Name That Tune

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

Game Show created by Harry Salter in which contestants competed to identify a popular tune from a few notes. The series had many incarnations over the years, and from 1976-85 was known as The $100,000 Name That Tune after its top prize.

Red Benson was the original host from 1952, replaced by Bill Cullen in 1954. Cullen was replaced in 1955 by George DeWitt, who hosted until the end of the run in 1959. A short-lived revival was hosted by Richard Hayes from 1970 to 1971, followed by Tom Kennedy hosting a nighttime version from 1974 to 1981. Jim Lange helmed a 1984-85 revival.

Notably, Tune was very rare among game shows in that its seven-year syndicated run flourished in comparison to a pair of concurrent daytime runs on NBC; Dennis James hosted the first one from 1974 to 1975 (which began prior to the nighttime debut), and Kennedy hosted a short-lived one in 1977.

For the trope that used to be called Name That Tune, see Theme Tune Cameo.

The following Game Show tropes appear in Name That Tune:
  • Big Win Sirens: A $100,000 win on the Kennedy version was accompanied by every single type of siren imaginable.
  • Bonus Round: The Golden Medley, in which the contestant had to identify seven tunes in 30 seconds. Oh, by the way, one miss ends the game. Also the Mystery Tune, which was played up in a suspenseful (and not-cutting-to-commercial-halfway-through-the-big-reveal) manner.
    • Here's how suspenseful the Mystery Tune was — a manila envelope selected from a lazy-susan placed in a safe backstage (by the producers in the 1976-77 season, by the contestants in 1977-78) was handed to Tom, containing the sheet music (with a piece of tape covering the title) and a smaller envelope containing the general info for the song and with the title. The player was placed in an isolation booth, and could only hear Tom and the piano. The pianist played the song for 20 seconds, then stopped; the player had to guess within the ten seconds that followed. They were then brought out of the booth, and Tom read the background information and any appropriate writing and performing credits for the tune. From there, he announced the title. If the title was an exact match for the contestant's answer, s/he won a huge (for the time) cash prize — $10,000 a year for a decade on the nighttime show, a flat $25,000 on the '77 daytime show.
  • Bonus Space: The DOUBLE and CAR (later PRIZE) spaces on the "outer" Melody Roulette wheel.
  • Confetti Drop: Confetti, balloons and streamers were dropped after $100,000 wins on the Lange version. The massive amounts of them that dropped, however, meant that viewers couldn't see much of what was happening onstage.
  • Golden Snitch: The 1-1-2 variant. Could become a 1-2-4 (or similar) in the Kennedy era, since in the first two rounds, a tie was possible if one or more tunes were missed by both players, then they split the points.
    • An even more blatant one in the '50s, where it was a 5-10-20-40 setup. The last correct answer will always win the game. At least the loser took home their score in dollars.
    • Later in the '50s, it was 10-20-30 under George DeWitt. Winning the first two tunes always got you into the Golden Medley, since if it was 30-30, both players played as a team. (Then again, so did winning the last tune.)
  • Personnel:
    • The Announcer: Johnny Olson during at least the tail end of the 1950s run, John Harlan from 1974 to 1985.
    • Game Show Host: Red Benson, Bill Cullen, George DeWitt, Richard Hayes, Dennis James, Tom Kennedy and Jim Lange.
    • Lovely Assistant: Kathie Lee Johnson/Gifford, to an extent, in the 1977-78 season.
    • Studio Audience
    • And the "Name That Tune Orchestra", led by Tommy Oliver, Stan Worth and Harry Salter
Tropes used in Name That Tune include:
  • Auction: In "Bid-A-Note" the contestants had to do a reverse auction and bid on how few notes they needed to identify a tune and its clue, starting at seven notes. It ended when:
    • A contestant was told "Name That Tune" by his opponent, or
    • A contestant said "I can name that tune in one note."
      • If this was the case then the opponent could say "I can name that tune in NO notes," meaning he had to name it with just the clue alone if he felt he could.
    • If notes were involved, though, the winning bidder got to hear the note or notes, then give an answer. If it was right, he won a tune. If not, the opponent did. Three tunes won "Bid-A-Note."
  • Catch Phrase: "I can name that tune in X notes."
