Classic Television Thursday #030 – What’s My Line?

wml2I’ve always found What’s My Line? to be a slightly odd show, with it’s combination of formality and lightheartedness, always walking that fine line of being ostensibly a game show but one that was more about being entertaining rather than winning, especially for the regular panelists.

The premise was simple: four panelists – usually Arlene Francis, Dorothy Kilgallen, and Bennet Cerf along with a fourth guest panelist – would take turns asking yes-or-no questions of a guest in order to determine their occupation. Each episode would generally consist of two rounds played that way, and then a third round which would see the panelists blindfolded as they tried to identify a “mystery guest” – usually a well-known celebrity – again by asking only yes-or-no questions. The host for the show was John Daly.

wml1I don’t know exactly what it is that makes the show so appealing, but obviously I’m not the only one who finds – or at least found – it so, since during its initial run during prime-time on CBS it lasted for seventeen seasons – making it the longest-running U.S. prime time network television game-show – and after that running in daily syndication from 1968-1975. According to Wikipedia, there were 876 episodes of the prime time version produced, and 1,315 episodes of the syndicated version for a total of 2,191 episodes, and that doesn’t count later revivals or spin-offs such as I’ve Got A Secret.

The episode I’ve chosen to highlight today features comedian and children’s show host Soupy Sales as the Mystery Guest.

Take a look.

Interestingly, Mr. Sales would go on to become one of the regular panelists during the show’s syndicated run. And if you’re curious about his own show, I encourage you to check back next week, when we’ll take a look at it.








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