To Tell the Truth

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
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One of the many successful Goodson-Todman panel games, To Tell The Truth gives a simple premise: A person of some notoriety and two impostors try to fool a four-celebrity panel into choosing one of the impostors instead of the real person. Each celebrity has some time to question the three contestants; while the fakes can obviously lie, the real person usually has to tell the truth about themselves. After every celebrity has had time to question them, they guess who the real person is, and each wrong guess earned the trio cash to split amongst themselves.

This one has been revived many times. The original ran from 1956-68 on CBS with Bud Collyer as host. After CBS dropped it, it lived on in Syndication from 1969-78 with Garry Moore at the helm until he retired due to throat cancer in 1977, succeeded by Joe Garagiola for the final season. Two years later, the show returned briefly to syndication with Robin Ward as the host. Then in 1990, NBC revived Truth for its morning game show block with three hosts, Gordon Elliott, Lynn Swann, and Alex Trebek, peppering its single season. The most recent revival took place in 2000, with John O'Hurley as its host.

The show, like most panel shows, was renowned for its recurring cast of celebrities. Truth's most famous panelists included Bill Cullen, Bert Convy, Tom Poston, Peggy Cass, and Kitty Carlisle (the only panelist to appear on all five versions of the show).

The following Game Show tropes appear in To Tell the Truth:
  • Bonus Round: On the 1990s version, The Announcer would pick an audience member to play One-On-One, where a person gave two different anecdotes about himself or herself, and the audience member would win $1,000 if he or she picked the story that was true.
    • The last subject of this game was Paul Alter, who directed the 1990s revival. The contestant chose incorrectly, but it was decided that she would get half of the prize money anyway.
  • Personnel:
    • The Announcer: Bern Bennett announced from 1956-60, when he was replaced by Johnny Olson. In 1972, Olson left Truth to announce on The New Price Is Right and was replaced by Bill Wendell until mid-1977, when he was replaced by Alan Kalter. Bern Bennett would return as a contestant for the 1990s version and got 3 votes.
      • Burton Richardson announced on the 1990s and 2000s versions; Don Pardo served as a substitute during the 1969-78 run, while Charlie O'Donnell subbed during the 1990s run.
    • Game Show Host: So many, it currently ranks second out of all game shows ever produced; the leader is Britain's Have I Got News for You.
      • Bud Collyer hosted the original run, followed by Garry Moore from 1969-77. When he left, Joe Garagiola took over for the remainder of that version's last season. Robin Ward, a virtual unknown to America, hosted the 1980s version. Gordon Elliott, Lynn Swann, and Alex Trebek hosted the 1990s run, while John O'Hurley hosted the 2000s revival.
      • Other hosts include Mike Wallace (original 1956 pilot entitled Nothing But The Truth), Ralph Bellamy (1957), John Cameron Swayze (1958), Sonny Fox (1959), Robert Q. Lewis (1960/1963/1964/1967), Jim Fleming (1960), Merv Griffin (1961/1962), Jack Clark (1963), Gene Rayburn (1963), Orson Bean (1963), Mark Goodson (1967/1991), Bert Convy (1968), Bill Cullen (1970/1971/1977), and Richard Kline (1990 pilots).
    • Studio Audience: Voted on the three contestants during some versions.
Tropes used in To Tell the Truth include:
  • Affectionate Parody: Direc TV, of all things, grabbed Alex Trebek and an eerily-accurate full-size replica of the 1973-78 "blocky" set for a series of promos. Here's the first promo that was aired. The whole lot can be found in these search results as, even though three of the promos are on the company's official YouTube page, you have to root through the playlists to find them. Oh, and although they can get the set right, they can't get the rules right.
  • Ambiguous Gender: If the affidavit didn't specify the contestant's sex, and the contestant had a name that could be used for ether gender (Chris, Gene/Jean, Pat, etc.), the show would often present a mix of males and female impostors to further confuse the panel.
  • Bandaged Face: In a Moore episode, prankster Alan Abel appeared with his head wrapped in bandages. As it turned out, this was not so much that he wouldn't be recognized, but so the panel couldn't identify his two impostors — Larry Blyden and Tom Poston.
  • Body Double: Prankster Joey Skaggs once pranked the show by sending one in his place, just to see if they'd notice. They didn't.
  • Catch Me If You Can: Con artist Frank Abagnale Jr. was a contestant on a Joe Garagiola episode. This footage was used as a framing device for the 2002 movie about his exploits, with star Leonardo DiCaprio digitally inserted into Abagnale's place; Garagiola and Kitty Carlisle made cameos through said footage.
  • Catch Phrase: "Will the real (name of contestant) please stand up?" and "Number (1, 2, 3), what is your name, please?"
  • Christmas Episode: The 1990 edition had an episode where the central subject was a man who ran a Santa Claus hotline. All three contestants were dressed in Santa outfits, which led to a Christmas surprise when the impostors were revealed. (The impostors were Rip Taylor and Christopher Hewitt.)
  • A Day in the Limelight: Bill Cullen was both host and panelist. Also, semi-regular panelists Don Ameche and Ralph Bellamy hosted a few episodes of the CBS version.
  • The Ditz: Polly Bergen, who would usually write down one number and say "Well I voted for #2, but I know it's really #3..."
    • For the 2000s version, Paula Poundstone picked up the Ditz title. After one episode in which a panel member used the word "recuse" to explain why they couldn't vote in that round, Paula became obsessed with the word and would endlessly say "Well I should recuse myself from this round because of _________, but I won't..." before voting in each round in each episode. As with Polly, some found this cute — others...not so much.
  • Dog Food Diet: Often, when a food-related guest came on the show, the panel got a sample of the cuisine to taste while Garry read the affidavit. On this episode, the contestant cooked with dog food...
    • If you listen closely you can hear Bill Cullen, veteran of 15 years of similar surprises as an I've Got a Secret panelist, suspiciously listen for the other shoe to drop as Garry reads.
  • Expy: Art Linkletter claimed at one time that this show was a rip-off of "Lie Detector," a segment of his show People Are Funny. Linkletter attempted to sue Goodson-Todman.
  • Fan Service: The 2000s versions had contestants who were into at least vaguely fetish-related material, such as latex suits, mermaid costumes, et cetera.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: In one episode involving contestants who had birds, Cullen remarked that he would excuse himself from the round because he had seen one of the contestants in the restroom. When asked how he knew it was one of the contestants, Cullen replied that "He had his bird in his hand!"
  • Halloween Episode: One Halloween Episode featured three people (one male, two female) claiming to be Lee Parsons, host of a local horror movie show called Nightmare. All three were made up as ghouls, and the segment included: screams as they announced their names; a giant spiderweb graphic behind them; cob webs sprayed on them; and dust that they had to blow off of the contestant podiums
  • Loads And Loads Of Hosts: No fewer than 22 people have been known to host Truth at some point or another.
    • There may be a twenty-third host. When the 1980s version filmed a pilot with Robin Ward, they apparently filmed a second pilot with a different, albeit unknown, Canadian emcee. Apparently this other emcee had the rules down pat, but was rather stiff and distant — and Mark Goodson, well-known to favor substance over style, chose Ward.
  • Missing Episode: A small percent of episodes were sponsored by Marlboro, Winston, and Salem — and as such are banned from GSN replay. However, like the Winston-sponsored I've Got a Secret episodes, they were allowed to run during GSN's Black and White Overnite programming block from 2001-06.
  • Name's the Same: In one CBS episode a fulltime fireman/part time hair dresser named Wyatt Earp appeared, although he said he was not related to the famous lawmen. His imposters were named Frank and Jessie James.
  • Obvious Beta: The second pilot for the 1990s version actually aired in the Eastern and Central time zones by mistake in place of the premiere, with marked differences from the actual series — most notably the host and set. The fandom didn't complain.
  • Obvious Rule Patch: Possibly a holdover from the pilot's judge-and-jury set motif, early episodes had Bud Collyer collect up the ballots and reveal them one by one, saying which celebrity voted for which contestant.
  • Pilot: The pilot for the CBS version was entitled "Nothing But the Truth", had a judge and jury motif, and was hosted by Mike Wallace. Yes...that...Mike Wallace.
    • The one for the 1990 NBC revival aired on the east coast by mistake.
  • Product Placement: As was common practice at the time, the sponsor's logo was seen on the panel's desk. There were also logos on the host podium and a small sign by the stairs the three contestants walk down. Additionally, an icon of the product would be seen on the contestant's #1, #2, and #3 signs (e.g., a round container for Arrid, the familiar Marlboro pack design for Marlboro, etc), and host Bud Collyer would mention that a sampler of the product would be given to the contestants along with the money they won.
  • Real Life Relative:

