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Beat the Genius


Producer: Ross/Danzig Productions
Host: Art Baker
Assistant: Jane Langley
Announcer: Tom Hudson
Celebrities: Commander Heath Murray, Kenneth Shanks, Major Betsy Parker, Marian Seldes, Hugo Friedhofer
Taping Info: late 50s, KTTV Studios, Los Angeles (a TV listing with this panel dates it as October 16, 1959, but there could have been other episodes with the same panel)
Made it to Air: This was an attempt to make a local show go national. This aired on KTTV in Los Angeles on Thursday nights at 7:00 PM from June 28, 1955 to sometime later in the 50's. It did not make national distribution.
Availability: It's available on the trading circuit.

Recently, Jeopardy! allowed the chance for an unlimited returning champion. Imagine a show where this was the concept, a single player who would play the game, week in, week out and would win most of the time, despite the fact he was playing five other people who were playing as a team known as the Brain Trusters. This was the premise of Beat the Genius, a four-round quiz where five very intelligent semi-celebrities attempt to beat Mr. Genius, a player who came in with a mask on his face and wearing an academic gown. The host is Art Baker, a long-time Los Angeles radio personality and known nationally at this time as the host of You Asked for It on ABC. The celebrities on this episode featured:

  • Commander Ian Murray, naval historian who participated in World War I and World War II
  • Kenneth Shanks, professor of speech at Southern Cal
  • Marian Seldes (1928-), who would later win a Tony Award for Best Supporting Actress in 1967's A Delicate Balance along with two other Tony nominations.
  • Major Beatrice Parker of the Women's Army Corps
  • Hugo Friedhofer (1901-1981), multi-Oscar nominated composer who had a win for The Best Years of Our Lives.

Assisting was Jane Langley, who handled the lockout system.

The game is pretty simple. Art reads a question, a player buzzes in, if you're right, you get a point. If you're wrong, you lose a point and the question is over. The first and fourth rounds were several minutes of general knowledge questions, in which Mr. Genius cleaned up the opposition. The second round was pictures, which the panel was able to conquer Mr. Genius, while the third round were questions allegedly in the field of expertise of the Brain Trusters. The highest scorer in the Brain Trusters receive a $50 savings bond, and if the team could beat Mr. Genius, they would each receive a $100 savings bond.

I loved this game, it's a shame I really couldn't find out much about it. I was able to find this reminiscence of the show where the author did find out the identity of Mr. Genius as an anonymous accountant. There would be no problem getting a new Mr. Genius, I know several people on the academic quiz circuit who could fit the bill nicely.


The players with Mr. Genius lording over the Brain Trust

Host Art Baker

Commander Ian Murray

Actress Marian Seldes

USC professor Kenneth Shanks

Former newspaper reporter and current major in the WACs, Beatrice Parker

Tired, not retired, composer Hugo Friedhofer

Mr. Genius

Assistant Jane Langley


This pilot has been viewed 9468 times since October 6, 2008 and was last modified on Dec 12, 2009 14:46 ET
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