Play Your Hunch

Play Your Hunch was The Game Show That Would Not Die. It started on CBS in the daytime. They cancelled it after six months. It moved to ABC, again in daytime. They cancelled it after six months. Then it moved to NBC, where it lasted four years in daytime with occasional brief forays into nighttime. I don’t know why the above tickets from 1961 and 1962 describe a program that had been on the air since 1958 as “a new audience participation show.”

Merv Griffin hosted for most of the run, and the show was pretty simple. Two teams of contestants (usually husband-wife) would be shown little puzzles, usually involving three people coming out on stage or three objects being unveiled. The correct answer to the question would be one of the three choices, which were labelled X, Y and Z. If you guessed right, you got points. That was it.

One of Merv’s big breaks came about because Play Your Hunch was done live each morning from Studio 6B in what was then called Radio City Studios. Later in the day, long after Merv and his show were out of there, the studio was reset for Jack Paar’s late night show. Mr. Paar was a nervous, superstitious gent and when he was working at NBC, he usually declined to ride the elevators at Rockefeller Center. Instead, he would reach his office each morning by an intricate series of stairwells and short-cuts. His route took him through the usually-deserted Studio 6B but one day, he arrived at the studio much earlier than usual and found himself walking onto a broadcast of Play Your Hunch.

The studio audience went berserk and Paar, finding himself unexpectedly on live TV, attempted to flee. But Merv ran over and got a vise-grip on the bewildered star’s arm to keep him there so he could conduct a brief, funny interview. Paar swore he had no idea that his studio was being used by another program each morning. “So this is what you do in the daytime,” Paar quipped to Griffin, who had occasionally sung on Tonight.

Later, Paar admitted he was impressed with how Griffin had “milked” the accident for its maximum entertainment value by keeping him there. He gave Merv a shot guest-hosting Tonight and when that went well, it led to Griffin becoming a candidate to succeed Paar and also getting signed to do The Merv Griffin Show on NBC’s daytime schedule. Merv left the game show and Gene Rayburn took over for a month. Then NBC decided to put Match Game on later in the year, Rayburn went off to get ready to host that, and Robert Q. Lewis helmed Play Your Hunch until it went off in September of 1963.