Hollywood Squares (NBC, 1966-1980, 1983-1984, syndicated, 1971-1981, 1986-1989, 1998-2004)
As my review of Celebrity Squares is one of the most-viewed blog pieces of the year, I thought that I’d take a look at the original American version too. Hollywood Squares began in the mid-60s, but I’ll concentrate on the version that was shown in the mid-80s, as this was rather similar to the format that was used when the show was revived in the UK in 1993. The host by this point was John Davidson.
The set design was rather similar to the UK 90s version too, featuring a big flashing sign of the show’s title, and also several cars on stage, just like “The Monkhouse Motor Show” (and it’ll become clear why soon). Hollywood Squares was of course essentially oversized Noughts And Crosses (or “Tic-Tac-Toe” as it’s called in America), which featured stars and cars.
All nine squares featured someone famous (although I’m not really sure what was classed as a celebrity on TV in the mid-80s), but a lot of people who were in daytime soaps took part, along with various comedians (well they claimed they were comedians). Sometimes there were double acts in a square, meaning that 11 or even 12 people actually took part, who would get up to all kinds of things. And they really were stacked on top of each other, and had to climb a lot of rather scary-looking stairs to get to the top row.
Two contestants set at a desk that seemed to be very high up in the air. They would pick a square (usually beginning with the centre one), and then the celebrity would be asked a question. After making a rather embarrassing joke, they would then give their answer, and the contestant had to say if they agreed or disagreed with their choice. Get it right and they win the square, but get it wrong, and their opponent does.
If the contestant gets one wrong that would give their opponent the game, they don’t get the square, they have to give a correct answer themselves to win. Whoever makes three in a row vertically, horizontally, or diagonally, wins the round and $500. This is then played again, but with the Secret Square Surprise added. Pick the square and get the question right, and a bonus prize is also won, which was usually a holiday. The winner of this round gets $1,000. There usually isn’t time for another full game, so contestants are given $100 for every correct answer before time runs out.
The highest-scorer goes into the final. Unlike the 90s UK final (where answers had to given against the clock to win a car), the contestant picked from a set of keys, and they would also pick a celebrity to give them good luck (or all of them if they wanted). If the key started the car they wanted, they won it. If it didn’t, as the defending champion, if they won again, they could pick another key, meaning if they got as far as their fifth appearance and still hadn’t found the key, they were guaranteed the win. There was also a board game, and the late-90s revival was briefly shown on Sky One.