|The earliest regulars...L-R: Wally Cox, Abby Dalton, Peter Marshall, Rose Marie, Morey Amsterdam||The Man Who Would Be Host: John Davidson in the early 1970s|
|Peter Marshall: Paul, how do we know the NBC Peacock is male?
Paul Lynde: I just do.
|The story of The Hollywood Squares goes all the way back to the early 1960s...and has its roots in two other shows...
Game show producers Merrill Heatter and Bob Quigley hit the jackpot when they sold the first game show to CBS since the quiz show scandals...the high concept Video Village, with hosts (or "mayors") Jack Narz, then Monty Hall, and "town crier" Kenny Williams. They also produced the less successful People Will Talk, hosted by Dennis James and featuring 15 people in a man-on-the-street opinion premise. When NBC cancelled the show, Heatter and Quigley were allowed to use the remaining four weeks for an on-air pilot. So they filled nine of those seats with celebrities and sold the idea to CBS as The Celebrity Game.
|Carl Reiner hosted The Celebrity Game, which attracted stars like Groucho Marx, Olivia DeHavilland, Robert Mitchum, Ronald Reagan...and a very young Paul Lynde. The stars were asked questions like "Can a man love two women at the same time?" as the contestants guessed whether the stars would answer yes or no. Unfortunately,, the ratings were never very high for The Celebrity Game and after three runs between 1964 and 1965 production stopped. (CBS reran it one more time on Sunday afternoons in 1967 and '68. It should be noted that both Dennise James of People Will Talk and Carl Reiner of The Celebrity Game were later guests on The Hollywood Squares .)|
|The quality--if not ratings success--of The Celebrity Game inspired Merrill Heatter to work overtime trying to develop another multi-celebrity game. One Sunday afternoon he suddenly hit on an idea...put the celebrities in a giant tic-tac-toe board. He brought in partner Bob Quigley and the two pitched the idea to CBS daytime chief Fred Silverman, who ordered a pilot. So, with Bert Parks emceeing in 1965, the two taped a pilot called The Hollywood Squares.|
|Silverman had a slot to fill and a choice to make between Squares and The Face is Familiar. He chose Face (anyone remember that one?). When the option expired Heatter and Quigley shopped the show to ABC and NBC and were turned down cold. But NBC at least agreed to take a second look, and bought it. Their only complaint was that they didn't like host Bert Parks (and apparently didn't want Sandy Barron, host of the second unaired pilot, either).. So they searched for another host. Supposedly, someone saw a Kellogg's ad featuring comedian and song-and-dance man Peter Marshall ...and the rest was history.|
|The Hollywood Squares premiered on NBC in living color (it was always in color) on October 17, 1966, at 11:30 a.m. EST, opposite The Dating Game on ABC and reruns of The Dick Van Dyke Show on CBS. (The latter competitor was ironic since DVD regulars Morey Amsterdam and Rose Marie were guests on that first show, and in fact were regulars for years.) Three more of those first squares--Abby Dalton, Wally Cox and Charley Weaver-- were also regulars during the show's first few years. The Hollywood Squares would hold onto that time slot for ten years; ABC would move The Dating Game to another time within a year.|
|Despite its success, Heatter was still not completely thrilled with Squares. He tells author Jefferson Graham ("Come On Down! The TV Game Show Book") that he put his finger on the problem during a business trip to New York. That's when he noticed the show moved too slowly, because the celebrities just wouldn't shut up. Heatter immediately put out an order that there were to be no less than 22 questions in each show, though he would prefer 30. This, possibly, gave rise to the so-called "zinger". With nine celebrities vying at once for airtime and wanting attention, they could get it through memorable one-liners.|
|TV Guide listings for NBC daytime and primetime versions, circa 1968.|
|By 1970-71 the show had become the number one daytime show, and had already spawned several other versions. NBC tried a prime time version in the first half of 1968, airing Friday nights at 8:30 EST right after Star Trek. Paul Lynde of Bewitched appeared six times on that version and joined the daytime show as a regular later that year. The syndicated nighttime version premiered in the fall of 1971, first as a once-a-week show then later twice a week. There was even a Saturday morning version in 1969 called The Storybook Squares, with the stars dressed up as characters. For instance, Wally Cox took the role of Paul Revere; William Shatner was James T. Kirk; as always, character actor Cliff Arquette played Charley Weaver; and Paul Lynde once even dressed up as the evil queen from "Snow White" (note to collectors: I am dying to see this!). Even after being dropped as a series, The Storybook Squares was occasionally revived during special theme weeks for years afterwards.|
|Amsterdam left the show in 1969, Dalton in 1970, and Wally Cox and Charley Weaver stayed until their deaths in 1973 and 1974, respectively. Paul Lynde established himself as the center square, and George Gobel, a frequent guest, joined the show as a regular in 1973. Rose Marie came and went over the years but eventually stayed through the end of the run. Others who were considered "semi-regulars" included Karen Valentine, John Davidson, Florence Henderson, and film legend Vincent Price.|
|In 1975 The Price is Right on CBS celebrated its third anniversary with a history-making week of hour-long shows. It proved so successful that in November, TPiR made it permanent. This also led to other shows experimenting with the hour-long format. For one week in Fall 1975, Squares ran one hour each day, pre-empting High Rollers. More than the usual nine stars appeared in each show, with celebrities being rotated out between commercial breaks. Despite Peter Marshall's expressed, on-air wishes, NBC chose not to make it permanent. Wheel of Fortune and Let's Make a Deal also conducted similar, unsuccessful experiments. (In fact, Wheel did so the week after Squares.)|
|The Hollywood Squares marked its tenth anniversary with declining ratings and a time change. NBC moved the show back one hour to 10:30 EST, up against the CBS powerhouse The Price is Right. Obviously, TPiR won that one, and Squares was moved to afternoons in 1978, then to 12:30 to replace the cancelled revival of Jeopardy! with Art Fleming. To make things worse, the show's established center square, Paul Lynde, left in a dispute around this time. Near the end, Squares and its NBC lead-in, Card Sharks, were being soundly beaten in many markets by the "Good Morning" shows that appeared locally on many ABC affiliates, and were even pre-empted in many areas by Donahue.|
|NBC pulled the plug on Squares in June 1980 to make way for David Letterman's 90 minute daytime show. (Letterman had guested on Squares earlier.) On the last show (seen here), Peter Marshall brought the staff on camera to introduce them, and made special references to Wally Cox and Charley Weaver.|
|The nighttime version still ran for one more year, with Paul Lynde returning to his old center square. This time the show expanded to five nights a week and originated from the Riveria Hotel in Las Vegas (as opposed to the old NBC Studio 3 in Burbank), before calling it quits in 1981. By now the number of stations clearing the show had dropped significantly. Peter Marshall later recalled this version was inferior to the earlier one due to limited game time and too much "you have to be here" humor.|
|That, essentially, ended forever, the original Marshall version of The Hollywood Squares. The format was resurrected one, two, three four tmes, and the original was rerun briefly on GSN, but the memories live on regardless of anyone's programming decisions.|
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