"The areas of questions designed for the celebrities and possible bluff answers are discussed with some celebrities in advance. In the course of their briefing, actual questions and/or answers may be discerned by the celebrities."
—Kenny Williams, reciting the famous legalese during the ending credits of the original version.
Love child of the Game Show and the Panel Game, produced by Merrill Heatter and Bob Quigley for NBC and syndication from 1966 to 1981. Peter Marshall, "the master of The Hollywood Squares", played host to nine celebrities and two contestants. The celebrities were seated in an oversized Tic Tac Toe grid; the contestants, Mr. X and Ms. O, agreed or disagreed with the stars' often comical and bawdy answers to esoteric questions.Infamous for featuring stars that were past their prime. The 1980–81 syndicated season taped in Las Vegas. Syndicated revivals starred John Davidson, who had substituted for Paul Lynde on the daytime panel, in 1986–89 and Tom Bergeron from 1998 to 2004. There was also a mashup with Match Game called The Match Game-Hollywood Squares Hour, which lasted from 1983 to 1984 on NBC.A hip-hop–themed revival, Hip-Hop Squares, premiered on MTV2 on May 22, 2012. Yes, you read that right.The format has two Market Based Titles: Celebrity Squares on ITV and Personality/All-Star Squares on Australia's Channel 10. Obviously, these shows are named that because Hollywood would refer specifically to America there.Marshall referred to the female contestant's mark as a "circle", although technically it appeared on that version's board as an ellipse. The most famous center square, Paul Lynde, didn't join the panel on a permanent basis until 1968. More information here.
The Marshall version featured a very simple one — the winning contestant would pick a celebrity, who would open an envelope that contained a prize; whatever was in the envelope was what the contestant would win.
The first two seasons of the Davidson version saw the winner choose one of five keys, then try to find which car out of five displayed in-studio (no, seriously) the key would start. After having chosen a "good-luck celebrity" from the panel to stand by, the contestant would try to start the car; if it started, they won and were retired right there and then. If not, the contestant continued onto another game; if they made it to the bonus round a second time, the car they'd chosen prior would be eliminated. If a champion made it five days, they won the last car remaining. (At which point [also used on occasional Friday shows] all nine celebrities would join in.) New cars are used every week, so the champion's reign carried over to the next week and they won the following game, the lowest valued cars would be removed and the champion would select a new key from the remaining ones.
The final season of the Davidson version used a similar bonus round, but all nine celebrities had a key instead, and the contestant would pick the celebrity rather than the key. No cars would be eliminated, champions would remain until winning a car or defeated
The Bergeron version went through no less than three during its run:
The "pick a star, win a prize" format from the Marshall version. Later amended to having to answer one final question to claim the prize.
The contestant would pick a celebrity (revealing a money amount from $1,000-$5,000) to stand beside them while they answered up to 10 rapid-fire questions within a minute, in what was dubbed "The Fastest 60 Seconds on Television." The contestant could confer with the celebrity if needed, but only the contestant could answer. Afterwards, the player could opt to go double-or-nothing on one final question. The maximum payoff was $100,000; the most won was $60,000.
An updated version of the Davidson version's bonus round. One at a time, the contestant picked a celebrity and agreed/disagreed to a statement read about them. However many correct answers (out of nine total) determined how many "bad keys" would be taken off of a nine-key panel. The contestant picked one from the remaining keys and, depending upon how many times they'd been to said bonus round, tried to either start a car, open a safe (representing cash), or open a steamer trunk (representing a trip). The prize layout changed multiple times throughout each season.
Hip Hop Squares has the contestant pick from any of the three rows on the board. Each celebrity on that row answers a question; one celebrity is right and two are wrong. The contestant picks which celebrity they think is right; if they are correct, they win $2,500 cash.
Confetti Drop: Balloons were dropped when a car was won on Davidson's run; several different ones were used during the Bergeron version.
Home Game: Watkins-Strathmore made two in 1967 and 1968. Ideal made one in 1974, with Peter Marshall pictured on the box. Milton Bradley made two in 1980 and 1986. Parker Brothers made one in 1999, and Tiger made an LCD handheld game in that same year. GameTek made computer versions for MS-DOS and the Nintendo Entertainment System.
A video game, based on the later-era Bergeron format, was released for the Nintendo Wii on October 5, 2010.
Losing Horns: Type C on the Davidson version for a car loss (the Mocking Sing Song was played on the organ); Type B for "nine keys" bonus losses on the Bergeron version.
