Tuesday, May 8, 2012

To Tell the Truth

Do they still have panel game shows? These were the first type of game shows I remember and remain favorites. My mother's favorite--and thus the one I saw regularly from my earliest moments of awareness--was Goodson-Todman's TO TELL THE TRUTH. The panel regulars on these types of shows shared a unique situation and whatever else they might have done for a living, many are best remembered now for their game show appearances. 
Mike Wallace hosted the pilot but the actual series was hosted for its initial run by the affable Bud Collyer, late of the more frenetic BEAT THE CLOCK. Collyer had also been the voice of Superman on the classic forties radio series as well as in the Fleischer/Paramount cartoons. During the run of TTTT, he would voice the Man of Steel again in sixties TV cartoons. 

Often revived after its initial run, the main hosts were: 

Bud Collyer (1956-1968)
Garry Moore (1969-1977)
Joe Garagiola (1977-1978)
Robin Ward (1980-1981)
Lynn Swann (1990-1991)
Alex Trebek (1991)
John O'Hurley (2000-2002)

It was a simple concept, really. Three people claimed to be so and so. Their story was read to the panel, then the panel had to ask questions of the three and then vote on which one they felt was telling the truth. The fake panelists were generally well coached and sometimes easily fooled the panel. Therein lay the fun of the concept.

Kitty Carlisle was the heart of the show and appeared, I believe, on every incarnation of the series up until her death at age 96. She was aristocratic and a tad elitist but all in a very theatrical way. She had been famously married to playwright Moss Hart. Kitty often came across as somewhat sheltered from reality but generally she was smart a s a whip. 

Orson Bean was also smart but very funny as well. With a quick wit and a very modern-thinking mind, he asked telling but amusing questions and often drew his votes rather than wrote them.

Tom Poston was the dry-witted comedian who had made a name for himself as one of Steve Allen's gang as well as on Broadway. He acted a bit slow but actually was very sharp.

Another Broadway star, Peggy Cass rounded out the original regulars. Loud and boisterous, she was practically the opposite of the dignified Kitty Carlisle.

Over the years there were probably hundreds of others who sat on the panel, some for an episode or two, others for a season or more. Soupy Sales, Ralph Bellamy, David Niven Jr., Meshach Taylor, Bill Cullen and plenty of others were good but none had the near perfect matching of the classic foursome. 

And none of the hosts had the bow-tied eccentricities of Clayton "Bud" Collyer.


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