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To Tell the Truth is an Americanmarker television game show created by Bob Stewart and produced by Goodson-Todman Productions that has aired intermittently in various forms since 1956 on both networks and in syndication. Along with The Price Is Right, it is one of two game shows in the United States to have aired at least one version in every decade since the 1950s. A total of 25 seasons of the various versions of To Tell The Truth have been produced, just exceeding the 24 of What's My Line? and the 20 of I've Got a Secret.

The show challenged a panel of four celebrities to correctly identify a described contestant who typically had an unusual occupation or experience. This "central character" was joined by two "imposters" who pretended to be that central character. The celebrity panelists questioned the team of challengers, with the imposters allowed to lie, but the central character "sworn to tell the truth".


Three challengers are introduced, all claiming to be the central character. The announcer typically asks the challengers, who stand in line, "what is your name, please?" Each challenger then states, "my name is [central character's name]." The celebrity panelists then read along as the host reads aloud an signed affidavit about the central character.

The panelists are then each given a turn to question the challengers in any way they wish. Questions are directed to the challengers by number (Number One, Number Two and Number Three), with the central character sworn to give truthful answers, and the imposters permitted to lie and pretend to be the central character.

After the questioning is complete, each member of the panel votes which of the challengers they believe to be the central character by secretly writing the number on a card without consulting the other panelists. Any panelist who knows one of the challengers or has an other unfair advantage can recuse themself, which, for scoring purposes, is counted as an incorrect vote.

Once the votes are cast, the host asks, "will the real [person's name] please stand up?" The central character then stands, often after some brief playful feinting and false starts among all three challengers. The two impostors then reveal their real names and their actual occupations. Prize money is awarded to the challengers based on the number of incorrect votes the impostors draw.


1956–1968, CBS

To Tell The Truth premiered on Tuesday, December 18, 1956, on CBS in prime time as Nothing But The Truth, but the program title was changed to To Tell The Truth the following week. The series was recorded in New York City; initially at CBS-TV Studio 52, moving to Studio 50marker late in its run.

Bud Collyer was the show's host (Mike Wallace hosted the pilot); recurring panelists by the 1960s included Tom Poston, Peggy Cass, Orson Bean, and Kitty Carlisle. Earlier regular panelists had included Johnny Carson, Polly Bergen, Jayne Meadows, Don Ameche, Hy Gardner, Dick Van Dyke, Hildy Parks, John Cameron Swayze, and Ralph Bellamy. Bern Bennett, Collyer's announcer on Beat the Clock, was the lead voice of To Tell The Truth in the 1950s. Upon Bennett's transfer to CBS' Los Angelesmarker studios, Johnny Olson joined the show in 1960 and remained through the end of its CBS runs.

Three games were played per episode. Each wrong vote from the panel paid the challengers $250 on the prime-time run, for a possible $1,000; a consolation prize of $150 was awarded if there were no incorrect votes. A design element in the set for this series was a stage approximately a storey high, directly behind the host's desk. The contestants stood on this stage during their introduction allowing the camera to pan directly down to the host. They then traveled down a curved staircase to the main stage level to play the game.

On Monday, June 18, 1962, a daytime five-day-per-week edition was introduced, running at 3 p.m. Eastern, and 2 p.m. Central. Also hosted by Collyer, the daytime show featured a separate panel for its first three years, with actress Phyllis Newman as the only regular. The evening panel took over the afternoon show in 1965; in early 1968, Bert Convy replaced Poston in the first chair.

Three challengers, with the audience's and panel's votes.
Episode from 1967.
The daytime show was reduced to two to accommodate a five-minute news break towards the half-hour mark. On the CBS daytime run, each wrong vote paid the team $100. During the show's final year and a half, the studio audience also voted, with the majority vote counting equally with that of each of the celebrity panelists. There was a tie for the highest vote from the audience, that counted as a wrong vote.

One particular daytime episode featuring Dorothy Kilgallen, best known as a regular panelist on What's My Line?, was broadcast on the east coast on a Monday November 8, 1965, as news of her sudden death was circulated by wire services, which prompted CBS newscaster Douglas Edwards to announce her death immediately after To Tell The Truth ended. She had videotaped it six days earlier, according to the New York Herald Tribune.

The primetime show ended on May 22, 1967, with the daytime show ending on September 6, 1968. The show was replaced by the expansions of Search for Tomorrow and The Guiding Light to 30 minutes, in a scheduling shuffle with The Edge of Night, The Secret Storm, and Art Linkletter's House Party.

