December 5, 1951-October 7, 1955
Bill was a panelist from August 6, 1952-January 1953


ABC Primetime


Lee Vines, Bob Shepard, Lee Goodman, Glenn Riggs


Mark Goodson-Bill Todman Productions


Bill spent a few months trying to guess unlikely monikers on this obscure game hosted by Robert Q. Lewis.


Three panelists face a contestant identified only as Mister or Miss X, who may have the same name as a famous person (“Frank Sinatra”), descriptive term (“A. Maid”), place (“Paris France”), or thing ("A. Mattress").


Each panelist has a ten-question limit and, in turn, asks yes-or-no questions (and regardless of the answer, they lose a question from their limit). The panelist continues asking until they guess the name, reach 0 on their question limit, or pass to the next panelist in line.


The game ends when the panel guesses their name, all thirty allotted questions have been asked (which rarely if ever happened), or Robert Q. Lewis simply stops the game because it’s running long (which was, by far, the most frequent occurrence). The contestant collects a $25 personal check from each panelist who couldn’t guess the name.


Each week, a celebrity guest dropped by to play, “I’d Like to Be…,” wherein the panel had to guess who the celebrity guest said they would rather be if they couldn’t be themselves.


And yes, during Bill’s brief tenure on the show, there was a contestant named Bill Cullen.


Bill was only a panelist for about three months, and it’s possible that he was only sitting in as a substitute for regular panelist Meredith Wilson. Bill had indeed joined the new-and-already-struggling “I’ve Got a Secret” by the time his appearances started, and it seems unlikely that Goodson-Todman would have slated him to be a regular panelist on two series. Of course, if there’s one guy you wouldn’t mind having as a panelist on two series, it would be Bill.


Ultimately, Bill stuck with and became identified with “I’ve Got a Secret,” which would last 15 years. This show, hampered by an unstable panel (Joan Alexander was the only one to last through the entire run), unstable format, and unstable network (ABC was very new at the time and didn’t appear to have much of a future), quietly faded away after four years.


Oddly enough, exposure on GSN revealed a number of hysterical but forgotten moments that have given this show a new life and a new audience. You now seldom see a game show nostalgia or blooper special without at least a brief clip from “The Name’s the Same.”


Bill was his predictable good self, cracking up the audience with such inquiries as asking “A. Papa” if a sailor would need authorization from a superior officer to become one. In  the long run, Bill had a better run on “Secret,” while “The Name’s the Same” sought out another legendary emcee to fill the spot on their panel.

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