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Series / By the Numbers

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Short-lived 1962-63ish Game Show by Desilu Studios. Ralph Andrews, and Bill Yagemann for independent Los Angeles station KTLA. Two teams of two (each consisting of one celebrity and one civilian) competed to make words from a six-by-five (30-space) game board containing all 26 letters of the alphabet and four blanks. The teams studied the revealed board for 15 seconds, after which it was covered. One team then took turns picking numbers, briefly revealing those letters, until they spelled out a proper three-letter word for 30 points (although more letters awarded 10 points each).

After making a word, that team started over and tried to make more words, staying in control until they 1) passed, 2) failed to make a proper word, or 3) uncovered a blank. The first team to 150 points won the game.

By The Numbers is very obscure, even among game show fans, but also very interesting: the show's debut was announced on July 12, 1962 with a July 28 start date, although the host (Jay Stewart) was not signed to host until the 23rd. The show, which taped on Thursdays for a Saturday showing, debuted with Anthony George as a guest.

As the series progressed (with Lee Marvin and Beverly Garland as guests for the week of August 31 and the addition of Linda Countryman as assistant to the producers on October 4), it appears to have moved from Saturdays to a daily series before going to Friday nights at 7:30 in January 1963. On January 28, 1963, Stewart was replaced by Jack Barry, who was also hosting You Don't Say! for KTLA.

Likely seeing the success of Seven Keys being brought from KTLA to a national exposure, ABC was briefly (around June 12, 1963) interested in nationally airing Numbers as well. As noted in the June 26 issue of Variety, Barry was doing six hours of shows per day on KTLA in addition to Numbers and an hour-long show on Sunday nights, and it was due to this that he opted to leave Numbers around early July.

However, talks with his potential replacement, KNBC sportscaster Chick Heam, had hit a contractual snag around July 11; as a result, Barry returned to tape two episodes until KTLA program director Bob Quinlan could find a permanent replacement. And by July 31, he did: Wink Martindale.

It is not known quite when Numbers ended, but the December 11, 1964 Variety included a "resume" of sorts for Mike Laurence, listing Numbers as prior work.

The show is briefly named in the 1994 book Desilu: The Story of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, and this page mentions that Andrews had done it and fellow Desilu-KTLA games Zoom (hosted by Tom Kennedy in 1962) and Show Me.

This show provides examples of:

  • The Announcer: Mike Lawrence (or Laurence; the Variety articles used both over the years, and The Soap Opera Encyclopedia uses the "W" form when crediting him for the 1964-66 series The Young Marrieds).
  • Bonus Round: "Secret Word", a six-letter word covered up by the first 24 numbers of the board. Each member of the winning team called out three numbers, and those slides were removed permanently. After this, the team was allowed one guess for $1,000. A wrong guess removed $100 from the pot and the team called another number; this continued until the word was guessed, or the team failed at the $100 level.
  • Consolation Prize: If the Secret Word was not guessed at the $100 level, each player received a $100 prize.
  • Game Show Host: Jay Stewart, followed by Jack Barry in late January 1963 and Wink Martindale in late July.
  • Home Game: One was released by Milton Bradley on a national scale in 1962, and is the source of the above rules (and as such, may not be how the show itself was played). More information here and here.