The Hollywood Squares

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"The areas of questions designed for the celebrities and possible bluff answers are discussed with some celebrities in advance. In the course of their briefing, actual questions and/or answers may be discerned by the celebrities."
Kenny Williams, reciting the famous legalese during the ending credits of the original version.

Love child of the Game Show and the Panel Game, produced by Merrill Heatter and Bob Quigley for NBC and syndication from 1966 to 1981. Nine celebrities were seated in an oversized Tic-tac-toe grid as two contestants, Mr. X and Ms. O, agreed or disagreed with the stars' often comical and bawdy answers to esoteric questions.

Infamous for featuring stars that were past their prime. The 1980–81 syndicated season taped in Las Vegas. Syndicated revivals starred John Davidson, who had substituted for Paul Lynde on the daytime panel, in 1986–89 and Tom Bergeron from 1998 to 2004. There was also a mashup with Match Game called The Match Game Hollywood Squares Hour, which lasted from 1983 to 1984 on NBC.

A hip-hop–themed revival, Hip-Hop Squares, premiered on MTV2 on May 22, 2012. Yes, you read that right.

The format has two Market Based Titles: Celebrity Squares on ITV and Personality/All-Star Squares on Australia's Channel 10. Obviously, these shows are named that because Hollywood would refer specifically to America there.

Host Peter Marshall referred to the female contestant's mark as a "circle", although technically it appeared on the board as an ellipse. The most famous center square, Paul Lynde, didn't join the panel on a permanent basis until 1968. More information: http://www.classicsquares.com/


The following Game Show tropes appear in The Hollywood Squares:
  • Big Win Sirens: Any time a car was won in the Davidson version.
  • Bonus Round: Several.
    • The Marshall version featured a very simple one -- the winning contestant would pick a celebrity, who would open an envelope that contained a prize; whatever was in the envelope was what the contestant would win.
    • The first two seasons of the Davidson version saw the winner choose one of five keys, then try to find which car out of five displayed in-studio (no, seriously) the key would start. After having chosen a "good-luck celebrity" from the panel to stand by, the contestant would try to start the car; if it started, they won and were retired right there and then. If not, the contestant continued onto another game; if they made it to the bonus round a second time, the car they'd chosen prior would be eliminated.
      • The final season of the Davidson version used a similar bonus round, but all nine celebrities had a key instead, and the contestant would pick the celebrity rather than the key.
    • The Bergeron version went through no less than three during its run:
  1. The "pick a star, win a prize" format from the Marshall version.
  2. The contestant would pick a celebrity to stand beside them while they answered as many rapid-fire questions as they could within a minute, in what was dubbed "The Fastest 60 Seconds on Television." The contestant could confer with the celebrity if needed, but only the contestant could answer.
  3. An updated version of the Davidson version's bonus round. One at a time, the contestant picked a celebrity and agreed/disagreed to a statement read about them. However many correct answers (out of nine total) determined how many "bad keys" would be taken off of a nine-key panel. The contestant picked one from the remaining keys and, depending upon how many times they'd been to said bonus round, tried to either start a car, open a safe (representing cash), or open a steamer trunk (representing a trip). The prize layout changed multiple times throughout each season.
  • Hip Hop Squares has the contestant pick from any of the three rows on the board. Each celebrity on that row answers a question; one celebrity is right and two are wrong. The contestant picks which celebrity they think is right; if they are correct, they win $2,500 cash.
  • Bonus Space: The Secret Square. Renamed the "G-Spot" for Hip Hop Squares.
  • Confetti Drop: Balloons were dropped when a car was won on Davidson's run; several different ones were used during the Bergeron version.
  • Home Game: Watkins-Strathmore made two in 1967–68. Ideal made one in 1974, with Peter Marshall pictured on the box. Milton Bradley made two in 1980 and 1986. Parker Brothers made one in 1999, and Tiger made an LCD handheld game in that same year. GameTek made computer versions for MS-DOS and the Nintendo Entertainment System.
    • A new video game, based on the later-era Bergeron format, was released for the Nintendo Wii on October 5, 2010.
  • Losing Horns: Type C on the Davidson version for a car loss ("Pitcher's Got a Big Butt" was played on the organ); Type B for "nine keys" bonus losses on the Bergeron version.
  • Personnel:
    • The Announcer: Kenny Williams in the original, Shadoe Stevens in the Davidson and Bergeron versions. Jeffrey Tambor and John Moschitta succeeded Shadoe as announcer of the Bergeron version. Fill-ins included Richard Stevens (Shadoe's brother) and Howard Stern on the Davidson version, and Henry Winkler and Rod Roddy (the latter for the first Game Show theme week) on the Bergeron version.
    • Game Show Host: Peter Marshall from 1966 to 1981, John Davidson from 1986 to 1989, and Tom Bergeron from 1998 to 2004. Former DJ Peter Rosenberg is the host of Hip Hop Squares.
    • Studio Audience
  • Progressive Jackpot: The Secret Square, on the NBC daytime and the second through fifth seasons of the Bergeron syndicated version. The NBC version began at about $1,000 (later $2,000) and increased by about $1,000 until claimed; the top jackpot ever was just over $11,000. The Bergeron syndicated version saw the jackpot usually begin with a trip (of about $2,000-$4,000) and added prizes until claimed; the highest-valued "Secret Square" was worth more than $50,000.
  • Show the Folks At Home: The location of the Secret Square.
Tropes used in The Hollywood Squares include:
  • April Fools' Day: In a clip frequently shown on other shows, the crew played a prank on Davidson. During a normal round the female contestant angrily accuses the male contestant of looking over Davidson's podium at his answer cards. As John increasingly gets a 'deer in the headlights' look, the female contestant gets up from her chair and confronts the male contestant, finally pushing him over the edge of raised platform. Unknown to the stunned Davidson, both 'contestants' were actually stunt people.
    • Repeated and cranked Up to Eleven for Tom Bergeron on a show taped to air on April Fool's Day 2003. At one point the male and female contestants were engaged in a heated argument, after which the male contestant made the female contestant break down in tears. Bergeron, who had even more of a deer-in-the-headlights look than Davidson had, comforted the "poor woman" as he sent the show to commercial (of course, unbeknownst to him, the camera was still running). At the end of the episode, giggling executive producer Henry Winkler (who at the time also served as announcer) announced over the intercom, "Hey Tom... April Fools."
  • Aren't You Going to Ravish Me?: This was one of the common topics of Rose Marie questions.

