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Password is an Americanmarker television game show. The show was hosted by Allen Ludden and was created by Bob Stewart for Goodson-Todman Productions.

Password originally aired for 1,555 daytime telecasts each weekday from October 2, 1961 to September 15, 1967 on CBS, along with weekly prime time airings from January 2, 1962 to September 9, 1965 and December 25, 1966 to May 22, 1967.[67638] An additional 1,099 daytime shows aired from April 5, 1971 to June 27, 1975 on ABC.

The show's announcers were Jack Clark; Gene Wood, Bern Bennett and Lee Vines on CBS, and John Harlan on ABC.

Two revivals later aired on NBC from 1979-1982 and 1984-1989, followed by a prime-time version on CBS from 2008-2009.


Two teams, each consisting of one celebrity player and one regular contestant, competed. The word to be conveyed (the "password") was given to one player on each team and was shown to the studio audience and home viewers. Game play alternated between the two teams. On each team, the player who was given the password gave a one-word clue from which his/her partner attempted to guess the password. If the partner failed to guess the password within the allotted five-second time limit, or if an illegal clue was given (two or more words, a hyphenated word, or any part or form of the password), play passed to the opposing team.
A game in progress in 1975.

The game continued until one of the players guessed the password correctly or until ten clues had been given. Scoring was based on the number of clues given when the password was guessed, e.g. 10 points were awarded for guessing the password on the first clue, nine points on the second clue, eight points on the third clue, etc., down to one point on the tenth and final clue. On the ABC version a limit of six clues was imposed to expedite game play, with the last clue worth five points. In addition, teams were given the option of either playing or passing control of the first clue to the opposing team. Specifically, the team that was trailing in score, or who had lost the previous game was offered the pass/play option; when the score was tied, the team that failed to get the password was awarded the pass/play option.

On the daytime edition, the first team to reach 25 points won that contestant $100. On the nighttime edition, the winner won $250. The winning team earned a chance to win up to an additional $250 by playing the "Lightning Round", in which the civilian contestant on the prevailing team tried to guess five passwords within 60 seconds from clues given by his/her celebrity partner. $50 was awarded for each correctly-guessed password (increased to $100 from 1973 to 1974).
The "Big-Money Lightning Round" from 1975.

The Lightning Round was among the first bonus rounds on a television game (along with the phrase game on the original Beat the Clock). On the ABC version from 1971-1974, immediately after completing the Lightning Round the player wagered any amount of his/her winnings on his/her celebrity partner's ability to guess a "Betting Word" within 15 seconds.

On each episode from 1961-1975, Ludden would caution the players about unacceptable clues by stating, "When you hear this sound (a buzzer would sound) it means your clue has not been accepted by our authority, (name of word authority)." Word authorities on the CBS version included New York Universitymarker professor David H. Greene and World Book Encyclopedia Dictionary editor Dr. Reason A. Goodwin. Robert Stockwell from UCLAmarker and Carolyn Duncan served as word authorities during the ABC version.

The practice of the announcer whispering the password to the home audience – as well as displaying it on screen – was devised by creator Bob Stewart for the benefit of his mother, who could speak but not read English. Clark, Vines, and Harlan did this on the first two versions of the show, but the practice was discontinued during the final months of the ABC run. However, probably to bring a nostalgic tone to the proceedings, Gene Wood (himself a one-time announcer on the original show's run) began whispering the words on Super Password starting on November 3, 1986.

During the last few weeks before its cancellation in 1969, the set of the Goodson-Todman game Snap Judgment on NBC changed to resemble the look of the CBS Password. G-T did this to correspond to rule changes that, in fact, made Snap Judgment identical to Password.


On the CBS daytime version, contestants played two matches, win or lose, with each game awarding $100 to the winner. During the first few months of the CBS nighttime version, the same two players stayed for the entire show, playing as many matches as time allowed. However, after a Marthanna from South Carolina won $1,250 on an August 1962 episode (which made CBS nervous so soon after the quiz show scandals), this practice was soon changed to having two new contestants play each game (generally, three pairs of contestants competed in the course of each show), with winning contestants receiving $250 and losers receiving $50. For only two shows in July 1965, the nighttime version experimented with a "championship match" format, in which the winners of games 1 and 2 would return to compete against each other in the final game. Also in 1965, the show adopted an annual "Tournament of Champions" where contestants on the daytime version who won both their games were invited back to compete for more money.

Early on the ABC version, winning contestants could stay until either defeated or win a maximum of 10 games, thus retiring them as undefeated champions. From 1973-1974, the first contestant to win a two-out-of-three match played the Lightning Round.

