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Series / The Hollywood Squares

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"One of these stars is sitting in the Secret Square, and the
contestant who picks it first could win a prize package worth
over $XX,000. Which star is it?"

"The areas of questions designed for the celebrities and possible bluff answers are discussed with some celebrities in advance. In the course of their briefing, actual questions and/or answers may be discerned by the celebrities."
Kenny Williams, reciting the famous legalese during the ending credits of the original version.

Love child of the Game Show and the Panel Game, produced by Merrill Heatter and Bob Quigley for NBC and syndication from 1966–81. Peter Marshall, "the Master of The Hollywood Squares", played host to nine celebrity panelists and two contestants in each episode. The stars were seated in an oversized Tic-Tac-Toe grid; the contestants, dubbed "Mr. X" and "Miss Circle", agreed or disagreed with the stars' often comical and bawdy answers to esoteric questions.

Infamous for featuring stars who were past their prime, the show ended its daytime run in 1980 due to the machinations of NBC's Fred Silverman, who hated the show (partially because he loathed game shows in general, but mainly because he'd passed up the Squares when they were in development at CBS, and was obviously not happy that it had hit it big for NBC) and ultimately succeeded in killing it (mainly by switching the timeslot around a lot). The 1980–81 syndicated season, which became a daily show, taped in Las Vegas (at the now-defunct Rivera), and was ultimately the death knell for the Marshall era due to various issues. Shortly afterwards, Filmways (which had acquired Heatter-Quigley in the late 1960s) merged with Orion Pictures, resulting in their stewardship over the franchise for the rest of the decade.

The show was brought back multiple times after, first as a mashup with Match Game called The Match Game-Hollywood Squares Hour, which lasted from 1983 to 1984 on NBC; it didn't last long due to various reasons, including not having Peter Marshall as host of the Squares portion (being replaced by Jon Bauman, Bowzer of Sha Na Na) and formatting issues on the part of Mark Goodson (who didn't want to provide the Squares celebrities with any bluff answers, which led to most questions in the Squares segment being true/false or multiple choice).

Orion brought the show back again as The New Hollywood Squares for syndication in 1986; John Davidson, who had substituted for Paul Lynde on the daytime panel, emceed; this run came to an end in 1989. Shortly afterwards, Orion went bankrupt and sold the format to King World in 1991.

After a few false starts during the decade, another syndicated revival premiered in 1998, now produced by Whoopi Goldberg (who also served as center square) with Tom Bergeron hosting. Whoopi left the show after the 2001-02 season, and it was given a cosmetic overhaul for the next, with a floating "H2" present in the new logo and Henry Winkler now onboard as producer. Ultimately, this run ended in 2004. Reruns of this version can currently be seen on Pluto TV.

A hip-hop–themed revival, Hip-Hop Squares, premiered on MTV2 on May 22, 2012. Yes, you read that right. While serviceable, the show didn't live to see 2013, but VH1 revived the series on March 13, 2017, allowing it to run for three more seasons until September 17, 2019. Nashville Squares, another music-themed spinoff with a Country/Western theme, premiered on CMT on November 1, 2019, with Bob Saget hosting. This iteration lasted until November 29 of the same year.

2023 saw the announcement of another revival, this one instead given the British version's title Celebrity Squares (possibly to refer to the world of celebrities stretching beyond Hollywood), for BET. In September 2023, it was announced that the revival had jumped ship to Hip Hop Squares' second home of VH1, with DC Young Fly hosting and Kevin Hart producing. The show, which is essentially the VH1 Hip Hop Squares with a new name, debuted on October 17, 2023. A new prime time series for CBS has been greenlit and will premiere at midseason of the 2024-25 season.

The format has two Market Based Titles: Celebrity Squares on ITV and Personality/All-Star Squares on Australia's Network Ten. Obviously, these shows are named that because Hollywood would refer specifically to America there.

