Canada Brings Back The Match Game [Kicking Back with Jersey Joe] Nov09

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Canada Brings Back The Match Game [Kicking Back with Jersey Joe]

There was a game show from the 70’s that everyone was talking about. A simple fill in the blank game that could land contestants big money. It was their party and we were all invited. Now, Canadian television is trying to recapture the magic and bring back The Match Game!

The original black and white version of The Match Game premiered on NBC December 21, 1962.  Most of the episodes taped back then were deleted by network executives almost immediately after airing.  At the time, videotape was expensive and the powers that be at the peacock network did not think that there would ever be a reason to re-run these shows. (They also lost the first Super Bowl and a lot of episodes of The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson thanks to this practice.)

This first version of the show had little resemblance to the more popular update which premiered on CBS, July 2, 1973 under the title Match Game ’73.

Gene Rayburn, the original host of Match Game

The game is simple. Host Gene Rayburn would read a short story or phrase and the contestant had to fill in the blank.  Gene would then go to a panel of six celebrities who would give their answer to earn a match. Six matches won the game.

Here’s a typical question: Dumb Dora was so dumb, she went to a hamburger joint and ordered a (blank)!

A bonus round known as “The Big Money Supermatch” was then played. It was just one short phrase the contestant filled in the blank to match an audience survey. (This round surfaced as the premise for a spin-off. Family Feud debuted in 1976.) The contestant could then play for ten times his winnings by completing one final, exact match, with a celebrity.

Host Gene Rayburn and the celebrity panel on the set of Match Game '76.

The magic of the 70’s version was the very loose format on the set. The celebrities were often liquored up and chain smoked. While the ratings started off slow, they quickly picked up and CBS had a hit on its hand for nearly a decade.

After this version was canceled, Gene would host one final incarnation paired, with another game show as The Match Game-Hollywood Squares Hour for NBC. ABC would produce their own version for one season in 1990 with comedian Ross Shaffer as host. Michael Burger would host one final American version for syndication in 1998.

Darrin Rose, the new host of Match Game

Bringing back and retooling older and popular shows seems to be the rage in Hollywood. Several Match Game pilots were shot for new American versions but never made it to air. Charlene Tilton (from Dallas) shot a pilot for Match Game 2 in 1996. Fred Willard hosted a pilot for FOX under the title What the Blank in 2003 and Andrew Daly hosted a pilot for TBS in 2008.

After all these failed attempts, Canadian cable channel The Comedy Network has scored and commissioned a new series with comedian Darrin Rose. Rose was last seen on NBC’s Last Comic Standing.

While the celebrities are still working on their chemistry, the show captures the fun of the previous versions and is a good quality remake. The set has been modernized, but still uses the original logo and updated theme music from the 70’s.  While the questions are written for comedy, they don’t overdue the suggestive sex questions that doomed the ’98 revival.

The final “Super Match” round and “Star Wheel” are also nice updates from the original version, but the jackpot has been significantly lowered. The first half of the bonus round is worth $2,000 – $1,500 – $1,000 respectively. The 70’s the “Star Wheel” was played for 10 times the amount of the contestant winnings, now it is just for double.

Most of the Canadian celebrities are unknown to Americans and the show is NOT airing anywhere in the US.  If you wish to see it, you can find several episodes uploaded onto Youtube or you can take a trip up north.

THE 411

Title: Match Game
What: American game show, with a new revival in Canada
Airing: Comedy Network, Canada
Premiere: October 18, 2012


A great new version of the show. Check out some of the episodes posted on Youtube. It captures some of the magic of the 70’s with a modern update. I hope they do a similar American version with some A or B list celebrities, soon!

Image credits: rlrshepherdstown

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