In 1976, CBS revived the long-running game show I’ve Got A Secret for what turned out to be a short-running “filler” in their schedule. Bill Cullen, who’d been a panelist on the first version, moved over to the host’s chair. Henry Morgan, who’d also been a panelist on the original version, returned to his old chair and he was joined by Richard Dawson, Elaine Joyce and New York entertainment reporter Pat Collins. In format, it was identical to I’ve Got A Secret as hosted by Garry Moore but the longevity was not there. The Cullen version lasted but six weeks and since it was on opposite Happy Days at the peak of that show’s popularity, almost no one tuned in or even knew it was on.
Cullen was, of course, a fine host…probably the best choice they could have made since Garry Moore, who was then hosting the daytime To Tell The Truth, declined the post. (Not long afterwards, Moore retired completely from television.) On the old show, Cullen and Morgan had occasionally filled in for Moore but neither had gotten the position when ol’ Garry left that version. Morgan, it was felt, was better suited to be a panelist where his acerbic remarks — which occasionally suggested that something on the show was stupid — were more appropriate. Cullen was, of course, a great host but at the time of Moore’s departure from the original show, Bill was also hosting The Price is Right on ABC. That network didn’t mind him continuing as a panelist on a rival web’s show but discouraged him hosting over there…so Steve Allen took over I’ve Got A Secret.
There had also been another problem with having Cullen take over for Moore. It was a poorly-kept secret that Bill Cullen, star of countless TV programs, had a bad limp, the result of a childhood bout with polio. He didn’t demand that it never be mentioned (although some articles and bios did blame it on an auto accident) but suggested that no special attention be called to it, and that, of course, he not be placed in situations where he’d have to stand or walk a lot on camera. The shows he did were generally designed to accommodate this. He would usually not make an entrance at the beginning of the show or if he did, it would only be a step or two. If he had to walk — as he did when he entered as a panelist on the Moore-hosted To Tell The Truth — the director would cut around the action as much as possible so as to not show Cullen limping about the stage.
The producers of the original I’ve Got A Secret used Cullen once or twice as a fill-in host when Moore was away but it was not satisfactory. The nature of the show, with stunts and demonstrations of various contestants’ secrets, demanded a host who could work on his feet. When the ’76 version of the show came about though, it seemed more important to try and recapture the spirit of the earlier series so they decided to have Cullen preside even if that meant limiting the physical segments. It probably seemed like a good trade-off but in the end, it really didn’t matter. Nobody was watching.
Thanks to Kenneth Johannessen for the ticket scan.