This blog post was written by Andrea Leigh, head of the Moving Image Processing Unit.
As popular game show host Bob Barker once quipped, “We play games at home, we play games at parties, we go to clubs and play games. Americans love games.” Americans began listening to game shows on the radio and that excitement and thrill of competition transitioned easily to the new medium of television in the 1940s and 1950s. As television began to pervade the popular culture, game shows quickly became a fixture. Goodson-Todman Productions, formed by Mark Goodson and his longtime partner, Bill Todman, produced some of the longest running game shows in television history.
By the late 1950s, television game shows boasted some of the highest rated programs on television and experienced scandal when revealed that contestants were provided in advance with answers to questions on popular quiz shows to boost ratings. After the quiz show scandals dissipated, producers Mark Goodson and Bill Todman introduced America to game shows that didn’t lend themselves to cheating, panel game shows such as Password, What’s My Line?, I’ve Got a Secret, and To Tell the Truth. The Library of Congress National Audio-Visual Conservation Center (NAVCC) received 1,700 16mm kinescopes of episodes from these enduring and popular game shows from Mark Goodson Productions in 1995, including the original pilot of To Tell the Truth (titled Nothing but the Truth) which never aired, and non-game show ventures such as the television anthology series, The Web, (live dramas based on stories by members of the Mystery Writers of America).
Over the past six months, the game shows have become a staple of processing activities in the Moving Image Section, where the long running game shows have become reminders of the pervasive influence television has had in shaping social connections, testing our knowledge, inciting our sense of curiosity, and keeping us happily distracted.
Arranging and describing the programs began with a processing plan and inventory of all series and number of episodes. The processing plan estimated the number and condition of the formats received, documentation available that identifies series and episodes, conservation supplies needed, level of description at the item level, and an estimate of the time range for finishing the project. The collection was sorted by series and each series was assigned to a technician to process. A cataloger established the overall series framework and assigned normalized headings for names of principles such as the host, producers, and network in the NAVCC’s collection management system. Each episode was attached to the series record in a hierarchical arrangement. Hosts and contestants were added to each episode, when identified. To solve missing broadcast dates, content was examined and compared to online episode guides to confirm the episode’s original air date.
The most popular game shows had both daytime and nighttime editions that are verified by comparing air dates, sponsors, hosts and contestants to online episode guides. Since game shows had celebrities and ordinary people as contestants, there is interest in who participated both for how celebrities interacted as themselves and as a basis for genealogy research for families who identified when a relative appeared. In some instances, an appearance on a game show may be the only moving image record of a family member. Game shows are also valuable records of how people dressed, spoke, and reacted spontaneously to situations at a particular era in time. In many ways, game shows are the original reality programming.
Following is a listing of Goodson-Todman productions received in the Mark Goodson Productions Collection. NAVCC did not receive complete runs of all episodes.
Beat the Clock (1950-1961)
He Said, She Said (1969-1970)
I’ve Got a Secret (1952-1967)
Judge for Yourself (1953-1954)
The Name’s the Same (1951-1955)
The Price is Right (1956-1965)
To Tell the Truth (1956-1968)
Two for the Money (1952-1957)
The Web (1950-1954)
What’s My Line? (1950-1967)
Don’t hesitate to contact Ask a Librarian about the availability of television shows in the Mark Goodson Productions Collection or any other television shows in our collections. Before you plan to come in and view any collection items, please get in touch with our reference staff in the Moving Image Research Center.