The Many Attempts To Revive Match Game
by Billy Ingram
Match Game was one of the most popular game shows off all time, a true 1970s TV touchstone.
The original series was a more sedate affair than the 1970s version, here's the pilot episode for Match Game in 1962, debuting on NBC afternoons on December 31, 1962.
Due to tepid ratings, NBC canceled Match Game the next year. With 6 weeks left to run, question writer Dick DeBartolo (MAD magazine) approached producer Mark Goodson with the idea of writing slightly risqué-sounding questions, this caused a huge boost in ratings. NBC "un-cancellated" the program and Match Game ran until 1969. Very few episodes of the 1960s The Match Game survive.
(1962) Gene Rayburn Match Game Pilot
With the massive success of a revival of The New Price Is Right on CBS, Goodson-Todman rebooted Match Game with a panel of 6 celebrities answering what were at first mundane questions. Once again, a move toward even more risqué questions caused Match Game to be a smash hit, quickly becoming the number 1 rated daytime show for years.
Match Game ended its run on CBS daytime in 1979 but the program continued in daily syndication from 1979-1982. A nighttime syndicated version, Match Game PM, aired from 1975 until 1982. The highest total ever won on Match Game was $32,600.
This 1973 pilot episode featured Bert Convy, Arlene Francis, Jack Klugman, Jo Ann Pflug, Richard Dawson, and Betty White.
Match Game 1973 Pilot
After the second version Match Game ended, there have been many failed attempts to revive the show. Why did they not succeed? Some cases, like the Match Game / Hollywood Squares debacle, are due to bad formating. In my opinion, the success of Match Game was due to the stars, host Gene Rayburn and panelists Brett Somers and Charles Nelson Reilly.
Possibly the worst game show of all time might have sounded like a good idea but the execution was a mess.
The Match Game Hollywood Squares Hour was an hour long, the first half had contestants playing Match Game with host Gene Rayburn, the second half had Rayburn seated as one of The Hollywood Squares with Sha Na Na's Jon Bowser taking over as host. Was Peter Marshall not available?!?
The Match Game-Hollywood Squares Hour aired for one season, from October 31, 1983 until July 27, 1984
Match Game Hollywood Squares Hour Pilot
A week of pilot were filmed for a new version of Match Game with Bert Convy as host. Here is pilot #5. I like the high tech opening...
That next year another version of Match Game, this time with host Ross Schafer (due to Bert Convy being diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor), was picked up by ABC in 1990. That version lasted one year but saw the return of Charles Nelson Reilly and occasionally Brett Somers as panelists. The opening intro of the celebrities was very weird...
Match Game taped 10/10/1989 (Pilot Episode) Pt. 1
In 1996, a pilot was produced for a new revival of the show as MG2: The Match Gamewith Charlene Tilton (Dallas) as host. That wasn't picked up so producers significantly retooled the format to be a more faithful remake of the 1970s program, which aired in syndication from from September 21, 1998 to May 1999 with host Michael Burger (who?) this time with 5 celebrity panelists instead of 6.
What The Blank was a Match Game pilot of sorts in 2004 with Fred Willard as host. Willard was very funny but the comedy segments weren't - with Martin Mull (Fernwood 2night) as a panelist, too bad it never made it to series.
A 2008 pilot for Match Game with panelists Super Dave Osborne (Bob Einstein), Sarah Silverman, Scott Thompson, Rashida Jones, Norm Macdonald, and Niecy Nash and host Andy Daly. The Executive Producer was Robert Smigel (Triumph the Insult Comic Dog).
Here is a rough cut of the proposed Match Game pilot that was done for TBS. Taped in 2008 and was to air in 2009.
ABC revived Match Game once again with host Alec Baldwin in 2016. The show's fifth season premiered on May 31, 2020.
The Many Attempts To Revive Match Game
Match Game (Last episode of the 1973-1982 version)
On November 26, 2006, GSN broadcast an hour-long documentary titled The Real Match Game Story: Behind The Blank narrated by Jamie Farr featuring rarely seen footage of the 1960s version, many odd or memorable moments from the main 1973–82 runs and interviews with Rayburn (his final interview before his death in 1999), Somers, Dawson, DeBartolo, producer Ira Skutch, and others involved in the show's production.
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