What You Didn’t Know About… “Match Game”

Match Game was one of the most popular game shows of the 1970s. It originally aired on NBC in a different format, but was resurrected for CBS in 1973 into the format we all know and love.

Ratings for the show weren’t that good initially, so CBS sent the show a “cancellation notice”. Back then, networks didn’t yank shows off the air like they do today, and Match Game had several episodes remaining before it was due to leave the air. So the writers decided to have fun with it: they took the show’s hitherto pedestrian “fill in the blank” questions and crammed them with lots of innuendo and double entendres. The new “spicy” version of the show became an instant hit and ran for several years.

Many folks noticed the distinctive microphone that host Gene Rayburn used on the show; few know that Rayburn designed and patented the microphone himself. It was built especially for him by Sony and was given model number ECM-51.

In his earlier days, Rayburn was a radio DJ on a show called Rayburn and Fitch. Rayburn once knitted a pair of socks as a publicity stunt for the show, and as a result he became interested in working with needles, especially needlepoint. He was frequently spotted in airports and restaurants and on airplanes doing needlepoint to pass the time. Match Game creator Mark Goodson even surprised Rayburn onstage during the taping of an episode to give him a needlepoint bag as a token gift for making Match Game the #1 daytime television show.

A 1974 incident where Rayburn told contestant Karen Lesko that she had “pretty nipples” has gone down in history as one of the worst bloopers in game show history (or best bloopers, depending on your point-of-view). Rayburn meant to say that she had “pretty dimples”.

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