Jan Murray Show, The

What we have here is a game show where nobody particularly liked the game. When NBC cancelled Treasure Hunt, it was with the express intention of finding a better vehicle for its host, Jan Murray. He was back in a matter of weeks — as of September 5, 1960 — with Charge Account, a weak game with a good host. So as the months went on, the program became less about winning money and more about Murray chatting with the contestants. In mid-run, it was renamed The Jan Murray Show and by that point, it was at least as much talk show as game. There’d be a fun conversation and then at some point, it would come to a halt and Murray would say, with as much enthusiasm as he could muster, “Well, I guess it’s time for you to win some money.” It was not unlike the way Groucho Marx on You Bet Your Life sometimes treated the quiz part of the show as an intrusion on the entertainment.

Maybe it wouldn’t have been like that if the game itself had been better. Murray would take tiles, each of which had a letter on it, and mix them up in a drum. Then he’d pull them out as if calling Bingo and read the letters off. The contestants had Bingo-style cards in front of them and they’d attempt to form words as they wrote the letters onto their cards. After that, an English professor-type gentleman would grade their cards, awarding them so many points for each three-letter word, so many for each four-letter word and so on. Pretty boring stuff.

All the databases say that it was a half-hour show but I seem to recall either that it ran an hour for at least one week, or that some article said it was going to go to an hour. I also have the vague memory of them dumping the game completely the last few weeks and trying to keep it going as a straight talk show, which is probably what it should have been in the first place.

The “home game” of Charge Account was apparently manufactured to excess: It was well-represented in every toy store and after the show was cancelled, it was possible to buy it, at least in the stores around me, for practically nothing. Which was about what it was worth. Since it didn’t come with the one good thing about the TV show — Jan Murray’s banter — there was no reason to even open the box.