For years the popular series Hollywood Squares ran, was redone and eventually sizzled out. The huge and widely famous cast behind the show did not always see eye-to-eye, however. Find out the juiciest details from behind the scenes of Hollywood Squares here!
The Original Hollywood Squares (1966-1981)
During its debut, Hollywood Squares, hosted by the one and only Peter Marshall, captured the hearts of America with familiar celebrity faces. In an attempt to achieve a perfect tic-tac-toe across the “square board,” everyday people would come on the show and determine whether or not the celebrities gave the right answers.
Although this show was full of silliness and humor, Hollywood Squares became seriously admired as one of the greatest game shows of all time. Originally the NBC show would air at 11:30 AM and did so for 3,536 episodes. It controlled the ratings until 1976.
Stars Of The Original Squares
Big name stars of the 60s, 70s and 80s were welcomed to the show on the original Hollywood Squares version that ran until 1981. Paul Lynde was among the favorites that was featured on at least 800 different episodes, along with Wally Cox, Vincent Price, and Rose Marie.
Although they were well known for the TV and movie roles, the humorous and entertaining celebrities would be invited back based on how much the audience enjoyed seeing them. These four stars were considered top dog, but there was hundreds of others that made appearances on the epic game show over the years.
Nighttime Hollywood Squares (1968)
After airing at its 11:30 AM time slot for so long, Squares was eventually run at night as a mid-season replacement for 60s sitcom Accidental Family in ’68. Through syndication, Hollywood Squares was aired during both the day and nighttime during the original show’s final season in 1980.
The slot times were not the only difference between the shows, however, as the daytime series featured a best two-out-three match between a veteran champ and opponent. The nighttime program displayed a game between the same two contestants competing for money. Prizes between the original and syndicated versions of the show also differed, in addition to the way the game ended each episode.
A Zinger Paradise
When comedians and big personalities made appearances on the show, Hollywood Squares almost became a mini stand-up opportunity. Hilarious actors like Paul Lynde were featured on permanent squares leaving Peter, the contestants, audience and the rest of the guest celebrities with tears in their eyes.
Often a guest would offer a ridiculous and outlandish answer before submitting a proper one just to keep the show light and entertaining, and the audience loved it. Almost rarely by the end of its original season would celebrities initially answer in a serious manner. This fabulous generation of jokers was able to bring personalized hilarity to the show until its last airing in 1981.
The Secret Square
During the daytime showings, the Secret Square game would feature a “random” square as the special square that would bring the contestant a bonus prize if they correctly agreed or disagreed with the celebrity. The prize packages varied between money and outlandish gifts, but most of the time cash or trips were given.
The question for the Secret Square was always enclosed in a special envelope and came in multiple-choice form. Just as the plots of the game show were modified based on the airing time, the prizes fell along the same guidelines. At times trips and cars were obtainable during both slots, however, and contestants won some incredible prize packages.
As one of the three spin-offs that Hollywood Squares initiated, Storybook Squares was a fun game show for children based upon the original game sitcom. The program would air on Saturday mornings and would feature fictional characters from popular television shows like Sesame Street and others.
Often, fairytale characters and historical figures were also used throughout the show that ran during 1969 and was eventually brought back from 1976-1977. Marshall revealed in an interview with E! True Hollywood Story that he enjoyed the concept of the show but the introductions of the characters was far too time consuming for a half-hour time slot.
The Match-Game Hollywood Squares Hour
The second of the spin-off of the trilogy to air was the Match-Game Hollywood Squares Hour that aired from 1983-1984. The hour-long program featured Match Game hosts Gene Rayburn and Jon Bauman.
Rayburn would take the reigns of the Match Game segment of the show for the first half-hour and Bauman would assume the role of host over the Hollywood Squares portion of the show that followed. Whoever won Match Game was would play against the remaining champion for the Hollywood Squares prizes. Eventually the program was cancelled in 1984 and was replaced by then-popular soap opera Santa Barbara.
The New Hollywood Squares (1986-1989)
After a long hiatus, Century Towers Productions decided to bring back the popular program in 1986, with John Davidson as the host. Originally a regular panelist on the original Hollywood Squares, Davidson was somewhat of a crowd favorite so executive producer Rick Rosner decided to feature him in the leading role.
With the permanent center square filling with former Hollywood Squares panelist Joan Rivers and announcer Shadoe Stevens, the remake adopted the same rules as the original game show and ran for three years. It even included the signature Secret Square that was used during the second game of each show but the prize did not increase by show if the celebrity was not chosen.
