"Do you want to be a winner?! (Yes!) Then sound your buzzer! (buzz) Sound your bell! (ding) And get ready to play Winner Take All with our Winner Take All quizmaster, Bill Cullen!"Game Show
— Don Pardo's opening spiel for the 1952 TV version.
that was the first Mark Goodson
-Bill Todman production, which ran on CBS
from 1946-52. Two contestants (one signified by a buzzer, the other by a bell) competed to answer general-knowledge questions, with a wrong answer giving the opponent a free guess. First to score three points won the game and a nice prize, then faced off against another challenger. Occasionally, the contestants would be blindfolded and try to figure out what item they were given to hold.
Beginning on CBS
radio in June 1946, the first host was Ward Wilson. In September, Wilson stepped down and the announcer, a young man from Pittsburgh named Bill Cullen
, became "temporary host"...but did so well that the position became permanent.
A nighttime television version aired from July 1948 to October 1950 with Bud Collyer
as host. While a daytime version was mounted four months later with Barry Gray as emcee, it fell after a mere ten weeks. The radio version, which Collyer had been hosting since August 1950, ended in February 1952.
Later that month, Winner
returned as a daytime series on NBC with Cullen returning as emcee and Don Pardo as announcer. Although Cullen proved himself just as good on television as he was on radio, this version was sent packing by stiff competition upon the conclusion of its ninth week.
The show's final run began in June 1952 as part of the Peacock's new daily variety series Matinee In New York
, again with Cullen hosting. The show lasted 13 weeks this time.Winner
was not only the first Goodson-Todman production and Cullen's first hosting job, but it was also the first game to use lockout devices and
the first to use returning champions — both staples of pretty much every game since.
- Carried by the Host: The show was pretty much talking to the contestants and having them answer questions.
- Game Show Winnings Cap: Champions kept playing until they lost, a fact that the Play For Keeps! pilot (see below) made clear due to beginning with a "defending champion" who had "already won" $15,000.
- Home Game: A quiz book was published in 1949 by Crown containing 2,000 questions and answers. Although a(n unnamed) research staff is mentioned, Todman and Goodson are credited as editors. note
- The Announcer: Bill Cullen during Wilson's tenure as host. He was followed by Bern Bennett, who was replaced in 1951 by Harry Kramer. Don Pardo announced in 1952.
- Game Show Host: Ward Wilson, Bill Cullen, Bud Collyer, and Barry Gray.
- Lovely Assistant: Two were used. While they alternated escorting the new challenger in and handing the host a small information card, both participated in the "feeling" games that were occasionally done.
This show provides examples of:
- Ascended Extra: Bill Cullen went from announcer to host in September 1946, which began a game show career spanning five decades.
- Pilot: In 1955, three years after Matinee was canned, a revival was attempted under the name Play For Keeps! with Sonny Fox as host. The format was essentially the same, except the champion now chose a category for gameplay and wagered any or all of their current winnings.