This show provides examples of:

  • Affectionate Nickname: Tom would often call Whoopi "Whoopster", and the off-screen judge "Skippy Trebek" (allegedly Alex Trebek's long-lost brother; in reality, he was producer/writer Stephen Radosh - more known as the creator of Catchphrase).
  • And Starring:
    • The opening speech for the Marshall version almost invariably finished with "...or Paul Lynde, all in The Hollywood Squares!"
    • The first four years of the Bergeron version (1998-2002, the pre-"H2" era) would list off all the celebrities who would appear in the episode in question, always saving Whoopi Goldberg for last. When they do mention her, the announcer says, "And starring Whoopi Goldberg!"
    • During the "H2" days, it would be, "And this week's center square, (insert name here)", as there wasn't a permanent center square until the next season, when Martin Mull took over.
  • The Announcer: Kenny Williams handled the entirety of the Marshall era. Shadoe Stevens (best known as Casey Kasem's replacement on American Top 40) did both the Davidson version — on which he often pulled double duty as a panelist — and the first four seasons of the Bergeron version. After Shadoe left the latter, Jeffrey Tambor announced Season 5 — during which he also often pulled double duty as a panelist — and John Moschitta announced Season 6. Fill-ins included Shadoe's brother Richard and Howard Stern (!) on the Davidson version, while Henry Winkler (also executive producer at the time) sometimes filled in for Tambor. "DJ Ms. Nix" (real name: Nicole Lyn Hill) was the announcer on the original version of Hip Hop Squares; Ice Cube is the announcer on the revival. Nashville Squares does not have an announcer.
  • April Fools' Day:
    • In a clip frequently shown on other shows, the crew played a prank on Davidson. During a normal round the female contestant angrily accuses the male contestant of looking over Davidson's podium at his answer cards. As John increasingly gets a 'deer in the headlights' look, the female contestant gets up from her chair and confronts the male contestant, finally pushing him over the edge of raised platform. Unknown to the stunned Davidson, both 'contestants' were actually stunt people.
    • Another Davidson April Fools' ep had Joan Rivers hosting instead, with John taking the center square.
    • Repeated and cranked up to eleven for Tom Bergeron on a show taped to air on April Fool's Day 2003. At one point the male and female contestants were engaged in a heated argument, after which the male contestant made the female contestant break down in tears. Bergeron, who had even more of a deer-in-the-headlights look than Davidson had, comforted the "poor woman" as he sent the show to commercial (of course, unbeknownst to him, the camera was still running). At the end of the episode, giggling executive producer Henry Winkler (at the time, also filling in as announcer) announced over the intercom, "Hey Tom... April Fools."
    • There was a special "It Just Ain't Right" week during H2, where viewers could win prizes based on how many (deliberate) mistakes they could spot. The mistakes ranged from the contestants swapping positions to having "I Love Hollywood" as the theme (which was oddly surreal when combined with the "H2"-era graphics).
  • Aren't You Going to Ravish Me?: This was one of the common topics of Rose Marie questions.
    Peter Marshall: In a recent PARADE magazine article, it was stated that a woman being attacked should yell out two words. First she should yell "Help!", what should she then yell?
    Rose Marie: "More!"

