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Missing Links

Producer: : Goodman-Todman
Host: : Ed McMahon
Announcer: Johnny Olson
Celebrities: Milt Kamen, Phyllis Newman, Chester Morris
Taping Info: August 21, 1963 in New York for NBC
Made it to Air: The show premiered in September 1963 for NBC, replacing The Price is Right, which moved to ABC. Six months later, Missing Links did also left NBC for ABC, and limped along for another nine months.
Availability: UCLA

I've Got a Secret is popular. Match Game is popular. Why not try to combine them? Unfortunately, like combining barbeque sauce and jello, not all combinations were meant to go together. A very tired Ed McMahon, still recovering from a Bud-fueled Alpo bender, is your host.

The purpose of the game is to identify the missing word from a story you are hearing for the first time. After some brief interlude, a statement is read, and then each of the celebrities tries to guess the word. For each missed guess, one of the six plus signs is turned into a minus sign. When the word is guessed (leaving a quantity of plus signs), or if the word is not guessed after each celebrity had two tries (all six signs are now a minus), the scoring is then determined. The contestant then revealed a prior-to-the-show bet on whether the contestant would get the word or not. If he or she had bet yes, they got $10 for each plus sign revealed. If the bet was no, they got $10 per minus sign. To help in the second set of guesses, the first letter of the word was given to the celebrities. For the sixth statement, the scoring was $20 per sign, but only three guesses were tried instead of six (the first letter was given).

Herb Cutting, an employee of the Mutual Broadcasting System, is the first contestant. Instead of spinning some fascinating tales about the broadcasting industry, he instead tells the story of a scuba diving expedition that went wrong. Now, in most panel games, even though a fair number of questions are answered "no", an equal if not greater number of questions are answered "yes". However, the guess rate here was terrible. Only two of the six statements had the word guessed, once on the fifth try, the other on the last try on statement six. So there were two "yes" statements, and 30 "no" statements. Imagine Jeopardy! if only a handful of people gave the correct question. It was that painful.

The drill repeated for round #2, with a little better batting average (2 yes, 24 no). I don't really know if anything exciting happened in round #2 (a story about an African safari), since I played it at double speed just to get the batting average. The commercials were more engaging. However, even in the first game you could tell the celebrities were exasperated and felt the game was pointless. Milt Kamen seemed to be looking to leave the stage at the first opportunity available.

This was a "rehearsal" show rather than a true pilot, by the time this was filmed the show had already been picked up by NBC. The only episode I have seen was from late in the ABC run (hosted by Dick Clark) where there were three contestants instead of two (the third being a celebrity), each contestant only had 4 statements to get through rather than 6, the first letter was given right away, and the scoring system was always for plus. The latter two changes did help the batting average increase, plus Dick Clark was much less robotic and much more warm with the contestants. These improvements helped it be a mediocre show rather than a bad one.

This pilot has been viewed 6438 times since October 6, 2008 and was last modified on Aug 16, 2010 23:17 ET
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