Every three months, the four top winners during that period would return for a quarterly contest. The winner would earn $1,000 and the right to compete in the annual Tournament of Champions. The winner of the annual contest won $5,000 and faced the previous year's champion in a best-of-seven match for $10,000.

Format changes

From November 18, 1974 to February 21, 1975 Password became Password All-Stars, where teams of celebrities played for charity in a tournament-style format. At the end of each week, the highest scorer would win $5,000 and advance to the Grandmasters' Championship, which would award the winner another $25,000. The first tournament's finalists were Dick Gautier, James Shigeta, Peter Bonerz, and Don Galloway, with Shigeta winning the championship; the second tournament's finalists were Richard Dawson, Bill Bixby, Hal Linden, and Betty White, with Dawson winning the championship (Dawson had almost made it to the first tournament finals, but Gautier beat him out during their preliminary week by just one point).

After the celebrity format modification proved unpopular with fans, Goodson-Todman made Password All-Stars simply Password again, but the show carried over elements of All-Stars mainly in order to use the set that had been redesigned for the all-celebrity period. Among these were an elimination round in which four contestants (two new players and the two players from the previous game) competed with the help of the two celebrities in the first round. In the qualifying round, one of the two celebrities used a one-word clue to a password (with both celebrities alternating turns on giving clues), and the four contestants would ring in with the password. A correct response earned that contestant one point, with three points needed to qualify for the regular game. An incorrect response locks that player out of the word in play. The first two contestants to reach three points went on to play the regular Password game.

In the regular game, an addition to the rules was the "double" option, which the first clue giver could ask to increase the word value to 20 points by giving only one clue; if that word was missed, the other team could score the 20 points with a second clue. The first team to reach 50 points or more could win thousands of dollars in the Big Money Lightning Round, using a three-step structure in which the winning team attempted to guess three passwords within 30 seconds per step. The contestant was paid as follows:
  • Part One: Each password paid $25. Guessing all three passwords in 30 seconds further netted $5 for each second left on the clock. The round ended if the contestant was unable to guess at least one of the three passwords.
  • Part Two: The money earned in part one would be multiplied by the number of passwords guessed here. Naming all three passwords this time added $10 for each second left. If the receiver failed to identify at least one of the passwords here, the round ended and the contestant still kept all part-one winnings; they then returned to the elimination panel to compete for the right to play the main game again.
  • Part Three: Naming all three passwords in 30 seconds multiplied the contestant's part-two winnings tenfold (meaning if a player accumulated $500 after two parts, guessing all three passwords in this part would earn $5,000).

The most a contestant can earn in this Lightning Round format is $9,750 which was never won.

Password won the first-ever Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Game Show in 1974.

The ABC Password was the first of the Goodson shows to be taped regularly on the West Coast. The original CBS version made annual trips to CBS Television Citymarker during the 1960s, including once when the CBS New York studios were fitted for color TV. Otherwise, it was most often taped in New York at CBS-TV Studio 52 (later converted to the Studio 54marker discothèque) and CBS-TV Studio 50 (the Ed Sullivan Theatermarker) until the end of the daytime run in 1967. Password moved permanently to Hollywood, Californiamarker at ABC Studio TV-10 "The Vine Street Theater" in Hollywood and the ABC Television Center on Prospect Avenue when ABC brought it back in 1971. The CBS revival in 2008 moves the show back to New York at Kaufman Astoria Studiosmarker.

As part of the farewell on the ABC version, Mark Goodson mentioned that numerous elementary schoolteachers in the U.S. used the numerous editions of the Milton Bradley-packaged home game as a tool to teach their pupils English.

Broadcast history

CBS: 1961-1967

With Goodson-Todman established as a reliable packager of high-rated games for CBS like What's My Line?, To Tell the Truth, and I've Got a Secret, the network confidently gave the new word-association game the 2:00 PM (1:00 Central) timeslot, replacing the courtroom-themed game Face the Facts. As television's first successful celebrity-civilian team game, Password attracted a large and loyal audience that made it the solid Nielsen favorite at that slot for nearly five years as shows came and went with great frequency on the other networks. The concurrent prime-time version was also successful, albeit somewhat less than the daytime show. Both versions performed strongly in the ratings and looked to run well past the late 1960s.

But on July 11, 1966 CBS preempted Password in favor of live coverage of a press conference held by Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara on the progress of the Vietnam War. Because the other two networks did not grant their news divisions anywhere near the power that CBS did in making programming decisions, they went ahead with their regular schedules instead of the conference. A new show began that very day on ABC - The Newlywed Game - and some frustrated Password fans began defecting immediately. NBC, meanwhile, experienced success with their recently-launched soap opera Days of our Lives.

