Paige takes us through the top 5 reasons why Match Game was such a successful game show.
In the world of game shows, few have managed to reach the popularity of Match Game. Since its inception in 1962, Match Game has reached a status that few formats have met and even fewer can surpass, along with being revived five times. However, no revival has seemed to match the legendary status of the nine-year revival that started in 1973, hosted by Gene Rayburn. While the current version hosted by Alec Baldwin is running strong on the ABC Summer Fun & Games lineup, the formula of the 1973 version seems to be impossible to replicate; so let’s try to figure out why.
5. The Party Atmosphere
In a way, Match Game was a trendsetter for the party-style atmosphere in a game show. So many try to replicate this, but often fall short. Anytime you watch the show, everyone seemed to be having a blast (except perhaps Dawson in his last days on the show). The interactions between panelists and host Gene also doesn’t feel forced; it was natural and always had the feel of a very lighthearted affair. While nowadays that era’s set would scream retro to a lot of people, it still gives a nice addition to the show’s vibe. When you see it you know instantly what it is.
4. The Play-Along / Replay Ability
One thing that game shows have shown us is that the ability to play along at home is a huge factor in making a show successful. It helps viewers become invested when they can grab the concept of the game. Match Game has this from its unique question writing to the popularization of the poll questions in the Audience Match. The same principles would later be used in Family Feud and Card Sharks, respectively. However, Match Game deserves more recognition for it because, without Match Game, these aspects may not have been carried forward to Family Feud or Card Sharks.
Match Game is also really easy to play, especially when you -as a viewer- think of an answer and a panellist says the exact same answer. It immediately engages the viewer at home and helps get them invested in the show.
It also has arguably the best replay value of any game show. Reruns from the 1970s era of Match Game have been a core staple of GSN pretty much since that launched in the 1990s, and on BUZZR more recently. These episodes still hold that same enjoyment years later.
3. The Panellists
Match Game had a great variety of panelists; perhaps the best variety among game shows. There were great semi-regulars such as Betty White, Orson Bean, Jimmie Walker, Elaine Joyce, Scoey Mitchell, to name just a few. They brought very distinctive personalities anytime they appeared on the show.
Then there are Brett Somers and Charles Nelson Reilly, who gelled so well together they provide many entertaining moments. Then there’s Richard Dawson, who could very well deserve his own spot on the list. He knew the game so well, to the point where they had to create the Star Wheel in order for other members of the panel to get picked for the head-to-head match (a move that would rather upset him and possibly a cause for his later departure in 1978).
However, the variety of panellists was so vast that it was always exciting to see who would be on the panel next week, and how they would play into the mix.
2. Gene Rayburn
The panelists need someone to play off, and boy oh boy Gene Rayburn was that someone. Gene Rayburn on Match Game was like the class clown in school being in charge. Not only could he keep the game flowing, but he could also let it fall into a free-for-all and have it still be enjoyable and fun to watch either way.
Gene also knew how to keep the crowd entertained throughout, wasn’t afraid to embarrass himself or someone else, and knew when the crowd wasn’t enjoying it. Gene reached legendary status with Match Game, and it’s a shame he didn’t get many other big hosting opportunities after Match Game’s cancellation in 1982.
1. It’s a Perfect Storm Scenario
What else can be said about Match Game that hasn’t been said already?
It was a show that changed the landscape of TV as we knew it. It had everything going for it from Gene Rayburn & The Panel, to the open-ended statements, to memories that are engraved in pop culture. The 1970s revival of Match Game was simply a perfect storm scenario that just can’t be replicated and will forever be adored by all game show fans.