The Announcer: Kenny Williams handled the entirety of the Marshall era. Shadoe Stevens (best known as Casey Kasem's replacement on American Top 40) did both the Davidson version — on which he often pulled double duty as a panelist — and the first four seasons of the Bergeron version. After Shadoe left the latter, Jeffrey Tambor (The Larry Sanders Show) announced Season 5, and John Moschitta (aka the Micro Machines man) announced Season 6. Fill-ins included Shadoe's brother Richard and Howard Stern (!) on the Davidson version, while Henry Winkler (also executive producer at the time) sometimes filled in for Tambor. "DJ Ms. Nix" (real name: Nicole Lyn Hill) is the announcer on Hip Hop Squares.
Game Show Host: Peter Marshall from 1966 to 1981, John Davidson from 1986 to 1989, Tom Bergeron from 1998 to 2004, and Peter Rosenberg for Hip Hop Squares.
Progressive Jackpot: The Secret Square, on the NBC daytime and the second through fifth seasons of the Bergeron syndicated version. The NBC version began at about $1,000 (later $2,000) and increased by about $1,000 until claimed; the top jackpot ever was just over $11,000. The Bergeron syndicated version saw the jackpot usually begin with a trip (of about $2,000-$4,000) and added prizes until claimed; the highest-valued "Secret Square" was worth more than $50,000.
And Starring: The first four years of the Bergeron version (1998-2002, the pre-"H2" era) would list off all the celebrities who would appear in the episode in question, always saving Whoopi Goldberg for last. When they do mention her, the announcer says, "And starring Whoopi Goldberg!"
"...or Paul Lynde, all in The Hollywood Squares!"
April Fools' Day: In a clip frequently shown on other shows, the crew played a prank on Davidson. During a normal round the female contestant angrily accuses the male contestant of looking over Davidson's podium at his answer cards. As John increasingly gets a 'deer in the headlights' look, the female contestant gets up from her chair and confronts the male contestant, finally pushing him over the edge of raised platform. Unknown to the stunned Davidson, both 'contestants' were actually stunt people.
Repeated and cranked Up to Eleven for Tom Bergeron on a show taped to air on April Fool's Day 2003. At one point the male and female contestants were engaged in a heated argument, after which the male contestant made the female contestant break down in tears. Bergeron, who had even more of a deer-in-the-headlights look than Davidson had, comforted the "poor woman" as he sent the show to commercial (of course, unbeknownst to him, the camera was still running). At the end of the episode, giggling executive producer Henry Winkler (who at the time also served as announcer) announced over the intercom, "Hey Tom... April Fools."
A Day in the Limelight: At least twice, John Davidson got to sit on the panel while someone else (in one case, ALF) got to host. Announcer Shadoe Stevens also hosted one week while Davidson was unavailable, and Howard Stern served as announcer that week.
Similarly, Peter Marshall was a panelist on the first Game Show Week during Bergeron's run. Things came full-circle when he and Tom traded places for one episode.
Derivative Works: The Marshall version included The Storybook Squares for kids and families to play. It included more kid-friendly celebrities such as Big Bird. (Is that an inversion of Sesame Street Cred or what?)
Merrill Heatter would later recycle the "celebrities in a ginormous panel" motif on his later shows Battlestars and All Star Blitz.
Double Entendre: About half of the words out of the panelists' mouths, especially in the Bergeron version.
The very earliest episodes had games dragging out due to the panelists drawing out their gag answers for too long. Less than a month into the run, executive producer Merrill Heatter sent out a memo stating he intended to do as much editing as necessary to fit in 20 questions per show; the celebrities got the hint, and heading into the end of November 1966 the show was played at the pace viewers came to expect.
Paul Lynde didn't become the permanent center square until 1968, although he was a center square the second, third and fifth weeks of the daytime series. Early center squares – from between October to December 1966 – included Ernest Borgnine, Buddy Hackett, Bill Bixby, George Jessel, Marty Allen, Glenn Ford, Shelley Berman and Vera Miles.
Epic Fail: The infamous "You Fool!" episode, where the poor contestants guessed incorrectly with Gilbert Gottfried nine consecutive times (in a block-and-win situation) before finally someone was correct.
A situation involving numerous consecutive incorrect answers in a similar block-or-win situation also happened at least once on the original Peter Marshall version, this being a 1968 NBC episode, this time with Don Adams as the celebrity. At one point, in a variation of his Get SmartCatch Phrase, Adams quipped: "Would you believe we may never finish this game?!"
Getting Crap Past the Radar: Almost everything out of Paul Lynde's mouth. Many later panelists, especially on the Bergeron version, were much less subtle in their crassness:
Tom Bergeron: Is Viagra kosher for Passover?
Whoopi Goldberg: Not if it leads to pork.
Older than you might think:
Peter Marshall: Rose, hundreds of years ago, English bartenders called it 'dry sack'. What is it known as today?
