes, running until September 10, 1982 – exactly three years after its debut.

The Match Game-Hollywood Squares Hour (1983-1984, NBC)

In 1983, producer Mark Goodson teamed up with Orion Television (who had recently acquired the rights to Hollywood Squares) and NBC to create The Match Game-Hollywood Squares Hour. Rayburn, after a year as a morning show host in New York, agreed to return as host. However, few of the regular Squares cast appeared on this version. Jon Bauman ("Sha Na Na") served as the lone regular panelist on this version, and the two swapped seats for Hollywood Squares with Bauman serving as host and Rayburn as the lower-left-hand square. Gene Wood served as announcer, with Johnny Olson and Rich Jeffries substituting.

These rules were roughly the same as those of Match Game PM with both contestants given three chances apiece to match each panelist once. The major difference was in the tie-breaker. Four possible answers to a Super Match-like statement (example: "_____, New Jersey") were secretly shown to the contestants (examples: "Atlantic City", "Hoboken", "Newark", "Trenton"). They each chose one by number. The host then polled the celebrities for verbal responses. The first panelist to give an answer selected by one of the contestants won the game for that contestant. The winner of the Match Game segment played the returning champion in the Hollywood Squares segment with the eventual winner of Squares playing the Super-Match. The Audience Match featured payoffs of $1,000, $500 and $250, while non-matching players were given $100. For the Head-To-Head Match the contestant picked a celebrity who revealed a hidden number (10, 20 or 30); that number was multiplied by the contestant's Audience Match winnings to determine the grand prize ($30,000 being the top possible amount). Champions remained on the program for up to five days unless defeated.

The Match Game-Hollywood Squares Hour ran from October 31, 1983 to July 27, 1984. The MGHS theme is still used today as a car cue on The Price is Right, while the ticket and fee plugs (variations of the main theme) are used for exercise equipment and Showcases.

Match Game (1990-1991, ABC)

The Match Game logo from the ABC run.

In 1989, ABC, who had not carried a daytime game show since Bargain Hunters in 1987, decided to revive Match Game. The producers (including Jonathan Goodson, who took over the show at this time) selected Bert Convy, a former Match Game panelist in the early days of the program, as host to make up for the fact that his previous show, Super Password, had recently been canceled. Convy filmed a full week of pilots for the show, but in April 1990 (three months before the show was scheduled to premiere) was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor and forced to relinquish hosting duties. (Convy died from the tumor on July 15, 1991, three days after Match Game ended its run on ABC.)

Among those considered to replace Convy was Gene Rayburn, who had just finished The Movie Masters for AMC and had expressed interest in returning. The producers were uninterested in the 72-year old original Match Game host, however, and chose stand-up comedian and former Late Show host Ross Shafer as Convy's replacement. Charles Nelson Reilly returned as a regular panelist and Brett Somers served as a guest panelist for several weeks. Vicki Lawrence, Sally Struthers, Brad Garrett, and Ronn Lucas were among the semi-regulars for this version of the show. Gene Wood returned as announcer, with Bob Hilton filling in for one week.

On this version, matches were worth money instead of points. Each match during the two Match Game rounds was worth $50. All panelists played both questions for each player, regardless of whether they matched in the first round.

After each round of questions, contestants were given a chance to build their scores further by playing a new round called "Match-Up!" with one panelist of their choice, similar to the Head-To-Head Match rules from 1973-78. This was a rapid-fire series of Super Match-style questions, with two possible answers given; the contestant chose one secretly, and the panelist picked the one s/he felt the contestant picked. This process continued until time expired. The first Match-Up! was played for 30 seconds at $50 per match, while the second lasted 45 seconds for $100 per match. Whoever had the most money at the end of the second Match-Up! round won the game and kept the money; the loser went away with parting gifts and prior winnings if they were a returning champion.

The Super-Match was played identically to the 1978–1982 version of the round. Originally, the payoffs of $500–$250–$100 for the Audience Match were identical to the CBS version's payoff structure, but changed after a few weeks to $500–$300–$200. Unlike the 1970s version of Match Game, however, a contestant still played the Head-to-Head Match for a consolation amount, either $500 (prior to the payoff structure change) or $1,000. (On Match Game '7x and its syndicated counterparts, the round ended immediately if a contestant failed to give a correct Audience Match answer.)

