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Series / Name That Tune

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The $100,000 Name That Tune version (1974–81). Center: producer Ralph Edwards and host Tom Kennedy. Left: featured singer Steve March. Right: featured singer Monica Burris and orchestra leader Stan Worth.
Game Show created by Harry Salter in which contestants competed to identify a popular tune from a few notes. The series had many incarnations over the years, and from 1976-85 was known as The $100,000 Name That Tune after its top prize.

Red Benson was the original host from 1952, replaced by Bill Cullen in 1954. Cullen was replaced in 1955 by George DeWitt, who hosted until the end of the run in 1959. Tom Kennedy hosted a nighttime version from 1974 to 1981. Jim Lange helmed a 1984-85 revival (produced by Sandy Frank, who had distributed the Kennedy run; yes, that Sandy Frank).

Notably, Tune was very rare among game shows in that its seven-year syndicated run flourished in comparison to a pair of concurrent daytime runs on NBC; Dennis James hosted the first one from 1974 to 1975 (which began prior to the nighttime debut), and Kennedy hosted a short-lived one in 1977.

After several failed attempts at a revival, Fox acquired a new primetime version in November 2020 for a January 2021 premiere, hosted by Jane Krakowski with a $100,000 grand prize, and filmed in Australia amid the COVID-19 Pandemic (thus allowing it to have a studio audience and less social distancing, unlike game shows filmed in the U.S.). It was renewed for a second season, which moved to Ireland. A third season began airing in 2023. All episodes of this season feature celebrities playing for charity.

This show provides examples of:

