NETWORK(S)

Daily Syndication

AIRDATES

September 1969-September 1978

ANNOUNCER(S)

Johnny Olson, Don Pardo, Bill Wendell, Alan Kalter

PRODUCED BY

Mark Goodson-Bill Todman Productions

Bill served as regular panelist on this revival of the Goodson-Todman classic, hosted by Garry Moore and later Joe Garagiola.


 

A team of three challengers comes onstage and each challenger introduces him/herself with the same name ("My name is Adam Nedeff."...My name is Adam Nedeff."..."My name is Adam Nedeff.") One challenger really is the person s/he claims to be, while the other two are imposters. The host reads an affadavit, written in the 1st person, explaining why the central character is signifigant, after which the challengers take their seats at podiums labeled with the numbers 1, 2, & 3.



 

Each of the four panelists, in turn, has about a minute to cross-examine the challengers by asking them questions about their field of expertise, what they did, etc.


 

After all four panelists have had a turn, they cast their votes as to who they think the "real person" is.

After the votes had been cast, it was customary for the host to ask, "Will the real (name) please stand up?" The real challenger stands up, and the vote scores are tallied. On this particular version, the contestants split $50 for each wrong vote cast or $500 if all four panelists were wrong.

"To Tell the Truth" was the first series developed by legendary producer Bob Stewart after he joined Mark Goodson-Bill Todman Productions. It's actually fairly surprising that the series ever went into production because the mere premise seemed so preposterous to those who heard Stewart pitch it. Mark Goodson flatly rejected it, feeling that a panel of three civilians could never convincingly trick a panel largely consisting of professional actors. Gene Rayburn, a friend & former co-worker of Stewart's, told him that it could never work. A run-through where three contestants stumped a roomful of Goodson-Todman staffers turned everyone into believers, and the series first went into production in 1956 on CBS. It ran until 1968.

The series was revived for first-run syndication in 1969. Peggy Cass & Kitty Carlisle, regular panelists from the original series, joined the new series. Bill, who had only appeared on the original series twice, came aboard and established himself immediately as not only a lethal game player, but also one of the smartest men in the business (it's almost shocking to watch this version of the show and see how many fields of expertise the man had, and how many lines of questioning he began with "I've read a lot about this...")


Original host Bud Collyer elected not to host this version, considering himself retired from the emcee trade (in an eerie coincidence, Collyer died suddenly on the day that this version premiered in many cities). Goodson-Todman, needing a new host, turned to former "I've Got a Secret" host Garry Moore, which was surprising because Moore had also retired, having left his series in 1964. He came aboard for "Truth," though, and remained with the show until a bout with throat cancer sidelined him in 1976. He made a full recovery but  elected not to return, saying he took his illness as a sign from above that after 40 years in show business, staying to collect even one more paycheck would have been greedy.

Bill had been the "go-to" guy for guest-hosting when Garry Moore frequently took vacations, but when the time came to sign a permanent host, the decision was made to bring in Joe Garagiola as host and leave Bill on the panel. In his book What's My Line?, Gil Fates explains that "Bill's superlative gamesmanship was so missed on the panel." That's how talented Bill Cullen was, folks...he reached a level of greatness that actually cost him a job.

Part of the fun of "To Tell The Truth" was that they were nice enough to not reveal who the real culprit was to the viewer at home; every human being likes to believe that they can spot a phony a mile away; every human being who ever watched "To Tell the Truth" ended up being quite surprised. On a more superficial level, this version was a blast to watch because of the unforgettable theme (a Beatles-style love song) and three different but equally-outstanding sets that some game show fans have described as "mod" and others as "an acid trip."

Digging a little deeper for reasons to like this show, "To Tell the Truth" had a dedicated staff that turned up truly fascinating people to play the game as central characters. Some were heroes, some were world record holders, some were performers. Many were people with famous names but not famous faces. Below is just a small sample of folks that Bill had to question and cast votes for during nine seasons:


PETER BULL
Actor (Dr. Strangelove, Dr. Doolittle, Tom Jones) and expert on teddy bears


STAN LEE
Spiderman creator


TIM RICE
Jesus Christ Superstar lyricist


WILLIAM M. GAINES
Founder, MAD Magazine


ROY PLUNKETT
Inventor of Teflon


WILLIAM PETER BLATTY
Author of The Exorcist


LUCIANNA PALUZZI
Played Fiona Volpe in the James Bond movie Thunderball


THE FABULOUS MOOLAH
Legendary professional wrestler


ALEX HALEY
Author of Roots and The Autobiography of Malcolm X


ALLY SHEEDY
12-year-old bestselling author; later gained film immortality as "the basket case" of The Breakfast Club


DUSKO POPOV
Double-agent who inspired James Bond


ORVILLE REDENBACHER
Popcorn mogul


GENE RODDENBERRY
Star Trek creator


MORGANA THE KISSING BANDIT
Baseball fan with a long history of disrupting games


MARIA VON TRAPP
Life story served as the inspiration for The Sound of Music


DAVID PROWSE
Played Darth Vader in a popular 1977 movie

"To Tell The Truth" was also a good example of how important regular panelists are to a game show. Much as this site is meant to put Bill in the spotlight, the fact was he was part of a team on this series. You'll find no sharper trio than Cass, Carlisle, and Cullen on any game show before or since. They knew how to think, they knew the material, they knew the questions to ask, they knew how to interact, they knew how to make good television; to summarize, they knew how to play.

BONUS GOODIES!

Yes, we know that this is a site devoted to Bill, but we thought these were too good a pass up: a selection of TV Guide ads featuring Garry Moore.


 

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