    Peter: Rose, studies indicate that women are attacked one night of the week much more than any other. Which night is it?
    Rose Marie: With my luck, tonight.
  • Ascended Extra: As already mentioned, John Davidson was a frequent celebrity guest and substitute for Paul Lynde before he became the host. Shadoe Stevens was the announcer for most of Davidson's run, and late in the first season, also became a permanent panel member for the rest of that version's run (in addition to filling in as host for a week in October 1988).
    • Martin Mull was a regular during the Bergeron run and became the semi-permanent center square in its final season (though other celebrities would take his place for some themed weeks during that season).
  • Audience Participation: During the H2 seasons of the Bergeron version, viewers could send in questions of their own for potential use on the show; anyone whose question was used received a special Squares t-shirt. The show also had a number viewers could call to give feedback on the show, with some of their comments being played over the closing credits of certain episodes.
  • Big Win Sirens: Any time a car was won in the Davidson version.
  • Bonus Round:
    • The Marshall version featured a very simple one, debuting in 1976 — the winning contestant would pick a celebrity, who would open an envelope that contained a prize; whatever was in the envelope was what the contestant would win. The top prize was $5,000; when this was transferred to the syndicated version in 1978, a new car was added to the envelopes.
    • The first two seasons of the Davidson version had an endgame similar to the ABC era of Split Second (1972) (though it was actually recycled wholesale from a previous Rick Rosner/Orion game show, the short-lived Just Men!, which aired on NBC in 1983 and was hosted by Betty White). The winner choose one of five keys, then try to find which car out of five displayed in-studio the key would start. After having chosen a "good-luck celebrity" from the panel to stand by, the contestant would try to start the car; if it started, they won and were retired right there and then. If not, the contestant continued onto another game; if they made it to the bonus round a second time, the car they'd chosen prior would be eliminated. If a champion made it five days, they won the last car remaining. (At which point [also used on occasional Friday shows] all nine celebrities would join in.) New cars are used every week, so the champion's reign carried over to the next week and they won the following game, the lowest valued cars would be removed and the champion would select a new key from the remaining ones. The final season of the Davidson version used a similar bonus round, but all nine celebrities had a key instead, and the contestant would pick the celebrity rather than the key. No cars would be eliminated, champions would remain until winning a car or defeated.
    • The Bergeron version had three during its run:
      • The "pick a star, win a prize" format from the Marshall version, featuring trips, other prizes like a jukebox, $5,000-$15,000, and a car. It was quickly amended to having to correctly agree/disagree with the star's answer to one final multiple-choice question to claim the prize.
      • The contestant would pick a celebrity (revealing a money amount from $1,000-$5,000) to stand beside them while they answered up to 10 rapid-fire questions within a minute, in what was dubbed "The Fastest 60 Seconds on Television." The contestant could confer with the celebrity if needed, but only the contestant could answer. Afterwards, the player could opt to go double-or-nothing on one final question. The maximum payoff was $100,000; the most won was $60,000.
      • An updated version of the Davidson-era bonus round. One at a time, the contestant picked a celebrity and agreed/disagreed to a statement read about them. After a 30-second time limit, however many correct answers (out of nine total) determined how many "bad keys" would be taken off of a nine-key panel, getting eight or all nine right won automatically (eight would eliminate that many bad keys, so the math is obvious). The contestant picked one from the remaining keys and, depending upon how many times they'd been to said bonus round, tried to either start a car, open a safe (representing cash), or open a steamer trunk (representing a trip). If all nine were won, they simply showed which key is the real one. The prize layout consisted in season 5 of a new car, then $25,000, followed by a trip around the world, then $50,000, and finally $100,000; for season 6, the layout was a vacation, then $10,000, followed by a car, then $25,000, and finally the trip around the world. If a player failed to choose the correct key, they still received "consolation cash" for each symbol earned in the first part ($1,000 apiece in season 5, reduced to $500 in season 6), and for each successive attempt at winning that prize during season 5, one incorrect key was automatically eliminated on the next show.
    • Both iterations of Hip Hop Squares have had one, with both formats being reminiscent of other game shows:
      • The MTV2 version's bonus format was vaguely similar to how Break the Bank (1976) (Barry & Enright's attempt to copy this show) played its game. The contestant picked from any of the three rows on the board. Each celebrity on that row answers a question; one celebrity is right and two are wrong. The contestant picked which celebrity they thought was right; if the pick was correct, they won $2,500.
      • The VH1 revival's bonus format borrows elements from Press Your Luck. A light bounces from square to square, and the winning "celebrity fan" must press a button to make it stop; whichever square it stops on then is marked with the player's symbol (X or O, obviously). If the player can make a tic-tac-toe connection in five spins or less, whatever money they won in the front game is doubled.
  • Bonus Space: The Secret Square. Renamed the "G-Spot" for the original version of Hip Hop Squares (the revival does away with this mechanic).
  • Book Ends:
    • During her tenure as the centre square on The New Hollywood Squares, Joan Rivers answered the first question and the last question on the show.
    • The final episode of this same version ended with a clip introducing the stars who had appeared during its first week.
  • Brick Joke: In the 80s edition, a camel was brought into the studio and presented with bowls of hay, apples, and corned beef. Louie Anderson was asked which the camel wouldn't eat.note  In a later round, a celebrity was asked what was travelling through the studio at a speed of Mach one. He replied "Essence of camel."note 
  • Butt-Monkey: Sometimes the host. Frequently Peter Marshall.
    Peter: True or false: Your teeth are about the same size and shape as a pig's.
    Paul Lynde: Look who's talking, beaver face!
    • This nickname became a Brick Joke:
      Peter: According to the familiar quotation, "surely" what "will follow me all the days of my life"?
      Paul: The nickname "beaver face".

