(1) "WML?" SPONSOR WATCH: The opening sponsor for this 876th and last episode of "WML?" is Prell shampoo, and the closing sponsor is Polident denture cleanser tablets.
(2) "LIVE" WATCH: Tonight's show is the 52nd and last surviving episode from the "post-Kilgallen" era where the opening words of announcer Johnny Olson's intro led off with, "And now, live from New York..." with no cuts to the intro.
(3a) "WML?" PANEL WATCH: Tonight, "the distinguished actor and producer," Mr. Martin Gabel, is introduced first, for only the second time since Dorothy Kilgallen's passing. The last time he sat on the far end of the panel was EPISODE #804 of February 20, 1966. While none of tonight's panel lineup were on the very first EPISODE #1 of February 2, 1950, the show effectively came full circle nonetheless this evening, as the same exact panel order was in place as on that very first show: male, female, male, male. This was the last time Mr. Gabel ever appeared on the "WML?" panel. Of his 112 guest panelist appearances (a figure confirmed in the intros by announcer Johnny Olson), the vast majority -- 99 of them -- were from within Dolly Mae's lifetime; his panel appearances dwindled in quantity following Miss Kilgallen's death, especially when compared with the second most prolific male guest panelist, Tony Randall (see the notes to EPISODE #873 of August 13, 1967). Martin would appear on the subsequent syndicated version only once, as a mystery guest, during Week #253 which was taped on September 26, 1974. On the other hand, his and Arlene's son, Peter Gabel, did make an appearance on the syndie panel during Week #5 which was taped on August 6, 1968. Peter also was a syndicated version mystery guest during Week #66 which was taped on December 31, 1969, and again during Week #228 which was taped on December 27, 1973.
(3b) "WML?" PANEL WATCH: Coincidentally, the panel lineup for tonight's show also comprised the panel of EPISODE #797 of January 2, 1966. Over the long history of "WML?," these are the only two episodes with this specific configuration of panelists: Martin Gabel, Arlene Francis, Steve Allen, Bennett Cerf. However, on these two episodes, the panelists were not situated in the exact same seating order.
(4a) THE OTHER "SWAN SONG" PANELISTS: A year from tonight's show, Steve Allen began a second daytime talk show, this one lasting from 1968 to 1971 and syndicated by Filmways Television whose most famous programs included "Mister Ed," "The Beverly Hillbillies," "Petticoat Junction," "The Addams Family" and "Green Acres." In New York, two different stations are known to have aired this incarnation of "The Steve Allen Show": WOR-TV (Channel 9) and WPIX (Channel 11). Mr. Allen's prior talk show of the same name, which ran from 1962 until 1964 when he assumed the hosting duties of "I've Got a Secret," was syndicated by Westinghouse Broadcasting (Group W). Steverino only made two sets of appearances on the 1968-1975 syndicated version of "WML?," both during Larry Blyden's run as host: as a mystery guest during Week #192 which was taped on March 22, 1973, on which the panel consisted of Soupy Sales, Meredith MacRae, Bert Convy and Arlene Francis; and during Week #252 which was taped on September 19, 1974, he and his lovely wife Jayne Meadows were guest panelists alongside Mr. Sales and Miss Francis. That week, one of the mystery guests was the most prolific female guest panelist of the CBS "WML?" era, Phyllis Newman.
(4b) PANELIST BENNETT CERF: As for Bennett Cerf, while he never made any mystery guest appearances during "WML?'s" 17.5-year CBS run, it was a different story on the syndicated version. He appeared as a mystery guest on only its second week on the air, in an episode taped on July 16, 1968. The panel on that occasion consisted of Phyllis Newman, Darryl Hickman, Gawn Granger and Arlene Francis. Mr. Cerf appeared as an occasional panelist on the syndicated version for a total of at least eight weeks within the second and third seasons, up to a few months before his death on August 27, 1971 at age 73. On the occasions where Bennett sat in his old "anchor" position (whenever Arlene Francis was off), he usually introduced the first syndicated host, Wally Bruner, as the "emcee," as opposed to the "panel moderator" description for John Daly. When Arlene was on the panel, Bennett was usually in the seat next to her.
(4c) PANELIST ARLENE FRANCIS: While Arlene Francis remained a part of the panel of the "new and improved" "WML?" for all of its seven years in daily syndication, she was never a mystery guest in any of its incarnations.
(5) THE FINAL "SIGN IN" VARIATION: In introducing himself as the very last mystery guest, John gives the following instruction: "Will you come out, mystery challenger, and sign in, please?" This variation was used very fairly early in the show's run, most notably on EPISODE #212 of June 20, 1954 during the first of two mystery guest appearances by singer/actress Doris Day. Some time thereafter, Mr. Daly had modified the wording to "Will you come in and sign in, please?"; and that, in turn, gave way beginning in about October 1960 to the far more polished "Will you enter and sign in, please?"
