Saturday, February 15, 2014

Classic TV: You Bet Your Life (1950)

We've talked a few times before about how some shows, when they've been revived, have failed because they were "star vehicles", that is, they were built around a particular performer.

You Bet Your Life, which got its start on radio, is one of those cases. Comedy icon Groucho Marx hosted both the radio & TV versions of the series, aided by announcer-sidekick George Fenneman. Marx would engage the contestants in conversation before the quiz part actually began. Plus, there was the added hook of a "secret word", which, if spoken by one of the contestants, would net them a cash bonus.

In the 70's, the series was revived in syndication under the title, The Best of Groucho, which is how I first ran across the show. WNEW (now WNYW) in New York had the rights during the mid-to-late 70's, but this definitive version seemed to disappear after Bet was revived in the early 80's by game show vet Bob Eubanks (The Newlywed Game), trying his hand as a producer for the first time. Eubanks kept the format the same, but host Buddy Hackett didn't have the charismatic presence of Groucho, and the revival was quickly cancelled.

In 1993, in the final season of his NBC sitcom, Bill Cosby took over Bet, with Marcy Carsey & Tom Werner having picked up the rights. Unfortunately, despite his track record and rep, Cosby couldn't get people to tune in to Bet, either.

Now, let's go back to 1950 and the TV debut of You Bet Your Life. Bear in mind this is a syndicated print that also has the Best of Groucho title.

Rating: B+.

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