Metropole Orchestra leader Dolf van der Linden composed the show's theme, "Peter Pan", used from 1956–1961. From 1961–1967, the show switched to a Bob Cobert-penned theme with a beat similar to "Peter Pan", and then to a Score Productions anthem during its final CBS daytime season.

Most episodes of the original nighttime run of the series were preserved on black and white kinescope, along with a few color kinescope episodes. Only a handful of shows remain from the CBS daytime series' first three years because of a then-common practice of wiping videotapes and reusing them to save money and storage space. Many daytime episodes (including some in color) from 1966-1968 exist, including the color finale.

1969–1978, Syndication

Host Garry Moore.
To Tell The Truth returned only a year later, in autumn of 1969, in first-run syndication. During the early years of its run, the syndicated Truth became a highly-rated component of stations' early-evening schedules after the Federal Communications Commission imposed the Prime Time Access Rule in 1971, opening up at least a half hour (a full hour, usually, on Eastern Time Zone stations) to fill with non-network fare between either the local or network evening newscast and the start of the network's primetime schedule for the evening. Still other stations found success running the program in place of a daytime network game or soap opera, or in the afternoon "fringe" time period between the end of network daytime programming at 4:30/3:30 Central and the evening newscasts. This edition of the show was again based at the New York CBS-TV Studio 50marker until 1971, when it moved to NBC Studio 6-A in Rockefeller Centermarker.

Each wrong vote in this version was worth $50 to the challengers. Fooling the entire panel won the challengers a total of $500. There were two games per episode, and there was often a live demonstration or video to illustrate the contestant's story after many of the games.

The show was first released to local stations on September 8, 1969, on the same day original host Bud Collyer died of complications from a circulatory disorder. A total of 1,715 episodes of this version were produced, with the series ending in September 1978. Some markets that added the series after its 1969 release opted to carry the show for another season or two in order to catch up on the episodes that had not aired in their viewing area.

Garry Moore hosted the show until 1977. Regular panelists included Orson Bean during the first year, Peggy Cass, Kitty Carlisle and Bill Cullen, who substituted for Moore when needed. Many regulars from the original run appeared, including Tom Poston and Bert Convy.

In late 1976, Moore was diagnosed with throat cancer. His place was taken originally by Bill Cullen. However, Mark Goodson noted how Cullen being the host and not a panelist hurt the chemistry he had with Cass and Carlisle. Joe Garagiola was then hired and took over on an interim basis, stating that he was "pinch-hitting" for Moore. At the beginning of the 1977–1978 season, Moore appeared for one final time to explain his sudden absence, banter with the panel after the first game, and formally hand the show over permanently to Garagiola. Moore's introduction that day prompted a loud applause and standing ovation. After this episode, Garagiola hosted the program for the remaining season of its run.

Johnny Olson stayed with To Tell The Truth when it moved to syndication. He left in 1972, when he moved to Los Angeles to announce the Goodson-Todman revivals of The Price Is Right and I've Got a Secret. NBC staff announcer Bill Wendell replaced Olson from 1972-1977, with Alan Kalter taking over during the final season. Don Pardo, also an NBC staff announcer, served as backup announcer to Wendell and Kalter.

To Tell The Truth used three distinctive sets throughout its nine-year syndicated run. The first, designed by Theodore Cooper and dubbed by some as the "psychedelic" set was used for the first two seasons and the first four weeks of the third; with one man on the door a toned-down set with two additional men added on the door was used from the fifth week of the third season through the first 30 weeks of the fourth. The longest-lived set — a blue-hued, gold-accented, block-motif set — was used for the remainder of the run, also designed by Cooper. The show was the only edition of Truth to feature a theme song with lyrics. The theme was written and composed by Score Productions chief Robert A. Israel and Truth producer Paul Alter, along with veteran theme composer Charles Fox. The bulk of this version is intact. However, the current status of the first season is unknown, and is presumed to be lost to wiping. A check into the Goodson-Todman catalogs by a fan yielded no episodes from the first season.

1980–1981, Syndication

On September 8, 1980, Mark Goodson produced another revival of Truth without Bill Todman (who had died in July 1979). It ran only a year until September 11, 1981. This version featured a "disco-like" set and music. Canadian TV personality Robin Ward hosted this version. It had no regular panel though Cullen, Cass, Carlisle, Soupy Sales, Dick Clark, and others showed up occasionally. Alan Kalter returned to announce this revival. The show was again recorded at Studio 6-A at Rockefeller Center. Along with the concurrent The $50,000 Pyramid, this version of Truth were the last New York Citymarker-based game shows to air on broadcast television (as opposed to cable) until Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? in 1999 on ABC-TV. The show's theme song was again provided by Score Productions. All episodes of this series exist and have aired on GSN in reruns.

