Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The Best Of Match Game

The Match Game had a good run in the early '60s as a celebrity panel show where contestants guessed how famous folk might complete short phrases or answer general-interest questions. Then, like a lot of the genteel game shows of the post-Twenty-One era, The Match Game was revived and crass-ified in the '70s. The question-writers concocted punny, double-entendre-filled sentences, and though at first the contestants and panelists were too tentative to take the bait—the first-ever question was "the sexiest thing a woman can wear is ____," and no one had the temerity to say "nothing"—by the middle of the first season, people giddily filled the blanks with words like "whoopee" and "boobs."


Up to now, classic game shows have largely missed the let's-put-everything-on-DVD rush, but the four-disc The Best Of Match Game provides a good model for how TV ephemera should be preserved. Each disc contains eight full episodes, plus a highlight reel drawn from those episodes (hosted by Match Game staple Brett Somers). Viewers can either skip straight to the smutty jokes and three-martini-lunch mayhem that made the show a staple of the leisure-suit set, or they can try on the shoes of some "retired secretary and grandmother of six from Pomona" and actually play along with one of the most fun game shows of its era. In some ways, it's doubly fun now, because the home contestant has to figure out how people in the '70s would've filled the blank in, say, "____ Balsam." (Answer: "Wella.")

The Best Of Match Game falls a little short with its cutesy, blandly positive contextual material. There's a lot of history missing, from the backgrounds of long-forgotten "celebrities" like Scoey Mitchell to observations on how the show changed as it got more popular. (A whole book could be written about Richard Dawson's petty mutinies.) Still, it's a treat to have this little slice of show business—one of the last links between the Golden Age of television and the post-hippie age—preserved for future study, wide collars and gold chains intact.

Key features: The aforementioned Somers bits, plus the pilot episode for the vastly different early-'60s Match Game.