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The show's (basic) history in one image.

From Hollywood, the word game of the stars, Password!

Game Show created by Bob Stewart for Mark Goodson-Bill Todman Productions in 1961, after the company searched for parlor games that could be played for modest stakes in the wake of the quiz show scandals. Stewart suggested a game whose players asked themselves a simple question: "How well can I communicate with just one word?"

Password debuted in October 1961 on CBS as the first game to have celebrity guests as teammates for civilian contestants, which was a big freaking deal at the time. Allen Ludden left G.E. College Bowl note  to moderate Password (Robert Earle replaced him on the former), which ran until 1967 on CBS daytime and primetime. Frequent guests included the stars of Bewitched.

Ludden returned as host of ABC's 1971-75 revival, which went through two theme tunes and two sets. The changes were made for Password All-Stars (November 1974 to February 1975), after which members of the public were once again allowed to compete.

Two more daytime revivals appeared on NBCPassword Plus from 1979-82, and Super Password from 1984-89. Both used Password Puzzles, wherein each round consisted of five passwords that described another person, place, or thing; for instance, "Wiki", "Lampshade", "Hanging", "Topics", and "Egregious" might be used to describe TV Tropes. These versions also featured a Bonus Round ("Alphabetics" on Plus, "Super Password" on Super) where the celebrity had to describe ten passwords, beginning with consecutive letters of the alphabet, within 60 seconds for a bonus of at least $5,000.

In June 2008, CBS debuted Million-Dollar Password for a brief primetime run on Sunday evenings with Regis Philbin as host. CBS then ordered a second set of episodes, which began airing in January 2009. The show was canned after 12 episodes because, despite winning its timeslot more often than not, it wasn't drawing the demographics the network wanted.

In The New '10s, Jimmy Fallon occasionally played a version of Password as a segment on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, and later The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, using a recreation of the CBS set and a shortened version of its format; its first celebs were Fallon and Password stalwart Betty White. In 2021, NBC ordered a revival of Password with Fallon as executive producer, which would be hosted by Keke Palmer and premiered in August 2022. It is a modernized take on the original CBS version with some elements of Plus and Super (namely the bonus round, and the tiebreaker using a similar presentation to the puzzles). The first episode was dedicated to Betty White, who had died on December 31, 2021.

The Password is Tropes *Ding*:

  • And the Adventure Continues: During the goodbyes on the final episode of Super, Betty White compared the show to a Phoenix that will surely rise again.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: Guesses that include the password or are a variant of it are considered correct. Some examples include when a guess for "Cosmo" was "Cosmopolitan", or when "Vibration" was accepted as a valid guess for "Vibrate".
  • The Announcer: Jack Clark announced on CBS, and John Harlan filled these duties on ABC/All-Stars. Gene Wood announced most of Plus with occasional substitutes. Rich Jefferies announced the first few weeks of Super until Gene took over on that show as well (Jefferies moved to helping Gene as an audience warm-up).
  • Ascended Extra: Tom Kennedy on Plus, having been a celebrity partner before becoming host. Similarly, Bert Convy was a partner on Plus before hosting Super. Regis has appeared as a celebrity partner in Plus before hosting Million Dollar thirty years later.
  • Berserk Button: If anyone used a sound-alike rhyming word as a clue in the original version, Allen would lightly scold them, saying that while such words are legal to use, in his opinion they go against the spirit of the game and hence discourages their use. By Plus, such words were regularly used without comment from Allen.
  • Bonus Round:
    • Lightning Round (the Trope Maker, CBS/ABC): One minute to solve five words at $50/word. When the show returned on ABC, a "Betting Word" was added- where players could bet any or all LR earnings on one more word in 15 seconds; at some point in the run the payouts were doubled to $100 per word.
    • 20:20 Password (All-Stars): Both celebrities on the winning team got 20 seconds to convey two passwords (one for each celebrity) to each other and score 20 points. The winning team's score was given to both celebrities who then became clue givers for the next elimination round.
    • Big Money Lightning Round (75). Three levels, each involving 3 words in :30.
      • Level 1: $25 a word, all three earns $75 plus $5 for every second left.
      • Level 2: Each word is worth however much earned in level one, all three also earns $10/second.
      • Level 3: All three words earn ten times the level two score.
    • Alphabetics/Super Password (Plus/Super): Ten words in alphabetical order in one minute. Each one is worth $100, all ten wins a Progressive Jackpot.
      • Plus: Originally a flat $5,000 (minus $1,000 per illegal clue). Later changed to $5,000 plus $5,000 per non-win up to $50,000 (illegal clues deducted either 20% of the jackpot or a flat $2,500 depending on whatever point in the run). Highest was $35,000.
      • Super: Retains the jackpot, but there is no limit, and illegal clues forfeit the word (and jackpot) entirely. Highest was $55,000, won twice.
      • NBC 2022: The top prize is a flat $25,000. Each of the celebrity partners serves as receiver for 30 seconds (the contestant always gives clues); words lost to illegal clues by the first celebrity are replaced for the second. If the player does not get all 10 words in 60 seconds, they receive $1,000 per-word, and are allowed to play a "Redemption Word" with one clue for a chance to double their pot. The player would put on headphones while the two celebrities have 30 seconds to come up with one answer.
    • Million-Dollar: Six levels, each involving five words in 1:30. First level had ten total, then nine and so forth down to five for the final level. The money is progressive ($10K/$25K/$50K/$100K/$250K/$1M), with $25K (and later $250K) as safe levels. Before the round, the player chooses to be either the clue-giver or receiver. The giver is only allowed three clues per word, and once reaching $250K, is shown the words for that level in order to help the player decide whether to go for it or not. Most won was $100,000.
  • Bonus Space: To an extent, the Ca$hword on Super, which was played in every game after the second puzzle for another Progressive Jackpot of $1,000 plus $1,000 each game until claimed. Highest was $17,000.
  • Catchphrase:
    • "The password is...", whispered by The Announcer on all versions except All-Stars (and the following ABC revamp), Plus, the first two years of Super, and Million-Dollar. This was originated by the announcer of the original version, Jack Clark. Jack's parents watched the show, but they could not read the password on screen due to their poor eyesight, so he came up with this device just for them. It proved so popular that it stuck for many variants of the show.
    • "Hey, doll..." was Allen's greeting to Betty White's mother Tess at the beginning of nearly every show. Tess appeared on ABC as a celebrity challenger during the aforementioned gimmickfest (week of September 23-27, 1974).
    • "Next word, (IF you) please," regularly used by Bert Convy on Super.