      Peter: Your mother was a jackass and your father was a horse. What does that make you?
      Paul: The star in the center square, beaver face!
  • Camp Gay: Paul Lynde. Jim J. Bullock filled this role on Davidson's version. Bruce Vilanch, however, subverted it — he was gay, but he certainly wasn't camp.
  • The Cast Showoff: When John Davidson hosted, most episodes had at least one "musical" question per show. Invariably, it was John singing a lyric or two, then throwing to the square to complete it (or not).
  • Catchphrase:
    • "(X/Circle) gets the square." Alternatively, from the Marshall version, "We put (an X/a circle) there."
    • "[Name of celebrity] for the block." and "[Name of celebrity] for the win."
    • "Hello Stars!" "Hi, Peter/Tom!"
    • "I would have gone with [name of celebrity] for the win/block, but this might work out for you."
    • Gilbert Gottfried, when asked a non-standard question: "I know this one, because <outlandish reason>." Sometimes with a weary "why?" from the others in the middle.
    • "You Fool!" for Penn Jillette whenever a contestant incorrectly agreed or disagreed with him. (See the eponymous entry below for how Gilbert Gottfried would etch this phrase into the annals of Squares history.) Whenever a contestant correctly agreed or disagreed with him, he would respond "Good thinking!"
  • Confetti Drop: Depends on the version, mainly if a car was won in the bonus game:
    • On the Davidson version, Balloons were dropped.
    • On the Bergeron version, what dropped on big wins tended to vary, although most of the time it would be confetti.
    • On the 2015 revival of the UK version, gold confetti would drop when the main jackpot was won.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • On Storybook Squares, Kenny Williams would reprise his role of town crier from the very first Heatter-Quigley series, Video Village.
    • A few times on Bergeron's version, they'd refer to John Davidson; during the Game Show Weeks, this was prevalent as Peter Marshall and Rose Marie were present for the first and second weeks, respectively.
  • Cool Old Guy: Charley Weaver. Martin Mull in the Bergeron era- he even called himself Charley Weaver during the first Game Show Week.
  • Couch Gag: During the H2 era, there was a scrolling electronic marquee mounted below the host/contestant area, and often when coming back from or going to a commercial break, it would display all sorts of funny stuff, ranging from puns and references to the celebs to weird messages; one notable one was "Help, I'm trapped under the podium!" Occasionally, they'd run backwards on the marquee and scroll by the right way superimposed on the screen, and during the 2002-03 season, the ticker would display something like "Let's go behind the Squares" and the video square underneath would zoom into the camera to feature a short behind-the-scenes funny moment before going to commercial.
  • Crossover:
  • A Day in the Limelight:
    • At least twice, John Davidson got to sit on the panel while someone else (in one case, ALF) got to host. Announcer Shadoe Stevens also hosted one week while Davidson was unavailable, and Howard Stern served as announcer that week.
    • Peter Marshall was a panelist on the first Game Show Week during Bergeron's run. Things came full-circle when he and Tom traded places for one episode.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Tom Bergeron, big time.
  • Derivative Works:
    • The Marshall version included The Storybook Squares for kids and families to play. It included more kid-friendly celebrities such as Big Bird. (Is that an inversion of "Sesame Street" Cred or what?)
    • Merrill Heatter would later recycle the "celebrities in a ginormous panel" motif on his later shows Battlestars and All-Star Blitz (the latter of which also recycled Peter Marshall).
  • "Do It Yourself" Theme Tune: Whoopi Goldberg sang the theme song herself for the first three seasons of the Bergeron version.
  • Double Entendre: About half of the words out of the panelists' mouths, especially in the Bergeron version.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness:
    • The very earliest episodes had games dragging out due to the panelists drawing out their gag answers for too long. Less than a month into the run, executive producer Merrill Heatter sent out a memo stating he intended to do as much editing as necessary to fit in 20 questions per show; the celebrities got the hint, and heading into the end of November 1966 the show was played at the pace viewers came to expect.
