What's My Line? Forums

CBS (ended 1967)

Hal Block

  • Avatar of CerfBoard

    CerfBoard

    [1]Mar 13, 2008
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    This may have been discussed before but it seems to me that the producers of WML must have given Hal Block a clue as to the line of questioning he could use with certain guests that would make the audience laugh (not that the producers told him the actual line beforehand). I believe the producers also did this when Steve Allen was on the show. Block even looks at the audience as frequently as S. Allen did (not that it means anything, though). It seems to me that some of Block's questions are really strange and the reason maybe what I wrote above. Of course, all this maybe obvious to everyone.

    Edited on 03/13/2008 4:56pm
    Edited 3 total times.
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  • Avatar of BradHarris

    BradHarris

    [2]Mar 14, 2008
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    I think he is the one who may have gotten the answers because he knows the very funny things to say to get laughs. What freshness he brought to the show, something that Cerf tried to later imitate but never could. Hal Block was brilliant. None of the people involved in the show will reveal who that they later found got the answers. They will only say it was a celebrity. But when you see Hal getting so many answers with weak clues....then all of a sudden he is gone never to be asked again to do the show. Seems obvious to me. I love Hal Block. Cerf is a poor man's block.
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    agent_0042

    [3]Mar 14, 2008
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    I seem to recall reading in the Fates book that the producers did sometimes nudge the panelists towards certain lines of questioning, and not just Block. But without actually going so far as to supply them with anything solid that could actually give away the lines.
    Edited on 03/14/2008 5:09pm
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    stopettearoma

    [4]Mar 14, 2008
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    What Fates said in the book was that the producers gave advice to just one panelist per episode, and it was always the panelist who was a comedian or comedy writer as in Block's case. Fates said all they told the funny guy (never a female comedienne) was that if he starts asking questions about a certain product, such as ice cubes, then he will get laughs. Fates said they were not helping the comic get any closer to determining the line. They were trying to make the audience laugh. The product they whispered to the comic was never part of the contestant's line. The comedian liked that because it helped his career. People thought he was creating all the humor singlehandedly.

    Fates added that this practice ended with the quiz show scandals. Even though Line never got busted during that difficult period of 1958 - 1960 (evidently the show was 100 percent on the level except for a possible cheater who got busted), CBS executives started snooping around backstage during that period to pick nits. To be on the safe side, Goodson, Fates and the rest of the crew stopped helping the comics and they gave every contestant 50 dollars regardless of how many cards John Daly flipped over. The CBS execs became so obsessive that they might think a contestant who tries hard to get the top prize might get more than 50 dollars, like may 64 thousand. This might inspire viewers to lie about having jobs so they can win big money. So Goodson and his crew, forced to appease the boneheaded men in suits, changed the prize money to a standard fifty dollars. That is how I interpret what Fates wrote. It's on the same page on which he explains the gambit for the funny guy on the panel.

    I have seen evidence that the quiz scandals inspired Goodson and his crew, including the females who worked in what Fates called "the procurement department," to confirm carefully that each contestant was telling the truth about his / her line. A woman who was a contestant in 1965 showed me an article in her small local newspaper about her getting on the show. It says the Line crew made several long distance phone calls to verify that she did, in fact, work for the company she said she did. That was more than five years after the scandals ended.

    Edited on 03/16/2008 11:45pm
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  • Avatar of astorino

    astorino

    [6]Mar 15, 2008
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    CerfBoard wrote:
    it seems to me that the producers of WML must have given Hal Block a clue as to the line of questioning he could use with certain guests that would make the audience laugh

    Yes, Gil Fates wrote about this practice in his book. He called them "gambits."

    I wrote about them in the notes to EPISODE #173 -- and others have added interesting tidbits, too.

    scroll down to "ABOUT GAMBITS"

    http://www.tv.com/whats-my-line/episode-173/episode/93153/trivia.html

    Suzanne

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  • Avatar of stopettearoma

    stopettearoma

    [7]Mar 17, 2008
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    Fates also said in the book that even though What's My Line? never was involved in the quiz show scandals (except for some inane comments by a newspaper critic named Jack O'Brian in 1959), the scandals caused CBS executives to start visiting shows and picking nits. These executives seemed ditzy enough to misunderstand the gambits, so Goodson and the staff dropped the practice.

    Edited on 03/20/2008 10:23pm
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    qtpi1969

    [8]Mar 20, 2008
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    Does anyone know what happened to Hal Block following his reign on WML? What did he die from in 1981? Was he an alcoholic, because I read that he got a couple drunk driving citations in the 50's and 60's. Also, what column did he write for the Chicago Daily News and from when to when? Thanks to anyone who might know these things.

    If anyone has or knows of a biography on or about him, please share that also.

    I too LOVED him on WML. The show was a lot more bland when he left. Cerf just plain STUNK!

    Shelly in Chicago

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  • Avatar of anniesmom

    anniesmom

    [9]Mar 24, 2008
    • member since: 03/23/08
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    Also, did the guy ever get married? I looked for him on the IMBD board and he isn't listed. I too really like him a lot. He sure liked the ladies!
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