Game Shows

I’ll Buy That!

I’ll Buy That! was a game show hosted by Mike Wallace back in the days when Mike Wallace sometimes hosted game shows.  The show debuted June 13, 1953 and lasted a few months into 1954.  Home viewers would send in items they wished to sell and a celebrity panel headed by Vanessa Brown and Hans Conreid would attempt to guess what each item was.  Every time they made a wrong guess, the “selling price” would go up.

How was it?  A fine question.  There don’t seem to be many (any?) episodes around.   But its cancellation and the failure of a few other attempts got Wallace out of the game show hosting and into news work.  So that’s something.

Masquerade Party (1952-1960)

Masquerade Party was one of those shows that went from network to network and from host to host.  It started on NBC in 1952, went to CBS in ’53 and ’54, went to ABC, then back to NBC then back to CBS.  Along the way, its hosts included Bud Collyer, Douglas Edwards, Peter Donald, Eddie Bracken, Robert Q. Lewis and finally Bert Parks.  The four member panel was in a constant state of flux.

But the premise didn’t change.  The host would introduce a “Masquerader” — some celebrity who’d come out in heavy-enough make-up that you couldn’t tell who it was. The outfit and a little routine the Masquerader would perform would be a hint. For instance, when George “Superman” Reeves was a Masquerader, they had him dressed up as a giant pack of Kent Cigarettes, which just happened to be a sponsor. The panelists would ask questions and try to guess who the celeb was…and at the end, there’d be an unmasking which was often messy. That was it. Usually, there’d be three games a show which led to one of the show’s main weaknesses. Sometimes, to find three Masqueraders to fill a half-hour, the definition of a celebrity had to be pretty low and it sometimes descended into folks the panel had never heard of. That of course made it tough for them to figure out the answer.

Very few episodes of this show are known to exist. Before his passing, ventriloquist Paul Winchell scoured the country looking for a kinescope of a time he was on with his idol, Edgar Bergen. The two of them were joint Masqueraders playing Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde — one playing one, the other playing the other. Some of the costumes and clues were quite clever, especially during a period when Allan Sherman, who’d been fired as producer of I’ve Got A Secret, was brought in to run things. In his autobiography, Sherman says that when the job was offered to him, his initial reaction was to turn it down because he thought the show was lousy. But he needed the job so he took it but didn’t put his name on the program…until it rose up to pass I’ve Got A Secret in the ratings.

In 1974, the show had a brief revival hosted by Richard Dawson but it was cancelled after one season.

Your Surprise Package

Your Surprise Package was a short-lived game show on CBS that’s most notable as the last such program produced by Allan Sherman. Sherman had co-created and produced I’ve Got A Secret, then gone on to other shows with varying degrees of success. When he signed on to this one, he didn’t imagine it would lead to so many changes in his life, starting with the necessity that he relocate from New York to Los Angeles. There was a shortage of available studios in Manhattan then, plus CBS liked the idea of George Fenneman — best-known as Groucho’s sidekick from You Bet Your Life — as host. Fenneman wouldn’t commute from L.A. so the Shermans had to move.

It was not a great show. Contestants had to answer questions to win mystery boxes containing prizes of varying worth. Bern Bennett was the announcer. Carol Merrill, who would later gain fame as the prize model on the original Let’s Make a Deal was the prize model. The show went on the air in March of 1961 and didn’t do well in the ratings. As you can see in the two tickets above, they lowered the minimum age to attend — often a sign that a show is having trouble filling its bleachers. By the date of the second of the two tickets above, Sherman was making the rounds, trying to line up the job he’d do after Your Surprise Package was axed. He needed money. Earlier in November, much of the wealthy Southern California community of Bel Air burned…and while Sherman didn’t lose his new home there, there was considerable damage not from the fire (for that he had insurance) but from a subsequent flood when heavy rains hit L.A. and the hillsides around Bel Air were barren of vegetation and thus sending the water straight down into the community.

Sherman was out of work a short time before he was hired as the producer of a new syndicated talk show that Steve Allen was doing for the Westinghouse Broadcasting Company. Within weeks and before the show even went on the air, Sherman was fired due to clashes with management. In August 6, 1962 — not all that long after the above ticket — he recorded a record called My Son, the Folk Singer and within months, it was the fastest-selling comedy album ever. It made him very famous, very successful and very unlikely to ever produce another game show.


There have been several TV shows called Wipeout.  This ticket is for the syndicated game show that ran September 12, 1988 to June 9, 1989 and had Peter Tomarken as its host.  The game revolved around a large board that displayed sixteen possible answers to a question such as “Name a movie starring Elizabeth Taylor.”  Eleven of the answers on the board were correct and five were wrong.  The five wrong ones were the “Wipeout” answers.  If a contestant picked a correct answer, the contestant won money and retained control of the board.  If the contestant picked a “Wipeout” answer, he or she lost all the money they’d built up and also lost control of the board.  It was a fast-paced game and Tomarken was a good host but it never quite caught on.

