Hollywood Squares 1998-2004
Bergeron and contestants from a special 2000 "Teen Week" show.
Oscar-winning center square, and co-executive producer Whoopi Goldberg and her cats.
Tom Bergeron:  Martha Stewart once said that there's nothing more delicious than one of these.  What?
Bruce Vilanch: A good spanking!
It almost came earlier and could've looked drastically different.  Roseanne (then with a last name, Arnold) wanted to bring the format back as something called Planet Hollywood Squares.  But severe negotiation problems, and Roseanne's erratic problems with TV producing (witness her more recent reality show bomb and that aborted cooking show) spared us the sight of that early '90s monstrosity.

As it is, the most recent, and so far most successful, revival of the show began in 1998 with King World/Sony  producing.  This first-run syndicated version was called simply
Hollywood Squares (without The).   Co-executive producer Whoopi Goldberg (Oscar-winner for "Ghost") occupied the center square and Tom Bergeron (Fox After Breakfast) hosted, with Caroline Rhea (Sabrina the Teenage Witch) and Bruce Vilanch joining as regulars.  Shadoe Stevens returned once again as announcer. A big rules change: the end game was similar to the late 1970s version,  but the contestant had to earn the prize in the envelope by deciding whether to agree or disagree with the celebrity's answer to a bonus question.  In November 2001, the end game was changed to a series of questions, each worth one to five thousand dollars, with possible winnings said to be as high as 75 thousand dollars.   But that end game only lasted the season, replaced in 2002 by a variation of the old Split Second/1986 New Hollywood Squares "car starting or not " bit (this time with a new Ford Thunderbird or Chrysler PT Cruiser as the prize, and once again with the car or cars sitting in the studio next to the grid, just as they did in the Davidson years).
Overall, the show was once again known for its hilarious, sometimes catty, sometimes bawdy one-liners.  But the presence of writers was more obvious here, with witticisms seemingly popping effortlessly out of the mouths of non-comedians like athletes, teenaged singers & bubblegum groups, and Survivor contestants. On the other hand, some of this revival's most classic moments appear to be spontaneous. Once, both contestants needed comedian and semi-regular Gilbert Gottfried for a win, but they both kept missing the questions. This went on for a good part of the show, and prompted the acerbic Gottfried to scream "You fool!" whenever the contestant made the wrong guess, with the audience and even stars laughing more hysterically each time...

Common theme weeks included shows devoted to teen idols, athletes and shows like
Survivor and Everybody Loves Raymond (Brad Garrett was a new Squares semi-regular).  There were multiple classic TV weeks and a week devoted to classic TV crimefighters like Mike Connors and Hal Linden.  There were even two weeks devoted to game shows, with classic hosts and panelists including Brett Somers and Charles Nelson Reilly  (Match Game) and Bob Eubanks (Card Sharks, The Newlywed Game).  Burned-out supermodel and bizarre reality show spectacle Anna Nicole Smith also made an appearance that was documented on her own reality show on E!

At first the show was so successful in the ratings, the CBS O&O's carrying the show renewed it through the 2001-02 season. A sudden ratings plummet that year, though, lead to a shakeup, with Goldberg, Bruce Vilanch and Caroline Rhea (as well as the producers) among the missing.  Henry Winkler took over as the new executive producer in September 2002, with actor Jeffrey Tambor (
The Larry Sanders Show) taking care of the announcing chores..  The show also began featuring rotating center squares, with Ellen Degeneres up first.  The set (especially the contestant area) underwent a major overhaul, with the contestants standing (a first) and monitors showing prize totals.  "I Love Hollywood" was replaced as the show's theme by a remix of the old Teena Marie hit "Square Biz ," and the show even acquired an "official" nickname, H2.
This latest Hollywood Squares came 17 years after the Marshall version, and people actually reached adulthood never seeing the original.  (There was even some indication on the internet in '98 that a few youngsters never even knew there was an original.  That was at least partly the inspiration for this very website.)  But surprisingly the newer producers were never afraid of the show's past.  It wasn't unusual to see, for instance, Rich Little pop up and even imitate Paul Lynde doing some of his classic one-liners.  It also wasn't unusual to see other regulars or semi-regulars like Joan Rivers, Rose Marie or Martin Mull.  In December 2002, Peter Marshall even occupied a center square as part of one of the aforementioned "Game Show Week(s)" and on Thursday, December 12 of that week, Bergeron took over that square as Marshall hosted for what turned out to be a very entertaining and classy curtain call for the Master of the Hollywood Squares, and the only time Marshall ever appeared on any of the sequels.

