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The Plot Thickens


Producer: John Guedel
Host: Jack Linkletter
Assistant: Warrene Ott
Celebrities: Jan Sterling, Groucho Marx
Taping Info: 1963
Made it to Air: No
Availability: The pilot is a DVD extra on You Bet Your Life: The Best Episodes by Shout Factory

Many of the pilots I watch for this web site could be classified as horror. So, the next step would only be to have a game show created by a horror specialist in William Castle, the producer of Rosemary's Baby and director of scores of 'B' movies in the 40s, 50s and 60s. Also imparting horror was the hosting of Jack Linkletter, who showed why nepotism just doesn't work. Included on the show was a professional private eye (Dick Halley), a contestant (Stan Ross), an actress (Jan Sterling) and a Marx (Groucho). Yes, Groucho Marx, who just had an incredible run on TV with You Bet Your Life.

The show is similar to the previous pilot Key Witness and the later pilot Whodunit, where a mystery is shown and then the contestants try to guess the murderer. In this effort, the four panelists were shown the mystery, and three of them were eligible to win the prize. The fourth contestant, private dick Dick Halley, would determine whether the winning prize would be $500 (if Halley guessed correctly) or $1,000 (if Halley guessed incorrectly).

Well, Jack was awful. Really, really bad. The major issue I had was the chiding of Groucho Marx whenever he decided to clown around rather than taking it seriously. You have Groucho Marx on your show, so let him be funny. If you don't want funny, don't have him on the show, and kiss any longevity goodbye because even the strictest of panel shows like To Tell the Truth relied on some amount of levity. Another issue was Warrene Ott as "the bailiff", some eye candy whose one-piece cat-suit actually included a tail! Linkletter chided Groucho for making sexist remarks, but yet would make them to the bailiff all show long.

Groucho was probably on this show because he was doing a favor to producer Jon Guedel, who produced You Bet Your Life and Jack was probably on this show because he was the son of the star of the other show Jon Guedel was producing. Also, having William Castle add strange 'B' movie shots like pointless closeups of the useless black cat did not help this show's chances. Not even having the game story written by Psycho author Robert Bloch upped the quality. This may have worked with a better host or better production values.

A Pilot Light Bonus: Actors from the show-in-a-show
  • Kathryn Givney Salvation Army General Matilda B. Cartwright in the movie version of Guys and Dolls
  • Jay Adler brother of Stella Adler, was the attorney in Family Jewels
  • James Callahan played the father of Farrah Fawcett's character in The Burning Bed
  • Linda Bennett minor roles in The Big Heat and The Seven Little Foys
  • Isobel Eslom played Mrs. Eynesford-Hill in the movie version of My Fair Lady
  • Arthur Batanides played Old Man Kirkland in four of the Police Academy movies, also appeared in Spartacus
  • Vinton Hayworth played General Schaeffer, the commanding officer on I Dream of Jeannie and also appeared in Spartacus
  • Frederic Downs was in the movie version of 1776
  • Joe Maross was the "nice" astronaut in the Twilight Zone episode "The Little People"



Here's the reason to watch the show.

Here's a reason to not watch the show. OK, the catgirl isn't bad.

Here's the panel as a whole, thrilled to be there.

Here's the mystery-within-the-show "Murder in the Crystal Ball". There's a fake 1958 Screen Gems copyright on it as well.

Here is who is going to die.

Here is a candid shot of the suspects.

It's Lucifer the cat. The superfluous, superfluous cat.

This pilot has been viewed 6852 times since October 6, 2008 and was last modified on Dec 12, 2009 14:46 ET
Feedback? Contact me at usgs-pilot at the usgameshows dot net domain