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Celebrity Billiards


Producer: Almaro Productions
Host: Ted Travers
Referee: Max Fellner
Taping Info: December 11, 1965
Made it to Air: In the 1967-68 syndication season.
Availability: UCLA Archives

There were bowling shows on the air such as Jackpot Bowling, so why not extend the concept to billiards. Also, The Hustler was a favorite movie of the time and practically made a household name of Rudolph "Minnesota Fats" Wanderone, so let's get him a TV show. And Celebrity Billiards is born.

The show started on a stage that was a mock-up of a pool hall not unlike what you see on ESPN's coverage of billiards today with a table in the center and a few rows of audience surrounding on three sides. The host, Ted Travers, started the show interviewing the two competitors, one of course being the house celebrity Fats, while the other in this particular episode was TV's Bret Maverick James Garner. A brief description of 8-ball followed plus the revelation that Fats will play with a slight handicap Garner will always do the break before each game in this 2 out of 3 match-up. That's about as slight you can get, it would be roughly similar to me battling Jeff Gordon on a NASCAR track but I get the pole position. It isn't going to help all that much.

Game 1 is played pretty much straight. Garner actually sinks a ball on his break and does fairly good, but Fats pretty much takes over and wins the game handily. However, it now changes as Fats flubs shots in both Games 2 and 3 in order to let Garner win. Since three games of billiards can go by relatively quickly with two skilled players, the remainder of the show is left to Fats doing exhibitions of trick shots.

This show could work today. First, you would need a new house player, since Fats died in 1996. I would have two house players and two celebrities. That way, you could play alternate shot between house and celebrity, and you wouldn't need the obviously duff shots made in the pilot to make the games interesting. Plus, a la Password, switch celebrities after each game. Divide the audience into rooting sections a la Tattletales, and they would get the money won. Finally, have side bets during the games whether they could make such and such shot.

This pilot has been viewed 6033 times since October 6, 2008 and was last modified on Dec 12, 2009 14:46 ET
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