Each wrong vote paid the challengers $100, and $500 was awarded if all the votes were wrong. In addition to two regular games, a minigame called "One-On-One" was added to each episode. In One-On-One, the four impostors from the previous two games returned. A fact about one of them was purposely withheld from the panel in their previous introductions. After hearing that fact, each panelist questioned the impostor seated directly across from them. After 20 seconds, the panelist was asked whether they thought that challenger was the one to whom the fact applied. As in the regular panel rounds, each wrong vote was worth $100 and four wrong votes was worth $500 to be split among the four imposters.

1990–1991, NBC

To Tell The Truth returned again for a run that lasted just nine months from September 3, 1990 to May 31, 1991. After spending many years originating from New York, the show originated for the first time from NBC Studiosmarker in Burbank, Californiamarker. The show's theme music was an orchestral remix of the 1969–1978 theme (minus the lyrics), and the show utilized the block-letter logo from 1973–1978. Burton Richardson was its main announcer; however, Charlie O'Donnell also substituted on occasion. All episodes of this series exist and have aired on GSN in reruns.

In its short run, the series had three hosts: Gordon Elliott, Lynn Swann and Alex Trebek. In addition, the show's two pilots were hosted by Richard Kline, and two episodes were guest hosted by Mark Goodson. Gordon Elliott had to leave the show eight weeks into his run because of a contract dispute with his former employers. Because of this dispute, Elliott could not appear on television for some time. Swann had formerly been a panelist and took over as host in the interim. After 14 weeks as emcee, owing to scheduling conflicts with his job as an ABC Sports commentator, Swann was replaced by Trebek. Trebek, at the time, was already hosting Classic Concentration on NBC and Jeopardy! in syndication; adding To Tell The Truth made Trebek the first (and to date, only) person to host three national American game shows simultaneously. Shortly after becoming host, Trebek's wife went into labor, prompting 76-year-old producer Mark Goodson to step in as host for the first two episodes of a taping day. This would be Goodson's final appearance on the show before his death in 1992.

The celebrity panelists for To Tell The Truth during this period included Carlisle and other stalwarts like Bean, Bergen and Cass. By the end of the run, Ron Masak and Orson Bean alternated at the downstage end of the panel desk, with Carlisle regularly in the upstage seat. Also serving were Mary Ann Mobley, Cindy Adams, Betty White, David Niven Jr., Polly Bergen, Morton Downey Jr., Dorothy Lyman, Vicki Lawrence, Gloria Allred, Sarah Purcell and Tom Villard. The panelists were introduced in twos with the male panelists escorting the female panelists down the staircase, followed by the host.

Fooling the whole panel won the challengers $3,000. Three wrong votes won $1,500, while any less than that awarded $1,000. Two games were played followed by a reworked "One On One" feature. In this version of the game, one contestant (unrelated to the previous games) presented two stories about themself, only one of which was true. Each panelist asked the contestant one question about each story. Then, a member of the audience, introduced by the announcer, had to guess which story was true. If they were correct they won $500, otherwise the contestant received $1,000 for stumping that audience member. Occasionally, celebrities whose faces were not well known would attempt to stump the audience during this part of the game. For example, Hank Ketcham, creator of Dennis The Menace, tried during one episode to convince an audience member that he was really the songwriter to Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, but was unsuccessful in doing so.

2000–2002, Syndication

The show then had a two-year run in syndication starting in 2000 with John O'Hurley hosting, and Burton Richardson returning as the announcer. The series was again produced at NBC Studiosmarker in Burbank, Californiamarker.

Actor Meshach Taylor was the only regular to appear on every episode of this edition, while Paula Poundstone was a regular during the first season. Following Poundstone's departure, several actors sat in Poundstone's former chair, including Kim Coles, Jackée Harry, Mother Love, Liz Torres, and Hattie Winston. The show's website touted Coles and Brooke Burns as regulars for season two, though neither panelist was featured in every show that year. Kitty Carlisle appeared as a panelist for one episode of the series.

As at the end of the original CBS run, the studio audience voted. Each wrong vote awarded the challengers $1,000 meaning that $5,000 could be split by the challengers for fooling the panel. In the first few weeks of the series, stumping the entire panel, including the audience, won the challengers $10,000. Gary Stockdale supplied the music for this edition.

According to Steve Beverly's, this edition of Truth never received a rating higher than 1.8. It was cancelled in late 2001, only 65 episodes into its second season. However, repeats continued to air through March 15, 2002. All episodes of this series exist and have aired on GSN in reruns.