    • Paul Lynde didn't become the permanent center square until 1968, although he was a center square the second, third and fifth weeks of the daytime series. Early center squares – from between October to December 1966 – included Ernest Borgnine, Buddy Hackett, Bill Bixby, George Jessel, Marty Allen, Glenn Ford, Shelley Berman and Vera Miles. Hackett actually became the first permanent center square from then until 1968.
    • The first three years used an instrumental version of Jimmie Haskell's "The Silly Song" as its theme music. The theme most associated with the Marshall version, "Bob & Merrill's Theme", wouldn't be implemented until 1969.
    • The Bergeron version originally had front-game payouts similar to the Davidson version for the first four weeksnote ; they were doubled after that. In addition, the Secret Square Stash didn't come until the next season (they'd simply move it to another star); some sound effects were different, and the endgame was a bit different (see above).
    • For the first few weeks of the H2 era, it was fairly obvious both the contestants and Bergeron weren't quite used to the new bonus game, as Bergeron's delivery in the questions wasn't very fast and the contestants similarly struggled to pick celebs quickly or in any consistent order. Eventually Bergeron and the contestants both got used to this, resulting in a speedier question part and the contestants often picking celebs in a side-to-side, row-by-row fashion.
  • End-of-Series Awareness: Toward the end of the H2 run, whenever Martin Mull was seen in the intro, he was seen doing things like browsing the classifieds, making a "gravestone" for the center square (featuring his name, Paul Lynde's and Whoopi Goldberg's), and for the final week, he held up a sign saying "It's A King World After All"note .
  • Game Show Host: Bert Parks hosted the 1965 pilot. Peter Marshall hosted the series proper from 1966 to 1981, followed by John Davidson from 1986 to 1989, and Tom Bergeron from 1998 to 2004. Peter Rosenberg hosted the original MTV2 version of Hip Hop Squares, followed by DeRay Davis for the VH1 revival. Bob Saget hosted Nashville Squares.
  • Game Show Winnings Cap: In all versions, champions could stay on for as much as five days (with the above exceptions). In the Marshall run, this awarded a bonus prize. At first a car, then a cruise/two cars/$5000, then two cars and a cruise, then two cars and $10,000, then a car/trip for four/$10,000.
  • Guest Host:
    • On the John Davidson version, Shadoe Stevens, Jm. J Bullock, Joan Rivers, and ALF all got to do this. During Shadoe's week, had Howard Stern took his usual spot as bottom center square/announcer, and for Joan's April Fool's Day stint, John sat on the panel.
    • Rosie O'Donnell hosted a round of the Bergeron version during the Whoopi Goldberg era.
    • Whoopi hosted part of one round during the second season of the Bergeron version.
    • Peter Marshall returned to guest host for Game Show Hosts Week on the Bergeron version.
    • The Bergeron era also had a rare example of guest announcers: Rod Roddy announced the first Game Show Hosts Week, and Shadoe returned one last time to do the second. In addition, author/entertainer "Mother Love" announced Valentine's-themed weeks during the H2 seasons.
  • Home Game: Watkins-Strathmore made two in 1967 and 1968. Ideal made one in 1974, with Peter Marshall pictured on the box; this was reissued under the Celebrity Squares name in Britain, with the only real changes being the name and Peter Marshall's photo on the box being swapped out for Bob Monkhouse's. Milton Bradley made two in 1980 and 1986. Parker Brothers made one in 1999 (cited as being the best of the bunch), and Tiger made an LCD handheld game that same year. GameTek made computer versions for MS-DOS and the Nintendo Entertainment System. A video game, based on the later-era Bergeron format, was released for the Wii and PlayStation 3 on October 5, 2010.
  • Hotter and Sexier:
    • Bergeron's version was far more overt in its sexual overtones than previous versions.
    • Both versions of Hip Hop Squares also fall under this (a given with the hip hop theme), but the VH1 revival is loads more sexually tinged than the original MTV2 version.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: During the infamous "YOU FOOL!" episode, Tom promised that if they ran out of time playing that game, "we're all going out for drinks."
