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.