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Play 'em Again : Monty Hall and Co. Recall the Good Ol' Games

July 08, 1990|Susan King

Game shows--once a staple of daytime, early evening and even prime-time TV--are making a comeback. Not that they've gone anywhere. This is a comeback of a different sort: the return of some old favorites.

Is there anyone over 25 who never once saw "Let's Make a Deal"? The Monty Hall favorite returns to the airwaves Monday at 10 a.m. on NBC, sans Hall. Newcomer Bob Hilton gets to talk to giddy contestants in silly outfits.

And then there's "Match Game," which brought wisecracking Gene Rayburn and a panel full of celebrities to homes every Monday through Friday afternoon in the 1960s. It's coming back too, weekdays starting July 16 at 11 a.m. on ABC. No Rayburn though. Ross Schaefer asks the questions this time.

And in September, NBC will air the celebrity stumper "To Tell the Truth," the true classic of the bunch. Australian Gordon Elliott will emceee the series, which originally was hosted by the late Bud Collyer.

For anyone who watched '50s, '60s and '70s game shows, this begs some questions: Whatever happened to Gene Rayburn? Where is Monty Hall? And what about other hosts of the time when games were in their prime?

And the answers are:

MONTY HALL

Game show icon of: "Let's Make a Deal," 1963-68 (NBC); 1968-1976 (ABC); 1971-76, 1980, 1984 (syndicated).

Let's make a game show: "It took us a year of showing it to networks before anyone would make a pilot. It was a radically different type of show. People were selected at random, and no one had seen anything like this before. Even after we made the pilot it took several months to get the go-ahead."

The crazy clothing: "We never asked (the audience) to put on any costumes. People were sitting there in business clothes, but then a woman came with a sign asking me to pick her. Then someone wore a funny hat and then you had Phyllis Diller look-alikes. It grew and grew. But we never selected a contestant by what they wore. It would have been a costume competition."

Let's make funny: "In 4,500 shows, a lot of strange things happened. An elephant once was behind one of the doors and (model) Carol Merrill was holding it by a rope. As the door opened, it got nervous and broke away from the rope and thundered down the loading platform and ran into Prospect Avenue."

Let's make a memory: "A contestant who had won $300 wouldn't trade it away for anything. We found out after the show this woman had hitchhiked down from Central California and had just wanted to win something because they were in such desperation. I was moved by the fact that once she got the $300, no offer would budge her. It was a sad story. Ninety-nine percent of the people came to have a good time."

Where is he now?: "My charity work takes up a lot of time. I am very much involved in the new show (as a consultant). I am working with the new host, Bob Hilton, and am going to Orlando (where the show is taping) to help get it up. No one knows the show better."

GENE RAYBURN

Game show icon of: "The Match Game," 1962-69 (NBC); 1973-79 (CBS); 1975-1981 nighttime syndication.

The magic of "Match Game": "In the '60s we didn't really have giant ratings. On CBS we had fantastic ratings. In 1975 we hit a 14.9 share. No show in the history of daytime has done that.

"It got far racier and was a comedy show on CBS. No matter what kind of show I was doing, I really kind of instinctively made it into a comedy show.

"Many years prior to 'Match Game' I did a show called 'Dough-Re-Mi.' Three weeks into the show the producer said, 'This show stinks, doesn't it? Do what you can to keep it on the air.' I started clowning around with it. I would sing songs and do a tap dance. It turned into a funny show."

Why ABC did not hire him as host of the new "Match Game": "Just before they announced they were going to revive 'The Match Game,' 'Entertainment Tonight' wished me a happy birthday and gave my real age (72). When they heard how old I was they said, 'We want a young man. He may have a heart attack.' So they hired a young comic I never heard of before. It's such a difficult, weak format. But the show is the thing now; the host is nothing."

Where is he now?: "I've got an agent who keeps calling me and says he is going to get something going. I wish he would; I am bored. I love to play tennis. I also have a house in Connecticut. I just planted some tomatoes and parsley. I want some good vine-ripened tomatoes."

ART FLEMING

Game show icon of: "Jeopardy!" 1964-1975 (NBC); 1974 (syndicated); 1978-79 (NBC).

Once upon a time: "I grew up on the Broadway stage. I was 4 when I made my debut in 'The Great Waltz.' I did 48 movies and three TV series--'International Detective,' 'The Flying Tigers' and 'The Californians.'

"The only reason I ever did 'Jeopardy!' was because I hadn't done a game show. I had done everything else in the business. It ran 12,858 shows."

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