Were you a fan of the original version of The Match Game from the 1960’s? How about the revamped version in the 1970’s? Or perhaps one of the many reboots that have happened since? Regardless of when you watched, you probably loved the fun and playful game that captivated audiences all over for multiple decades. The affable host of the series for many years, Gene Rayburn, was a mainstay of The Match Game. And helped make it the beloved game show it became. Over the years, Gene has divulged what things were like behind the scenes of the show. And in this video, we’re gonna dive into some of those revealing details. So, join Facts Verse, as we discuss how Gene Rayburn Exposed All the Secrets of Match Game!
Rayburn’s success was hard to define
Gene Rayburn was the host of The Match Game for multiple years between 1962. When the show first aired, and 1982. He also appeared on TV as an actor occasionally and could seen on stage on Broadway. But his claim to fame was certainly his incredible presence as a game show host. Over the years, many people asked Gene to define what made him great as a host. The closest he could come to an answer was that it was his “personality”. Though he admitted that even that word is hard to define when it comes to TV hosting. In one interview, Rayburn posited that a person’s personality on television is a mix of their physical nature and their levels of empathy.
As far as their physical nature, he mused that they should be nice to look at and have a nice voice as well. And he said that a host should be relaying a level of empathy to an audience. That the audience will give back in return. But perhaps most interestingly, Rayburn revealed that he didn’t think it something that could learned. One had to be born with it. In other words, some people are born to be game show hosts, and some people aren’t!
Rayburn liked working with his friends
Part of the amazing rapport that became a trademark of The Match Game was between Gene and the recurring panelists. Sometimes this was because Rayburn already had a good relationship with them. Such was the case with Charles Nelson Reilly. He and Rayburn had on Broadway together before The Match Game created. They had starred in Bye Bye Birdie and had remained close over the years. Rayburn insisted that Reilly be a part of The Match Game. Assuming his witty brain as well as his over the top personality would play perfectly on a game show. And he was correct – Reilly quickly became a fan favorite.
Others were people Rayburn hadn’t worked with before, but their chemistry with the host (and with each other) was the element that really kept the wheel spinning. For example, Jack Klugman, who actually appeared on the show a couple times early on. Recommended to the producers that they give his wife, Brett Somers a chance in his stead. He joked that Brett was barely getting out of the house, so they’d actually be doing him a favor. The producers agreed, Somers quickly developed a strong rapport on camera with Rayburn.
She became a staple of the show. And Richard Dawson, an actor and comedian from England was another regular on the show whose personality gelled perfectly with Rayburn. As such, it almost felt like a family. You’d seem some people rotate in and out, but the core family of Rayburn with Dawson, Reilly, and Somers was a constant. And not only did the regulars have a great rapport with Rayburn, they also had a fun dynamic with each other. Somers and Reilly would bicker in fun ways, almost like a married couple. And Dawson played the third wheel of sorts, as a suave and funny character to offset their big personalities.
Before we tell you more, be sure to give this video a like, and subscribe to Facts Verse if you haven’t already!
Now let’s talk about some of the behind the scenes Match Game facts you might have never heard before…
Since Gene Rayburn didn’t want to be commuting every day from his Cape Cod home to Los Angeles to film episodes (not that that would even be possible) the producers came up with a schedule that would be easiest on him. Rayburn would fly to LA every other Friday. Then the production crew would assemble over the weekend and they’d tape 12 shows back to back. Now, this method was certainly more economical, time wise, but it did tend to lend to a more inebriated group of on-camera talent. Apparently, it was common for the guests (and Rayburn) to booze it up a bit during the break for lunch and for dinner. After all, it was the weekend. So that meant that everyone was a lot more relaxed, if you will, than they would have been otherwise.
A Connection To MAD Magazine
One of the question writers on Match Game, Dick DeBartolo also freelanced as a writer for the legendary comedic MAD Magazine. At one point, towards the end of the first year, DeBartolo told that it’s likely the show was gonna get the ax the next year, do to declining ratings. So he came up with an idea from his other job. He proposed that Match Game incorporate some of the silliness of MAD Magazine.
The example he gave producers was “Mary likes to pour gravy on John’s blank.” And while the contestants would stick to the early 1960s level of on-air standards and give obvious answers like “turkey”, it was the titillating potential answers that went unsaid that drove audiences nuts, in a good way. Because of these seeming double entendre type questions, the rating climbed back up. So they had Alfred E. Newman et al. to thank for saving their show.
Speaking of titillating contestant answers, there in fact some words that outwardly banned on the show. This wasn’t necessarily because the Match Game producers were sticklers, but more that there were overt standards of words you couldn’t say on TV, period, in the 1970’s. You could talk about any genitalia, even if using the biologically correct names. In fact, you couldn’t even use the word genitalia itself. Fannie Flagg tried this method one taping, and given an earful by the director. She told that if she ever used ‘profane’ language again, she’d be off the show for good. And when it came to things like urination, the only allowable word was “tinkle.” How adorable.
A Planned Out Seating Chart
While it might have seemed happenstance, the seating on the show carefully crafted. Richard Dawson was always in the center chair in the bottom. And Brett Somers and Charles Nelson Reilly were always in the end and middle chairs on top. On the top row, the first chair supposed to occupied by a male comedy star, like a stand up or a sitcom actor. The first spot on the second level reportedly called the ‘dummy seat.’ And while this type of designation certainly wouldn’t fly today, it reserved for a ‘ditzy blonde’ type.
And finally, the sixth chair considered the toughest spot to be in. This strictly because by the time they went to you for an answer, there had been five answers given already. So the pressure on for you to come up with an answer that not only popped, but also hadn’t said already. They’d often give this sixth seat to the consummate pros like Betty White or Marcia Wallace.
Easy on the Laughs
The retooled version of Match Game hit TV screens in 1973 with more celebs, a larger physical set, and better prizes. So you might think that that it also pushed the envelope in terms of content as well. But the executive producer, Mark Goodson, made sure to keep that as similar as possible to the version that had ended in 1969. Starting off, the game play was basically the exact same as when it had started in the prior decade.
Reportedly, Goodson even gave a strict directive to Gene Rayburn at one point, telling him to stick to the strict rules and procedures he had outlined. He accusing Gene Rayburn of hamming it up for the audience just to get laughs. Apparently that’s something a game show host shouldn’t do, according to Goodson. Of course, nowadays that type of behavior is not only encouraged, but often rewarded with viral YouTube videos of game show hosts.
The Match Game was a standard bearer for fun and entertaining game shows throughout the years. And, like most game shows, it had plenty of fun behind the scenes antics, feuds, and the like. But ultimately, it was a hit with audiences over the decades, and has continued to be revamped and rebooted throughout. So perhaps you’ll be able to watch this video 30 years from now and be looking forward to catching the next iteration of The Match Game that’s about to air!
Now it’s time to hear from you. Were you a fan of The Match Game? Let us know in the comments below! And before you go, make sure you give this video a like, and subscribe to Facts Verse if you haven’t already. Click the bell icon to stay updated on all our latest content.