Famous contestants

Several people who would go on to fame appeared on the various incarnations of this show:



  • Frank Abagnale Jr. appeared on the show years after he had given up his con artistry. The bio-pic based on his life, Catch Me If You Can, opens with his appearance on the show with actors (Leonardo DiCaprio playing Abagnale) taking the place of the contestants. Footage of panelist Carlisle and host Garagiola from the original episode was used.
  • American popcorn promoter and guru Orville Redenbacher was first seen on national television in 1973, long before his signature commercial appearances promoting his gourmet kernels. Redenbacher appeared on an episode of the show and he stumped the panelists (Kitty Carlisle, Bill Cullen, Joe Garagiola, and Peggy Cass), all of whom were shown eating and enjoying samples of Redenbacher's then "new" novelty popcorn flavors including "chili" and "bar-b-que".
  • Caroll Spinney, better known as the man in Big Bird ever since the beginning of Sesame Street, appeared in 1971.
  • Actress Alexandra Elizabeth "Ally" Sheedy appeared in 1975 when she was twelve years old, in a story about a book that she wrote. The book, titled She Was Nice to Mice, later became a bestseller. This was well before she became famous as an actress. Later on, Sheedy even became a panelist for a few episodes.
  • Mad Magazine publisher William M. Gaines appeared in 1970 thanks to Dick DeBartolo, a writer for both Goodson-Todman Productions and Mad who persuaded Gaines to come on the show. In part because the famously-casual Gaines appeared without a necktie, all four celebrities voted for a more stylishly-dressed impostor. Years later, DeBartolo remembered Kitty Carlisle telling him after the taping, "I never figured it was him. I mean look at the way he's dressed. I was looking for someone who ran a very successful magazine, so I thought it couldn't be him!"
  • Stan Lee, the creator and writer of many famous Marvel Comics including Spider-Man, X-Men, and Avengers, as well as the Chairman and Editor-In-Chief of Marvel, appeared twice. He first appeared in 1970, and then in 2002. In the latter, he and the other impostors all wore disguises lest the panel recognize him.
  • Famous cartoonists Chuck Jones, William Hanna, and Garry Trudeau appeared with other impostors in episodes from 1980, 1975, and 1971 respectively. In the Hanna episode a person in a Yogi Bear costume (consultant Dick DeBartolo) picked out Hanna, and Daws Butler provided the voice of Yogi Bear as Yogi introduced the panel in a cartoon.


  • Rosa Parks appeared in an episode of the Robin Ward version in 1980 and stumped two of the three voting panelists (Nipsey Russell, the fourth, knew who she was and disqualified himself).


  • Exploitation film producer and pioneer David F. Friedman appeared on the 1990 edition of the show, during the release of his memoir A Youth in Babylon; Kitty Carlisle was horrified at the nature of his salacious claims to fame, though on-air she expressed her reservations as humorously as possible.


  • Susan Jeske - Ms. America, appeared in an episode and stumped all three voting panelists.


  • Kermit the Frog - Jim Henson Muppet; was a panelist on some episodes.
  • Mikki Padilla - Later became the card dealer on Catch 21; two of the four celebrities identified her, plus the audience.
  • Zack Hample - Collector of Major-League baseballs and author of the book How To Snag Major League Baseballs; stumped two celebrities plus the audience.
  • Christina Crawford - Daughter of actress Joan Crawford.
  • John Peterman - Catalog and retail entrepreneur; put in his affidavit that the host "John O'Hurley" was an imposter, holding up a picture of him.
  • Sergey Brin - Co-founder of Google; appeared on the February 21, 2001 episode.
  • Tracy Griffith - Actress, chef, and half-sister of actress Melanie Griffith; stumped the entire panel (two of whom didn't vote) and the audience.
  • Margo Howard - Advice columnist for Dear Prudence and daughter of Ann Landers; stumped two celebrities and the audience.
  • Willie Aames - Actor; The former child actor was currently playing the lead character in Bibleman and each of contestants appeared in the Bibleman costume to obscure their identity.
  • Todd Greene -Inventor; founder of Headblade, each contestant pretended to be the inventor of the head razor he invented.


  1. To Tell the Truth at Tim's TV Showcase
  2. "The G-T Big 4: To Tell the Truth (CBS Nighttime)" Retrieved 3 July 2007
  3. "Prime Time Access Rule" Retrieved 24 September 2007
  4. To Tell The Truth episode guide (1971-1972)
  5. To Tell The Truth episode guide (1972-1973)
  6. Victor Davis, British Journalism Review

External links

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