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Play Your Hunch

Producer: Goodson-Todman
Host: Merv Griffin
Announcer: Johnny Olson
Taping Info: Probably 1958 in New York City
Made it to Air: Yes, actually ran on all three networks at some point in both night and day varieties between 1958 and 1962 and was hosted by Merv, Richard Hayes, Gene Rayburn and Robert Q. Lewis.
Availability: Some traders will have it, it is also available through Kinevideo (external link).

Play Your Hunch actually made it to the airwaves on not one, not two, but three networks. It premiered at 10:30 AM on June 29 1958, replacing a lackluster How Do You Rate? in part of an overhaul that also saw the end of The Garry Moore Show. After six months on the Tiffany network, Hunch jumped to ABC on 5 January 1959 after Arthur Godfrey Time was placed in its slot to make room for I Love Lucy reruns. Joining the weaker network at 12:30 PM, it went against soaps on both CBS and NBC and first left the air on May 8, 1959.

NBC picked up the show on 7 December 1959 and placed in its old time slot, replacing old competitor Treasure Hunt when this Jan Murray-hosted version was considered a possibly rigged show. NBC also brought Hunch to prime-time as a summer replacement in both 1960 and 1962. Griffin left hosting the daytime version in 1962 for his own talk show on NBC (ironically going against Goodson-Todman's Password and again replacing Jan Murray, this time knocking The Jan Murray Show off the air), leaving hosting duties first to Richard Hayes then a month later to Gene Rayburn, only to be replaced by Robert Q. Lewis when Rayburn left for Match Game. Play Your Hunch aired for the final time on September 27, 1963, and in another ironic twist of fate, was replaced by Merv Griffin's first production outing, Word for Word.

Similar to the way Goodson-Todman's I've Got a Secret was a semi-knockoff of their own What's My Line?, Play Your Hunch was a semi-knockoff of To Tell the Truth. Three contestants were brought out, with one of them having a special quality that the other two did not have. Unlike Truth, the Hunch "panelists" were actually the true contestants, as they were trying to guess the special quality for cash and prizes, instead of the impostors like on Truth. Contestants were split into two teams of two, usually a married couple. One correct guess netted a team $50, while three guesses won the game. The pilot also contained a bonus game called "The Last Straw". According to The Encyclopedia of Game Shows Vol. 3, this bonus game did make it to the CBS version, but was gone by the time made it to NBC.

This pilot was developed by the network, with Goodson-Todman having much clout by this point (early 1958), the time slot was already there waiting. However, there was not a true sponsor, as both Griffin and announcer Johnny Olsen (in his first appearance for Goodson-Todman) both referred to the generic "Quality Products" as the underwriter. After a brief description of the rules, the first set of contestants, designated as X, Y and Z, were brought out and the players were told about the special quality of the contestant. On this episode, the first set of contestants were literally dogs, as three canines were brought out and the contestants were supposed to figure out which of the three was the other twos' father.

In the pilot, a team was allowed to pass their guess to the other team, a rule which stuck around for awhile before it quietly disappeared. Also comparing the pilot to the regular version, the pilot seemed rather bland, as guessing included figuring out which of the following three contestants married a serviceman, which container would exactly hold a certain amount of liquid, which of the following is a ventriloquist and which of the following children could play a violin. Also missing from episodes I have seen would be the live big band that Merv would occasionally perform with, but he did hum a few a capella lines during the pilot.

The bonus game featured a cart of seven straws, five long and two short. For every long straw drawn before the first short one was pulled, the team received $100. If you managed to pull all five long ones before pulling a short one, the team would receive a car (about a 1 in 20 chance). However, if you pulled a short one first, you were allowed one more turn, in which you won $100 if you pulled a long one or the car if you pulled the other short one (about a 1 in 42 chance).

I wasn't a big fan of this show the few times it has aired on Game Show Network, and I would have to say this pilot was even a step below that. Of course, many 50's-era shows look very bland by today's standards, but compared to the other guessing games of that era, this one is the poorer in my view, mainly because you couldn't ask any questions, you could only guess. However, this show did have a five-year run, a run that most game shows would kill to have, so I guess my hunch on this show wouldn't have played out.

The opening screen.

The Hurter family, one of our competing couples.

It is only the first set to figure out, and already the show has gone to the dogs.

I am shocked and appalled at the level of violins on TV these days.

Exciting stunt #3 which of these containers will not overflow.

Drawing straws in the bonus game.

This pilot has been viewed 4230 times since October 6, 2008 and was last modified on Dec 12, 2009 14:46 ET
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