Thursday, September 27, 2012

Classic TV: The Hollywood Squares (1966)

Playing Tic-Tac-Toe was never this much fun!

A while back, we served up a pilot of Hollywood Squares with beauty pageant icon Bert Parks as host. However, when the series hit the air a year later, singer-comedian Peter Marshall was tapped as host instead, and cemented his status as an icon.

9 celebrity panelists, two contestants trying to figure out if they've got the right answers. A perfect formula, and yet somehow, NBC tossed it away in 1980 after 14 seasons. Season 15 was in syndication, and so would the reincarnations that would follow. Then again, NBC was guilty of a lot of programming blunders across the board back then, which leads one to question if they actually screened employees for IQ test scores. On the other hand, any network that can employ radio legend Casey Kasem (American Top 40) as a house announcer must be doing something right after all........!

Halfway through season 3, NBC added a Saturday morning spinoff, Storybook Squares, which lasted just 8 months, but would later return, reincorporated into the parent program as a Christmas gimmick in the late 70's. Many of the same stars who frequented the regular Squares would take part in the Storybook series as well. I have a review on my other blog, Saturday Morning Archives.

As we've documented, NBC took one last chance with the Squares, but minus Marshall, who'd finished a run with another Merrill Heatter production, Fantasy. Heatter had given up the rights to Squares, which now was in the hands of Orion Television, which would explain why Sony now owns the rights, as they inherited the Orion library through their purchase of MGM a while back. Anyway, the subsequent merger of Squares & Match Game, produced by Mark Goodson, lasted a year before fading, and part of the problem seemed to be the use of ex-Sha Na Na frontman Jon "Bowzer" Bauman in place of Marshall, who would return to the MC's chair for a 1-shot during the last syndicated run of Squares, with Tom Bergeron (Dancing With The Stars, America's Funniest Home Videos) having taken over the series otherwise.

Following is a rerun of a 1972 nighttime episode, introduced by Marshall when it aired on GSN some years back. It's a shame GSN, which is owned by Sony, doesn't try to spice up its lineup by bringing back the classic Hollywood Squares on a regular basis.

A classic like this should never go to waste, which is why MTV co-opted the format for Hip Hop Squares earlier this year, which we've previously covered. It's currently on hiatus, and hopefully will return, preferably at a better time!

Rating: A.


magicdog said...

OK - that question to Vincent Price HAD to be a set up! What kind of coincidence would it have been to have a fly related question posed to the guy who starred in one of the biggest cult classics of all time?

Loved how Rosemarie was indignant over not being referred to as "The lovely Rosemarie"!

Speaking of new versions, I'd love to see a Hanna Barbera version of the Squares!

Instead of X's & O's, contestants would earn H's or B's. The "celebrity squares" would be HB faves like The Impossibles, Penelope Pitstop, Scooby Doo, Yogi Bear, the Smurfs, etc.

But, who would host?

hobbyfan said...

Sony owns the rights to the Squares, so WB would have to pony up some serious coin to co-opt it for your suggestion.

A H-B Squares panel would have to have Yogi, Fred Flintstone (w/Barney Rubble), Huck Hound, Dexter, Scooby (the classic version), Snagglepuss, et al. Shoot, that would be a revamp of Storybook Squares right then and there.

The MC would've been a no-brainer a long time ago. Casey Kasem, now all but retired. Today, it'd probably be Bob Bergen, who's done a game show gig before (Jep!)or even Shadoe Stevens.