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Richard Dawson's Match Game Problem

Richard Dawson's Match Game Problem

It's not an uncommon problem. A TV show becomes an unexpected hit and egos swell. That's exactly what happened with TV's number one daytime program of the mid-to-late 1970s, Match Game. This second version of Match Game (1962-69) debuted in 1973.

This game show consisted of a host (Gene Rayburn) and 6 celebrities who try to match what the contestant might say to a question like: "Ruth said, It's strange being married to a ship's captain. Whenever he feels romantic he yells (BLANK).'"

The questions were usually a bit risqué, at least for that period, incredibly tame today. For instance, "Mr. Whipple is getting really tough. Now if you squeeze his Charmin he squeezes your (BLANK)." (You can Google who Mr. Whipple was.)

As with most game shows, after a contestant won a round there came a welcome bonus, the Big Money Match.

At first the panel was made up of 6 random stars that would all be replaced the next week by 6 more stars. Eventually there were 3 celebrities selected that made up the main cast - actress Brett Somers, Broadway and television star Charles Nelson Reilly, and sitcom star Richard Dawson (Hogan's Heroes).

Dawson was a regular player beginning in 1970 on Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In on NBC while he was still appearing on Hogan's Heroes on CBS, which ended in 1971. Two years later, he was daytime TV's matinee idol, the one almost every contestant chose to go head to head for the Big Money Match where a contestant could win (in early years) $5,000.

The game was so popular there was a nightly version, Match Game PM, that also featured Dawson alongside Somers and Reilly.

After a few years, Richard Dawson grew tired of playing second banana on Match Game, he wanted to star in his own vehicle, which producers Goodman-Todman agreed to. They just weren't in any rush, not all that anxious to lose a key reason for the success of Match Game.

When Goodson-Todman began developing a new game show for ABC in 1976, Family Feud, Dawson felt he would make the perfect host. The producers didn't see it that way so, in protest, Dawson stopped being funny, was almost perpetually sour on the air when Match Game filmed. No matter how much the host or other stars tried to coax him, he rarely cracked a smile for weeks on end.

Goodson-Todman finally relented, somewhat, offering Dawson a chance to audition for Family Feud. If he was lousy, they were off the hook.

Family Feud, with Richard Dawson as host, ran from 1976-85, surpassing Match Game as the highest rated daytime program. However, Dawson continued to appear on Match Game another 2 years after Feud debuted but he soon grew unhappy once more.

The reason for his ire? The game introduced a new feature in 1977. After the contestant won the round, a wheel would descend from up above for the contestant to spin that would determine which star they would go head-to-head with for the Big Money Match.

This was done because contestants almost always chose Richard Dawson, the intention was to give the other celebrities more screen time. That didn't sit well with Dawson. Again, after a stretch of humor-impaired, detached performances, he was let out of his contract with Match Game.

When Family Feud as relaunched in 1988, it was with host Ray Combs who was only moderately successful so Goodson-Todman brought back Richard Dawson for the 1994–95 season. It didn't go well, partly due to the prickly nature of the host, and the series was cancelled in 1995.

A third version of Family Feud began in 1999 in syndication, and continues to this day with Steve Harvey as host.

Richard Dawson died in 2012. In 2013, TV Guide ranked Family Feud third in its list of the 60 greatest game shows of all time.

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WIKI: Match Game is an American television panel game show that premiered on NBC in 1962 and was revived several times over the course of the next three decades. The game featured contestants trying to come up with answers to fill-in-the-blank questions that are often formed as humorous double entendres(beginning in the CBS run), the object being to match answers given by celebrity panelists.


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