December 5, 1951-October 7, 1955
Gene was a panelist from approximately September 22, 1953 - January 3, 1955


ABC Primetime


Lee Vines, Bob Shepard, Lee Goodman, Glenn Riggs


Mark Goodson-Bill Todman Productions

Gene’s first foray into the game show world was as a panelist guessing improbable names on this series hosted by Robert Q. Lewis and later Dennis James.


Three panelists (raised to four early in Gene’s run) face a contestant identified only as Mister or Miss X, who may have the same name as a famous person (“Huey P. Long”), descriptive term (“A. Maid”), place (“Paris France”), or thing (“Ruby Lips”).


Each panelist has a ten-question limit and, in turn, asks yes-or-no questions (and regardless of the answer, they lose a question from their limit). The panelist continues asking until they guess the name, reach 0 on their question limit, or pass to the next panelist in line.


The game ends when the panel guesses the name, all thirty (later forty) allotted questions have been asked (which rarely, if ever, happened), or Robert Q. Lewis simply stops the game because it’s running long (which was, by far, the most frequent occurrence). The contestant collects a $25 personal check from each panelist who couldn’t guess the name.


Each week, a celebrity guest dropped by to play, “I’d Like to Be…,” wherein the panel had to guess who the celebrity guest said they would rather be if they couldn’t be themselves.


Later in the run, the celebrity guest played “Secret Wish,” which was something along the lines of a stunt of game normally associated with “I’ve Got a Secret.”

 But “I’ve Got a Secret” this show ain’t. The show never achieved the legendary status of the other Goodson-Todman panel shows because it didn’t have quite as much going for it. Hurting this one in the long run was that it had a far more limited scope for the contestant pool than the other shows (so much so that late in the series’ run, the rules were relaxed so that relatives of celebrities could appear as contestants, with the panel trying to guess the relative).


It also couldn’t boast a charismatic and chemistry-laden regular panel like that of the other shows.  In only four years on the air, Meredith Wilson, Abe Burrows, Bill Stern, Carl Reiner, Arnold Stang, Bill Cullen, Mike Wallace, Bess Myerson, Roger Price, and Audrey Meadows all had turns as regular panelists. Joan Alexander was the only one to last through the entire run, and Gene was actually one of the longer-lasting of the “revolving-door” regulars on the show.

 Even the emcees had a tendency not to last. Robert Q. Lewis left and was replaced by Dennis James. Shortly after Gene left the series to help launch "Tonight!" on NBC, James was replaced by radio comedians Bob & Ray. Legends though they may be, this was easily the least-appropriate vehicle that Bob & Ray could have possibly been given, and they were replaced by Clifton Fadiman, who hosted until the show quietly disappeared in 1955.

Introduced as “one of radio’s brightest humorists” during the opening, Gene established himself as the clown of the panel, whether by scratching all over as he gave a check to A. Flea or by simply walking offstage when he got flustered. It was enough to keep his name on the Goodson-Todman rolodex after he left the show, and that would, of course, pay off in spades through the rest of his career.


Up two levels to GENE RAYBURN'S WORLD

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