  • Instant-Win Condition:
    • Claiming the majority of the board results in a "Five-Square Win", even if you don't have three-in-a-row, so every round will have a winner. The rule of having to claim it yourself (as opposed to your opponent getting a question wrong) applies if you already have four squares.
    • During the first two seasons of the Davidson run, any contestant who won five days in a row automatically won a car and retired undefeated.
    • Getting eight or nine questions right in H2's bonus round format was also an instant win, as it automatically eliminated every bad key.
  • Jerkass:
    • Paul Lynde would often belittle the contestants during the commercial break (and sometimes on the show, too). He sometimes took this a step further by belittling fellow celebrities as well (most notably Tanya Tucker).
    • Redd Foxx (of Sanford and Son) was also this way to many of his fellow female panelists, and was at times lecherous, especially if they were younger and physically very attractive. Peter Marshall recalled in his autobiography that one time, when actress Totie Fields was on the same panel as Foxx, she saw him getting downright creepy with one of the stars (Marshall said it was Sandy Duncan), took note ... and then confronted him during a taping break. Marshall — who recalled that he had also talked with Duncan backstage during the taping break, found out what was going on, and had the producer switch Duncan's seat with Fields' — said he never found out what Fields told Foxx, but he never acted up again on the show and left the girls alone from then on.
  • Joisey:
    Peter Marshall: Marty, we know you're from Pittsburgh, right? OK, what does a guy from Philadelphia dip his pretzel in?
    Marty Allen: A girl from New Jersey!
  • Know-Nothing Know-It-All: Inverted with a famous Secret Square question with Art Fleming, host of Jeopardy!. Art was asked a multiple-choice question (as all Secret Square questions are) about tennis, which he later admitted did not know the answer to, and just blurted out a guess. The (rather naive) contestant remarked that since he was Art Fleming, he just had to be correct. Luckily for her, he was right, and the contestant won a $11,000 prize package.
  • Little "No": On the Bergeron version, a squeaky male's "Oh no!" signaled a car loss.
  • Losing Horns: Type C on the Davidson version for a car loss (the Mocking Sing-Song was played on the organ); Type B for "nine keys" bonus losses on the Bergeron version, excluding cars.
  • Mythology Gag: For VH1's Hip-Hop Squares, the celebrities aren't enclosed in boxes, but rather have the Xs and Os displayed on their backdrops, rear-projection style- a lot like how it worked on The Match Game-Hollywood Squares Hour. The contestant areas, meanwhile, has patterns of Xs and Os behind the contestants that resemble the ones of the Davidson version.
  • No OSHA Compliance: Averted! You might think that giant tic-tac-toe board would be a deathtrap, especially during the original run, but according to this fansite, the original board (which was mainly scaffolding with a front and small floors and such) managed to survive an earthquake aftershock that struck the NBC Studios in 1971—and according to some accounts, with Paul Lynde still in the center square! The later versions were more solid looking and had backs to the squares (though during the Bergeron years, whenever someone picked the Secret Square that square would turn the show into Seizure Squares, and halfway through the run they decided to start putting giant neon logos on the floor).
  • Opening Narration:
    Kenny Williams: One of these stars is sitting in the Secret Square, and the contestant who picks it first could win a prize package worth over $x,000! Which star is it? (The stars are introduced one by one, finishing with the center square, usually...) ...or Paul Lynde... all in The Hollywood Squares! And now here's the Master of The Hollywood Squares, Peter Marshall!
  • Panel Game: Hollywood Squares is one of the most widely-known and popular game shows in this format, with Match Game as its only real rival.