Over the next year, Newlywed and Days wore down Password. CBS daytime head Fred Silverman, not a personal fan of the genre, had seen enough by Spring 1967 and decided to cancel Password. The cancellation occurred after squabbles over where the show would be taped (New York Citymarker or Hollywoodmarker). Silverman wanted the show permanently moved to CBS Television City (where it was moved for part of the 1966-1967 season to allow the show to tape in color, as CBS' New York studios had dragged out its full switch to colorization). Host Ludden had moved to California at that time, and commuted back to New York for the last part of the 1966-1967 season. During that season, Bern Bennett and Lee Vines (who replaced Jack Clark as primary announcer) shared West Coast announcing duties, and when the show returned to New York, Vines made the commute as well.

Although Silverman and Goodson-Todman agreed to move the show to 4:00 PM (3:00 Central), Mark Goodson bitterly opposed a permanent move of the show to Hollywood - which provoked Silverman's cancellation decision. The main reason for Goodson's opposition was his Match Game aired at the same time slot on NBC.

Password was replaced in favor of a CBS-produced soap, Love is a Many Splendored Thing, which had a five-and-a-half-year run.

ABC: 1971-1975

In the meantime, though, Goodson-Todman sold reruns of the CBS version to local stations via syndication in the late 1960s, and in some markets they performed quite well in mid-morning or late-afternoon slots. This prompted ABC to contact Mark Goodson about reviving the game; this time around, Goodson agreed to have the show tape in Hollywoodmarker per ABC's wishes. Password (commonly called Password ABC to distinguish it from the CBS run) would become Goodson-Todman's first show to be staged in Los Angelesmarker full-time rather than New York Citymarker; eventually the company moved almost all production to southern Californiamarker during the 1970s.

The network and packager faced an unusual and potentially disturbing obstacle, however. The network slated Password to replace the cult soap Dark Shadows at 4:00 PM (3:00 Central) on April 5, 1971. Some of the more devoted Shadows fans threatened ABC with physical disruption of the first tapings of Password at the Hollywood studios. However, these plans apparently never materialized and ABC went ahead, managing strong results against NBC's Somerset and reruns of Gomer Pyle, USMC on CBS.

Pleased with its performance, ABC promoted the show to 12:30 PM (11:30 AM Central) on September 6, where it faced stronger challenges in the form of CBS' long-running Search for Tomorrow and NBC's The Who, What, or Where Game, which had been on for two years at this point. Nonetheless, Password held up well there for six months until the network moved it up a half-hour to 12:00 Noon (11:00 AM Central) on March 20, 1972 for the new Hatos-Hall game Split Second.

At Noon, Password came in a solid second to NBC's Jeopardy! but easily defeated the three-year-old CBS soap Where the Heart Is. However, CBS would replace Heart on March 26, 1973 with the youth-oriented The Young and the Restless, causing Password and Jeopardy! to hit ratings trouble that Summer – in large measure due to the college and high school-aged viewers being lured away from the intellectual pair to the serial.

Even though NBC moved Jeopardy! on January 7, 1974 from Noon to 10:30 AM (9:30 Central) in favor of Jackpot!, the ABC Password was sliding into third place. Beginning on July 15, several gimmicks were tried to boost ratings. This included:

  • Monty Hall guest-hosting for several weeks; from July 15-26 he did two weeks with Ludden and Elizabeth Montgomery as the celebrities, while the third (September 23-27) was a "Four-Celebrity Charity Week" with Ludden and his wife Betty White competing as a team against celebrities including Richard Dawson, Arlene Francis, Vicki Lawrence, and even Betty's mother Tess.
  • Several other celebrity-filled weeks for charity were also held from July 29 to August 2, September 16-20, and October 14-18.
  • A week (September 2-6) in which Joyce Bulifant and Joseph Campanella played with their children ("Celebrities and Their Children Week"); this was followed by "Celebrities and Their Wives Week" from September 9-13 and a "Celebrity Husbands & Wives Charity Week" from September 30 to October 4.
  • Two weeks containing big winners from throughout the show's run aired from October 21 to November 1; this was followed from November 4-8 by a week in which the show's producers and writers played the game for charity with George Peppard and Linda Kaye Henning.

On November 18 (after one final week of unknown content) the show decided to take a risk, at the insistence of ABC, on an all-celebrity format called Password All-Stars. Although Goodson-Todman had success with celebrity-driven formats such as Match Game (which debuted in 1973) and Tattletales (which began earlier in the year) through the late 1970s, the lack of civilian contestants and significantly-altered rules on Password drove even more viewers away.

