Goodson, Mark (1915-1992)

views updated

Goodson, Mark (1915-1992)

Fondly known as the godfather of television game shows, Mark Goodson produced and created some of television's top-rated and most enduring programs, including The Price Is Right, The Match Game, and Family Feud.

Born in Sacramento, California, to Russian immigrant parents, Goodson was a shy and introverted child. Despite his reserved character, he pursued a career in the radio industry. In 1937 he landed his first job as a disc jockey at radio station KCBS in San Francisco. Two years later he was hired by Mutual Broadcasting System as an announcer, newscaster, and station director. In 1941 Goodson moved to New York to work as a radio announcer. It was here that he first became involved with game shows by emceeing the radio quiz show The Jack Dempsey Sports Quiz. In addition, Goodson tried his hand at acting while performing on the radio program We the People that aired during the Second World War; Goodson depicted the characters who had German and Japanese accents. In 1943 Goodson created his first network show for ABC, Appointment with Life, a dramatic series based on the files of a marriage counselor. During this time Goodson was also writing and directing installments of The Kate Smith Variety Hour.

In 1946, Goodson teamed up with Bill Todman to form Goodson-Todman Productions. Their first creation was a radio game show entitled Winner Take All, which aired on CBS. During the next couple of years, the two created several more successful radio shows, thereby creating a strong presence in network television. Goodson created the duo's first television program, What's My Line, which premiered on CBS on February 1, 1950. The program was an overnight success, airing weekly for seventeen years. Over the next thirty years, Goodson-Todman Productions continued to produce hit game shows and develop the widely used formats.

Complementary opposites, Todman managed the business side, while Goodson was the creative and productive force. Goodson created many of the essential attributes that define game shows. For example, Goodson-Todman Productions was one of the pioneers in set design, using bright colors and flashing lights. Goodson also pioneered the celebrity panel on the game show. In an attempt to boost ratings, Goodson introduced the celebrity panel in the 1950s onWhat's My Line? The program featured a panel of four celebrity guests who guessed the occupations of the contestants. Over the years Goodson perfected the practice of the celebrity panels on programs such as Password and The Match Game. Goodson's celebrity panels were and still are imitated by other game show producers.

In 1979 Bill Todman died, leaving all of Goodson-Todman Productions in control of his partner. The name of the company was changed to Goodson Productions, and Goodson continued to focus on producing game shows and expanding his media group. In 1986, Goodson created the Goodson Newspaper Group, which consolidated several daily and weekly newspapers. By 1992 the group published eight daily, six Sunday, and twenty-five weekly newspapers.

Two weeks before his death in December 1992, Goodson was inducted into the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame. This award topped a long list of other achievements that included three Emmy awards, the National TV award of Great Britain, and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Yet nothing represents Goodson's contribution to television better than the longevity of the shows themselves. There has not been a weekday since 1946, when Winner Takes All premiered on radio, that a Goodson program has not been on the air. Goodson-Todman's thirty-plus game shows include Winner Takes All (1948-52); Beat the Clock (1950-62, 1968-71, 1979-80); What's My Line? (1950-74); The Price Is Right (1956-65, 1972—); To Tell the Truth (1956-77); Password (1961-67, 1971-75, 1979-81, 1985—); The Match Game (1962-69, 1973-82); He Said, She Said (1969); Concentration (1973-79); Tattletales (1974-80, 1982-84); Mindreaders (1979); Block-busters (1980-82, 1987); Match Game/Hollywood Squares Hour (1982-83); and Trivia Trap (1984).

Goodson-Todman also produced a few episodic shows: The Rebel, Jefferson Drum, The Richard Boone Show, Philip Marlowe, and The Don Rickles Show.

—Lara Bickell

Further Reading:

Broughton, Irv, editor. Producers on Producing. Jefferson, North Carolina, McFarland & Company, 1986.

Fabe, Maxene. TV Game Shows. New York, Doubleday and Co., 1979.

Graham, Jefferson. Come on Down!!!: The TV Game Show Book. New York, Abbeville Press, 1988.

The Mark Goodson Collection, UCLA Film and Television Archive, Los Angeles, California.

Scheuer, Steven H., ed. Who's Who in Television and Cable. New York, Facts on File, 1983.

Schwartz, David, et al. The Encyclopedia of Television Game Shows. New York, New York Zoetrope, 1987.

About this article

Goodson, Mark (1915-1992)

Updated About content Print Article