The contestant then faced the Star Wheel to determine their potential Head-to-Head Match winnings, spinning a green arrow around the wheel to pick a star (as opposed to spinning the entire wheel when it was originally introduced). Each star's space on the wheel had two red dots on it, and if the arrow landed on a red dot the stake doubled – allowing for a maximum $10,000 Head-to-Head Match. As before, an exact match won the money while anything less gained a contestant nothing.

Because many ABC stations in major Eastern Time markets carried local news at 12:00 Noon, the show was mostly seen in smaller markets and on independent stations in some larger markets without network clearances, and was canceled after one year. A proposed move to another network (rumored to be CBS) for the 1991-1992 season had been announced on the finale, but never materialized. Match Game has the distinction of being ABC's last daytime game show to date.

Match Game (1998-1999, Daily Syndication)

The Match Game logo from the late-1990s version.
Michael Burger was chosen as host of this revived version of, while Paul Boland served as announcer. The only celebrity guests who had appeared on previous versions of the show were Vicki Lawrence (who was a frequent panelist on both the 1973-1982 and 1990-1991 versions) and Nell Carter (who had appeared on the final week in 1991). The regular panelists on this version were Carter, Lawrence, and Judy Tenuta, and semi-regulars were George Hamilton, John Salley, Coolio, and Rondell Sheridan.

This incarnation of Match Game was played with rules nearly identical to that of the 1973-1982 versions with a few minor exceptions. The show featured a panel of only five celebrities instead of the usual six. Questions in this version were not labeled A or B, instead titles with puns were a clue as to the content (à la Win Ben Stein's Money). Each match was worth one point in Round One and two points in Round Two. As on the 1990–1991 version, all five panelists played each round regardless of whether they matched a player on the first question.

After two rounds, the highest scorer played the Super-Match, which was played identically to its 1973-1978 incarnation, including the $5,000 top prize. If no match was made in the Audience Match portion of the Super-Match, the contestant played for $500 in the Head-To-Head Match.

This version was noted for its sometimes over-the-top risqué humor of the celebrities and contestants. For instance, the prohibition on answers such as genitalia was no longer existent. On many episodes, answers that were deemed inappropriate for daytime TV were edited out with a "cuckoo" dubbed over the audible answer and a "CENSORED" graphic over the answer card and sometimes the person's mouth.

While Burger generally received positive reviews for his hosting, the series was mostly panned. Its humor was seen to have crossed the line from risqué into the out-and-out dirty and many stations pushed it into late-night slots. Its low budget and lack of returning champions (staples of several modern game shows, most notably Merv Griffin's Crosswords and nearly all of Game Show Network's original programs) were also focal points for criticism. This was especially since the last three versions to air all featured returning champions and offered cash prizes well in excess of $10,000 in an era when purchasing power was roughly twice that of 1998.

This version lasted one season, running from September 21, 1998 to September 17, 1999.

Gameshow Marathon (2006, CBS)

On June 22, 2006 Match Game was the sixth of seven classic game shows featured in CBS' month-long Gameshow Marathon hosted by Ricki Lake and announced by Rich Fields, and the second of two "semi-final" games in the tournament. The contestants were Kathy Najimy and Lance Bass with Betty White, George Foreman, Kathy Griffin, Bruce Vilanch, Adam Carolla, and Adrianne Curry as the panel. White retained her normal sixth-seat position and was the only one from the original series to appear for this segment of Gameshow Marathon.

Lake used the same signature long-thin Sony ECM-51 telescoping microphone Rayburn used during the CBS version, and the set was rebuilt to be almost an exact match of that used from 1973-1978. Najimy won the game, scoring five matches to Bass' three.

The format was that of Match Game PM, except that in the Super-Match the Head-To-Head Match was played for 50 times the amount won in the two Audience Matches.

The set was repackaged and sent to Studio 33 for the taping of the Match Game revival for TBS (see below).

Episode status


Only eleven episodes are reported to survive – the pilot and ten kinescope recordings. Other sources report that there are 100 or more kinescope recordings still in existence. As the show was originally broadcast live from New York, most episodes were not recorded for posterity. The Paley Center for Media holds nine episodes as black-and-white kinescopes and one color episode (from 1969, and presumably also a kinescope).

