Now, celebrities have been involved with game shows almost since the beginning of the genre; shows like What’s My Line & To Tell The Truth are some of the well-known classics which involve celebrities. But the show I’m going to review next took celebrity involvement in a way that was never done before and really changed the game show genre because of it and the show is PASSWORD!!
Produced by Goodson-Todman Productions, Password was first introduced on CBS on October 2, 1961, hosted by Allen Ludden. Unlike any other game shows at the time that involved celebrities, like What’s My Line, TTTT, and I’ve Got a Secret which had celebrities trying to prevent contestants from winning money, Password had celebrities help contestants win money which really changed the game show genre.
The original run of Password lasted until September 15, 1967. The show was revived on ABC in 1971 with Ludden returning to host and that version lasted until June 27, 1975, even with a short “All-Stars” run. The show would return as Password Plus on NBC on January 8, 1979, with Ludden originally hosting until his 1980 stomach cancer diagnosis. During this time the show was temporarily hosted by Bill Cullen. Ludden made a short return until October of that year, which would mark the end of his time on the show due to further health problems and his eventual passing five days before his 18th wedding anniversary on June 9th, 1981.
Tom Kennedy would host the show until the end of its run in 1982. Not long afterwards, the show would return as Super Password; just two years later in 1984, hosted by Bert Convy. This show lasted until March 24, 1989. The show was revived yet again in 2008 as Million Dollar Password with Regis Philbin as host until 2009. BUZZR tried to revive Password on Youtube but it’s best if we don’t speak about that. This review will be strictly on the early versions from 1961-74 versions. I will review Password Plus & Super Password on another go.
Two teams consisting of one celebrity and one contestant try to communicate a word to their teammate only using one-word clues. A successful guess on the first try earned ten points. Every guess afterwards would deduct a point until one point (5 points in ABC revival). If illegal clues were given a buzzer would sound and the guesser would lose control of the word. The goal was to be the first team to reach 25 points. Doing so won the game, $100, and the chance to play the “Lightning Round” for additional money.
The winning team would play the Lightning Round for additional money. The celebrity of the team had 60 seconds to get their opponent to say five additional passwords. Each of these was worth $50 ($100 on ABC). Getting all five would be worth $250 ($500 on ABC). Celebrities could pass and come back to words if time allowed. In the latter end of the ABC run, after the Lightning Round was played contestants had a chance to play the “betting round” and bet on an additional word.
“Mister Password” himself, Allen Ludden, would host the show. He is a true gentleman as host, being very kind and genuine to contestants even when they slip up. Password honestly just fits him and his personality; hosting the show with such ease he even found love on the show, marrying Betty White who was also a frequent regular on the show not long after Password premiered.
Password was a trendsetter in the game show genre quite like none before it. It was the first show to feature celebrities helping contestants to win money and set that trend. Without it, I don’t think shows like Pyramid would’ve hit the air. The format is super simple and easy to follow and the set looked really good, even in black & white. It’s easy to see why it took off: it’s simply quite that good of a show. I really don’t have that many knocks off of it other than it being a little too simple to where it could use a little more depth to it, as 25 points sometimes could happen rather quickly. We would get more depth in Password Plus & Super Password but I’m not going to spoil it here: you’ll just have to wait for my review on those shows. I do recommend Password as it’s simply a classic and the pioneer word association game.