  • Affectionate Parody: The late-night talk show Conan did an Audience Game/sketch called Basic Cable Name That Tune, where the show couldn't afford the rights to play the original songs, so the contestants had to guess the song that the band and homeless lounge singer Brian LaFontaine were performing a suspiciously similar version of.
  • The Announcer: Johnny Olson during at least the tail end of the 1950s run, John Harlan (in his most famous announcing role aside from perhaps American Gladiators) from 1974 to 1985. Randy Jackson serves as bandleader and announcer for the 2021 version.
  • Auction: In "Bid-A-Note", given a clue, the contestants perform a reverse auction to bid on how few notes they need to identify a tune, starting at seven notes. It ends when a contestant is told to name that tune by their opponent or bid down to one note, though the opponent could one-up them by bidding no notes. The winning bidder hears the note(s), if any, before giving an answer. In the earlier eras of the series, Bid-a-Note was played with a first-to-three format, and a wrong answer handed the point to the opponent by default. The 2021 version starts bids at 10 notes, and plays three-to-four tunes for increasing cash amounts, starting at $10,000 ($5,000 in seasons 2 and 3) and increasing by $5,000 for each; if the player who won the bid gets it wrong, the other player gets to hear all 10 notes (no money by default here). The highest-scoring contestant after the round wins the game and advances to the Golden Medley.
  • Big Win Sirens: A $100,000 win on the Kennedy version was accompanied by every single type of siren imaginable.
  • Bonus Round: The Golden Medley, in which the contestant had to identify seven tunes in 30 seconds. Oh, by the way, one miss ends the game, though this rule is dropped in the celebrity edition of the 2021 revival, as contestants are playing for charity. Also the Mystery Tune, which was played up in a suspenseful (and not-cutting-to-commercial-halfway-through-the-big-reveal) manner. Here's how suspenseful the Mystery Tune was. The contestant slated to play it waited in a room backstage with a locked safe that held a carousel loaded with dozens of manila envelopes. Each envelope held the sheet music for a song (with a piece of tape covering the title) and a smaller envelope containing the correct title and some details about the song. A security guard opened the safe, and one envelope was chosen (by the producers in the 1976-77 season, by the contestants in 1977-78). The guard handed it to Tom, then escorted the contestant onto the stage; Tom gave the sheet music to the show's pianist and kept the inner envelope for himself. The contestant was placed in an isolation booth, and could only hear Tom and the piano. The pianist played the song for 20 seconds, then stopped; the contestant then had 10 seconds to offer one guess, which was tape-recorded. They were then brought out of the booth, and Tom read the background information and any appropriate writing and performing credits for the tune. The contestant's guess was played back, and Tom read off the correct title. If the contestant had it exactly right, they won a huge (for the time) cash prize — $10,000 a year for a decade on the nighttime show, a flat $25,000 on the '77 daytime show.
  • Bonus Space:
    • The DOUBLE and CAR (later PRIZE) spaces on the "outer" Melody Roulette wheel.
    • In the 2021 version, one song in the first round also awards a prize to whoever gets it right.
  • Catchphrase: "I can name that tune in X notes."
  • Celebrity Edition: All episodes of the third season of the 2021 version feature celebrities playing for charity.
  • Confetti Drop: Confetti, balloons and streamers were dropped after $100,000 wins on the Lange version. The massive amounts of them that dropped, however, meant that viewers couldn't see much of what was happening onstage. Seriously, there was so much, it was practically an avalanche of balloons and confetti. A $100,000 Golden Medley win on the 2021 version trades the confetti for pyrotechnics.
  • Content Warnings: Parodied with one of the promotional posters for the 2021 revival, which states "Viewer Advisory: No Lyrics!"note 
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: The finals of a 1984 $100,000 Tournament had Michael Langmay and Hap Trout in a head-to-head Golden Medley Showdown. The final score: 16 to 4! Michael simply destroyed Hap, often naming tunes after just one or two notes had been played. You could see Hap just giving up midway through, waiting for the whole thing to be over with.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The show's title tells the contestants exactly what they're supposed to do. In the 1950s, 1971, and 1974, one had to not only know the tune but also be the first to ring a bell at the opposite end of the stage.
    • In fact it was used that way in the Kennedy version. He would regularly say "(Contestant name), listen, and Name.....that.....tune...."
  • Five-Episode Pilot: The Lange version had this, which ended up airing at some point. The pilots had several notable set differences, and "Tune Countdown" (basically a Golden Medley Showdown, but with only 20 seconds on the clock) was played instead of "Tune Topics".
  • Game Show Host: Red Benson, Bill Cullen, George DeWitt, Richard Hayes, Dennis James, Tom Kennedy (above), Jim Lange. Peter Allen hosted an unsold pilot around 1990, and Bob Goen hosted the 1994 CDi game based off that pilot. Jane Krakowski hosts the 2021 version.
  • Golden Snitch:
    • The 1-1-2 variant. Could become a 1-2-4 (or similar) in the Kennedy era, since in the first two rounds, a tie was possible if one or more tunes were missed by both players, then they split the points.
    • This was extended to a 1-1-2-4 setup in most tournament finals episodes during Lange's version. (Note that if the players split the first two rounds, the third round became absolutely meaningless, especially since the tournament episodes didn't offer prizes in the individual rounds, save the cash in Melody Roulette) At least one $100,000 finals episode had one contestant sweep the first three rounds, only to lose the final round and the tiebreaker question, giving the whole shebang to his opponent.
