For anyone with a little spare time in the afternoon hours of the 70s, Match Game was there to fill the void. Thanks to a wonderful cast of zany celebrity guests and an underlying bawdiness that flew over the heads of most kids watching, there was never a shortage of laughs on this endearing game show.
Hosted by Gene Rayburn for 22 years, Match Game started way back in 1962, but it was the 70s that are the most memorable years of the show. With regulars like Richard Dawson (who would go on to become an iconic game show host in his own right, thanks to his suave demeanor on Match Game), Bette White, Brett Summers and the inimitable Charles Nelson Reilly (complete with sailor hat, scarf, and funky glasses), Match Game made liberal use of the double entendre to sneak in plenty of risqué humor.
The premise was simple. Gene Rayburn would read a question with a word missing such as, “Mary, Mary Quite Contrary couldn’t make her garden grow with water, so she used *blank* instead.” It was then up to the six celebrities to fill in the blank, writing their answer on an index card. Once they had done so, one of two contestants would try to guess what word the majority of them wrote down. For each match, a point was scored.
In the second round, any celebrity that was a match in the first round was unable to participate. After four rounds, two for each contestant, the one with the most points would win. The winner could then pick a particular celebrity to try to match one last time for the bonus round.
Richard Dawson was usually the one they picked and he helped plenty of contestants over the years add some additional bucks to their earnings. He left in 1978 to host Family Feud but Match Game remained on the air until 1984. It was resurrected for a single season in both 1990 and 1998 with new hosts, but limited interest. The charm of the people involved in the original show is truly what made Match Game special, and it turned out that they were irreplaceable.
If you remember watching Match Game in the 70s and early 80s, we hope you’ll take a moment to share your recollections of this classic game show in our comments section.