Jim Narz was born In Louisville, KY on February 26, 1927. The younger
brother of Jack Narz, Jim was a tall, slender, good-looking fellow during
high school, with intelligence to match. He coasted through his studies
rather easily, intending to become an electrical engineer.
Those plans changed after big brother Jack got a job as a radio announcer.
In addition to a healthy paycheck, Jack was beginning to receive national
exposure in the field, compelling Jim to rethink his future plans.
It was with this thought of a new life and
career that Jim packed up and headed for Hollywood, to attend the same
broadcasters' school that Jack had attended. He headed back to Lousville to
flesh out his resume and headed back to Hollywood, this time permanently, a
few years later.
The humble beginnings of an all-time
Jim became a quick success and eventually the brothers found themselves
moving into the field of TV game shows. Both Jack and Jim possessed the
right look, sharp wit, and wonderful voices for the medium and the genre.
Soon, though, a small problem arose: They became unwitting competitors,
working on conflicting networks and for competing sponsors. That, and the
problem was coming up of the two brothers being confused and mistaken for
each other. Jim, likely out of respect for his older brother, decided he
should be the one to change his name, and rechristened himself Tom Kennedy.
Goodbye, Jim Narz, hello, Tom Kennedy
And Tom's gonna be a game show host!
In 1958, Tom began work on his first network game show,
the gimmicky “Big Game.” The series lasted only three months, but it
gave Tom the national exposure he needed to keep finding employment.
A short time later, Tom found himself with another pseudonym, “Doctor I.Q.” Again, the series only had a brief run, but Tom persisted.
In 1963, he finally got the hit show he had been waiting
for. Jack Barry, still considered a smudge mark on game shows, was passed
over when his local Los Angeles game "You Don’t Say!" was picked up by NBC,
and Tom received the nod to replace him. The show was a smash hit for six
and a half years, even earning a primetime slot for a time, and ranking as
one of television’s top three game shows during four years of its’ run. The
series was canceled in 1969, not for low ratings, but out of a desire by NBC
executives to overhaul the daytime schedule.
Tom used the cancellation as an attempt to broaden his horizons, and in
1970, he hosted a daytime talk show, “The Real Tom Kennedy Show.” He also
appeared as an actor in various comedy and drama series during the decade.
Although the talk show and Tom’s acting career ended up being somewhat
limited, the 1970s could easily be considered the most successful decade of
The first hit came in 1972, with the ABC quiz show “Split Second,” a
breathtaking and fast-paced game that seemed like a highly-accelerated
“Jeopardy!” 1974 found Tom emceeing a revival of the classic game “Name That
Tune” in primetime syndication. A short-lived big money version of “You
Don’t Say!,” the hard quiz “50 Grand Slam,” the “Hollywood Squares” knockoff
“Break the Bank,” and “Whew!” also saw Tom at the helm during the decade. It
almost seemed like he was competing with brother-in-law Bill Cullen to see
who could emcee the most game shows before retirement.
The 1980s saw Tom’s field of work being narrowed down by way of his previous
shows. After the success of “You Don’t Say!” he ended up hosting three
word-related game shows during the 1980s---“Password Plus,” “Body Language,”
and “Wordplay.” He also received what could easily be considered an
honorable task in hosting “The Price is Right” in nightttime syndication
during the 1985-1986 season.
Tom Kennedy...Game Show Producer! (1.2 MB)
After “Wordplay” left the air in 1987, Tom began working
behind the camera, developing game shows. He mounted a pilot that didn’t
succeed in America but sold in England under the title “Joker in the Pack”
in 1992. He has also produced a pilot called “Star Games,” which, based on
descriptions, is a spinoff of “You Don’t Say!” involving charades used as
Tom enjoys retirement (3.x MB)
Aside from these ventures, Tom has happily retired and currently resides in
Ventura County, California. He’s hosted a guided tour of the history of TV
game shows at a local library but shows no interest in moving back into
emceeing, explaining that, despite his health and abilities still allowing
him to emcee, there’s enough young talent in the field that he simply
doesn’t feel like he’s needed. He’s content to be retired after a full rich
career giving away an untold amount of money.
Tom also spends a little extra time signing autographs for a worthy
cause...He, along with a number of other celebrities, offers personally
autographed glossy photos on the Autographed to You) website. Click Here to Visit It. A third of the money for each autographed purchase goes into the Tom Kennedy
Scholarship Fund at Union University.
WHAT'S SO GREAT ABOUT THIS GUY?
Tom is, without a doubt, the most versatile man in a field that a lot of
people take as being cut from a mold. One show finds him clowning around
with celebrity guests, another show finds him quietly unfolding complex
questions for big money. And he does it all with no phoniness. Each of these
jobs he carried out with natural ease and perfection, which is why he found
himself employed in the field for 30 years.
MEMORIES OF TOM
I'm too young to have seen most of Tom's work, none of my local stations
carried "The Price is Right," and to my chagrin when I found out years
later, "naptime," which came right after "Super Password" was over, was time
I could have spent being awake and watching "Wordplay." I had no idea who
Tom was until I got Game Show Network and discovered a talented, witty emcee
who genuinely loved his job. As I began and continued tape trading, I
gradually discovered and became increasingly impressed with Tom's ability as
an emcee and became a major fan in short order. Tom is one of the great
assets that the game show biz produced over the years, and nothing short of a fully-developed website
could adaquately explain why.