    • An even more blatant one in the '50s, where it was a 5-10-20-40 setup. The last correct answer will always win the game. At least the loser took home their score in dollars.
    • Later in the '50s, it was 10-20-30 under George DeWitt. Winning the first two tunes always got you into the Golden Medley, since if it was 30-30, both players played as a team. (Then again, so did winning the last tune.)
  • Home Game: An electronic home game was released during the final season of the Kennedy era; uniquely for a game show, an arcade game was released in 1986 from Bally. A video game adaptation was released for the Philips CDI in 1994 hosted by Bob Goen, with a format based off the 1990 pilot; for some strange reason, it works on the honor system, where after playing the songs it gives the answer then asks the player if they got it right or wrong.
  • Home Participation Sweepstakes: The August 2023 repeats of the 2021 version added one. Scanning a QR code and naming a (rather easy) tune would put you in the running for a prize.
  • Lovely Assistant: Kathie Lee Johnson/Gifford, to an extent, in the 1977-78 season. Jackson also plays this role to an extent on the 2021 version, often chiming in as a sidekick for Krakowski.
  • Luck-Based Mission: A contestant's success on the show depended on how familiar the tunes were.
  • Minigame Game: The 1974-85 versions turned the main game into one, with games such as Melody Roulette (typically the opening round, where a two-part wheel was spun to determine a dollar amount and potential bonus), and the Money Tree ($100 in bills on a fake tree, the opponent plucked money off it while the player tried to guess, whoever had more left won the round; discontinued mainly because Kennedy thought it felt too greedy). The Dennis James version also had a game emulating the format of the 1950s and '71 versions, where players raced to ring a bell to get a chance to guess. The 1976 Kennedy daytime run, meanwhile, had a few exclusive to that run: Build-A-Tune, where only one member of the orchestra would start playing the tune and gradually the rest would join in; Pick-A-Prize, where the contestants would compete to name tunes and pick different prizes; and Cassette Roulette, where Tom would pick music cassettes out of a rotating drum. The final round was always Bid-A-Note, the game everyone remembers.
    • The 2021 version plays two rounds per-game, beginning with a theme-based round of toss-ups, followed by Bid-a-Note.
  • Self-Deprecation: After wrapping production on the 1976-77 season (the first with the $100,000 top prize), the staff produced an extra 40-minute episode that's either a very disturbing look at a television classic or one of the most magnificent "gag reels" ever. Using the show's set and props, Kennedy and the staff poked fun at the quiz show scandals, made tons of bawdy and line-crossing jokes, gave away wildly-fluctuating amounts of cash, and had men in drag modeling crappy prizes. Notable among the rampant anarchy is the fact that this was the very last time the show used the Money Trees — they were removed from the format when tapings began for the 1977-78 season.
    • The episode begins with Irma Crotch returning from "last time" to try for $100,000, and promptly gets locked in an isolation booth for the rest of the show; the day's two contestants are introduced — Tommy Schmucker (bandleader Tommy Oliver; musicologist Harvey Bacal led the band) and Teresa Tushie (production assistant Peggy Touchstone).
    • The Money Tree round then begins, heavily skewed toward Teresa; Tom checks up on Irma (this is the last time she appears); Melody Roulette is played (and Tom offers himself as the prize on the last tune), but quickly runs out of time!
    • John Harlan speeds through some prize plugs, after which the contestants (attempt to) play Bid-A-Note; Tommy wins the round, but the judges notify Tom that Teresa is in fact the big winner because she's got the biggest tits; John Harlan describes a ring being worn by a model on "her" middle finger. "She" then gets dry-humped by Tommy, causing Harlan to laugh while trying to describe a broken watch.
    • Teresa then plays an incredibly rigged Golden Medley for the standard $15,000 in prizes (including an unseen car), which she wins; Uncle Sam and Tommy come back out to essentially dry-hump Teresa, and Tom decides to take off his pants — but hikes them right back up because the missus was in the audience.
    • The final segment has Tom mentioning that his microphone is actually what's left of Schmucker, then signs off with "So long for now — and up yours!", after which the credits roll; in a post-credits segment, Tom explains they have been on for three years and he has a small gift for everybody (presumably this episode), then bows a bit before fading to black.
  • Spin-Off: Name That Video, on VH1. Although a decent idea (albeit not an original one; a similar idea was used as the bonus round of MTV's Remote Control), it ran for just three months in 2001 before being pulled.
    • Also Face The Music, a show that aired in 1980-81 which was also produced by Sandy Frank Productions and featured Tommy Oliver's orchestra. Expanded on the premise of Tune by requiring contestants to identify people, places or things from a series of songs that were played and guessed in succession.
  • Tiebreaker Round: Season 3 of the 2021 revival revealed what happens if the game is tied at the end of the Bid-a-Note round. Rather than doing another round of this, instead a song is played with lyrics. If one of the contestants thinks they know the correct answer, they can buzz in. If they get it right, they win. However, if they either get it wrong or don't answer, then it's an automatic win for their opponent, without the opponent having to even attempt to answer.
  • Title Drop: During the bidding round, the contestant will tell their opponent to "Name that Tune" when they must answer in a certain number of notes.
  • Transatlantic Equivalent: A British version produced by Thames Television ran from 1976 to 1988; Channel 5 ran a revival from 1997-98. Other countries like Germany, Brazil, and Italy have also made their own adaptations.