  • Parody Assistance: Given the show's comedic bent, the cast and crew have helped a few times with parody skits. Peter Marshall, Paul Lynde and Rose Marie appeared in "The Towering Squares", a mash up of this and The Towering Inferno where the game board (the actual thing) catches on fire (really just some smoke) and the celebs try to evacuate (despite Marshall trying to keep the game going); this was from a mid 70s Rich Little special. Much later, Marshall hosted the East Hollywood Squares, where the panel was made up of entirely black celebrities. And Mad TV had a few skits during the H2 era with Bergeron himself hosting.
  • Pilot: A 1965 pilot for the original version was hosted by Bert Parks for CBS, but it was passed up. NBC only took on the show a year later on the condition that Parks be replaced by Peter Marshall and the rest is history. The 1985 version also had a pilot.
  • Pooled Funds: After one contestant opened a safe full of money on the Bergeron version, he threw the bills on the floor and made "cash angels" out of them.
  • Pretty in Mink: Furs were often part of a Secret Square prize package (with female celebrities frequently modeling them) and generally from Dicker and Dicker of Beverly Hills. Although politically incorrect now, they were stereotypical of the dress code of the day.
  • Progressive Jackpot: The Secret Square, on the NBC daytime and the second through fifth seasons of the Bergeron version. To wit:
    • The NBC version (typically composed of merchandise prizes) began at about $1,000 (in 1966); the base amount increased to approximately $1,500 and then $2,000 by the late 1960s and early 1970s, and increased by $1,000-2,000 until claimed. During the late 1960s, the top jackpot was just over $11,000note ; during this era, a five-time champion automatically won the Secret Square if it had not yet been won, in addition to the regular bonus prize. By the mid-1970s, new Secret Squares generally started in the $3,000 range, and the show's final couple of years (1978-1980) started at around $3,500 to $4,500, with the value increasing by as much as $6,000 for each show it wasn't won; it was common for Secret Square jackpots to reach $20,000, and at least one reached $35,000 before being won; unwon Secret Square jackpots, by this time, were no longer part of an undefeated champion's guaranteed take.
    • The Bergeron version saw the "Secret Square Stash" usually begin with a trip (of about $2,000-$4,000) or a gift card and added prizes until claimed; the highest-valued Stash during the Bergeron era was worth $50,731. For whatever reason (likely thanks to No Budget), the final Bergeron season modified it to be a singular prize that varied per game, that didn't carry over (much like the Davidson run).
  • Rattling Off Legal:
    • Kenny Williams' quote, seen at the top of this page.
    • Peter Marshall before the Secret Square game: "The stars are briefed before the show to help them with their bluffs, but they are hearing the actual questions for the first time."
  • Rearrange the Song:
    • The famous Marshall theme got a Disco/Supertrain-style update in 1979, which was used until the end in 1981.
    • Stormy Sachs re-arranged the Davidson theme in that version's third season.
    • "I Love Hollywood" was redone for Whoopi's final season.
    • The H2 seasons of the Bergeron version used "Hollywood Square Biz", a re-recording of Teena Marie's 1981 classic hit "Square Biz" done by Lady T herself.
  • Rules Spiel: Each version had its own, but the most famous came courtesy of Peter Marshall. Like so:
    Marshall: Object for the player is to get three stars in a row, either across, up and down, or diagonally. It is up to them to figure out if the stars are giving a correct answer or just making one up; that's how they get the squares.
    • And after a failed block attempt: "We can't give you that square, [opponent]. You have to earn it yourself."
  • Running Gag: Big Bird almost always referred to Peter Marshall as "Mr. Marshmallow" (a variant on how he would mispronounce Mr. Hooper's name over on his home show), while Oscar the Grouch referred to him as "Mr. Mush-Face".
  • Shout-Out:
    • When Susan Stafford appeared to model prizes for Game Show Week, she was introduced as being from "classic Wheel of Fortune".
    • Sometimes questions would be about another celebrity in another square. After the contestant agrees or disagrees with the celeb they picked, Peter would sometimes ask the celeb the question was about to answer instead of giving it himself.
