The Match Game was a hugely-popular game show with a simple concept: contestants would try to guess how celebrities had answered fill-in-the-blank questions. The show ran for thousands of episodes in 5 different incarnations over four decades, though the most popular version ran from 1973 to 1979… and featured some awesome orange shag carpet.
The Real Match Game Story: Behind the Blank notes, “Match Game started out as a run-of-the-mill, fill-in-the-blank game show. The questions were simple and contestants had to fill in the blanks: ‘Every morning, John puts _____ on his cereal.’
“Faced with cancellation because of low ratings, producers and panelists decided to kick it up a notch and have fun until the end of the season. Host Rayburn rattled off questions packed with sexual double entendres, unusual for the 1970s. The racy questions made it to the air, the celebrities made it a point to ‘play dumb’ and the results were hilarious. The ratings shot through the roof and CBS un-cancelled the series.
Match Game became the highest-rated game show in daytime from 1974 to 1976. Match Game redefined the modern game show. It went against convention, appealed to a younger, hipper audience and ushered in a new era of television.”
Now, here’s your host, Gene Rayburn!
The celebrity players
Each episode featured a panel of six stars of stage or screen, which (at one time or another) included Richard Dawson, Charles Nelson Reilly, Brett Somers, Marcia Wallace, Betty White, Jimmy Walker, Gary Burghoff, Adrienne Barbeau, June Lockhart, Shelley Winters, Jack Cassidy, Loretta Swit, Nipsey Russell, Della Reese, Orson Bean, Ethel Merman, Michael Landon, Vicki Lawrence, Juliet Mills, Edward Asner, Arte Johnson, Robert Culp, ‘Mama’ Cass Elliot, Bob Barker, Jo Anne Worley, Kate Jackson, Marilu Henner, Donna Mills, Pat Morita, Eva Gabor, Leslie Nielsen, Donna Pescow, Robert Pine and William Shatner — among many others.
Richard Dawson, Brett Somers, Charles Nelson Reilly and host Gene Rayburn
Top row: Bert Convy, Arlene Francis and Jack Klugman; Bottom row: Jo Ann Pflug, Richard Dawson and Betty White (1973)
More famous faces
David Doyle, Brett Somers, Charles Nelson Reilly, Debralee Scott, Dick Martin, Patty
Avery Schreiber, Brett Somers, Charles Nelson Reilly, Jo Ann Pflug, Richard Dawson, Fanny Flagg