There’s no doubt about it; this long-running classic game show was the best ever. The game was deceptively simple; a guest came in and signed his or her name. The panel of four people then tried to ascertain the person’s job by asking yes or no questions. The panelist continued asking questions as long as the question receives a “yes” answer. If the job had not been guessed before the panel received 10 negative responses, the contestant won the grand prize of $50.
The show was greatly helped by being anchored for most of its run by the same moderator, newsman John Charles Daly, and three of the four panelist positions: publisher Bennett Cerf, actress Arlene Francis, and newspaper columnist Dorothy Kilgallen. The fourth panelist chair was filled by several people over the first few years, including Steve Allen and Fred Allen, before settling into using revolving guest panelists. Because of their intelligence, experience, and obvious enjoyment of the game, the panel had amazing success with guessing a myriad variety of occupations.
One enjoyable aspect of the game was the mystery guest. Every week, for one of the games, the panel would put on blindfolds and try to guess the identity of a famous celebrity. The celebrities were usually in the entertainment field, but also included such luminaries as Eleanor Roosevelt, Bishop Sheen, and Frank Lloyd Wright. Watching the mystery guest is a great way to see the changes in popular culture 40-50 years ago, as TV western stars and rock and roll singers start appearing as mystery guests.
Naturally, with a show that started over 50 years ago, there are aspects that seem strange to our modern sensibilities. The moderator, Mr. Daly, invariably asked women guests if they were “Miss or Mrs.” The male panelists, especially Mr. Cerf, felt no reservations about remarking on a woman’s beauty or figure. The panel often had trouble guessing a woman’s occupation if it was not normally associated with “women’s work”. Black guests were rare, and most of them were the celebrity mystery guest. None of this seems to have been done with any malice though, and simply reflects the times.
The show is an artifact of another era. The men panelists and moderator wore formal wear, and the women wore evening gowns. The panelists were intelligent and witty, and were polite to each other and to the guests. The overall feel is closer to the Algonquin Round Table than Jerry Springer.
I don\'t know if such a show could survive today, much less thrive. But I certainly wish they would try.