I've Got a
CBS Primetime, June 15-July 6, 1976
Bill, the one-time
panelist, became the emcee for this blink-and-you-miss-it revival of one of TV's
favorite panel games.
Just like the original show, a contestant,
or several contestants, came onstage, whispered their secret to Bill, and
answered the panel's yes-or-no questions. Each panelist had a turn, and the game
continued until somebody guessed the secret, or until all four panelists' turns
were up. This is one of the only games I can think of where it really is "just a
game," because money is NEVER mentioned here.
Also, like the original series, a celebrity guest dropped by with a secret for the panel on each show.
The fine folks at G-T made sure to use the formula that made the series a classic remained for this revival, with the same type of compelling secrets that made the game interesting, and the secret-related performances that made the minutes after the game so fascinating.
While Bill had been promoted to emcee, "Secret"'s other perennial panelist, Henry Morgan returned to his old seat for this version, joined by fellow regular panelists Richard Dawson and Pat Collins. Bad judgment doomed this series, placed on the CBS summer lineup against ABC's unstoppable juggernaut, "Happy Days."
The series was canceled after four shows, two of which were pilots taped nine months prior. It was the last hurrah for "I've Got a Secret" for 23 years, until cable's Oxygen channel successfully revived it 1999. This version would also be the final prime-time network series for Bill, who had been a prime-time fixture throughout the previous two decades.
A few interesting tidbits about this series: It was the second of three Bill Cullen-related series, along with "To Tell the Truth" and "Pass the Buck," to tape in the Ed Sullivan Theater, David Letterman's current TV home; and while the series was short-lived, its theme music survived; a year later, it became the theme for ABC's "Second Chance" another short-lived series which itself found new life as "Press Your Luck." So if you've ever looked for a way to connect Bill Cullen to the Whammy, there you have it.
Still, it's worth a look. This version wasn't "reinvented" in any way, and works just as well as any other version of the series. The panel meshes, the secrets are fun, and Bill is, as always, an entertaining "ringmaster."
Bonus: From the first episode, here's special guest Rodney Dangerfield