On February 24, 1975, Goodson-Todman abandoned the format (but changed the contestant configuration in order to avoid another set redesign) in a last-ditch effort to save the program, but it was too late – although Password was given another eighteen weeks, ABC had all but given up on the show. Aside from a week in which Betty White hosted while her husband played (March 24-28), no more gimmicks were attempted for the rest of its run.

On June 27, 1975, four members of the show's staff played a "mock game" which filled some time after the final Lightning Round; Mark Goodson then appeared to declare Ludden "Mr. Password", after which Ludden and White gave an emotional farewell. All was not lost for Goodson-Todman, however, as Password was replaced with a new game – their ill-fated Showoffs, which lasted six months.

In 1978, Goodson-Todman tried again and successfully brought Password to NBC on January 8, 1979 – with several new elements, the series was now titled Password Plus.


Password Plus

NBC brought Password back as Password Plus on January 8, 1979 with Allen Ludden returning as host. It was originally announced in Variety magazine as Password '79, in the manner that Match Game named its 1973 version with the year. The name was changed when, during a run-through, Carol Burnett commented "This is more than Password, it's Password-plus." Announcer Gene Wood opened each show with a slight modification of Burnett's comment to "It's more than's Password Plus!" The show ran until March 26, 1982.

Super Password

On September 24, 1984 NBC brought the format back as Super Password with Bert Convy hosting (Ludden died in June 1981) and Gene Wood announcing. Rich Jeffries was the announcer for the first ten weeks and filled in for Wood sporadically thereafter. Bob Hilton also filled in for one week in 1985 or 1986.

Super Password ran until March 24, 1989 and was cancelled on the same day as another NBC game show, Sale of the Century (which was itself a revival). In some markets in the Eastern time zone, the show was pre-empted by local news due to its Noon timeslot. NBC stations in the Central and Pacific time zones usually pre-empted Scrabble at 11:30 for local news and aired Super Password at 11:00.

Million-Dollar Password

CBS picked up a new version of the show entitled Million Dollar Password, hosted by Regis Philbin which premiered Sunday June 1, 2008 at 8 pm ET/PT, 7 pm CT/MT. The series is taped in New York, and the initial order consists of six, hour-long episodes. This is the second million-dollar game show that Philbin has hosted (the first was the American prime time version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire).

Episode status


All of the CBS primetime episodes were preserved on videotape, currently airing on GSN. The final year of the CBS daytime version and the second primetime version were preserved on color videotape, as the producers chose to syndicate those reruns following the program's first cancellation. Most of the earlier daytime episodes are presumed lost; at least two daytime episodes are available on home video, each one as part of a general game show compilation package.


The ABC version is considered to be almost completely gone. Clips from the December 7, 1971 episode featuring Brett Somers and Jack Klugman were featured on VH1's I Love the '70s: Volume 2 in 2006. GSN aired the complete Somers/Klugman episode on September 11, 2006 in the early morning hours as part of its weekly overnight classic game-show programming (and aired it again in tribute following Somers' death).

A second studio master from February 14, 1972 with Sheila MacRae and Martin Milner is also known to have survived; the opening of that episode can be seen on YouTube. Three episodes from 1975 circulate amongst collectors, as recorded by home viewers: the Password All-Stars Finale; Episode #15 of the big-money revamp (March 14, 1975) with Betty White and Vicki Lawrence; and the June 27, 1975 Finale with Kate Jackson and Sam Melville. A few more episodes from this run are held in UCLA'smarker film and television archive.

It is believed that the videotapes that were used for the ABC Password were recycled and reused for the Dawson version of Family Feud, which began on July 12, 1976.

DVD release

On December 2, 2008, BCI/Eclipse released a DVD box set "The Best of PASSWORD: The CBS Years 1962-1967". The set predominately features the nighttime show, with most of the final disc containing daytime episodes from 1967; notably, despite their existence, neither the nighttime or daytime finales are present.

Although Password began in 1961, the DVD set consistently states "The CBS Years: 1962-1967"; this misleading title may be due to the earliest episode on the set being the nighttime premiere, which aired in early 1962.

An early mock-up of the packaging showed host Ludden on the later CBS set with the original ABC logo on the front of the desk (as well as on the spine), while a slew of celebrities were listed on the bottom of the cover. Further, the press release stated that set would range "from the early 60s all the way up to the mid 70s", indicating that ABC episodes would be included. A later update to the box art removed the celebrity list and clarified that the set would only cover the CBS era, although the ABC logo was still present (the front cover now had it in place of the CBS logo above Ludden). The ABC logo was omitted altogether when the DVD set was released, with the CBS logo behind Ludden in the original picture being enlarged.

