Monday, July 4, 2011

Hollywood Squares

by Amy K. Bredemeyer

The first time I saw Hollywood Squares on television, I was intrigued. It reminded me of The Brady Bunch. It didn't keep my attention as a ten-year-old though, and years went by before I tuned in again. It's not the most competitive game show out there, as a lot of the entertainment value falls to the jokes made by the celebrities as opposed to the strategies and wits of the contestants. I think that's probably why it's not one of my favorites, though it's still pretty memorable! 

Brief history: The show began as a black-and-white pilot filmed in 1965. It wasn't picked up. Another pilot was filmed with a different host, but that also wasn't picked up. A year later, NBC decided to take a gamble, and used Peter Marshall as the host for fifteen years! It ran in the daytime, holding the 11:30am (ET) slot for ten years, when it was moved around a few times. There was also an evening rendition, starting in 1968. It went from one night a week to two nights a week to eventually five nights a week by the time it ended in 1981. The jokes that the celebrities made were frequently show-stealers, and center-square Paul Lynde won two Daytime Emmys for his work on the show. Though the original run ended in 1981, the show came back in multiple varieties. There was the Match Game - Hollywood Squares Hour, where contestants played bits of both game. That ran from 1983-1984. Then, The New Hollywood Squares ran from 1986-1989, with Joan Rivers being the popular center-square. It came back to life 1998-2004, with Whoopi Goldberg as the popular center-square. Gilbert Gottfried and Brad Garrett were also often seen on this version. More than 10 other countries have created versions of Hollywood Squares, with some airing as recently as 2009. Multiple at-home versions have been on the market, including for Nintendo, Apple II, and a handheld by Tiger. In 2010, versions for the Wii and computers were also released.

The game: Two contestants are essentially playing tic-tac-toe. But, the "board" is standing upright, and there's a celebrity in each of the nine squares. The celebrities are briefed on some general topics and some possible funny answers, but when the questions are read, it's the first time everyone hears them. The men usually played Xs and the women played Os. You called out a square and that celebrity was asked a question. They answered and the contestant had to either agree or disagree with the celebrity. If the contestant was right in the end, they "won" that square. If the contestant was wrong, that square went to their opponent, unless it would cause a three-in-a-row scenario, in which case nothing happened. The daytime shows was played best two-out-of-three, with a five-match winner retiring. There were also "Secret Square" rounds in the daytime series, where a certain square was chosen before a game. If the contestant that ends up choosing that square is correct with their agreeing or disagreeing with the celebrity, they won an extra prize. 

Notable changes to the way the game is played: Prize money goods changed often throughout the run of the series. "Secret Square" was sometimes only played during the first full game of an episode, and sometimes with each game. In the 80s, there was a bonus round where the winner of the game proper could win a car, though it was almost purely by luck.

Special contestants: There were college championship rounds in the '98-'04 version of the show. Theme weeks were common for a while in that era, and there were several opportunities for 11-14 year-olds to play with their parents as well. There was also a children's version that ran on Saturday mornings in 1969 called Storybook Squares, where the squares were occupied by historical and fairy tale characters.

Favorite Rounds: This is kind of a difficult one, since the rounds were very similar. I guess I enjoyed the main game the most, not the Secret Square games or the endgames that I generally find too dependent on luck.

My take: I'm pretty gullible. I think I'd pass on this one, since I could probably be convinced by the celebrities a bit too easily and then I wouldn't win the squares necessary to win the game.

Did you ever watch Hollywood Squares? Did you see more than one version of it? I'm pretty sure I've only seen the 1986-1989 and 1998-2004 varieties, as I remember both Joan Rivers and Whoopi Goldberg being center-squares. And, if you've never seen it, here's a little taste of how it played:
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