In the infancy of broadcast television, game shows were a popular prime time staple. There were two varieties. Big money quiz shows like “The $54,000 Question,” which really was big money in its day. The grand prize is more than $650,000 in current dollars. The second category was an excuse to watch unscripted celebrities showcase their knowledge and wit while solving a contestant’s occupation (“What’s My Line?”) or deciding which of three contestants was who he or she claimed to be (“To Tell the Truth”).
I thought about these programs while watching the reboot of “Night Court” and viewing a promo for the return of “Magnum, P.I.” Games shows are also part of this trend. Michael Strahan is the new Allen Ludden on “The $100,000 Pyramid.” To give you some idea how important Ludden was to the game show genre, it takes THREE Manning brothers –Peyton, Eli and the third guy (Cooper)–to fill his shoes on “College Bowl.”
Maybe it is time to bring back “What’s My Line,” which aired on CBS from 1950 until 1967. The final segment of each show required the panel be blindfolded before a famous “mystery guest” came on stage. So close your eyes, adjust those rabbit ears and tune in as host John Charles Daly (not to be confused with golfer John Daly) welcomes tonight’s celebrity contestant to be interrogated by the panelists–publisher Bennet Cerf, journalist Dorothy Kilgallen, actor Arlene Francis and original Tonight Show host Steve Allen.
Daly: Now we come to the special feature of our program and welcome our celebrity, our big and important guest. Our panel would certainly recognize our guest on sight. So we provided them with blindfolds. Will you please come in mystery guest and sign in. (Audience gasps and then wildly applauds.)
Alright panel, as you know, we get right down to the business of the mystery guest, so we’ll begin the questioning with Bennett Cerf.
Cerf: Judging from the audience reaction you are a very famous person. Are you in the entertainment world?
Guest: Sim, senhor.
Cerf: Have you been an actor?
Cerf: Are you still an actor?
Cerf: Would I recognize any of the plays, movies or television shows you have been in?
Daly: That’s a no. Miss Francis.
Francis: Are you famous for your ability to sing and dance?
Francis: Do you play parts in different accents since you’re so well equipped for it?
Guest: Oui, madam.
Francis: Have you ever won an Oscar or a Tony.
Guest: Yes and yes.
Francis: Are you Lawrence Olivier?
Guest: (Hesitates) Non.
Daly: Mr. Allen.
Allen: Can I assume you graduated from lighter things and have gone on to something more pretentious?
Allen: Is your acting of a more serious nature at the present time?
Daly: Miss Kilgallen.
Kilgallen: If your acting is not serious at the moment, is it comedic?
Guest: Not intentionally.
Kilgallen: Have you appeared on the New York stage in the past year?
Kilgallen: Are you a former athlete?
Kilgallen: Are you also a philanthropist?
Kilgallen: I think I know. Are you Anthony Zabrovsky?
Cerf: Are you Anthony Devolder?
Francis: Are you Brazilian drag queen Kitara Ravache?
Allen: Are you George Santos?
Kilgallen: Are you all of the above?
(The guest begins to answer but is interrupted by Daly.)
Daly: YES! It’s none other than the poster boy for the Republican Congress and man of a thousand falsehoods. George, you fooled our panel just like you fooled the voters of the 3rd district of New York. And I understand you may soon appear on a special edition of “To Tell The Truth” with guest host Margaret Garnett, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.
Santos: Only if they let me take the Fifth.
Daly: That’s our show for tonight. Thanks to the panel and our very special guest whoever he may be. And join us next week when we ask members of the 118th Congress GOP leadership, “What’s My Lyin’?”
NOTE: Much of the dialogue and many of the questions in this post were taken verbatim from a 1952 episode of “What’s My Line” on which Desi Arnaz was the mystery guest.
For what it’s worth.