Theme music

The theme song used on Password from 1961-1963 was called "Holiday Jaunt", composed by Kurt Rehfeld. That was followed later by a catchy swing theme composed by Bob Cobert called "You Know the Password", which was used from 1963 until the CBS version's cancellation in 1967. Viewers would often see emcee Allen Ludden snapping his fingers to the swing tune as the closing credits were shown, and, at one point, celebrity guest Bob Crane had suggested recording a vocal version.

When Password returned on ABC in 1971, Score Productions provided a theme with a synth arrangement similar to the cues later heard on The Price is Right called "The Fun of It". The theme used later in that version's run, beginning with Password All-Stars in 1974, was called "Bicentennial Funk", and was used until the ABC version's finale in 1975. That theme, as well as the themes for Password Plus and Super Password, were also composed by Score Productions.

Foreign Versions

  • In Francemarker, a version called Pyramide, inspired both by Pyramid and Password series, aired on Antenne 2 then France 2 from 1991-2003.
  • In New Zealandmarker, a Maori-language version has aired since 2006.
  • In Spainmarker, the Million-Dollar Password format has been adapted for their audience. The program, entitled Password, premiered on July 7, 2008. Hosted by Luján Argüelles, it is nearly identical to the American revival. The biggest differences include the top prize of 25,000 and changing the program to a forty-five minute (with commercials) weekday broadcast. It airs on the country's Cuatro channel.
  • In Turkeymarker, a Mehmet Aslantuğ version called Parola is aired weekdays on Kanal 6.
  • In the United Kingdommarker, versions of Password were produced by the BBC in the 1970s, and by Thames Television for Channel 4 which was hosted by Tom O'Connor and UTV for ITV in the 1980s which was hosted by Gordon Burns.

Home games

Although Password can be played without any equipment, commercial versions of the game have also been successful.
The Milton Bradley Company introduced the first home version of Password in 1962 and subsequently released 24 editions of the game until 1986. (Owing to common superstition, these releases were numbered 1-12 and 14-25, skipping 13.) It was tied with Concentration as the most prolific of Milton Bradley's home versions of popular game shows, and was produced well into the Super Password era of the television show. Milton Bradley also published three editions of a Password Plus home game between 1979 and 1981, but surprisingly never did a version for Super Password.

More recently, Endless Games has released seven editions of Password since 1997, including a children's edition (with gameplay closer to the Pyramid game show) and a DVD edition featuring the voice of Todd Newton. In addition, Endless released a home version of Million-Dollar Password in 2008.

A computer version of Super Password was released by GameTek for MS-DOS systems, as well as the Apple II and Commodore 64, shortly before the show was canceled; a Nintendo Entertainment System version was also planned but never released. Tiger Electronics also released an electronic handheld "Super Password" game in the late 1990s, many years after the show had been cancelled. More recently, Irwin Toys released a new handheld electronic version featuring a touch screen with stylus to enter words.

As with several other Goodson/Todman game shows, Password has been adapted into a slot machine by WMS Gaming. A simulated Allen Ludden emcees the proceedings, with the voices and caricatures of Rose Marie, Dawn Wells, Adam West, and Marty Allen. One bonus round offers the player free spins; the other involves choosing from 4 envelopes offered by the celebrities. Finding the "Password" envelope advances the player to a new level with 4 more envelopes, worth more prize money.[67639]


The high point in the segment was when, for a password of "Bird", Felix gave the clue "Aristophanes", to which an utterly mystified Oscar replied with "Greek". (Aristophanes wrote the play "The Birds.") During the commercial break, Oscar angrily tells Felix not to give him any more Greek clues, telling him "Aristophanes is ridiculous!" When the gameplay resumed the next password was "Ridiculous". Oscar gave the clue "Aristophanes" in a mad tone and Felix responded with "Ridiculous", stumping Allen.

  • Password was also spoofed in a 2000 episode of Family Guy. Peter is seen playing the game with Tony Randall on a version of the CBS set (in color) and tries to convey to him the password "Flaming", saying repeatedly, "" Randall guesses incorrectly twice with "Actor" and "Tony".


  1. Breaking News - CBS UNVEILS ITS 2008 SUMMER SCHEDULE |
  2. The "Password ABC" Page: Celebrity listings for 1974
  3. Only three words were played in the time allowed. All normal rules were in effect, however no mention was made of what would happen had one team reached the 50-point goal.
  4. TVShowsOnDVD: "Password" press release and DVD box
  5. TVShowsOnDVD: "Password" DVD packaging update

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