  • Celebrity Edition: While many all-celebrity weeks were done over the years (none on Million-Dollar) and All-Stars was built on this trope, there was a massive influx of them in 1974 during what can only be described as an immense pre-All Stars gimmickfest.
  • Crossover: On an episode of I've Got a Secret, the panel of Bill Cullen, Betsy Palmer, Henry Morgan and Bess Myerson introduced "the great new CBS series Password" by playing a few rounds. All four of them (as well as Secret host Garry Moore) would ultimately wind up appearing on the actual show in individual episodes.
  • A Day in the Limelight:
    • Jack Clark occasionally filled-in for Allen on CBS.
    • For three weeks in 1974 (July 15–26 and September 23–27) during ABC's gimmickfest, Allen played as a celebrity guest while Monty Hall guest-hosted.
    • Allen then played as a celebrity guest shortly after All-Stars ended (March 24-28, 1975), with Betty White guest-hosting.
    • Tom Kennedy once played as a celebrity partner on Plus in March 1982, with his brother Jack Narz hosting. It was the last time most of the country saw Narz hosting a game show; viewers of KDOC in Anaheim, California got to see him host the No Budget You've Got To Be Kidding in late 1987.
  • Downer Ending:
    • On an episode of Super, Dick Gautier and his teammate blazed through the first nine words of the endgame, but then Dick accidentally blurted out the answer to the last word, costing her $10,000.
    • It more or less happened again on this one with Michael Dorn (skip to 11:45). He didn't give it away but even with 26 seconds, his partner missed that last word.
    • On another Super episode, Roz Ryan and her teammate got past the first nine words before giving the illegal clue, "Ha ha" for "Joke", on the tenth. After guessing the word, the pair began celebrating until the judge informed them that "Ha ha" is two words which meant they lost. What makes this worse is the contestant looks like she was about to say "Joke" after Roz's first clue of "Funny".
    • On yet another episode of Super, Richard Simmons attempted to cut himself off while giving an illegal clue on the final word of the endgame, originally resulting in a $15,000 win. After checking the tape, the judges confirmed he did not stop himself in time and the endgame was declared a loss.
    • Happened twice during a week with Edie McClurg on Super. The first time was when her clue of "Abnormal" for "Normal" got a delayed zap, negating a $5,000 win. The second happened when the judge ruled that "Kung" wasn't a legal clue until she and her contestant were already celebrating what would have been a $20,000 win.
    • Bert Convy defied one on August 1, 1985. A contestant says the final word in the end game after the buzzer, and she demands that the tape be checked. Bert, under the green light of the judges and Standards, gives it to her anyway. She loses her next game so Bert's call becomes bittersweet for the next end game winner who misses out on an extra $20,000.
    • A contestant playing for $50,000 on a 1986 episode says a password a split second after his celebrity partner passes... and by the time they get back to it, it's too late. However, he more than made up for that by winning $84,455 on Wheel of Fortune ten years later.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: In the first episode of Plus, the unrevealed passwords in each Password Puzzle were NOT revealed after a correct guess. They also utilized a times-up bell; it interrupted the last puzzle after just two words were played, and after the break they revealed the remaining passwords and answer. Both of these practices were dropped after the premiere.
    • In addition to that, some elements of the set were different during the first few weeks of Plus. Most notably, the Alphabetics board was suspended by wires, instead of hidden in a cabinet (they had to change it because people kept bumping their head on the board).
    • Some things were different in the earliest episodes of Super too; aside from Rich Jeffries announcing, the show's logo concealing the puzzle solution wasn't there (instead it had a larger version of the "X" design seen on the covers for the puzzle clues), the Ca$hword wasn't signaled by a noise (with the logo being small and not flipping onto the screen) and the "Magic Toaster" was not present (the Ca$hword was revealed to the celebrity by the same device used for the main-game Passwords, while actual money, or perhaps stage money, was given to the winner instead of a check).
  • Every Episode Ending: Most episodes during Ludden's tenure ended with him giving a "Password of the day" and a short statement or moral relating to the word, usually ending it with the words "Think about it."
  • Expy:
    • You Don't Say!, a word-association game which debuted in 1963, began with a virtually-identical set but moved the host's podium from the center to the far left in 1964 or '65.
