Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Classic TV: Concentration (1958)

When I was young, the most popular game shows on daytime television seemed to belong to NBC. I grew up with the original incarnations of Jeopardy!, Hollywood Squares, and.......Concentration.

It was a variation on the memory game, only there was a puzzle laid hidden under 30 tiles. The more matches the contestants made, the easier it was to solve the rebus puzzles. Prizes could be won and lost in the same game, thanks to tiles that revealed "Forfeit 1 Gift". The original Concentration, developed by Jack Barry & Dan Enright for NBC, lasted 14 1/2 years (August 1958-March 1973). Early on, the network bought the show outright after Barry & Enright were forced out of business due to the quiz scandals of the late 50's.

Hugh Downs, who was Jack Paar's announcer on The Tonight Show, and would later host The Today Show, was Concentration's first emcee, lasting nearly 11 years before stepping down to concentrate (pardon the pun) on Today. Bob Clayton moved from the announcer's booth to succeed Downs, but, reportedly, there were some issues from advertisers, which led to another Tonight announcer, Ed McMahon, to take over for 6 months in 1969. McMahon's only other game show hosting gig was also for NBC, the long-lost Goodson-Todman entry, Snap Judgment, in 1967. Clayton returned in September '69, and would remain for the final 3 1/2 years.

One of the more popular features was the annual Challenge of Champions, which began in 1963 to mark the series' 15th anniversary. At Christmas, children were given the chance to play, and there were also occasions where surprise guests, dressed as Santa Claus, would appear. As memory serves, there was one instance where two Santas played against each other. Courtesy of Internet Archive, we present a Challenge of Champions episode from 1968.

6 months after the series ended, Concentration would return, 25 years after its initial launch, for a 5 year syndicated run, produced this time by Goodson-Todman. We'll deal with that another time.

Rating: A.

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