AIRDATES July 2, 1973- April 20, 1979
ANNOUNCER(S) Johnny Olson
PRODUCED BY Mark Goodson-Bill Todman Productions

“Get ready to match the stars!”


“…As we play the star-studded, big money…”


You might have heard of this one.

Two contestants, a returning champion (represented by a red circle) and a challenger (represented by a green triangle) compete with the help of a six-celebrity panel. In Round 1, the challenger selects “A” or “B”, while the champion gets what’s left.

For each contestant's turn, Gene reads a sentence with a blank in it; for example, “Felix the Cat said, 'Tiny Tom Thumb is a rotten little sneak. Yesterday, he took a (_____) in my bowl of milk.'” The panelists write a response to fill in the blank. Gene then asks the contestant to give a verbal response, and the contestant wins one point for every celebrity s/he matches.

In Round 2, the contestants attempt to match the celebrities that they didn’t match in Round 1 (meaning that the highest possible score is six points). Top scorer after Round 2 wins the game, $100, and a chance to play Super Match. In the event of a tie, the scores are erased, and a single round is played to decide the winner.

The Super Match is played in two parts, Audience Match and Head-to-Head Match. For Audience Match, the contestant is shown a simple phrase, such as “______ of America,” which was presented to members of a previous studio audience. S/he selects three panelists to suggest possible answers (“United States,” “Bank,” “Voice”) and can use one of those or a different answer.

The responses are revealed one at a time. Matching the #1 answer pays $500, matching #2 pays $250, matching #3 wins $100, and matching none of the top three ends the Super Match.


If any money is won in Audience Match, the contestant selects one of the six panelists to play Head-to-Head Match. (It's a totally free choice on the contestant's part, but it was virtually always Richard Dawson.) Gene reads another simple phrase with a blank. The panelist writes an answer, the contestant says their answer, and if it’s an exact match, the payoff is 10 times the Audience Match payoff (either $1,000, $2,500, or $5,000).

In 1978, the Star Wheel was introduced. The contestant now left their Head-to-Head partner to chance, with a spin of the wheel determining who would play. If the wheel also stopped in one of the gold star areas, it doubled the Head-to-Head Match value, for a potential grand prize of $10,000.


Gene was fond of saying in his later years that the show had a “rotten format.” And it was; Michael Landon, who appeared on the show’s premiere week, never appeared on the show again because he felt the new rules were unfair. But if the game was so weak that even the emcee and celebrity panelists didn’t care for it, then how did it last?


Because it was just so funny. The regular panel had their quirks. Brett Somers and her wig collection, her tendency not to pay attention when Gene read the questions the first time, and her penchant for using multiple cards to write long-winded descriptions instead of just one or two words.

Charles Nelson Reilly, sitting next to her, would antagonize her by bragging about his own answers or mocking Gene & the other panelists’ behavior by improvising “an article in today’s paper” about whatever they were doing to annoy him.

Richard Dawson established himself as a king of ad-libs; rarely did he give an answer without offering a pun or a quick joke.

Frequent visitors had their charms, too. Betty White was fond of playing pranks on Gene, like rolling his pant leg or putting a stray piece of tape on the middle of his back.

Fannie Flagg wore increasingly outrageous shirts. Bill Daily, Marcia Wallace, Joyce Bulifant, and especially Patti Deutsch had tendencies toward giving answers that were more baffling than anything else. Scoey Mitchlll had an unusual fondness for insulting the contestants (“I think that’s a great answer...if you don’t like winning money”).

And then there’s the guy holding the microphone…The guy who got into a physical altercation with a camera when it didn’t get the right shot…

The guy who whacked a stagehand over the head with a cue card for not giving him a time signal…

The guy who burst through the entrance doors just because he thought that walking out would be boring…The guy who sometimes opened the show by reading angry letters from viewers, or reading a newspaper, or reading the soap opera cue cards that he had dug out of the trash can backstage…

The guy who commended a contestant for her "pretty nipples" in one of the great game show bloopers of all time...

The guy who dragged members of the production staff onstage to critique the job they were doing, or just to torment them…


Gene took that "rotten format" and turned it into something truly special. Decades have passed and "Match Game" has aged shockingly well, with new generations of GSN viewers cracking up at the antics of the panel and their goofy, grinning master of ceremonies.


Gene, Brett Sommers, & Charles Nelson Reilly.

A 1975 panel: Allen Ludden, Brett, Charles, Dolly Martin, Richard Dawson, Betty White

A great color shot of Gene & the same panel as above.

Just Gene.

Just Gene, again.

Gene, Orson Bean, Brett Sommers, and Charles Nelson Reilly.

Yeah, this site is devoted to Gene. Hard to pass up a photo of Charles flashing a peace sign, though.

One of my favorite photos, Gene & the gang in front of the big logo in 1975.

Gene sitting in the "dummy seat" for a head shot.

A great color shot of Gene in front of the big logo.


Up two levels to GENE RAYBURN'S WORLD

Up three levels to GAME SHOW UTOPIA