AIRDATES September 1979- September 1982 (First-run episodes)
September 1985-September 1986 (Reruns)
NETWORK(S) Daily Syndication
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..."

Proving that you can’t keep a great game show down, Gene and “Match Game” went back into business mere months after CBS’ cancellation.

 

Two contestants competed with the help of a six celebrity panel. The game was played just the same as the network version, for the most part, but with the following changes:

There were no longer returning champions. Two contestants competed against each other in two games. Regardless of the outcome, both contestants retired after those two games.

 

Without returning champions, the A or B decision was based on a coin toss for Round One, and the contestant in the lead selected for Round Two.

The show alternated their tiebreakers. The version used on the CBS series was usually played Monday-Wednesday, while the version used on “Match Game PM” was usually brought out for Thursday & Friday. The reason why would take a long time to explain and bore most of you reading this, but the short version was they needed to play the Super Match exactly six times during each week of shows and alternating the tiebreakers kept them from having to alternate between rushing and stretching for time as the week went on.

 

 

Winning the game no longer awarded $100, only the right to play Super Match. It may not seem like a big deal, but on several occasions it did create the bizarre situation of Gene sending a winner home with consolation prizes because they didn’t have any cash to show for coming out on top.

 

 

An audience participation game was sometimes played during the first season. Gene would read a simple blank phrase and one panelist would write an answer. Gene would then pick audience members at random, and the first one to match received $50.

 

With Richard Dawson long gone, his seat was open for alternating guest panelists until 1981. McLean Stevenson joined the show as a regular panelist and fit in rather nicely. His run as a regular produced some of this author’s favorite episodes of the series.

 

Probably the biggest change was the one that wasn’t obvious at first. The double-entendre gags that put the series on the map were very gradually phased out in favor of “wacky mental pictures” such as “Irving Bricklemeyer crossed a construction worker’s picket line and got a (_____) shoved up his nose”, as well as more poems and pop culture references than before. The simple feeling was that “naughty” questions didn’t get the laughs they used to and the change was necessary in changing times.

 

And while many series become tired after so many years on the air, Match Game proved to still be full of life. Among the highlights of this run:


Gene occasionally switched duties with a regular panelist or frequent visitor. Betty White & Charles Nelson Reilly both had turns hosting "Match Game" while Gene sat on the panel. Betty would go on to win an Emmy for hosting "Just Men!" while Charles hosted "Sweethearts." Guess they both liked Gene's gig.

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During her game, this contestant had to fill in this blank: "The sporting goods salesman said, 'That caterpillar must be an athlete. He just bought 100 sneakers and a (_____).'" She answered, "ACCORDION." And she went on to win the game. But it gets weirder!

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Gene still had a soft spot for doing wacky entrances, whether it was an old network favorite like bursting through the door, or bringing along his daughter's dog to sit with the panel.


Gene & Charles got into an argument about the mini-series "Shogun," which Gene had rather liked but Charles loathed. Charles, pretending to lose his temper, smacked Gene in the face with a stack of cards...but he put a little too much force into it, and Gene very slowly dropped to the floor...

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Tom Kennedy & Wink Martindale were fond of joking about meeting fans who had mistaken them for each other, but the most striking look-alikes in the game show business were Gene Rayburn & Peter Marshall. The fact that they both hosted star-studded comedy games only added to the confusion when fans "recognized" them on the street. When Peter finally joined the "Match Game" panel in 1980, they played up the confusion by having Gene sit on the panel as Johnny Olson announced, "From 'The Hollywood Squares', Peter Marshall!" And when Johnny announced "The star of Match Game, Gene Rayburn!" it was Peter who made the entrance.


After years of cracking up the audience with his decrepit, sickly-sounding rendition of questions involving Old Man Periwinkle, Gene finally gave a face to the voice by hosting the show in Old Man Periwinkle make-up (actually Scrooge make-up from a stage production of "A Christmas Carol").

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A contestant is facing this Audience Match phrase: "The Royal (_____)." This one seems like an easy $500, but this contestant is SURE he has a better answer than anybody on the panel...

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THE MIKE KLAUSS MATCH GAME PHOTO GALLERY

The panel from the first week: Bart Braverman, Brett Sommers, Charles Nelson Reilly, Eva Gabor, Bill Daily, and Fannie Flagg.

Gene and the contestants have a good time.

It's not Match Game without these two.

Gene and the bottom tier during the first week.

Fannie cracks up Gene and the other panelists.

Gene and the panel display varying states of interest in whatever's happening.

Charles, you're probably on camera here...Charles? Charles!

 Gene and the panel from week #2: David Doyle, Brett, Charles, Debralee Scott, Dick Martin, and Patty Duke Astin.

Gene and a contestant at the Star Wheel.

Gene with his arm around a contestant; one of the best photos of Gene you'll ever find.

Hot diggity, a color shot from the third season: Bernie Kopell, Brett, Charles, Marjorie Wallace, Scoey Mitchlll, and Edie McClurg.

Robert Pine, Brett, Charles, Dolly Martin, McLean Stevenson, and Dannie Flagg.

Gene, Brett and Charles in front of the logo.

Another photo from the same shoot.




Even among the most ardent fans of "Match Game" are somewhat divided in their opinions of this incarnation, with some referring to the "tired" or lax feel of the show. And it wasn't even just fans who noticed that. According to a staff member, Mark Goodson once penned a blistering memo about the quality of this incarnation of the show, griping in particular about Gene's "unbuttoned attitude" toward hosting.

But you know something? I enjoy the broken-in feel of these later shows. The show had amassed an impressive family of semi-regulars with great chemistry, and with years of "Match Game" under his belt, Gene is more comfortable and loose with the format than ever. The show may have felt a little different, but it was still as fun as ever.

Up one level to THE GAME SHOWS OF GENE RAYBURN

Up two levels to GENE RAYBURN'S WORLD

Up three levels to GAME SHOW UTOPIA