NBC Daytime and Primetime


DAYTIME: April 1, 1963-September 26, 1969

PRIMETIME: January 7-May 12, 1964


John Harlan

Produced by

Ralph Andrews-Bill Yagemann Productions for Desilu

PAT CARROLL: A Great Dane makes a good family...
TOM KENNEDY: Much poorer.
PAT: No, "pet." Pet Carroll!

MEL TORME: College students live in a...
TOM: State of confusion.
MEL: No, dorm. Mel Dorm-e!

TOM: And I'm Tom Kennedy, and the name of our show is "You Don't Say!"

A nifty word game that had less to do with words and more to do with other words that they sort of resembled; "You Don't Say!" was Tom's third network series and first national hit.

Two celebrity/contestant teams compete. One member of each team is shown the name of a famous person or place. The clue-giver for the team gives a descriptive sentence about something whose name sounds like part of the famous name (more on that below). The sentence has to be structured so that the last word is whatever they are describing, but that's the word that you don't say! The partner then has ten seconds to guess the word being described AND the famous name which it was intended to sound like. The clue-giver can't say anything during the ten seconds, but they can gesture. Correctly guessing the famous name wins one point. Up to six sentences (three per team) are allowed until the name gets thrown out.

And just for giggles (and to introduce another play-along-at-home element into the show), every couple of names, the audience would be shown the words "Guess Who?" or a series of question marks instead of the name that has to be guessed.

So what kind of clue sentences do you give? Let's use my name, “Adam Nedeff.” For my first name, you might say, “In nuclear power plants, this cell-like thing, which contains nuclear energy, has to be smashed, and this thing is called an…” (Because atom sounds like Adam, you see.) For my last name you'd give a clue like “The joint in the middle of your leg, which you stand on if you genuflect, is your…” and “If you can't hear at all, then you're totally…” (Knee-deaf =Nedeff.) You could even give a clue leading to words that don't really exist by being creative. For my last name you could say “When you're making bread-eff, before you bake-eff it, you pound-eff the dough, and you toss-eff it, and you sort of massage-eff it, and a massage-eff for dough is known by this word, which is…”

What's an illegal clue?
#1. Saying the word that you're describing.
#2. Describing something that directly refers to the famous name or referring to the famous name or something about it in your description.
#3. Describing a proper noun or name. (In other words, if you need a capital letter, don't describe it.)
#4. Describing a word that is spelled identically to part of the name. (For example, if "Bill Cullen" was the name, you would not be allowed to give a clue like "At the end of the month, your credit card company sends you a...")

Back to the game. Three points wins the game, $100, and the right to play the Bonus Board.

On the daytime series, contestants remained until losing two games. On the short-lived primetime series, two contestants competed for the entire show, with the top money winner receiving a bonus vacation at the end of the night.

The Bonus Board hides the identity of another famous person or place, and three clues, Top, Middle, and Bottom. One hides a clue referring to something that sounds like the beginning of the name. one hides a clue referring to what sounds like the middle of the name, and one sounds like the end of the name. (The number in the blank space for each clue tells the contestant the correct placement.) The team selects which clue to reveal first. A correct guess on the first clue wins $300, after two clues, $200, and $100 if all three clues are needed.

A “Blitz” (Winning the game 3-0 and then winning $300 in the Bonus Board) nets the contestant a new car.

Incidentally, the Bonus Board names and clues are viewer-submitted, and the viewer whose idea is used wins a small prize. For a brief period, the show offered a larger prize for the viewer if their puzzle happened to be used in a successful Blitz.

A cute story about how ugly the world of game shows can be behind the scenes. Following the success of "Password," word games became all the rage, and naturally Goodson-Todman was wary of any word games produced by other companies. The similarities between their series and "You Don't Say!" led Goodson-Todman to file a lawsuit early in the series' run. They failed to get the series pulled, but they did get the show to make one adjustment, as silly as it sounds. "You Don't Say!" had to change their set so that Tom's podium was on the side of the set instead of between the two teams (because that's where Allen Ludden stood on "Password").

The American viewing public wasn't as bothered by any perceived similarities, simply because on its own, "You Don't Say!" was so much fun. The silly, convoluted clues that contestants conjured for names like Gina Lolabridgida and John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt made the show naturally funny. In surviving episodes of the series, Tom exhibits natural chemistry with celebrities like Mel Torme and Rod Serling. As a bonus, the show had the good fortune of being a part of a strong line-up during most of its run. It was part of a blockbuster hour along with "The Match Game" every afternoon.

Not content with being a hit show as it was, "You Don't Say!" continually looked for new ways to keep the viewers interested. An annual tradition saw children play the game during Christmas week. Another special week saw Tom get shoved in the hot seat and play the game while big brother Jack Narz guest-hosted. At the height of its popularity, "You Don't Say!" became one of the first daytime game shows to take their act on the road. Guests Mike Connors & Rose Marie joined Tom for a week of shows taped outdoors at Cyprus Gardens in Florida.

What a game! The element of guessing similar-sounding words and finding sneaky ways to go about transmitting those words to your partner ("I'm an Italian-o..." for words & names ending in "O", or "A cockney might say..." for words beginning with vowel sounds) made for a strategic, clever, and often funny game. And as much as Goodson-Todman may have fretted over similarities, nobody who watched the two shows could have mistaken them for each other. “Password” was sophisticated and subdued, but “You Don't Say!” was just plain fun.

And no one does more to promote the party atmosphere than the party host. He's as laid back as ever, freely laughing at the wilder clues and wisecracking whenever he saw the chance. Sure, there was money at stake, but nobody worked harder than Tom to make sure we knew that this was just a game.

How did Tom end up getting hired? (2.4 MB)



Not sure if this is actually a "You Don't Say" headshot or just a general publicity photo, but it's definitely from around the same time that the series launched.

Tom gets ready to...ahem...sign on as host of the national version on NBC.

An early headshot of Tom.

Another favorite of mine, Tom having the time of his life during a taping.

 BONUS: A shot from Tom's KTLA game "Temptation."

A publicity photo from late in the series' run.

Very close to the end of the series, and late 60s fashions are in full swing, with Tom growing out his hair and ditching the necktie.


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