    • Also, The Object Is, a short-lived 1963 ABC game show (the first hosted by Dick Clark) which was a curious hybird of Password and You Don't Say.
    • A more blatant example is Goodson-Todman's Snap Judgment (one of the few Goodson-Todman games that has been entirely wiped), which debuted on April 11, 1967. For most of its run, Snap was a contrived word-association game of its own, but for the last three months (December 23, 1968 to March 28, 1969) it was retooled as a 100% clone of original-recipe Password... complete with the same exact desk.
    • NBC's most recent prime time game show, Hollywood Game Night, has a segment called "Take A Hint," in which the three celebrity players on each side each give one-word clues to their civilian partner for him/her to identify words.
  • Fan Remake: Done by Greggo, and frequently taken to conventions, using the Super Password format and graphics.
  • Foreshadowing: Long before the Ca$hword toaster (the device that shows the word to the celebrity player) on Super, Allen Ludden called the chute the Lightning Round words pop up from a toaster.
  • Game Show Host: Allen Ludden was the first and most popular, holding the position from 1961-80. Bill Cullen filled in for four weeks in 1980, and Tom Kennedy hosted from late 1980 to 1982. Bert Convy hosted Super, and Regis Philbin hosted Million-Dollar. Keke Palmer is currently hosting the 2022 revival.
  • Grand Finale:
    • The last episode of ABC in 1975 featured a final game played by four Goodson-Todman staffers. Neither team got to the normal format's 50-point goal.
    • The last episode of Super in 1989 featured the infamous "Magic Toaster II" incident described on the Funny Moments tab. Here's the first part of the episode, from its original broadcast.
  • Halloween Episode: For one Halloween Week on Super, Bert had two bags — one orange marked "Treats", one black marked "Tricks". For each puzzle, the winning contestant would pick a prize at random from the "Treat" bag (toys and little gifts such as magnetic balls) and the loser a prize from the "Trick" bag (things like a random piece of wood or assorted pocket lint).
  • Have a Gay Old Time: A CBS episode with Elizabeth Montgomery and Jim Backus had “Vibrator” as a password. Judging by the fact there’s very little snickering and everyone keeps a straight face, the “sex toy” meaning of the word probably didn’t exist then.
  • Home Game: About a billion — Milton Bradley released one annually from 1962 all the way to 1986; there were a few variants, including an Educational edition and a Fine edition, which had better quality materials and included materials for the Lightning Round (which began to be included in the normal version starting in 1982). Plus received three from 1979-81, and Super received a computer game from GameTek in 1988 (an adaptation with speech abilities was planned for release on the NES in 1990, but got cancelled along with the show); starting in 1997 and continuing to 2003 Endless Games released their own adaptation based on the classic MB version, along with an adaptation of Million-Dollar in 2008.
  • In and Out of Character: Carol Burnett and Vicki Lawrence were the celebs for one early week on Plus. At one point, Allen suggested they come back at a later date as their characters Eunice and Mama. They did just that a few weeks later, playing in character against McLean Stevenson and Joanna Gleason's Hello Larry characters Larry and Morgan.
  • In-Series Nickname: The device concealing the Ca$hword check on Super was called the Magic Toaster.
  • Leave the Camera Running:
    • December 23, 1980: It took nearly five minutes to get Plus back on track after Tom Kennedy cracked up over Dick Martin's reaction to giving "France" as a clue for "French". In 2008, Kennedy donated a copy of the unedited master tape to the Television Production Music Museum, and it quickly spread to YouTube.
    • January 1982: During one puzzle, the word "Hairy" was ruled unacceptable for the password "Harry". Marcia Wallace contested this (since homophones of words are accepted), so the next day Tom hauled out a chalkboard and gave everyone a phonics lesson.
    • Bert had to haul out that chalkboard as well at least once, over gerund/guarant (skip to 3:00).
  • Literal-Minded: Following a celebrity accidentally giving the Cashword as a clue on Super, Bert asked the producer what they did in that situation. Upon being told to "throw it out", he picked up the Magic Toaster and threw it behind him, asking what to do next as he did so. The Toaster broke as it hit the floor. Cue an Oh, Crap! look on Bert's face when the celebrity informed him that he broke the Toaster.
  • Lucky Charms Title:
    • Not the show itself, but the Ca$hword round on Super.
    • Password Plus + if you count the + in the logo and all over the set.