It Takes Two

This appears to be a ticket for an unsold pilot.  The original It Takes Two aired on NBC from March 31, 1969 to July 31, 1970 and was hosted by Vin Scully.  It was a very simple game: Three celebrity couples competed.  A question would be raised which had a numeric answer and probably involved an educated guess as to that number.  Each member of a couple would give their estimates separately and then the average of the two would be the guess for that couple.  So if you knew the answer but your mate was way off the mark, he or she would ruin things for your team.  Anyway, this is not a ticket to that series.

It’s also not a ticket to the 1997 revival done for the Family Channel and hosted by Dick Clark.  So I’m guessing it’s an unsold pilot.

Earn Your Vacation

Quick: Name a show that was hosted by Steve Allen and later by Johnny Carson.

If you said The Tonight Show, you’re right…unless someone wants to nitpick.  Allen’s version was only called Tonight, not The Tonight Show.  But you’d certainly be right if you named Earn Your Vacation.  Allen hosted the radio version after a while was followed on the schedule by a half-hour Steve Allen Show done from the same studio after they cleared away whatever was needed to do the game show.  On Earn Your Vacation, most of the contestants were school teachers and if they could answer enough questions, they won trips to exotic locales.  The show survived into 1951 when it was retooled into Your Tropical Trip with Desi Arnaz.  In 1954, it came back to TV as Earn Your Vacation again and it was hosted by the then-new-to-television Johnny Carson.

Mr. Carson must have had some fun with the name of his bandleader.  Ludwig Elias Gluskin (1898-1989) headed up a number of popular dance bands throughout Europe in the twenties and thirties, migrated to the U.S. (where he was born) in the forties.  This was reportedly because, being Jewish, he had trouble getting work on that continent during World War II.  He hooked up with CBS here and became a constant presence on radio programs, including a long stint providing the music for The Burns and Allen Show.  He followed Johnny to his next job…The Johnny Carson Show.

Your Tropical Trip

I Love Lucy went on the air October 15, 1951.  Here’s what Desi Arnaz was doing just before that.  He was the host of Your Tropical Trip, a short-lived CBS radio show that ran on Sundays.  It went on the air on January 20, never found a sponsor and went off when Desi got busy playing Ricky Ricardo and producing the new TV series.  Most accounts say it was busy work that CBS gave him to keep him and his orchestra in Hollywood and working while I Love Lucy was prepped, though none seem to know when he stopped doing it.  Many songs which Arnaz later performed on the classic sitcom were first performed on the radio show and some companies later took radio transcriptions and released them as records.

Your Tropical Trip was a revamp of an earlier radio show called Earn Your Vacation.  Later, it was turned back into Earn Your Vacation and put on TV where it was hosted by a new-to-TV kid named Johnny Carson.

Hold That Note

For a while in the fifties, music-themed game shows were very big.  One of the less-successful ones was Hold That Note starring Bert Parks.  Parks had been hosting the current incarnation of a game show called Break the Bank in that same time slot, sponsored by the same sponsor. This was back when every season, some network would have some version of that show. Its host and rules changed but the hallowed name of Break the Bank went on.

Finally though, the name had run out of stream so on the night of January 22, 1957, the few viewers who did tune it in had a surprise: In a decision made too late to even be in TV Guide, Break the Bank was replaced by Hold That Note.  Even some of the contestants were folks who’d won on the previous week’s Break the Bank and thus won the right to come back and play on the next episode.

Largely imitative of the more popular Name That Tune, the idea of Hold That Note was for contestants to identify a song from its first few notes.  There were bonus questions and jackpot rounds and Bert sang…but it was all for naught.  The show went off the following April and Bert went on to another show.  And another show.  And another show.

Window Shopping

Darn little is known about the game show Window Shopping.  As of this moment, it isn’t even mentioned in the Internet Movie Database.  We know it debuted on ABC on April 2, 1962 and went off the following June 29.  Bob Kennedy was the host and the way it worked was that three contestants would be shown a photo and would have to remember as many details as they could, then describe what they had seen.  They won points for every detail they could give without duplicating an opponent’s response.  At the end, the player with the most points won and he or she had those points converted into seconds.  They could that study a window of prizes for that many seconds, then they would face away from the window and describe the prizes.  Every prize they described, they would take home…and if they remembered one prize in particular, the name of which the host had in an envelope, they’d take home all the prizes.

That was the game.  How was the show?  Who knows?  No one seems to have watched it, no one seems to remember it and no one seems to have a copy of an episode…a sad fate for a series that was all about being observant and remembering what you saw.

The $25,000 Pyramid (??)

Someone sent me this ticket and I have no idea which version of the oft-revived show this was. All records say the John Davidson revival went off in 1992 and the revival hosted by Donny Osmond didn’t start until 2002. So what is this ticket from 1996 about?

And don’t you just love it when the people making up the tickets don’t know how to spell the name of the show?