Peter Marshall: In a recent PARADE magazine article, it was stated that a woman being attacked should yell out two words. First she should yell "Help!", what should she then yell?
Rose Marie: "More!"

    • And on another occasion.

Peter: Rose, studies indicate that women are attacked one night of the week much more than any other. Which night is it?
Rose Marie: With my luck, tonight.

  • Ascended Extra: As already mentioned, John Davidson was a substitute for Paul Lynde before became the host.
  • Camp Gay: Paul freakin' Lynde.
  • Catch Phrase: "X (or Circle) gets the square."
    • "[Name of celebrity] for the block." and "[Name of celebrity] for the win."
    • "Hello Stars!" "Hi, Peter!"
    • "I would have gone for _________ for the win/block, but this might work out for you."
  • Character Name Limits: The NES game, based on the Davidson format, limited players' and panelists' names to four letters.
  • Cool Old Guy: Charley Weaver.
  • A Day in the Limelight: At least twice, John Davidson got to sit on the panel while someone else (in one case, ALF) got to host. Announcer Shadoe Stevens also hosted one week while Davidson was unavailable, and Howard Stern served as announcer that week.
    • Similarly, Peter Marshall was a panelist on the first Game Show Week during Bergeron's run. Things came full-circle when he and Tom traded places for one episode.
  • Derivative Works: The Marshall version included The Storybook Squares for kids and families to play. It included more kid-friendly celebrities such as Big Bird. (Is that an inversion of Sesame Street Cred or what?)
    • Merrill Heatter would later recycle the "celebrities in a ginormous panel" motif on his later shows Battle Stars and All-Star Blitz.
  • Double Entendre: About half of the words out of the panelists' mouths, especially in the Bergeron version.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Almost everything out of Paul Lynde's mouth. Many later panelists, especially on the Bergeron version, were much less subtle in their crassness:

Tom Bergeron: Is Viagra kosher for Passover?
Whoopi Goldberg: Not if it leads to pork.

    • Older than you might think:

Peter Marshall: Rose, hundreds of years ago, English bartenders called it 'dry sack'. What is it known as today?
Rose Marie Grounds for divorce.