Collyer: Panel will you read again with me for this final affadavid of the evening. "I, Richard V. Heermance, was born in NYC. I have one sister and one brother. Like my brother I attended Williams college in Williamstown Mass., but unlike my brother, I did NOT follow in our father's footsteps and study law. Like my brother I am married and have a family. I have two children and my brother has three. My brother, incidentally, is better known to all of you as — Bud Collyer. Signed, Richard V. Heermance".

    • One memorable moment from the Garry Moore era involved noted NYPD undercover officer Richard Buggy as the subject. All three contestants were in disguise — #1 was a blind old lady, #2 was an old man on crutches, and #3 was a (hiccup) drunken street bum. After the real Buggy revealed himself (number one), the impostors revealed their identities as well — number two was Chris Hart, son of regular panelist Kitty Carlisle (Hart), and number three was Joe Garagiola Jr., whose father, Joe Sr., was sitting on the panel that particular episode. Neither parents recognized their children.
  • The Show Must Go On:
    • In this episode, the question segment was accidentally erased, so Garry and the panel had to ad-lib and redo the voting segment.
    • Counting the pilots, the 1990 version had five hosts in one season. Richard Kline hosted the pilots, and Gordon Elliott was the main host until he was fired over a salary dispute. Lynn Swann then took over until scheduling conflicts forced Alex Trebek to move to the hosting seat. Trebek then had to skip two episodes because his wife was about to give birth, so Mark Goodson filled in for him. Small wonder the 1990s revival barely lasted a season.
  • Title Drop: "Only one of these people is the real (name), and is the only one sworn...To Tell The Truth!"
  • Thematic Theme Tune: The 1969-78 version had a vocal theme, a type rarely used in game shows. Not only that, but it took the form of a love song:

"It's a lie, lie, you're telling a lie / I never know why you don't know how / To tell the truth, truth, truth, truth..."