  • Moon Logic Puzzle: While the main-game passwords on Plus and Super were sometimes a bit tough, they paled in comparison to the Ca$hword. Some of these words were nothing short of impossible to convey using just one-word clues, even given three chances. (Prime example: "Backgammon".)
    • Three clues: Dice; Checkers; fronT? (read that last clue with a rising tone, as to convey an opposite).
  • Negated Moment of Awesome: A winner on Super walked away with $58,600 (including a record-tying $55,000 jackpot in the Bonus Round). It was later revealed that he was a convict who had entered the show with a pseudonym. More info here.
  • Nintendo Hard:
    • The words used in the Password All-Stars and the short-lived version of Password that came immediately after it. Words in the All-Star championship game included "Chlorophyll", "Artillery", "Emancipate", "Ferocious", "Budget", and "Abracadabra". ALL of these words were solved, the latter three with one clue.
    • The Ca$hword in Super.
    • The time limits and/or word difficulty on Million-Dollar, coupled with the inane "clue-response-clue" rule (see YMMV tab) and forcing each half-hour to be self-contained, meant there was no way anybody was going to win the Million.
  • Non-Standard Game Over: Came up on Super Password in two different ways.
    • The eponymous bonus round could end before time expired without the grand prize being won. If an illegal clue was given, the current password was thrown out and the team forfeited their chance at the jackpot, but could still win $100 for each correct guess. (A standard game-over happened if the team either won the jackpot or ran out of time.)
    • For the Cashword, giving an illegal clue or any part of the word itself immediately ended the in-game bonus round in a failure, even if the contestant still had guesses left. This happened at least three times.
  • Obvious Rule Patch:
    • CBS (primetime) went from a whole half-hour featuring two players, switching partners after every round, to multiple pairs of contestants playing a single round each (the change came after three contestants each exceeded $1,000 in winnings; keep in mind this was less than five years after the exposure of the quiz show rigging scandals)
    • ABC introduced the play-or-pass option of passing the first opportunity to give a clue to the other team if the player felt the word needed a minimum of two clues to be guessed (as can be seen in the Odd Couple episode).
      • The ABC run also added the concept of returning champions. And in 1973, went from a maximum of ten wins, to no limit (as well as switching to a best two out of three match, and increasing the Lightning Round payouts to $100/word.)
    • For the first few weeks of Plus, Allen went out of his way to remind everyone that although the clues still had to be one non-hyphenated word, the passwords themselves could now be two words like "New York" or "Twenty-Four".
    • On April 23, 1979, Plus made antonyms illegal clues. Sure, some words are very hard to convey using one-word clues that aren't the opposite, but making antonyms illegal meant that brains were exercised by requiring more thought to convey words (much later, on Million-Dollar, contestants kept passing on words that didn't have a clear opposite).
    • Similarly, Plus changed its Alphabetics jackpot in 1981 to increase by $5,000 until claimed, with illegal clues deducting 20% from the total (later changed to a flat $2,500, then back again).
    • Super reversed the Plus antonym rule (making them legal again), the Bonus Round rules (once again denying the ability to gain the jackpot if an illegal clue was given, likely done to prevent celebrities from intentionally giving illegal clues if stuck on a word), and removed the play-or-pass option.
  • Off the Rails:
    • Plus had two of these moments: George Peppard's rant about NBC Standards & Practices and the "France/French" incident. NBC did not air the former episode, and Peppard did not appear on another game show in his lifetime.
    • The "testimony" incident from Super.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Bert's reaction to blurting out the password, which he did quite often. He gets a particularly good moment here.
    • He also had a pretty good reaction when he discovered he broke the Magic Toaster after dropping it.
  • Opening Narration: Several over the course of the run. The 1971-1974 version, as done by John Harlan, is quoted at the top of the page.
    • Ludden credited long time Password player Carol Burnett with coming up with the narration "It's more than Password... it's Password Plus!" Near the end of the run, "It's more than Password" was dropped.
    • Super shortened it to "It's Password... It's Super Password!"
  • Press X to Die: Anyone who ever gave the password as a clue. This may or may not be justified as a case of Ignore the Disability, as the word is right in front of them, and that's probably the same reason that Bert Convy himself did it more than once.