  • Curb Stomp Battle: The finals of a 1984 $100,000 Tournament of Champions had finalists Michael Langmay and Hap Trout in a head-to-head Golden Medley Showdown. The final score: 16 to 4! Michael simply destroyed Hap, often naming tunes after just one or two notes had been played. You could see Hap just giving up midway through, waiting for the whole thing to be over with.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The show's title tells the contestants exactly what they're supposed to do. In the 1950s and 1974, one had to not only know the tune but also be the first to ring a bell at the opposite end of the stage.
  • Five Episode Pilot: The Lange version had this, which ended up airing at some point. The pilots had several notable set differences, and "Tune Countdown" (basically a shortened Golden Medley Showdown) was played instead of "Tune Topics".
  • Luck-Based Mission: A contestant's success on the show depended on how familiar the tunes were.
  • Minigame Game: The 1970s-80s versions turned the main game into one, with games such as Melody Roulette (where a two-part wheel was spun to determine a dollar amount and potential bonus), Bid-a-Note (the game everyone remembers), and the Money Tree ($100 in bills on a fake tree, the opponent plucked money off it while the player tried to guess, whoever had more left won the round. Discontinued mainly because Kennedy thought it felt too greedy) The Dennis James daytime version also had a game emulating the format of the original 50's version, where players raced to ring a bell to get a chance to guess.
  • Self-Deprecation: After wrapping production on the 1976-77 season (the first with the $100,000 top prize), the staff produced an extra, 40-minute episode for showing at the annual Christmas party — either a very disturbing look at a television classic, or one of the most magnificent "gag reels" ever. Using the show's set and props, Kennedy and the staff poked fun at the quiz show scandals, made tons of bawdy and line-crossing jokes, gave away wildly-fluctuating amounts of cash, and had men in drag modeling crappy prizes. Notable among the rampant anarchy are the Money Trees — this spoof was the absolute final time Tune used them, as they were removed from the format when tapings began for the 1977-78 season.
    • The episode begins with Irma Crotch returning from "last time" to try for $100,000, and promptly gets locked in an isolation booth for the rest of the show; the day's two contestants are introduced — Tommy Schmucker (bandleader Tommy Oliver; musicologist Harvey Bacal led the band) and Teresa Tushie (show model Jerri Fiala); Kennedy tries to begin the Money Tree round.
    • The Money Tree round then begins, heavily skewed toward Teresa; Tom checks up on Irma Crotch (this is the last time she appears); Melody Roulette is played (and Tom offers himself as the prize on the last tune), but quickly runs out of time!
    • Part 3: John Harlan speeds through some prize plugs, after which the contestants (attempt to) play Bid-A-Note; Tommy wins the round, but the judges notify Tom that Teresa is in fact the big winner because she's got the biggest tits; John Harlan describes a ring being worn by a model on "her" middle finger — "she" then gets humped by Tommy, causing Harlan to laugh while trying to describe a broken watch.
    • Teresa then plays an incredibly rigged Golden Medley for $15,000 in prizes (including an unseen car), then wins; Uncle Sam and Tommy come back out to essentially hump Teresa, and Tom decides to take off his pants — but hikes them right back up because the missus was in the audience.
    • The final segment has Tom mentioning that his microphone is actually what's left of Schmucker, then signs off with "So long for now — and up yours!", after which the credits roll; in a post-credits segment, Tom explains they have been on for three years and he has a small gift for everybody (presumably this episode), then bows a bit before fading to black.
  • Spin-Off: Name That Video, on VH-1. Although a decent idea (albeit not an original one; a similar idea was used as the bonus round of MTV's Remote Control), it ran for just three months in 2001 before being pulled.
    • Also Face the Music, a show that aired in 1980-81 which was also produced by Sandy Frank Productions and featured Tommy Oliver's orchestra. Expanded on the premise of Tune by requiring contestants to identify people, places or things from a series of songs that were played and guessed in succession.
  • Unexpectedly Obscure Answer: And how. The Golden Medley usually featured at least two songs that only a true musicologist would be able to get. This is understandable, given that often there was $15,000 at stake, but it'd be kind of jarring to hear "Summer Nights" or "Seventy-Six Trombones" followed by some obscure Cole Porter composition.