Vintage TV: Match Game

All five of my regular readers probably know by now that I love game shows. I get the biggest kick out of watching average people win big prizes by playing silly games, or B-list celebrities make bad jokes and play off each other, or smart people try to figure out answers based on thin clues. A good game show satisfies me by building and releasing tension or by making me laugh out loud.

A show in the latter category was Match Game. This fill-in-the-blank show was about the interplay between host Gene Rayburn and the six celebrities who played the game. Contestants and cash prizes were necessary only to create enough of a game framework for Gene and company to have their fun.  The mechanics of the show did not make for snappy play. Gene would read the statement with the blank, the celebrities would spend a couple minutes writing out their answers, a contestant would say their guess, and then Gene would ask each celebrity to share what they wrote. Done straight, this show would have moved very slowly, and it did in its early weeks after its 1973 debut. But the show became more rowdy and risque (though within the bounds of tight 1970s CBS network standards and practices) over time. As the blanks became easier to complete with humor, inuendo, double-entendre, and sometimes even bodily-function terms, Gene and company had more and more fun, and the show’s ratings went up and up. Within 11 weeks of its debut, it was the highest-rated show on daytime television. It stayed there until 1977.

The time when the celebrities wrote out their answers would always have stopped the show’s momentum if not for the interplay between Gene and the celebrities, and the catchy music played meanwhile. Here’s a clip that shows Gene finally separating Brett Somers and Charles Nelson Reilly after years of them bickering with each other.

From my collection, here are some, perhaps all, of the music cues used while the celebs filled in those blanks during normal gameplay. How many do you recognize?

This one was also used to introduce the celebs at the beginning of each show:

This one is called Changing Keys, for reasons that will become obvious when you hear it. The video clip above used this cue.

This one plays an annoying synth line over a vamp.

This one uses a cowbell.

This one uses bongos. It’s incomplete, but it will give you the flavor.

That’s quite a number of little cues just to help keep the momentum while the celebrities filled in the blanks!


3 responses to “Vintage TV: Match Game”

  1. Leo Avatar

    Thanks for the trip down memory lane — even if it makes me feel much older (since I was in high school around the time this incarnation of Match Game was on the air).

    Wikipedia has a nice page on Gene Rayburn (who’s real name was Eugene Rubessa). Appearantly he got his start in Top 40 radio and acting on stage.

  2. Mike Medeiros Avatar
    Mike Medeiros

    Thanks for all the cues. I still DVR Match Game everyday on GSN and can’t wait for the TBS version to air , hopefully, in the fall. Suppossedly Smigel managed to get the original music and is using a close replica of the set. It should be very interesting to say the least.

  3. Jim Avatar

    I didn’t know about the upcoming TBS version! I gave up cable a few years ago, so I won’t be seeing it.

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