Match Game

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The Match Game was an American television game show where contestants tried to match a panel of six celebrities in answering fill-in-the-blank questions.

Broadcast history

The original Match Game ran from 1962 through 1969 on NBC. Although the fill-in-the-blanks premise was the same, the rules of this version were significantly different from those described in this article.

CBS revived the show on July 2, 1973, as Match Game '73 (the number changed to match the current year). After CBS canceled the show on April 20, 1979 after 6 years and 1,445 shows, the show found new life in daily syndication, where it ran until 1982 as Match Game (without the year). A weekly syndicated version, Match Game PM, also ran from 1975 to 1981. Reruns of these versions currently air on GSN.

The Match Game was revived on October 31, 1983, as part of NBC's Match Game-Hollywood Squares Hour; that version ended on July 27, 1984. Two unsuccessful revivals were attempted in the 1990s: from July 16, 1990, to July 12, 1991, on ABC, and during the 1998-99 season in syndication.

Hosts and celebrity panelists

Gene Rayburn hosted all versions of the show through 1984. Ross Shafer hosted the 1990 version, and Michael Burger hosted the 1998 version.

Charles Nelson Reilly and Brett Somers were regular celebrity panelists through most of the 1973-82 version's run; Richard Dawson was also a regular from 1973 through 1978. Game show hosts such as Bob Barker, Bert Convy, Bill Cullen, and Allen Ludden made occasional appearances as panelists. Other frequent panelists from this era included Joyce Bulifant, Gary Burghoff, Bill Daily, Patti Deutsch, David Doyle, Patty Duke Astin, Fannie Flagg, Holly Hallstrom, Elaine Joyce, Vicki Lawrence, Dick Martin, Lee Meriwether, Jo Ann Pflug, Nipsey Russell, Debralee Scott, McLean Stevenson, Marcia Wallace, and Betty White.

The 1983-84 version that aired as part of The Match Game - Hollywood Squares Hour featured no regular panelists other than co-host Jon Bauman, who hosted the Hollywood Squares segment and sat on the panel during the Match Game and Super Match segments. Many of the show's guests, however, had prior Match Game experience.

Charles Nelson Reilly was the only permanent panelist for the 1990 version. Other semi-regulars during this era included Bill Kirchenbauer, Ronn Lucas (with his puppet-dragon Scorch), Sally Struthers, and Fred Travelena, as well as several past semi-regulars mentioned above. On three separate occasions during this run of the series, Brett Somers returned to renew her comic rivalry with Reilly.

The 1998 version featured only five panelists instead of the usual six; of these, three were permanent (Vicki Lawrence, Judy Tenuta, and Nell Carter), with a fourth (George Hamilton) being nearly so.

The regular announcers of The Match Game were Johnny Olson (through 1982), Gene Wood (1983-84 and 1990-91), and Paul Boland (1998-99).

Main game

Two contestants competed to see who could match more of the answers of the six celebrities. Much of the show's humor sprung from questions that were heavy on double-entendres; one of the principal question-writers, Dick DeBartolo, was also a writer for MAD Magazine.

In the first round, the challenger chose one of two cards, A or B. The host then read the back of the card to the celebrity panel. A typical question was something like: "Mary Mary Quite Contrary couldn't make her garden grow with water, so she used _____ instead."

The contestant had a moment to decide what word would best fit the blank while the celebrities wrote their answers down on index cards; after all of them were finished, the contestant gave his answer. Frequently, the audience would respond appropriately as Rayburn critiqued the contestant's answer (e.g., "tinkle" might be the definitive answer for the above "Mary Mary Quite Contrary" question, but "mud" might be a rotten answer).

Rayburn then polled each celebrity for an answer. The contestant earned one point for each celebrity who wrote down the same answer (or reasonable simile, as determined by the judges) as he had chosen, up to a total of six points for matching everyone on the panel.

After play was completed on the challenger's question, Rayburn read the statement on the other card, and play was identical.

In the second round, whoever was leading the game got to choose a question first. Only the celebrities who did not match that contestant in the first round played. A third round was played on Match Game PM after its first season; again, the only celebrities who played were those who did not match that contestant in previous rounds.