In 1965, The Match Game began to be produced on color videotape; however, none of the tapes are known to have survived the wiping and re-use procedures of NBC during that period as none of the surviving episodes are in color.


All three versions that aired during this period are presumed to be intact, and currently air on GSN. GSN has also aired all 16 of the episodes that were recorded, but not aired by CBS, in 1979.


All episodes are presumed to be intact, but due to cross-ownership – CBS Television Distribution owns the rights to Hollywood Squares (at the time of MGHS it was owned by Orion Television) while Fremantle Media owns Match Game – has never been rerun.


All episodes of this version are intact, along with all five Convy pilots. GSN aired this version as recently as 2004, and the VH1 miniseries Game Show Moments Gone Bananas aired a clip from a Convy pilot.


The series is intact, however it has not been rerun. Brief clips have been seen on various game-show blooper specials.

Unsold pilots


Plans were made to re-launch Match Game as a stand-alone series in daily syndication in conjunction with the revival of the nighttime version of The Price is Right. Rayburn was once again to serve as host, but he had already committed to Break the Bank at the time, and was unavailable. The project was postponed, and reruns from the 1979-1982 daily series aired instead.


Rayburn was fired from Break the Bank after 13 weeks and several disputes with the producers, and by late 1986 was once again available. The January 19, 1987 issue of Broadcasting & Cable featured a trade advertisement promoting another five-day-a-week revival attempt in syndication, again with Rayburn as host. The advertisement featured a red-colored version of the 1978-1982 logo and was promoted as featuring "the biggest names in entertainment" plus "big cash prizes".

However, around this time Entertainment Tonight allegedly reported that Rayburn was 70 years old; he was in fact only 69, however this was still several years older than most producers thought he was. With this, plus his production feuds on Break the Bank and The Match Game-Hollywood Squares Hour still relatively recent, the revival project was scrapped.

After this incident, Rayburn hosted only one more series – AMC's The Movie Masters, which ran from August 2, 1989 to January 19, 1990. Rayburn claimed that the leaking of his age subjected him to age discrimination for the rest of his life.

Match Game 2 (1996)

A pilot was shot in September 1996 at KTLAmarker Studios in California for a revised version called Match Game 2 with Charlene Tilton (a panelist on the 1979-1982 version) as host. The panel for this show included Downtown Julie Brown, David Chokachi, Gil Gerard, Rondell Sheridan, and Kathleen Kinmont.

The format featured gameplay not used in any other version:
  • Instead of celebrities writing answers and contestants providing verbal responses, MG2 switched the roles, similar to the tiebreaker in Match Game PM.
  • A "Panel Poll" took the place of the Head-To-Head Match in the Super-Match. Each celebrity was given a choice of three adjectives, and the contestant guessed who picked what at $100 per match. This was done twice, after which the Audience Match was played.
  • In the Audience Match, instead of having the third, second, and most popular answers worth money, they each multiplied the contestant's earnings. The third most popular response doubled the "Panel Poll" winnings, the second most popular tripled their winnings, and the most popular multiplied their winnings by five for a top prize of $5,000.

Many elements of this pilot, such as a change from a six celebrities to five, were kept in for a second pilot shot a year later with Michael Burger as host.

What The Blank! (2004, FOX)

Vanity Fair and reported in May 2004 that a pilot called What the Blank! was taped for FOX and hosted by Fred Willard for air during the Summer 2004 "off" season.

It was said that the game was an incorporation of 21st-Century elements into the classic game as well as an added feature that people from along the streets would be able to participate for matching with contestants and celebrities in Street Smarts-style.

FOX abruptly canceled the series before the show made it to air; the status of any episodes produced is unknown.

2008 (TBS)

In 2008, TBS ordered a pilot for a revival of Match Game, which was filmed in June of that year at Studio 33 of CBS Television Citymarker on an exact replica of the 1970s stage (likely the same one used on Gameshow Marathon). Andrew Daly hosted with Norm Macdonald and Sarah Silverman as regular panelists.

This version of Match Game was to be part of a new initiative of TBS late night television programming, but as of today, the program has not aired or gone into production, nor is there any mention of the show from TBS. Should it go into production and begin airing before the start of 2010, it will make Match Game one of only a handful of shows to air first-run episodes in five consecutive decades.