  • Product Placement: The NBC versions were quite fond of this in the Bonus Round with Nabisco and Geritol showing up frequently. Q-Tip, Qantas and Xerox also showed up; justified since not too many words begin with Q, and especially X. Bert Convy got tripped up by Charmin on Plus, asking "What the heck is that?" when it came up.
  • Replaced the Theme Tune:
    • The ABC version changed its set and theme tune for the transition to Password All-Stars. Robert Israel's synthesized theme was replaced by Bob Cobert's "Bicentennial Funk".
    • In 1963, the first theme—Kurt Rehfeld's Holiday Jaunt—was replaced with a Bob Cobert composition many believe to be called "You Have the Password."
  • Running Gag:
    • It was common on Super for someone to throw a roll of tape at Bert if they thought he was on the verge of blurting out the answer — something that actually did happen frequently enough that it practically was another Running Gag in itself. On at least one occasion, Bert did end up applying the tape to his mouth following one of his gaffes.
    • Also on Super, if neither Bert nor the teams knew the answer to a puzzle, Bert would sometimes ask announcer Gene Wood whether he knew, to which Gene would always cheerfully respond, "Yep!"
    • Another Super one- The guy working the board looking like Santa (tends to come up more in the Christmas week shows, of course).
  • Scenery Porn: All of the show's sets were bright and colorful with attention paid to every detail (including the parts not normally seen on-camera)... except the Million-Dollar set. It might have been cool to some, but it certainly wasn't bright or colorful — most likely to emphasize the higher stakes of this version of the game.
  • Secret Word: In this game show contestants had to guess a secret word through a series of one-word clues.
  • Selective Enforcement: In all versions, hand gestures were forbidden but the judges haphazardly enforced this rule. Here is a pretty bad example of a gesture slipping by the judges.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Every once in a while the writers included a password that had a meaning for one of the celebs, such as "Secret" for Betsy Palmer, "Crane" for Bob Crane, "Ukulele" for Arthur Godfrey, "Court" for The Defenders' E.G. Marshall, "Huddle" for Frank Gifford — and, perhaps most famously, "Skipper" for Bob Denver.
    • Lest we forget "Miser" for Jack Benny. His clue to his partner: "Me!"
    • It once happened in reverse — Florence Henderson got the word "Bunch" about three years before she became Mrs. Brady.
    • One Plus episode had the first three puzzle clues "STUFFED" "RED" "HEAD". Lucille Ball jokingly guessed "Me!" (The actual answer was cabbage.)
    • One Super puzzle during the week that Star Trek stars James Doohan and Michael Dorn played against each other contained the word "Scottish". Dorn gave the clue "Doohan", and despite all the nodding he did to the other side he could not make his partner understand that he did not say "Doing".
    • The title character of the short-lived Game Show Network Burt Luddin's Love Buffet was a Shout-Out to the hosts of 'Plus' and 'Super' (albeit with both spellings slightly changed).
  • Show the Folks at Home: "The password is..."
  • Signing-Off Catchphrase: Allen Ludden always ended his versions of the show with a password of the day.
  • Sound-Effect Bleep: On one episode of Super, Vicki Lawrence gave a clue that had to be censored with the Ca$hword sound effect.
  • Syndication Title: Ludden explained to the folks at home that the answer "Jim Rockford" was accepted for one "Plus" puzzle with the answer The Rockford Files because the series had just entered syndication under the new title Jim Rockford, Private Investigator.
  • Trash the Set: The aforementioned incident with Betty and the Magic Toaster.
  • Urban Legend: It has been rumored for many years that an African-American contestant (or sometimes, an African-American celebrity such as Nipsey Russell), given the clue of "Doe" (for the word "Deer"), answered with "Knob". According to Snopes, there is no record of this having ever happened; further, if it did happen and it was on CBS (daytime) or ABC, there's a pretty good reason why there's no record.note 
  • Who Wants to Be "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?": Million-Dollar, natch, with the Money Ladder and the overall rapid-fire restructuring of the main game. (And, of course, Regis.)
  • Word Association Test: The Game.

"Allen Ludden saying the Password for today is "TV Tropes". TV Tropes collects and expands on conventions and devices in creative works, such as Password, and we think it's a pretty nice place. Think about it. See you next time, I hope."

Alternative Title(s): Super Password, Password Plus