Round Three’s A Charm! (1998-2004)
Finally, in another attempt, Hollywood Squares returned for its final season in 1998. With well-known television host Tom Bergeron in charge this time, the celebrity game show did pretty well. After acquiring rights to the show in ’91, King World Productions brought Hollywood Squares back for its last ever season with comedian/actress and former panelist Whoopi Goldberg as executive producer.
Whoopi was featured as the permanent center square with Bruce Vilanch, Gilbert Gottfried, Martin Mull and Caroline Rhea as regular panelists. After Whoopi’s departure in 2002, Henry Winkler was brought on as an executive producer and semi-regular panelist Jeffrey Tambor was featured as the announcer. Finally ditching the permanent celeb square after all those years, the square featured a new celeb face every week like Ellen DeGeneres, Alec Baldwin and Simon Cowell.
Reinstating The Permanent Center Square
Hollywood Squares isn’t ever the same without an iconic comedian playing the special role of the center square! As mentioned before, when Goldberg assumed the executive producer position, she assigned herself as the permanent center square for four years until her decision to leave the program due to a salary dispute.
In the center square and producing from behind-the-scenes, Whoopi was raking in $10 million a year thanks to the show, but was asked to take a pay cut following her third season to which she refused. With no animosity between the two, Whoopi said goodbye to Bergeron in 2002 and hello to The View in 2007.
After a long time away from the podium, Peter Marshall was asked to host Game Show Week in 2002. Since the original Hollywood Square’s ending in 1981, Marshall had not been in the business and was more than eager to get back to his roots.
During the episodes, Marshall delivered the first half of the program while Bergeron wrapped the end in the bonus round. Although Peter was skeptical about Tom when he was first announced as the host in ’98, he later stated that he enjoyed him and felt like he did a very good job as the host of Hollywood Squares (Round 3.)
Bert Parks Almost Hosted The Show
Although we cannot imagine anyone but Peter Marshall hosting the original game show, you may not know that the famous actor, singer and television/radio personality Bert Parks was actually chosen for the pilot episode. On April 15, 165, the segment featured Parks with Charley Weaver, Rose Marie, Wally Cox, Abby Dalton, Morey Amsterdam and Gisele Mackenzie.
With a best-two-out-of-three matches game, each completed game segment was rewarded with $250. Although there was no Secret Square, the pilot displayed a similar show to that of the Hollywood Squares that we know and love. Unfortunately, due to several technical errors, the audience that attended the taping physically walked out of the studio and Parks was considered a “terrible host.”
Peter Marshall Almost Starred in Breakfast At Tiffany’s
Back in the 70s, the iconic film Breakfast at Tiffany’s was developed into a musical for which Peter was being considered. With a background in both singing and acting, Peter was seriously being considered for the musical adaptation but turned the role down to host the beloved Hollywood Squares.
After the travesty that was Parks’ pilot episode, producers of the show found Peter on a Kellogg’s commercial and thought he would be perfect for the part, which he was. If Peter had assumed the Breakfast at Tiffany’s role, the direction of the legendary program could have gone very differently. This would be especially true if Parks was granted the role.
Tom Bergeron Then
Through a personal request of producers and brothers of The King World Productions, Tom Bergeron was summoned to Los Angeles to work with Whoopi on the returning Hollywood Squares and they loved him. Although Bergeron wasn’t sure if he wanted to take the job, he was apparently the only auditioning host that wasn’t completely intimidated by Whoopi.
For the next six years Bergeron lit up the stage, four of them with Whoopi and two with Happy Days favorite Henry Winkler and co-producer Michael Levitt. As if he wasn’t already an American favorite, Bergeron established himself for the first time in the game show industry with flying colors and was nominated for five Emmy Awards.
Tom Bergeron Now
Now, as he has ventured outside of the realms of the game show industry, we know and love Tom Bergeron as the signature host of Dancing With The Stars. For 14 years we cracked up to his voice-overs on America’s Funniest Home Videos as one of the greatest hosts the show has ever seen.
After appearing on several television series like Star Trek, Castle and The Nanny, Tom started hosting Dancing With The Stars in 2005. As amazing and busy as his career has been, Bergeron even found time to write I’m Hosting as Fast as I Can: Zen and the Art of Staying Sane in Hollywood in 2009.
John Davidson Then
Before Davidson became the show host of the “new Hollywood Squares,” he was a frequent visitor among the squares. He was even known to mess with contestants with his highly convincing nature although he knew the answer was incorrect.
Debuting in Hollywood as an actor originally in film The Happiest Millionaire, Davidson made a career in films, television shows and Broadway plays until he became one of the four regular guest hosts on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson with 87 episodes under his belt. He did this all before hosting the revived version of the show and his legendary 170-episode feature in the remake of The $100,000 Pyramid.
