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Series / I've Got a Secret

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The opening sequence from the 1984-1988 UK BBC version.
"Hi, My name is [guest], and I've got a secret!"
— Standard teaser opening leading into the credits.

Game Show from Mark Goodson-Bill Todman Productions, and basically a Retool of What's My Line?. Here, a person of some notoriety entered and gave his or her secret to the host, and the celebrity panel questioned them about it and tried to guess it. Each celeb had 15 seconds to question and/or guess the secret. Each stumped panelist earned the contestant money, and a full stump included bonus money. Celebrity guests with secrets were common.

The "regular" panelists on the CBS run were Bill Cullen, Henry Morgan, Jayne Meadows, Faye Emerson, Betsy Palmer and Bess Myerson. Meadows and Emerson, who debuted in 1952 and 1953 respectively, were replaced by Palmer and Myerson in 1958; Cullen and Morgan debuted in 1952 and stayed until the end of the run. Guest panelists would fill in on occasion for the regulars.

The original show was directed by Paul Alter and aired from 1952-67 on CBS. One-season revivals aired from 1972-73 and in 1976. Another revival aired from 2000 to 2003 on the Oxygen cable network, hosted by Stephanie Miller, and yet another version aired on GSN in 2006.

This show provides examples of:

  • The Announcer: John Cannon was the announcer of the original CBS run. Johnny Olson handled these duties on the syndicated and 1976 versions.
  • Bonus Round: The Special Guest Round.
  • Broadcast Live: Garry Moore's run. Steve Allen lived on the West Coast and preferred to film a number of episodes at a time to reduce air travel.
  • The Bus Came Back: After being fired following a lame segment involving Tony Curtis on June 11, 1958, series creator/producer Allan Sherman returned in 1961 as a special guest riding on the success of novelty songs such as "Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh."
  • Camp Gay: The 2006 panel (Billy Bean, Frank DeCaro, Jermaine Taylor, and Suzanne Westenhoefer). Jim J. Bullock was a regular on the Oxygen version.
  • Chew Toy: If the crew had something sneaky planned, the "victim" was most likely Henry Morgan. For example, he would be sent on an exotic trip (which started the moment the live broadcast ended) such as a safari in Africa, or working as a hired hand on Roy Rogers' Dude Ranch. Or carrying a spear in that night's production in the Metropolitan Opera. Or the fact that he was going to play Santa for some needy kids...or Arnold Stang's secret on a Halloween episode that he used Henry's actual bedsheets for the ghost costume he's wearing.
  • Christmas Episode: A regular tradition during the original series. One year, GSN used all 15 of a week's Black And White Overnite slots to show them.
  • Continuity Nod: Steve Allen made a guest appearance on the Oxygen version.
  • Crossover:
    • Vivian Vance had the panel play a few rounds of "the exciting new CBS morning show" Password.
    • One Halloween Episode found Beat the Clock host Bud Collyer "trying out" upcoming new stunts for the next season on the panel. After the bit was over, Garry gave Bud a copy of Secret's Home Game while Bud gave him a copy of Clock's Home Game.
    • John Daly, the host of What's My Line?, made a couple of appearances where he had the panelists guess historical events from newspaper quotes and headlines. Panelist Arlene Francis also made a few appearances. Going the other way, the then-current panel of I've Got a Secret (Bill Cullen, Faye Emerson, Jayne Meadows and Henry Morgan) appeared as Mystery Guests on the April 1, 1956 episode of What's My Line?
    • On January 18, 1965, the panel traded places with the To Tell the Truth panel (Tom Poston, Peggy Cass, Orson Bean, Kitty Carlisle); both shows aired Monday nights on CBS at the time.
  • Cuteness Proximity: One guest was a toddler whose secret was that he'd eaten his brother's insect collection; the brothers both appeared on the show, with the elder brother answering the questions while the younger brother waved, smiled, blew bubbles and did other endearing toddler things which went to insidious work on the panelists, who had increasing difficulty maintaining focus. The final panelist was so distracted he didn't get any questions in at all before his buzzer went.
  • A Day in the Limelight: Panel regulars Bill Cullen, Henry Morgan, and Betsy Palmer each got a chance to guest host during Garry Moore's frequent boating vacations. While Bill and Betsy only got to host once and twice respectively, Henry ended up being the most frequent substitute host and, from late 1961 until the end of the original run, was the only one in that position.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Henry Morgan.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: The June 19, 1952 premiere featured a courtroom set with a witness stand where the contestant would sit and be questioned by the panelists who would walk up to them. Goodson-Todman did so in an attempt to differentiate the show from What's My Line?, but it ended up being a disaster; one of their two sponsors backed out, which meant the show could only air every other week for the rest of its first season. The courtroom set was scrapped and replaced with a carbon copy of the WML set for the very next broadcast.
  • Entertainingly Wrong: During a round where the guest's secret involved an insect collection, one of the panelists made an innocent remark about catching flies (a slang term for having a vacant, open-mouthed expression). The next panelist up, having realized from the audience's reaction that the expression was somehow significant, asked if the secret had anything to do with... baseball?
  • Formula-Breaking Episode: Towards the end of the run, at least one show per season would ditch the secrets entirely, essentially becoming Goodson-Todman's version of a variety show.