    • When the show played Radio City Music Hall in New York City for November 1987 sweeps, host John Davidson said “That’s Incredible!”, a nod to an earlier series by that name that he previously hosted. This statement was meant to reference the large audience at Radio City Music Hall (there were six thousand people).
  • Show the Folks at Home: The location of the Secret Square.
  • Spin-Off:
    • The Storybook Squares, beginning in 1969 and popping up sporadically during the Marshall run.
    • Hip Hop Squares, which ran for most of 2012 and was revived from 2017-19.
    • 2019's Nashville Squares can be considered a spinoff of this and the above Hip Hop revival.
  • Transatlantic Equivalent: Multiple ones, but the best-known one would be Britain's Celebrity Squares, on ITV. Running first from 1975 to 1979 with British legend Bob Monkhouse at the helm, it was closely modeled after Marshall's version — it even had most of the tapes wiped. When the show returned from 1993 to 1997 (again with Monkhouse), it was now heavily influenced by the Davidson era, complete with the five cars in-studio, though there wasn't a key-related endgame to earn one. An unsold pilot was pitched to Channel 5 in the early 2000s (with Joan Rivers (!) as center square), but wasn't picked up. The show returned again in 2014, now with Warwick Davis as the ringleader; this version took its own sense of style and direction, and also stretched out the show to run for an hour (at least for the first series). This version had dismal ratings and was canned in 2015. Should be noted that the UK version predated the US version with having a bonus round. The player had to get nine answers to a question. The 70's version had a top prize of a score augmentation to £1,000 though with a risk of losing the front game money; they had a second option of an additional £100. The 90's run had a random choice of five cars for a win, while the Davis run awarded £1,000 per right answer with all nine winning £20,000 (£25,000 in that version's second series).
  • Trash the Set: A Lighter and Softer example occurred on one Friday episode during the Davidson run. The show was set to tape in Hollywood, Florida the next week, and the crew was running short of time to pack up the set. They started doing it during the game — pulling down the backdrop, hauling away the sign with the show's title, and so on. By the end of the episode, the stars had vacated their squares and were standing/sitting on a set of risers, holding up "X" and "O" placards to show who had claimed which square.
  • TV Never Lies: Averted when the naive young contestant, a pretty girl (as it turned out) who was counting on Jeopardy! host Art Fleming — who had gained a reputation as a storehouse of trivia — to have the correct answer to a Secret Square question about tennis ("In 1938, who won the Wimbledon women's tennis championship?" to which Fleming said the answer was Helen Wills Moody, one of the three choices given). "Art Fleming would never lie. I agree!" As it turned out... Art Fleming was right (!), and the pretty young contestant with the puppy-dog eyes won an $11,000 prize package (a then-record). Fleming admitted in several latter-day interviews that he was merely guessing and didn't know a thing about tennis.
  • Vacation Episode: The tradition of road shows began with John Davidson’s version. They would sometimes tape outdoors in Hollywood, Florida. They also played Radio City Music Hall in New York City. Bergeron’s version also taped episodes at the Hammerstein Theater in New York City in November 2000.
  • Who Names Their Kid "Dude"?: Bergeron's version once had a female contestant named Ketchup.
  • You Fool!: In the Bergeron era, Penn Jillette would often respond to wrong answers by going completely over-the-top in shouting how wrong the contestants were. This led to one instance where Gilbert Gottfried was the only unclaimed square, and after the second failed attempt began yelling "You fool!" in imitation of Jillette, who had done it earlier that episode. Gottfried ended up being called on a total of seven times before someone answered correctly; by the end the whole panel was shouting "You fool!" in unison. Also an Overly Long Gag, and a rare example of one that became even funnier each time it recurred. Video here and here.


Video Example(s):


"Watch C-Span"

You know a show is boring when even a children's television host is throwing shade at it.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (17 votes)

Example of:

Main / TakeThat

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