John Davidson Now
Following the inevitable collapse of the rebirth of Hollywood Squares, Davidson reverted back to his Broadway roots. Starring in The Music Man, The Fabulous Palm Spring Follies, The Fantasticks, and even Wicked in 2013, Davidson has immersed himself in what made him happiest.
John did not let the failure of revived Hollywood Squares get in the way of his career. In fact, just a few years later he was featured as a guest on The Carpenters, Space Encounters and Music! Music! Music! As a family man, Davidson now resides in Lenox, MA as a part of the Openly Secular Coalition.
After an incredible successful acting career with credits like Sister Act, Ghost, Jumpin’ Jack Flash, The Color Purple and many more, Whoopi decided to turn her focus to television in the late 90s. Following films like Rat Race, How Stella Got Her Groove Back and Girl, Interrupted, Whoopi decided to invest in the reinstatement of Hollywood Squares as executive producer.
During her time on the show, she earned four Emmy nominations and established herself as the center square on the show. She built an incredible and instant friendship with talk show host Tom Bergeron. The two took Hollywood Squares back to the top of the charts for four years, until Whoopi left after a payment dispute with the producers arose.
Whoopi Loves Hollywood
One fun fact for those who enjoy the brilliance of Whoopi Goldberg is that she actually sang the “I Love Hollywood” theme song for the show. Much different than the original theme song “The Silly Song” by Jimmie Haskell, the “I Love Hollywood” ballad was composed by Jennifer May Muldaur and Paul David Weinberg.
As Whoopi’s signature vocals were so adored by the production company, a remixed version of her original song was used during the 2001-2002 season just before her departure. Following her dismissal, the “Hollywood Square Biz,” a re-write of “Square Biz” was used for the show and sung by Teena Marie herself.
Peter Marshall Then
Much has been said about former host Peter Marshall, but who exactly was the great man? Peter Marshall started out his career in Hollywood as a side comedian featured with Tommy Noonan. In night clubs, television shows and films like Starlift, The Rookie, and Swingin’ Along, Marshall was a rising star.
With friend Morey Amsterdam already in the industry, Peter got his foot in the door and was offered to fill in for failed pilot host Bert Parks. After he nailed his audition segment, producers immediately wanted Marshall as the host of the game show and the rest was history.
Peter Marshall Dishes Behind-The-Scenes Secrets
Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the show, former host Peter Marshall shared some dirty little secrets about the show with Closer Weekly. Reminiscing on original permanent square holder Paul Lynde, Peter shared that Paul was easily the most adored when it came to fan mail. “I was pretty cute, and Paul Lynde was obviously gay, and he got all these romantic letters from women,” Peter shared with the magazine. Clearly it was his humor and good looks that wooed the women of the 60s, regardless of his interests.
Another frequent visitor of the show was the always fabulous Burt Reynolds. In the exclusive, Peter shared that the female audience was so taken by Reynolds that The Tonight Show hired him after seeing him on Squares, which ultimately led to his acting career. “He was a really good guy” Peter exposed, which is comforting to hear because we always hoped it would be true!
Happy 90th Peter!
In celebration of his 90th birthday, Peter joined comedian/actor Fred Willard at Paley Center to indulge in the shared secrets behind the scenes of Hollywood Squares. Lightly speaking of Paul Lynde, the two joked about the lingering, unspoken memories that Marshall neglected to put in his book Backstage with the Original Hollywood Square.
Throughout the exciting interview, Peter even shared that he almost became the host of the Tonight Show With Johnny Carson due to the fact that the two stars had the same manager in show business, Tom Shields. Peter stated that after meeting Sonny Werblin, Carson fired Shields and Shields in turn sued Carson which initiated an ongoing battle between the two, making it quite difficult for Marshall to guest host the show.
One of the most important characteristics of the show was its writing, done by Harry Friedman, Rowby Goren, Jay Redack, Rick Kellard, Gary Johnson, Steve Levitch and Harold Schneider. Although the stars that were featured on each of the episodes had their own impromptu banter, a major portion of the show was pre-scripted based on the questions given per episode.
What helped set Hollywood Squares apart from other shows was a pleasing banter that although partially scripted, came to life with the stars’ personal touches. The way they could genuinely make each other laugh, especially with the type of quick-witted and entertaining interactions that took place between Karen Valentine and Paul Lynde, drove up the ratings of the show.
