Series / The Hollywood Squares

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"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 Miss Circle, 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 Network Ten. 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.

Game Show Tropes in use:

  • Big Win Sirens: Any time a car was won in the Davidson version.
  • Bonus Round:
    • The Marshall version featured a very simple one, debuting in 1976 — 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 top prize was $5,000; when this was transferred to the syndicated version in 1978, a new car was added to the envelopes.
    • 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 had three during its run:
      1. The "pick a star, win a prize" format from the Marshall version, featuring trips, $5,000-$15,000 cash, and a luxury car. Later amended to having to answer one final question to claim the prize.
      2. 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.
      3. 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, getting all nine right won automatically. 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.
  • Bonus Space: The Secret Square. Renamed the "G-Spot" for Hip Hop Squares.
  • 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; this was reissued under the Celebrity Squares name in Britain, with the only real changes being the name and Peter Marshall's photo on the box being swapped out for Bob Monkhouse's. 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 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.
  • Personnel:
    • 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; he had already been a semi-regular during the Whoopi & Friends era) 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.
    • Studio Audience
    • While there isn't technically a trope for it, the Center Square obviously needs its own entry- it was crucial to the show. Jim Backus (Thurston Howell III) was the center square for the 1965 pilot, and various center squares rotated until 1968, when Paul Lynde joined up. He left in 1979, which resulted in a return to the rotation until the Las Vegas season, when he returned. Other regulars during that era of course included Rose Marie, Wally Cox, Charley Weaver (really named Cliff Arquette), and George Gobels. The Davidson version had the rotation too; Joan Rivers, Jim J. Bullock and ALF were some of the most frequent. Regulars during that era included Zsa Zsa Gabor and Shadoe Stevens, who occupied the bottom-center square. The Bergeron version had Whoopi Goldberg as the center square, with the 2001 College Tournament featuring a rotation because Whoopi was out sick. Regulars during that era included Martin Mull, Jeffrey Tambor, Brad Garrett, Gilbert Gottfried, and Caroline Rhea. The H2 era initially returned to the rotation, before Martin Mull became the center square for the last season. Hip Hop Squares also utilized the rotation.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Show The Folks At Home: The location of the Secret Square.

This show provides examples of:

  • And Starring:
    • The opening speech for the Marshall version almost invariably finished with "...or Paul Lynde, all in The Hollywood Squares!"
    • 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!"
    • During the "H2" days, it would be, "And our center square, (insert name here)", as there wasn't a permanent center square until the next season, when Martin Mull took over (oddly, despite Henry Winkler co-producing this version like Whoopi did, he didn't take over as center square).
  • 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."
  • Aren't You Going to Ravish Me?: This was one of the common topics of Rose Marie questions.
    Peter Marshall: In a recent PARADE magazine article, it was stated that a woman being attacked should yell out two words. First she should yell "Help!", what should she then yell?
    Rose Marie: "More!"

    Peter: Rose, studies indicate that women are attacked one night of the week much more than any other. Which night is it?
    Rose Marie: With my luck, tonight.
  • Ascended Extra: As already mentioned, John Davidson was a substitute for Paul Lynde before became the host.
  • Butt Monkey: Sometimes the host. Frequently Peter Marshall.
    Peter: True or false: Your teeth are about the same size and shape as a pig's.
    Paul Lynde: Look who's talking, beaver face!
    • This nickname became a Brick Joke:
      Peter: According to the familiar quotation, "surely" what "will follow me all the days of my life"?
      Paul: The nickname "beaver face".