Today, the 1973–1982 incarnations are shown in reruns daily on Game Show Network and is the network's "Greatest Game Show of All Time". Virtually all episodes of this version are still extant, although some reportedly are not shown due to celebrities' refusals of clearances. On November 26, 2006 the network broadcast an hour-long documentary titled The Real Match Game Story: Behind The Blank featuring rarely-seen footage of the 1960s version, many odd or memorable moments from the main 1973-1982 runs, plus interviews with Rayburn, Somers, Dawson, DeBartolo, producer Ira Skutch, and others involved in the show's production.


Match Game has had several theme songs throughout its various runs.


From 1962-1967, an instrumental version of Bert Kaempfert's A Swingin' Safari was used as the theme; a slightly different rendition (Billy Vaughn's cover of the same song) was used on the pilot. From 1967-1969, a new theme composed by Score Productions was adopted.


With the launch of Match Game '73 Goodson-Todman once again turned to Score Productions for a music package. A new theme was composed with a memorable "funk" guitar intro that grew to become one of the most famous game show themes of the 1970s. There are also alternate versions of the theme–one shorter and one with bongos. The 1970s music package also contained the show's "think cues" (i.e., cues used when the panel wrote down their answers) as well as two separate Head-to-Head Match cues, the ticket plug/consolation prize cue, and a separate "burlesque" music cue. The 1973 theme is currently heard on The MJ Morning Show.

In keeping with the zany atmosphere, the music supervisors would also use other notable musical works to add to humorous situations. Among the non-Score Productions music heard on occasion were the "burlesque" music ("The Stripper"), "There's No Business Like Show Business", "When the Saints Go Marching In", "Alexander's Ragtime Band", "Stars and Stripes Forever", and the Bee Gees' "Stayin' Alive". "Auld Lang Syne" was played on every New Year's Eve show until the series first ended in 1979.


The music for The Match Game-Hollywood Squares Hour was composed by Edd Kalehoff. None of the music used from the 1970s version was used in this revival. The main theme song and several of its cue variations are still used on The Price is Right; the main theme was also used on the 1986-1989 revivals of Card Sharks as a car prize cue.


For the ABC revival, Score Productions re-orchestrated the 1970s theme with more modern instruments. The think cues were also re-done, but stayed the same throughout, while one "Super Match" cue was penned. A new, simple opening cue was composed, but was not used as a think cue.


The 1998 revival again used music from Score Productions, but this theme was more of a spoof of the 1970s theme than a re-recording. However, the music paid tribute to the 1970s version by having a re-recording of the "funk" guitar think cue in its opening and the original serving as the show's first think theme.

Foreign versions

United Kingdommarker

In the UK, Match Game was known as Blankety Blank and was presented by Terry Wogan, Les Dawson, and Lily Savage.


Several versions were made in Australia. The original 1960's The Match Game was imitated, with the same name, and hosted by Michael McCarthy.

The second, more commonly-known version was Blankety Blanks and based upon the 1970s version, running from 1977-1978. It was presented by Graham Kennedy and became a ratings hit for the 0-10 Network. Like many Australian game shows during the 1970s-1990s (mostly those done by Reg Grundy) this version was remarkably similar to the American show right down to the set, "spinning box" opening, and "Get ready to match the stars!" tagline. The signature music from the American version was not used, however, but was instead replaced by original tracks that were very similar.

A later version appeared on the Nine Network in 1985 hosted by Daryl Somers, and again in 1996 hosted by Shane Bourne.

(This show is not to be confused with an unrelated American show by the same name, which aired on ABC and was hosted by Bill Cullen in 1975.)

The Netherlandsmarker

The Netherlands also had its own version during the mid-1980s with the same title as the UK version.


Match Game had a 150-episode run as Punkt, Punkt, Punkt (Dot, Dot, Dot–an allusion to an ellipsis) in the early 1990s on satellite and cable network Sat.1. The show was hosted by Mike Krüger.

On the 1970s "Match Game," Gene Rayburn occasionally mentioned another German version of the show titled "Schnick Schnack" (literally "Something, Anything" as there is no German word for blank.)


The game was called Espacio en Blanco (Blank Space) and was hosted by Mauricio Barcelata. The show had a 40-episode run in 2006.


The game was called Şansını Dene and aired in the early 1990s on Show TV. The show was hosted by Mehmet Ali Erbil.


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