Tiebreaker rounds -- during which the scores were reset to 0-0 -- were played if the game was tied after the last round. On "PM" (or in the daytime show, if a tie was still not broken after two tiebreaker rounds), a time-saving variant of the tiebreaker was used that reversed the game play. The contestants would write their answers first on a card in secret, then the celebrities were canvassed to give their answers. The first celebrity response to match a contestant's answer gave that contestant the victory; if there were still no match (which was rare), the round was replayed with a new quesiton.

The CBS daytime version had returning champions and each show would end at whatever point they were in the game, to resume with the next show; the "PM" version was self-contained with no returning champions and each show would end with the "Super Match."

The 1979-82 syndicated version did not feature returning champions; rather, two contestants played two complete games, with the loser of the first game returning for the second. After the second game, both contestants were retired and two new ones were brought on.

Super Match

The winner of the game won $100 (CBS daytime version only) and went on to play the Super Match, which consisted of the Audience Match and the Head-to-Head Match segments, for additional money.

Audience Match

A fill-in-the-blank phrase was given, and it was up to the contestant to choose the most common response based on a studio audience survey. After consulting with three celebrities on the panel for help, the contestant had to choose an answer. The answers were revealed after that; the most popular answer in the survey was worth $500, the second-most popular $250, and the third most popular $100.

Two Audience Matches were played on Match Game PM.

The Audience Match became the basis for another game show from the Match Game production team of Mark Goodson and Bill Todman -- Family Feud. Match Game regular Richard Dawson was chosen to host that show. This makes The Match Game one of the first (if not the only) in the game show genre to spawn a spin-off. Elements of the Audience Match were later incorporated in the Goodson-Todman games The Better Sex and Card Sharks.

Head-to-Head Match

The contestant then had the opportunity to win ten times what he or she won in the Audience Match by exactly matching another fill-in-the-blank response with a celebrity panelist of his or her choice.

Richard Dawson was the most frequently chosen celebrity in the 1970s version; this was why in 1978, the "Star Wheel" was introduced. Contestants spun the wheel to determine which celebrity they played with. They could double their potential winnings if the spin ended on one of the stars on the wheel ($10,000 was the top prize in the daytime version; with the two audience matches on Match Game PM, a jackpot of up to $20,000 was possible there).

Rule Changes in Other Versions

The Match Game (1962-1969)

This is the original series upon which the show described above was based. For most of its life it was aired live from New York on NBC during the early afternoons, and was a solid if unspectacular hit for the network at the time.

The gameplay of this Match Game bore little resemblance to its more famous descendant. Here, two teams of three, each comprised of two contestants and one celebrity captain, played against each other. The teams scored points based on how many of them matched answers on a question - if only two matched, the team earned 25 points, but if all three came up with the same answer, it was worth 50 points. The first team to reach 100 points won the game and $100.

Note: It must be noted that questions on this show were far less risqué than on its 1970s incarnation; most were simple open-ended questions, such as "Name a kind of flower" or "What is the first thing you do when you wake up?" Ironically, many of these type questions would have been prime fodder for Family Feud, which in a very real sense was a Match Game spinoff. Also, these types of questions were common during the early weeks of Match Game's 1973 CBS revival.

The winning team then played the Audience Match, where each teammate wrote down an answer they felt was given most frequently by a polled studio audience. Each match was worth $50 in bonus money.

Despite the fact the original Match Game ran for just over six years, various outside factors have conspired to have virtually all of it stricken from the permanent record. It is believed no more than a dozen episodes remain of it today; GSN has aired three black-and-white kinescopes of it in the past, the rest are spread out in various university archives and television museums.

The original theme music was the instrumental "Swingin' Safari" by Bert Kaempfert.

The Match Game - Hollywood Squares Hour (1983-84)

These rules were roughly the same as Match Game PM, with both contestants given three chances apiece to match each panelist once. The major difference was in the tiebreaker. Here, four possible answers to a Super Match-like statement (example: "_____, New Jersey") were secretly shown to the contestants (examples: "Atlantic City," "Hoboken," "Newark," "Trenton"). They each chose one by number. The host then polled the celebrities for verbal responses, just as on the PM tiebreaker. The first panelist to give an answer selected by one of the contestants won the game for that contestant.

The winner of the Match Game segment of this show then advanced to face the returning champion in the Hollywood Squares segment, discussion of which is beyond the scope of this Wikipedia entry.

