Thursday, September 20, 2012

A Classic Reborn: Match Game (1973)

Four years after NBC had cancelled it, Match Game returned, retooled and refreshed, airing on CBS this time, and eventually adding a night-time version airing in syndication. It wasn't that CBS was unwilling to try the show in primetime, something NBC never considered with the original 1962-9 version, but by 1973, primetime game shows were out of vogue.

Gene Rayburn returned as host, with Johnny Olsen as announcer. On at least one occasion, Olsen also sat on the panel, subbing for Charles Nelson Reilly (ex-Ghost & Mrs. Muir, Lidsville). Richard Dawson (ex-Hogan's Heroes) & Brett Somers were the other regular panelists, but it didn't seem to matter who'd join the party for a given week. The questions were a little more over the top and borderline risque than the original series, and the new format added a bonus game in the form of the Super Match round, done in 2 parts, an audience match and a head-to-head with one of the panelists. More often than not, Dawson got the call, though Reilly got his share as well. Then again, they did appear to be the more cerebral of the panel, anyway.

As we all know, the series would return to NBC in 1983, fused together with another classic, Hollywood Squares, in a 1 hour series produced by Mark Goodson (Bill Todman had passed on), but without the participation of Squares MC Peter Marshall or producer Merrill Heatter. Ironically, the Match Game-Hollywood Squares Hour took the place of the series, Fantasy, hosted by Marshall and produced solo by Heatter (partner Bob Quigley had retired after Squares ended its first run in 1981) when it launched in October '83. Jon Bauman, aka Bowzer from Sha Na Na, who'd been a panelist on Match Game a number of times, was tapped to succeed Marshall as MC of Hollywood Squares. The story goes that Gene Rayburn wasn't too thrilled with that, and by the time this incarnation ended, Rayburn's friendship with Bauman, if there was one, was dissolved. The fact that Marshall was left out of the mix may have actually doomed the project before it began.

I digress. Let's get back to the topic at hand.

Matchgameproductions uploaded this 1978 episode, which marked the end of Richard Dawson's tenure as a panelist. By this point, Dawson had the distinction of appearing on two shows on two different networks at the same time, as he was also hosting another Goodson-Todman game, Family Feud, over on ABC, and after 2 years of that, it was time to move on from Match, once and for all. Note that the poster dedicated this to the memory of Dawson, who passed away a few months back.

No one is really sure if Gene and the writers had to get permission from Bill Cosby to use "Dumb Donald", since that character was also part of Fat Albert & The Cosby Kids, another CBS series, hence the more frequent use of Dumb Dora. One of the show's writers, Dick DeBartolo, also was a writer for Mad Magazine at that time, but the irony there was that the only time I'd read a parody of the series in comics, it was in the pages of a rival humor mag, Cracked. Go figure.

Rating: A.


magicdog said...

I used to love watching Hollywood Squares and Match Game when I was home from school! I do remember Match Game did run an evening version in the late 70s called "Match Game PM". It aired around 7pm IIRC.

Watching that list of celeb panelists makes me feel old - most of them have died! Dick Martin, Brett Sommers, and of course, Richard Dawson... I wonder if Heaven has celeb studded game shows?

I also watched the Squares/Match Game combo with Bowzer back in the day. I thought it was a great way to combine the best of both shows. I remember hearing at the time that Peter Marshall was never even approached for the revival and I thought that was unfair. I didn't know about Gene Rayburn being burned as well, not that I blame him, though I don't think Jon Bauman can be blamed so much as the producers and the network.

I do remember a "Dumb Donald" but I think he was switched out for "Dumb Dora" as time went on.

hobbyfan said...

Match Game PM did air around 7-7:30 (ET), which is how I was first exposed to the franchise in its most famous incarnation.

They would try a revival in 1990 with Ross Shafer as MC, but it didn't air in my area as it aired at noon, blacked out by news, and it was doomed as a result.

The "Dumb" switch only heightens my belief that Bill Cosby might have had something to do with it, as I alluded to. As for MG-HS, as I noted, Peter Marshall was coming off Fantasy, which MG-HS replaced, and I think Rayburn was bummed because the two were buddies and I think Gene'd be happier if Marshall was with him.