ABC’s hit game show Match Game is one of the network’s most popular game shows, airing nearly every Wednesday night. Although the principles of the show’s format date back to the 1960s, the show was almost always a crowd-pleaser.
“Almost always” because that’s not how Match Game started.
The Early Years
Match Game had a rough start in the early 60s. With a basic show format, it attracted a decent audience, but the game just wasn’t that exciting. Although it featured celebrity guests, the show’s monotonous, cyclic procedure of “match this phrase with a celebrity and win money,” meant that folks grew tired of seeing the same thing over and over. Questions were mediocre at best, much like questions you’d see on Family Feud. Questions like, “Name a type of fruit,” or “James saw ________ on TV last night,” were interesting, but not overly entertaining. With the show’s ratings plunging, NBC (the original network) cancelled the show.
After receiving word of the show’s cancellation, the producers decided to go out with a bang by replacing the question cards on the show with funnier ones. Their mindset was, “well, we already got cancelled, to hell with this.” Cards like “Jack rode his bike to the _______,” were replaced with cards like “Jack ran over Julia’s foot with his ________.” Suddenly, the show gained rapid popularity with the addition of the “risky” cards. Match Game managed to become “un-cancelled,” and continued on.
On the Golden Road
With Match Game back on its feet, producers made a few changes to the show’s operations. They would bring on six celebrities per episode, and the contestants would try to match as many of the celebrities as possible to win and go onto a bonus round. This is how the show has been ever since.
Throughout the 70s, the show maintained its popularity. After Gene Rayburn left the show in 1982, things quieted down. A few failed revivals came about in the 90s, and then Match Game went dormant for a while.
Seventeen Years Later…
In 2016, ABC picked up and revived Match Game, selecting Alec Baldwin as the new host. With a modern set and a fresh new host, ABC gave it their all to bring back this show.
For me, game show revivals are either a hit or miss. What makes it a hit depends on a number of factors. For one, it has to be revived at the right time. 2016 was the year of a presidential election, which meant political comedy was everywhere, including Match Game. Comic relief in stressful times is always beneficial. However, one could argue that what makes a revival the most successful is the “star of the show” – the host. Alec Baldwin has all the characteristics and more that you would expect in a host of this show. With a lively and quick-witted personality, Baldwin keeps the show moving, but also allows for the panelists to crack jokes and gives the audience a show to remember. Additionally, as if Alec Baldwin wasn’t enough, celebrities such as Leslie Jones, Jay Pharoah, Ellie Kemper, and even Ice T bring even more enthusiasm and liveliness to the set.
I personally am a huge fan of the show. Even though the show stumps me with one of its questions at least once each episode, I usually find myself shouting out a good answer within a second of the “blank” being read or shown. Match Game is living proof that a game show doesn’t just come and go. When done right, a revival makes our lives just a little bit happier.