The eventual winner of Squares played the Super Match, which is structured just like its classic form described above. Payoffs here were $1,000 for the most popular response in the Audience Match, with the second and third worth $500 and $250 respectively. For Head-to-Head, the player selected one of the nine celebrities (the six panelists from Match Game plus the three that were added for Squares), each of whom was concealing a different multiplier. Four of them held a 10, four a 20, and one had a 30. The chosen panelist then revealed his/her multiplier, which was then combined with the Audience Match earnings to create the Head-to-Head jackpot. Under these rules, a Head-to-Head match could be worth as much as $30,000.

This version was a joint production of Mark Goodson Productions and Orion Television, who owned the rights to Squares at the time. All episodes are assumed to be intact; however, reruns have never aired on GSN or any other network because of cross-ownership issues.

Some sources report that Gene Rayburn himself also requested this show never air in reruns, due to his dissatisfaction with the finished product. These reports are, at the time of this writing, mostly unsubstantiated; indeed, there is some confusion as to if this statement actually refers to a 1985 incarnation of Break the Bank which Rayburn hosted. However, in an interview ([1] (, Gene Wood, the show's announcer, did mention that Rayburn was "dragged kicking and screaming" into the host's position on the show.

Match Game (1990-91)

On this version of the show, matches were worth money instead of points; $50 per match, to be precise. All panelists played both questions for each player, regardless of whether or not they matched in the first round.

After each round of questions, the contestants were given a chance to build their scores further by playing a new round, "Match-Up!", with one panelist of their choice. This was a rapid-fire series of Super Match-style questions, with two possible answers given; the contestant chose one secretly, and the panelist picked the one s/he felt the contestant picked. This process continued until time expired. The first Match-Up! round was played for 30 seconds at $50 per match, while the second lasted 45 seconds and paid off at $100 per match. Whoever had the most money at the end of the second Match-Up! round won the game.

The Super Match was played identically to the 1978-82 version of the round (with the Star Wheel). Originally, payoffs for the Audience Match were identical as well, but after a few weeks it changed to $500-$300-$200 for each answer in descending order of popularity.

Match Game (1998-99)

As already mentioned above, this incarnation of Match Game featured a panel of only five celebrities instead of the usual six. Questions in this version were not labelled A or B, but instead had punny titles that were a clue as to the content. Each match was worth one point in round one, two points in round two. As on the 1990-91 version, all five panelists played each round regardless of whether they matched a player on the first question.

The Super Match was played identically to its 1973-78 incarnation (pre-Star Wheel), even down to its payoffs. The low payoffs ($5,000 as a top prize was not as impressive in 1998 as it was in 1973), along with questionable content led to this revival's short run.


The unaired pilot for "the 1973 edition of Match Game" circulates among video tape collectors. The celebrities in that episode were Bert Convy, Arlene Francis, Jack Klugman, Jo Ann Pflug, Richard Dawson, and Betty White, all of whom appeared in the series at one time or another. There were only a few minor differences between the pilot and the series; parts of the set had a slightly different look, and the Super Match was called the "Jackpot Match" instead.

A version of Match Game, hosted by Gene Rayburn, had been planned to broadcast in syndication starting in fall 1987. Everything was set to go until an episode of Entertainment Tonight aired before the show started taping had reported Rayburn's true age as 70, instead of the early-to-mid-sixties that the producers had believed. The version was scrapped, as it was believed that Rayburn was "too old".

Bert Convy was originally selected to host the 1990 ABC version, but he was diagnosed with a brain tumor before the series went into production and was replaced by Ross Shafer. Convy died just three days after the last episode of that version aired. A clip from one of the Convy-hosted pilots aired on VH1's Game Show Moments Gone Bananas in 2005.

In summer 2004, a pilot for a remake of Match Game, called What the Blank!, was taped for Fox, hosted by Fred Willard; however, this production is now officially dead.

Versions outside the USA

In the United Kingdom it was known as Blankety Blank and was presented by Terry Wogan, Les Dawson and Lily Savage.

In Australia, it is known as Blankety Blanks, and has been presented by Graham Kennedy, Daryl Somers, and Shane Bourne.

In Germany, Match Game had a 150-episode run as Punkt, Punkt, Punkt (Dot, Dot, Dot - an allusion to an ellipsis) in the early 1990s on satellite and cable network Sat.1. The show was hosted by Mike Krüger.

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