Match Game (also called The Match Game, Match Game '7"X", and Match Game PM) is an American television game show featuring contestants attempting to match celebrities' answers to fill-in-the-blank questions. It was hosted for most of its time on air by Gene Rayburn.
The most famous versions of the 1970s and 1980s, starting with Match Game '73, were remembered for their bawdy and sometimes rowdy humor and involved contestants trying to match six celebrities.
Two contestants competed. On the CBS version, the champion was seated in the upstage (red circle) seat and the opponent was seated in the downstage (green triangle) seat. On the syndicated versions, which had no returning champions, positions were determined by a backstage coin toss. The object was to match the answers of the six celebrity panelists to fill-in-the-blank statements.
The main game was played in two rounds (three on Match Game PM after the first season). The opponent was given a choice of two statements labeled either "A" or "B". Rayburn then read the statement. The six celebrities wrote their answers on index cards. After they finished, the contestant verbally gave an answer. Rayburn then asked each celebrity, one at a time beginning in the upper left hand corner of the panel, to respond.
While early questions were similar to the NBC version (e.g., "Name a type of muffin" and "Every morning, John puts _________ on his cereal"), the questions quickly became more humorous. Comedy writer Dick DeBartolo, who had participated in the 1960s Match Game, now contributed broader and saucier questions for host Rayburn. Frequently, the statements were written with bawdy, double entendre answers in mind. A classic example: "Did you catch a glimpse of that girl on the corner? She has the world's biggest _________."
Frequently, the audience responded appropriately as Rayburn critiqued the contestant's answer (for the "world's biggest" question, Rayburn might show disdain to an answer such as "fingers" or "bag", and compliment an answer such as "rear end" or "boobs", often also commenting on the audience's approving or disapproving response). The audience usually would groan or boo when a contestant gave a bad answer, whereas they would cheer and applaud in approval of a good answer. There were a handful of potential answers that were prohibited, the most notable being any synonym for genitalia.
The contestant earned one point for each celebrity who wrote down the same answer (or reasonably similar as determined by the judges; for example, "rear end" matched "bottom" or a similar euphemism) up to a maximum of six points for matching everyone. After one contestant played, the second contestant played the other question.
Popular questions featured "Dumb Dora" or "Dumb Donald". These questions would often begin, "Dumb Dora/Donald is/was so dumb..." or "Dumb Dora/Donald is/was REALLY dumb..." To this, the audience would respond en masse, "How dumb IS/WAS he/she?" Then Rayburn would finish the question (or, occasionally, deride the audience's lack of unison and make them try the response again). Other common subjects of questions were Superman/Lois Lane, King Kong/Fay Wray, panelists on the show (most commonly Brett Somers), politicians, and Howard Cosell.
Rayburn always played the action for laughs, and frequently tried to read certain questions in character, such as "Old Man Periwinkle" or "Old Mrs. Pervis". Regular panelist Charles Nelson Reilly, a Broadway director, would often respond with comments such as "I like when you act" and "That was mediocre," to the amusement of the audience. Some questions dealt with the fictitious (and often sleazy) country of "Nerdo Crombezia".
In the second round, the players attempted to match the celebrities whom they had not matched in the first. On the CBS version, the challenger always began round 2. This meant that a champion who had only answered one question could be ahead of a challenger who had played both questions, rendering the final question moot. On the syndicated versions, the leader after a round played first in the next round. In case of a tie score, the player who had begun the previous round played last in the tiebreaker round.
The first round questions usually had a number of plausible answers, while the second round questions were generally easier and were usually puns with an obvious or "definitive" answer (for instance, "Did you hear about the new religious group of dentists? They call themselves the Holy _____.", where the definitive answer would be "Molars"). This was to help trailing contestants pick up points quickly.
On Match Game PM, a third round was added after Season One as the games proved to be too short to fill the half-hour. Again, the only celebrities who played were those who did not match that contestant in previous rounds.
If the players had the same score at the end of "regulation", the scores were reset to 0-0. On PM (or on the syndicated daytime show if time was running short), a time-saving variant of the tie-breaker 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 question. On the CBS version, the tie-breaker went on until there was a clear winner. If it came to the sudden-death tie-breaker, only the final question (the one that ultimately broke the tie) was kept and aired.
The CBS daytime version had returning champions and the show "straddled"–that was, episodes often began and ended with games in progress. On this version, champions could stay until they were defeated or won $25,000. Originally, this amount was the network's winnings limit; anything above that amount was forfeited, but the rule was later changed so that a champion retired after winning $25,000 and kept up to $35,000. During the six-year run of Match Game on CBS, only one champion retired undefeated.
On the daily 1979-1982 syndicated version, two contestants played against each other twice, and then both retired. The show was timed so that two new contestants appeared each Monday; this was necessary as the tapes of the show were shipped between stations, and weeks could not be aired in any discernible order (a common syndication practice at the time, known as "bicycling"). On Friday episodes which ran short, in order to fill time audience members played a question similar to those used in the Super Match for a small cash prize.
Episodes of Match Game PM were self-contained, with two new contestants each week.
Created by Frank Wayne
Directed by Marc Breslow (CBS)
Gene Rayburn (1962–1984)
Ross Shafer (1990–1991)
Michael Burger (1998–1999)
Ricki Lake (Gameshow Marathon, 2006)
Narrated by Johnny Olson (1962-1982)
Bern Bennett (substitute)
Gene Wood (1983-1984, 1990-1991)
Paul Boland (1998-1999)
Rich Fields (Gameshow Marathon)
Country of origin United States
No. of episodes
The Match Game: 1,760
Match Game '7x: 1,455 (16 unaired)
Match Game PM: 230
Match Game (1979-1982): 525
Producer(s) Ira Skutch (1973-1982)
Running time 30 minutes
Mark Goodson-Bill Todman Productions (1962-1982)
Mark Goodson Productions (1983-1999)
Celebrity Productions, Inc. (1973–1982)
The Match Game Company (1973–1982)
Orion Television (1983–1984)
The MG Company (1990–1991)
Distributor Jim Victory Television (1975–1982)
Pearson Television (1998–1999)
NBC (1962–1969, 1983–1984)
CBS (1973-1979, 2006 Gameshow Marathon)
Syndicated (1975–1981, weekly; 1979–1982 [1985-1986 in reruns] and 1998–1999, daily)
Picture format Black and White (1962-1969, kinescopes)
Color (NTSC) (1962-Present, videotapes)
Audio format Mono (1962-1984)
Stereo (1990-1998, plus recent reruns of the Rayburn version)
Original run December 31, 1962 – July 23, 1999