(6) "THAT MAKES IT 876 DOWN AND 1,315 TO GO": While the curtain rang down on the "classic CBS" version of "WML?" with tonight's show, this was not the end yet. Only a year from now, a new version was mounted in a daily syndicated form, with Wally Bruner hosting from 1968 to 1972 and Larry Blyden as host from 1972 to its 1975 cancellation. (Incidentally, Mr. Blyden was a mystery guest on its ninth week in syndication in 1968 and again on Week #100 which was taped on October 22, 1970; as well as serving as a guest panelist during Week #95 which was taped on September 17, 1970, on which he sat alongside Soupy Sales, Joanna Barnes and Arlene Francis. Conversely, after Mr. Blyden assumed hosting duties, Mr. Bruner appeared as a mystery guest during Week #201 which was recorded on June 21, 1973; the panel that week consisted of Jack Cassidy, Anita Gillette, Bert Convy and Arlene Francis, and Mr. Bruner was on to promote his "Wally's Workshop" syndicated series.) In its first season, no copyright date was mentioned, but in the second and third seasons, the copyright holder was given as the Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc. From 1968 to 1971, the syndicator of record was CBS Films. After CBS was ordered in 1971 to divest of its syndicated division, which was spun off as a stand-alone company called Viacom, the syndicated "WML?" was among the first titles to be offered by the new company. The copyright holder was then changed to "Goodson-Todman Associates, Ltd.," which was also listed as the copyright holder on syndicated episodes of "To Tell the Truth." For the syndicated "WML?'s" first three seasons (1968-1971) at the Ed Sullivan Theatre, Norelco PC-60 cameras (possibly replaced during this stretch by PC-70's) were used; then, after the show moved to NBC studios at Rockefeller Center in 1971 (where it would remain for the balance of its run), the cameras used were RCA TK-44A's. Alas, a few of the TK-44A cameras used on the program had blacks that came out a bit reddish on the air. One of the studios at "30 Rock" where the syndicated "WML?" originated later became the home, from 1975 to the present day, of NBC's "Saturday Night Live."
(7) THE SYNDICATED "WML?'S" AIRING TIMELINE IN NEW YORK CITY: Throughout its run on the air, the syndicated version of "WML?" had a presence in the New York City market, although it wasn't always constant. The first station to air the new version was WOR-TV (Channel 9, now WWOR-TV), which ran the show from its September 9, 1968 debut until July 28, 1972. In a way, the station's airing made some sense, as permanent regular panelist Arlene Francis hosted a radio show on its sister radio station (WOR 710 AM) from 1960 until 1984. Alas, the new "WML?" was bumped up and down on the schedule (ranging from 11:30 AM to 11:00 PM and slots in-between) during its nearly four years on WOR-TV, including airing in time slots which were frequently preempted for New York Mets baseball games and a few other sporting events such as basketball or hockey, and by the spring of 1972 some weeks being shown were from its second (1969-1970) season. There were a few other stretches in that four-year period when Channel 9 didn't show "WML?" at all. After Wally Bruner left "WML?" and was replaced as host by Larry Blyden, the syndicated "WML?" moved from WOR to WCBS-TV (Channel 2), which ran the show beginning on September 18, 1972. This was a homecoming of sorts, as WCBS-TV ran the original 1950-1967 network version as the New York flagship of the CBS network. The show aired weekdays at 1:00 PM through October 4, 1974, then moved to 9:30 AM for a two-week stretch until October 18, 1974. Between October 1974 and June 1975, WCBS-TV aired the syndicated "WML?" on a very infrequent basis, usually on Saturdays at 6:00 PM or Sundays at 5:30 PM, on days when CBS's sports programs didn't fill the entire afternoon. The syndicated "WML?" then returned to weekday status on Channel 2 on June 2, 1975 (airing at 9:00 AM), following another change in the daytime schedule, and remained there until 1976 -- one year after Mr. Blyden's death. The syndicated "WML?" also aired on two other stations in the tri-state (New York/New Jersey/Connecticut) region: WNHC-TV (Channel 8, which changed its call letters to the current WTNH-TV in 1971) in New Haven-Hartford, Connecticut; and WSNL-TV (Channel 67) in Patchogue/Smithtown, New York.
(8) NAME CHANGE FOR THE FINAL CBS "WML?" STUDIO: On December 10, 1967, CBS Studio 50, the final home of the CBS network version of "WML?," was officially renamed The Ed Sullivan Theatre in a ceremony presided over by New York City Mayor John V. Lindsay and telecast on that night's edition of "The Ed Sullivan Show." The theatre remained in CBS hands until a few years after Mr. Sullivan's long-running Sunday night institution was cancelled by the network in 1971. Among the shows produced there included the syndicated versions of "WML?" and "TTTT," as well as "The $10,000 Pyramid" for its original 1973-1974 CBS run. For several years thereafter, the theatre was owned by Reeves Teletape which also owned the former CBS Studio 72 at Broadway and West 81st Street (from which the experimental color EPISODE #225 of September 19, 1954 had been telecast). During that company's aegis, the most famous program to emanate from The Ed Sullivan Theatre was the 1984-1989 CBS sitcom "Kate & Allie" which starred Susan Saint James (formerly of "The Name of the Game" and "McMillan & Wife") as "Kate McArdle" and Jane Curtin (formerly of "Saturday Night Live" and later to co-star in "3rd Rock from the Sun") as "Allie Lowell." In the early 1990's, CBS repurchased and refurbished the theatre for the "Late Show with David Letterman," which premiered on August 30, 1993 and has remained a late-night staple on CBS to this day (as of this writing in February 2008).
(9) "WML?" CREW CREDITS AND CREDITS CRUNCH WATCH: Time ran so short after the final goodbyes that only the ending "WML?" slide card graphic and the closing sponsor were shown on this 876th and last CBS episode. On the plus side, however, GSN ran these ending moments in full screen, to the ultimate delight of the show's viewers, at the most recent airing on February 25, 2008.
(10) Right after the February 25, 2008 airing of this final CBS "WML?" episode, GSN ran an edition of "I've Got a Secret," hosted by Garry Moore, which originated "live from New York" on May 27, 1963. The regular panel of Bill Cullen, Betsy Palmer, Henry Morgan and Bess Myerson was still in place, and the celebrity guest was Joan Crawford. - W-B (2006, updated 2008 + 2009)