On the John Davidson version, Shadoe Stevens and ALF both got to do this. The former had Howard Stern take Shadoe's usual spot as bottom center square/announcer, and on the latter, John sat on the panel.
Jim J. Bullock and Joan Rivers also filled in for Davidson when he was unavailable.
Rosie O'Donnell hosted a round of the Bergeron version during the Whoopi Goldberg era.
Peter Marshall returned to guest host a round for Game Show Hosts Week on the Bergeron version.
The Bergeron era also had a rare example of guest announcers: Rod Roddy announced the first Game Show Hosts Week, and Shadoe returned one last time to do the second.
Hotter and Sexier: Bergeron's version was far more overt in its sexual overtones than previous versions.
I Need a Freaking Drink: After the infamous "YOU FOOL!" incident, Tom promised that if they ran out of time playing that game, they're all going out for drinks.
Jerkass: Paul Lynde would often belittle the contestants during the commercial break (and sometimes on the show, too). He sometimes took this a step further by belittling fellow celebrities as well (most notably Tanya Tucker).
Know-Nothing Know-It-All: Inverted with a famous Secret Square question with Art Fleming, host of Jeopardy!. Art was asked a multiple-choice question (as all Secret Square questions are) he later admitted did not know the answer to, and just blurted out a guess. The naive female contestant remarked that since he was Art Fleming, he just had to be correct. It turned out he was right(!) and the contestant won a $10,000 prize package.
Long Runner: The original NBC version ran for 14 seasons, and the 1970s syndicated version ran for a decade.
Looping Lines: On the June 20, 1980 NBC Daytime finale, Wayland Flowers' puppet Madame took a jab at Fred Silverman, by saying "You can fuck some of the people some of the time, and you can fuck all of the people some of the time, but you can't fuck all of the people all of the time!". NBC decided to go back and redub that line, by replacing each use of the word "fuck" with "fool".note Of course, NBC could have just bleeped it. Whether that was actually Wayland dubbing himself or not is unknown.
This is further evident that Madame was actually saying something else, based on the audience reaction.
Obvious Rule Patch: Unlike tic-tac-toe, in the case of a "cat's game" where neither player can get three in a row, a contestant has to get the correct answer to claim the square, and (unlike with other squares) can't claim it by means of the opponent getting the wrong answer. Winning the game under these conditions is known as a "Five-Square Win".
Kenny Williams: One of these stars is sitting in the Secret Square, and the contestant who picks it first could win a prize package of over $x,000! Which star is it? (The stars are introduced one by one, finishing with the center square, usually...) ...Or Paul Lynde...all in The Hollywood Squares! And now here's the Master of The Hollywood Squares, Peter Marshall!
Pretty in Mink: Furs were often part of a Secret Square prize package and generally from Dicker and Dicker of Beverly Hills. Although politically incorrect now, they were stereotypical of the Hollywood Dress Code of the day.
Peter Marshall before the Secret Square game: "The stars are briefed before the show to help them with their bluffs, but they are hearing the actual questions for the first time."
Real Song Theme Tune: Tom Bergeron's last two seasons had a slightly redone version of Teena Marie's "Square Biz" as its theme song.
Rearrange the Song: The famous Marshall theme got a Disco/Supertrain-style update in 1979, which was used until the end in 1981.
Stormy Sacks re-arranged the Davidson theme in that version's third season.
Rules Spiel: Each version had its own, but the most famous came courtesy of Peter Marshall. Like so:
Marshall: Object of the players is to get three stars in a row, either across, up and down, or diagonally. It is up to them to figure out if the stars are giving a correct answer or making one up; that's how they get the squares.
Running Gag: Big Bird almost always referred to Peter Marshall as "Mr. Marshmallow".
Shout-Out: To an extent. When Susan Stafford appeared to model prizes for Game Show Week, she was introduced as being from "classic Wheel of Fortune".
Sometimes questions would be about another celebrity in another square. After the contestant agrees or disagrees with the celeb they picked, Peter would sometimes ask the celeb the question was about to answer instead of giving it himself.
You Fool!: In the Bergeron era, Penn Jillette would often respond to wrong answers by going completely over-the-top in shouting how wrong the contestants were. This led to one instance where Gilbert Gottfried was the only unclaimed square, and after the second failed attempt began yelling "You fool!" in imitation of Jillette, who had done it earlier that episode. Gottfried ended up being called on a total of seven times before someone answered correctly; by the end the whole panel was shouting "You fool!" in unison. Also an Overly Long Gag, and a rare example of one that became more funny each time it recurred. Video here and here.
You Look Familiar: John Davidson was a semi-regular panelist on the Marshall Squares before becoming host of the third version.