Although the relationship between Whoopi and Bergeron was one of the best in television history, it doesn’t mean that Goldberg and Marshall saw eye-to-eye as well. As Marshall stated in the past that he felt the set and show were too “loud” due to Whoopi’s presence, it was not uncommon knowledge that Peter was not a fan of hers. A major reason for Peter’s dislike toward her was the initial decision to remove the Secret Square on the third and last run of the show.
Due to lack of the Secret Square, Whoopi would be chosen as the center square more than the other panelists which led to her controlling a decent portion of camera time and attention. Under hushed voices on set, word was spread that a lot of people did not get along with the comedian/actress, and considering that Marshall was the original host of the show, it makes sense that he was among those who sided against her.
Paul Lynde, The Funniest Square
Winner of two Daytime Emmy Awards, the “zinger” was known as Paul Lynde’s signature response each time he was chosen. Normally poking fun at other actors that were either present or not on the episode, Paul’s responses always left not only the audience but Peter with tears in his eyes. On every episode that featured Lynde, Marshall could be seen engaging in a tit-for-tat banter.
One of the most lovable qualities about the Bewitched actor was his intelligence and devotion to the contestants; he had an earnest and genuine feel to him that made him both funny and charismatic. Lynde appeared on over 800 episodes and was eventually granted the flattering position of the first-ever center square. When newer stars were more recently brought into the iconic center square, like Ellen DeGeneres, they would honor the late actor/comedian before attempting to fill his large shoes.
An Original Emmy Award Winner
Throughout its running, Hollywood Squares was a consistent nominee for several Emmy Awards. Although it fell short to iconic television shows The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson and Three on a Match a few of the years, Hollywood Squares achieved the Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Game Show in 1980, tying with the ever-popular The 20,000 Pyramid.
Paul Lynde won for Entertainer of the Year in ’76 and Marshall won Outstanding Host or Hostess in a Game or Audience Participation Show in ’74, ’75, ’80 and ’81. On top of winning for Best Writing for a Game Show in 1974, the show consistently brought home awards for the category of Outstanding Game or Audience Participation Show.
Hollywood Squares Merchandise
Not only was the show a hit but it brought in a huge sum in merchandise as well. Three different board games based on the original Marshall era were created, one from Davidson’s time and one from Bergeron’s reign over the show. In 2005, the Hollywood Squares game app was released and made the franchise millions. Another, in a hip-hop version, came out in 2006.
The “new” Hollywood Squares sparked a video game frenzy in ’86 followed by Wii, Nintendo, Playstation’s replica of the final season in 2010 based on Bergeron’s version. Even slot machines were created from the brilliant series! Books, magazines, records and collection plates with Marshall’s face on them were released and sold like hot cakes. The empire of merchandise made each of the producers millions of dollars and is most likely still bringing them a significant amount of dough.
Burt Reynolds Started His Career On Hollywood Squares
Huge star and iconic actor of the 60s and 70s, Burt Reynolds made his start on the Hollywood Squares. After catching his big break in ’57 in the remake of Mister Roberts, Burt was seen regularly on television roles in series like Gunsmoke, Dan August, Riverboat and Hawk. With his increasing fame in Hollywood, he was invited on as a panelist in the early 70s Boy, did he have a charm with both the audience and the contestants.
Burt was such a hit that The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Cash picked him up as a guest host on the show due to his “cuteness”. His next big splash was his centerfold on Cosmo and the rest was history for the Deliverance star, but he will never forget how much the Squares gave to him and his career.
Hip Hop Squares
In recent years, MTV adopted the theme behind the popular game show and channeled it toward the music industry. Under the direction of the same creators of Hollywood Squares, Bob Quigley and Merrill Heatter, it was called Hip Hop Squares and only lasted one season in 2012. Welcoming huge names in the business and hosted by radio personality Peter Rosenberg, the show adopted the same structure but did not succeed.
Guests like DJ Khaled, Mac Miller, Nick Cannon, and Fat Joe returned in Fall 2016 on the second edition of Hip Hop Squares, but this time with host Ice Cube on VH1. With the last attempt unsuccessful at recreating the genius that was Hollywood Squares, it will be interesting to see how this renewed effort will turn out.
As widely successful as the American edition of Hollywood Squares has been, the rest of the world wanted a piece of the action as well. In almost every country imaginable, the ideals and principals behind the game show have been implemented and interpreted based on cultural differences.
Countries like Belgium, Brazil, China, Denmark, France Germany, Indonesia, Israel, Peru, Poland and more have adopted the beloved television game show, with Belgium, Canada, Denmark and Indonesia still airing to this day! Although none of these hosts can live up to the standards set by Marshall, we assume that they attempted to do the veteran justice with their own flavor.