      Peter: Your mother was a jackass and your father was a horse. What does that make you?
      Paul: The star in the center square, beaver face!
  • Camp Gay: Paul Lynde. Jim J. Bullock filled this role on Davidson's version.
  • Catch Phrase:
    • "(X/Circle) gets the square."
    • "[Name of celebrity] for the block." and "[Name of celebrity] for the win."
    • "Hello Stars!" "Hi, Peter!"
    • "I would have gone for _________ for the win/block, but this might work out for you."
  • Character Name Limits: The NES game, based on the Davidson format, limited players' and panelists' names to four letters.
  • Cool Old Guy: Charley Weaver.
  • Crossover:
  • 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.
    • 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?) Incidentally, the titular character of another Muppet production, Bear in the Big Blue House appeared in the 1998-04 version, including Whoopi's last episode.
    • Merrill Heatter would later recycle the "celebrities in a ginormous panel" motif on his later shows Battlestars and All-Star Blitz (the latter of which also recycled Peter Marshall).
  • Double Entendre: About half of the words out of the panelists' mouths, especially in the Bergeron version.
  • Early Installment Weirdness:
    • 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.
  • End of Series Awareness: Toward the end of the H2 run, whenever Martin Mull was seen in the intro, he was seen doing things like browsing the classifieds, making a "gravestone" for the center square (featuring his name, Paul Lynde's and Whoopi Goldberg's), and for the final week, he held up a sign saying "It's A King World After All" (King World was the producer/distributor of that version, they acquired the format rights from Orion in 1991).
  • 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. Amusingly, Gottfried kept bluffing and the contestants kept agreeing. It only ended when Gottfried finally provided a correct answer which the contestant obediently agreed to; who knows how long it would have gone on otherwise?
    • 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 Smart Catch 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.
    • Then again, the blatant crassness is older than you might think:
      Peter Marshall: Rose, hundreds of years ago, English bartenders called it 'dry sack'. What is it known as today?
      Rose Marie: Grounds for divorce.
  • Guest Host:
    • 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 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, "we're all going out for drinks."
  • Instant-Win Condition: Claiming the majority of the board results in a "Five-Square Win", even if you don't have three-in-a-row, so every round will have a winner. The rule of having to claim it yourself (as opposed to your opponent getting a question wrong) applies if you already have four squares.
  • 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).
  • Joisey:
    Peter Marshall: Marty, we know you're from Pittsburgh, right? OK, what does a guy from Philadelphia dip his pretzel in?
    Marty Allen: A girl from New Jersey!
  • 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 (rather naive) contestant remarked that since he was Art Fleming, he just had to be correct. Luckily for her, 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  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.
  • No OSHA Compliance: Averted- you might think that giant tic-tac-toe board would be a deathtrap, especially during the original run, but according to this fansite, the original board (which was mainly scaffolding with a front and small floors and such) managed to survive an earthquake aftershock that struck the NBC Studios in 1971- and according to some accounts, with Paul Lynde still in the center square! The later versions were more solid looking and had backs to the squares (though during the Bergeron years, whenever someone picked the Secret Square that square would turn the show into Seizure Squares, and halfway through the run they decided to start putting giant neon logos on the floor).
  • Opening Narration:
    Kenny Williams: One of these stars is sitting in the Secret Square, and the contestant who picks it first could win a prize package worth 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!
  • Panel Game: Hollywood Squares is one of the most widely-known and popular game shows in this format, with Match Game as its only real rival.
  • Parody Assistance: Given the show's comedic bent, the cast and crew have helped a few times with parody skits. Peter Marshall, Paul Lynde and Rose Marie appeared in "The Towering Squares", a mash up of this and The Towering Inferno where the game board (the actual thing) catches on fire (really just some smoke) and the celebs try to evacuate (despite Marshall trying to keep the game going); this was from a mid 70s Rich Little special. Much later, Marshall hosted the East Hollywood Squares, where the panel was made up of entirely black celebrities. And MADtv had a skit during the H2 era where it was "Desperate Gimmicks Week", with "Couple's Day", including Bruce Vilanch and a teenage runaway; Bergeron played himself hosting.
  • 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.
  • Rattling Off Legal:
    • Kenny Williams' quote, seen at the top of this page.
    • 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.
  • Running Gag: Big Bird almost always referred to Peter Marshall as "Mr. Marshmallow" (a variant on how he would mispronounce Mr. Hooper's name over on his home show).
  • Shout-Out:
    • 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.
  • Spin-Off: The Storybook Squares, in 1969. Yes, a children's version of an adult-oriented game show based on a children's game.
  • Trash the Set: Kind of - one Davidson episode had them starting to pack up the set in the middle of an episode (for them to travel to Hollywood, FL) and they had to finish the game on audience risers. See it here.
  • Who Names Their Kid "Dude"?: Bergeron's version once had a female contestant named Ketchup.
  • 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 even funnier each time it recurred. Video here and here.

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