  • Guest Host: On the John Davidson version, Shadoe Stevens and ALF both got to do this. On the former, Howard Stern announced from Shadoe's usual spot in the bottom-center square, and on the latter, John sat on the panel. Peter Marshall returned to guest host a round for Game Show Hosts Week on the Bergeron version.
    • Jim J. Bullock also guest-hosted on the Davidson version. Rosie O'Donnell hosted a round of the Bergeron version during the Whoopi Goldberg era.
  • Hotter and Sexier: Bergeron's version was far more overt in its sexual overtones than previous versions.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: After the infamous "YOU FOOL!" incident, Tom promised that if they ran out of time playing that game, they're all going out for drinks.
  • Jerkass: Paul Lynde would often belittle the contestants during the commercial break (and sometimes on the show, too). He sometimes took this a step further by belittling fellow celebrities as well (most notably Tanya Tucker).
  • Joisey:

Peter Marshall: Marty, we know you're from Pittsburgh, right? OK, what does a guy from Philadelphia dip his pretzel in?
Marty Allen: A girl from New Jersey!

  • Know-Nothing Know-It-All: Inverted with a famous Secret Square question with Art Fleming, host of Jeopardy!. Art was asked a multiple-choice question (as all Secret Square questions are) he later admitted did not know the answer to, and just blurted out a guess. The naive female contestant remarked that since he was Art Fleming, he just had to be correct. It turned out he was right(!) and the contestant won a $10,000 prize package.
  • Las Vegas: The original version's syndicated run taped its final season (and the final season of the original version itself) at the Riviera.
  • Long Runner: The original NBC version ran for 14 seasons, and the 1970s syndicated version ran for a decade.
  • Obvious Rule Patch: Unlike tic-tac-toe, in the case of a "cat's game" where neither player can get three in a row, a contestant has to get the correct answer to claim the square, and (unlike with other squares) can't claim it by means of the opponent getting the wrong answer. Winning the game under these conditions is known as a "Five-Square Win".
  • Opening Narration:

Kenny Williams: One of these stars is sitting in the Secret Square, and the contestant who picks it first could win a prize package of over $x,000! Which star is it? (The stars are introduced one by one, finishing with the center square, usually...) ...Or Paul Lynde...all in The Hollywood Squares! And now here's the Master of The Hollywood Squares, Peter Marshall!

  • Panel Game
  • Pretty in Mink: Furs were often part of a Secret Square prize package and generally from Dicker and Dicker of Beverly Hills. Although politically incorrect now, they were stereotypical of the Hollywood Dress Code of the day.
  • Rattling Off Legal: Kenny Williams' quote, seen at the top of this page.
    • Peter Marshall before the Secret Square: "The stars are briefed before the show to help them with their bluffs, but they are hearing the actual questions for the first time."
  • Real Song Theme Tune: Tom Bergeron's last two seasons had a slightly redone version of Teena Marie's "Square Biz" as its theme song.
  • Rearrange the Song: The famous Marshall theme got a Disco/Supertrain-style update in 1979, which was used until the end in 1981.
    • Stormy Sacks re-arranged the Davidson theme in that version's third season.
  • Rules Spiel: Each version had its own, but the most famous came courtesy of Peter Marshall. Like so:

Marshall: Object of the players is to get three stars in a row, either across, up and down, or diagonally. It is up to them to figure out if the stars are giving a correct answer or making one up; that's how they get the squares.

  • Running Gag: Big Bird almost always referred to Peter Marshall as "Mr. Marshmallow".
  • Shout-Out: To an extent. When Susan Stafford appeared to model prizes for Game Show Week, she was introduced as being from "classic Wheel of Fortune".
    • Sometimes questions would be about another celebrity in another square. After the contestant agrees or disagrees with the celeb they picked, Peter would sometimes ask the celeb the question was about to answer instead of giving it himself.
  • Spin-Off: The Storybook Squares, in 1969. Yes, a children's version of an adult-oriented game show based on a children's game.
  • Who Names Their Kid "Dude"?: Bergeron's version once had a female contestant named Ketchup.
  • You Fool!: In the Bergeron era, Penn Jillette would often respond to wrong answers by going completely over-the-top in shouting how wrong the contestants were. This led to one instance where Gilbert Gottfried was the only unclaimed square, and after the second failed attempt began yelling "You fool!" in imitation of Jillette, who had done it earlier that episode. Gottfried ended up being called on a total of seven times before someone answered correctly; by the end the whole panel was shouting "You fool!" in unison. Also an Overly Long Gag. Video here and here.
  • You Look Familiar: John Davidson was a semi-regular panelist on the Marshall Squares before becoming host of the third version.