  • Game Show Host: Garry Moore hosted from 1952-64, followed by Steve Allen until the show's original end in 1967 (plus the one-season syndicated revival). Bill Cullen emceed the 1976 version, and Stephanie Miller hosted the Oxygen revival. Bil Dwyer hosted the GSN version, and was introduced as the "straight man" to the panel.
  • Guest Host: Several guests hosts would fill in on occasion during the original run. The most frequent one was Henry Morgan with at least 15 known appearances as host ; other guest hosts included fellow panelists Bill Cullen and Betsy Palmer, as well as Steve Allen , Ralph Bellamy, Don McNeil, Hal March and Arthur Godfrey.
  • Halloween Episode: One just about every year, with secrets such as a man lighting a Jack-O-Lantern with an electric eel. The earlier seasons really got into the spirit of the holiday much heavier than later seasons, with one Winston episode in particular being downright creepy.
  • Home Game: One was published by Lowell in 1956, and Don Ameche used it to create a secret.
  • Let X Be the Unknown: The standard way of introducing a guest, such as Soupy Sales, whose name might be known to the panel. Lampshaded in one episode in which Garry Moore introduced three men as Mr. X, Mr. Y, and Mr. Z. Their secret? Their real names were Mr. Ecks, Mr. Yie, and Mr. Zee.
  • Obvious Rule Patch:
    • Early episodes had the panel question the contestant in two passes, each buzzer giving the contestant another $10. This was quickly changed to the "once around, $20 a buzzer" format.
    • There also used to be a strict 15 seconds time limit for questioning, which was done away with at the same time as the "twice-around" system. The loose time limit was supposedly to allow the producers to lengthen or shorten the rounds in order to keep the show running on time, but they eventually became notorious for buzzing the panelist just as they got the right answer.
    • Originally, celebrity secrets were actual things about them or that had happened to them (i.e., Boris Karloff's "I'm afraid of mice"). This became both boring and limiting, and the gag/stunt secrets quickly evolved. note 
    • Besides the "what the secret concerns" clue given before questioning, the earliest episodes would also have the host mention which word the secret begins with, which was almost always "I". It was eventually dropped due to its redundancy.
  • Off the Rails: Several instances (such as a cow dropping "pies" live on the East Coast), but none moreso than George Burns forgetting his secret during the syndicated run.
  • Pie in the Face: As part of his secret, Soupy Sales showed Garry how to get a laugh with a pie in the face.
  • Product Placement: As was the usual custom at the time, the sponsor's logo would be seen on the front of the panel's desk, as well as on a small sign between Garry and the contestant. When Winston was the show's sponsor packs of their cigarettes would be given to the contestants along with the money, and whenever possible the distinctive Winston theme song would be worked into a secret such as being played on an "electric brain", or Jayne Meadows singing it in Chinese.
  • Rearrange the Song: The 1976 version's Theme Tune was later heard on Second Chance, and then in reorchestrated form on the Australian version of Family Feud in the 1980s.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: The classic panel had a pair of these per gender: Bill Cullen and Betsy Palmer were Red, Henry Morgan and Bess Myerson were Blue.
  • Show the Folks at Home: The home audience gets to see the contestant's secret.
  • Stage Money
  • Theremin: One Moore episode featured a theremin demonstration.
  • Those Two Guys: Bill Cullen and Henry Morgan. Being the two most consistent parts of Secret while hosts and female panel members changed around them, Bill and Henry seemed to share a genuine admiration and friendship for each other, and could often be seen leaning back talking to each other behind the seat of Jayne Meadows or Betsy Palmer between them.
  • Transatlantic Equivalent: Mentioned in an episode with a man whose secret was "I appeared on the Japanese version of I've Got A Secret"; said Japanese version was called "Please Guess My Secret", had a panel made up of scholars and philosophers, and in Garry Moore's words unlike the UK versions of Secret's sister shows "The Japanese just took the concept and made their own show" with no assistance from (or royalties paid to) Goodson-Todman.
  • Treehouse of Fun: To help promote a change in day and timeslot, a female Flagpole Sitting Champion lived in a small treehouse built atop a pole in the middle of the stage from the last segment of the last Wednesday episode to the first segment of the following Monday's episode.
  • 20 Minutes into the Future: A number of secrets involved things that were still in the experimental stage during the Moore/Allen era, but commonplace now such as microwave ovens, Krazy Glue, and even a very primitive version of a computer audio file.
    • Electronic Music also had notable early exposure on the show, with secrets involving the Ondioline (played by Jean-Jacques Perrey) and the Chamberlin (the forerunner of the more-famous Mellotron).
  • Twin Switch: A fall 1972 episode introduced basketball player Dick Van Arsdale of the Phoenix Suns. His secret was that he brought along his identical twin Tom (then with the Kansas City Kings, though he wore the Suns uniform for the show which would prove prophetic as he'd join his brother in the Suns in 1976) and both would switch places after each panelist had their turn (they were told to put their heads down during the change), one answering the questions while the other would hide in front of the panelists' desk. Panelist Anita Gillette, a basketball fan, was already aware Dick had an brother and quickly guessed the secret.
  • Wardrobe Malfunction: Both Betsy Palmer and Bess Myerson have popped the zipper on their dresses in the middle of a round. They both were able to fix things before anything slipped though.
  • William Telling: On one live episode, Johnny Carson's secret was that he would shoot an apple atop host Garry Moore's head. He did it too... with Moore safely behind a sheet of pexiglass.