The newer, revamped version was just as entertaining as always, but it still lacked the personality of the 1998-2002 Whoopi & Friends era.  In fact, the rotating center square, while apparently helping the producers save money, also prevented the show from developing that very personality, and made it appear somewhat inconsistent in tone. And with that, the free fall in the ratings never stopped.  Stations moved the show out of prime access into daytime or afternoon hours, and in some cases even ran it late at night after the late-night talk shows.  One problem the Bergeron version always suffered was how, at the turn of the millenium, more commercial time was needed and producers opted for more bumper music in and out of breaks.  (The Marshall version had always gone to and from commercial breaks in "cold pitches.")   These factors ate into the game time, so there was little time to get invested in the outcome.   The show also lost viewers to such demographic favorites as
Access Hollywood, then found it could no longer attract the bigger names it had in the past (like Vivica A. Fox, for instance).  King World finally pulled the plug in 2004, with the last week featuring behind-the-scenes crew members competing as contestants for charity.   On the last show, Bergeron brought out the crew onstage--by now a Squares tradition, as Peter Marshall and John Davidson did this on their versions' finales--and ended the show by saying, "These are the people who have brought you Hollywood Squares. From all of us, to all of you, all the best. It's a wrap! Bye, everybody!"

Reruns of this version began in 2000 on GSN and switched to weekends only in July 2004.  In a bit of irony, karma, or just webmaster ineptitude, the link to the Bergeron
Squares schedule listing on the GSN website during those last few months, actually showed a description, even a still, of the long-gone reruns from the Marshall era.  And when it was rerun in a Saturday Night at the Classics marathon in May 2005, one aired promo actually mentioned the Marshall version by mistake.

Tom Bergeron: Bruce, you're the most popular fruit in America.  What are you?
Bruce Vilanch: Humbled.

Tom Bergeron: You have "frigaphobia." What are you afraid of?
Whoopi Goldberg: Every friggin' thing! 

Tom Bergeron: This classic 1958 science fiction film is about a huge mass from outer space that stalks the earth and devours everything in its path.   What's the name of this film?
Gilbert Gottfried: The Marlon Brando Story.  

(
after missing a question)
Whoopi Goldberg: Oh, what do I know?  I'm just a Negress in a box!
Tom Bergeron (
looking into the camera):  One of several fabulous prizes in tonight's Secret Square package!  (Whoopi cracks up)  

Tom Bergeron: Back in 1985, John Cougar Mellencamp and Willie Nelson co-founded what annual charity event?
Garth Brooks: Hands Across All the Girls I've Loved Before.   

Tom Bergeron: The term SWAT originated in the Los Angeles Police Department.  What does SWAT stand for?
Whoopi Goldberg: Some Whoop-Ass Tonight!

Tom Bergeron: How does a comet get its tail?
Peter Marshall:  Oh, the same as everyone else I guess, a little cognac, a Barry White CD...

Tom Bergeron:  Since the first woman entered this institution, 84 women have followed her.   What institution is that? 
Whoopi Goldberg:  Marriage to Larry King.

Tom Bergeron:  He dangled from balloons in his first book in 1940 and this year in the Macy's parade he dangled as a balloon.  Who is he?
Brad Garrett: The kids' favorite, Louie Anderson.

Tom Bergeron: Ellen, true or false: the state of Virginia was named after a reputed virgin.
Ellen Degeneres:  Well, if that is true, what does that say about Idaho?

Tom Bergeron: If you were on the Lewis and Clark expedition and you asked a 16-year-old girl named Sacajawa...
Ben Stein: Sacajawea!
Whoopi Goldberg: Saca-JAW-wa? (
cracks up)
Al Roker: Sacajawa? That's a Starbucks drink!
(
note: In 1975, on the NBC daytime version, Peter Marshall mispronounced the same name, and like Bergeron, got called on it by a fellow game show host...in his case it was Art James instead of Ben Stein)

(
question to Raquel Welch)
Tom Bergeron: If you're eating a convenience store hot dog, is it better for you if the weiner is smooth or if it's wrinkled?
(
audience roars, Raquel looks dumbfounded)
Whoopi Goldberg: See, it's not just
me that gets these questions!
Raquel Welch: Well, I mostly know about smooth ones...
Martin Mull: Well, there goes the Peabody!
(
a few seconds later, Bergeron gives the correct answer)
Tom Bergeron:  Wrinkled...reason is, it's had all the saturated fat sucked out of it!

(
during a bizarre show in which Bergeron is wearing Bobcat Goldthwait's pink sweater, and Goldthwait has taken off his pants and is complaining that it's cold in his square)
Tom Bergeron:  If you're just tuning in, there's no way I can possibly explain this...

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The revamped "H2" set, circa 2002