What Went Wrong?, Episode 12: An Audience with Bob Goen

So glad you caught the boat this time, folks. This time around, we have a very unique interview. It’s actually less of an interview and more of a memoir, closer to a Kindle Single. And it involves this guy over here….

You remember that interview I did with Marianne Curan? Well, this is her husband, Bob. We’re going to present his life story in this installment. Now, this is going to be different and I’ll tell you why. I asked Mr. Goen a number of questions via FB (you know me, always want to be thorough) and he answered them. Boy, did he answer them, but he didn’t bother to number his answers. So, I’m  not going to include the questions. This is known as “making lemonade”. I will be including clips of his shows where applicable. The floor’s yours, Bob.

“An Audience with Bob Goen” by Bob Goen

(edited by Greg Palmer)

Hey Greg! First off, I got involved in broadcasting, because I caught the game show bug very early on. I was a child of the 60’s, and when I would come home from school, I would turn on the TV and watch them. In those days game shows were on all day long. You could catch You Don’t Say at 2pm, or PDQ at 3. It was great. I’d watch those shows and think, “Man, those guys are having a lot of fun! I wish I could do that when I grow up.” I was about 13 years old when I announced to my parents at the dinner table that I was going to be a game show host when I grew up. They must have thought I had lost my mind, but they didn’t let on. They were very supportive. Especially my mom, who had always wanted to be in show business too. From what I could tell, all the game show hosts of the 50’s and 60’s had come from radio, so that’s what I did. I got into radio, which I loved. But it was always a means to the game show end.

After about 5 or 6 years in radio, I got my first TV job, as a sportscaster in Palm Springs, CA. It was perfect because I was close to LA, where I could drive up and do a game show or commercial audition, and then get back in time for my sportscast that night. It was also a vacation paradise for directors, producers, and agents from Hollywood who might just spot me on the air. And that’s exactly what happened. About 6 months into the job, I got a phone call after my 6pm sportscast from a game show producer named Ray Horl, who lived in Palm Springs. Ray had produced Name That Tune, You Asked For It, and Celebrity Sweepstakes, among others, had seen me on TV and thought I would be good (and cheap) for his next game show pilot. It was the shot I’d been waiting for! So for the next two years, I went to “Game Show College” with my new “Professor”, Ray Horl.

I would finish my 11pm sportscast, and go over the Ray’s, where we would play backgammon into the wee small hours of the morning, and talk about game shows and how to host them. And whenever Ray was developing a new show, he would invite the neighbors over to his living room to be contestants, and I would host. It was the most amazing training ground I could hope for! So when I finally won an audition in Hollywood for a game show, I was ready. My first shot was with Jay Wolpert, who produced Whew. He hired me to do a pilot for NBC called Pie In The Sky which didn’t sell, and then we did another for CBS called Fast Friends which also didn’t make it. [Editor’s Note: It did make it for a few months in the UK.]

That was a tough time, because I had two network game shows under my belt, but still had to go back to Palm Springs and continue my sportscasting career. I was a one-man sports department there, so going from a network television soundstage to shooting the high school basketball game was quite a jarring wake-up call. After 5 years in Palm Springs, I finally gave my notice, and decided to move to Hollywood and take my chances.
But two weeks before I left the desert, I got called in for the audition for Perfect Match, a nationally syndicated game show produced by Scott Stone and Bob Synes, and I got the job. It was great fortune. I was prepared to wait tables, but now I had a job in show biz! Perfect Match lasted about 9 months before it was justifiably cancelled. It was just too close to Newlywed Game, and the audience just didn’t need it.

Next came The Home Shopping Game which tried to capitalize on the exploding world of home shopping. I loved the game portion of that show with the anagrams, but the home audience didn’t seem to latch on to the shopping part. And the large cash prizes we were giving away were dependent on sales of the items we were plugging. The game was good, but the business plan ultimately led to its demise.

 A few months after that, I got a big break, hosting two national shows at the same time. CBS tabbed me to host Blackout (thanks again to my friend and producer, Jay Wolpert), and I launched a nationally syndicated Saturday morning show called Great Weekend. It was a weekend version of the Today Show before there even was a weekend version of the Today Show. Blackout was a terrific game, but it was cancelled very quickly because I think it was just too complicated for the audience to follow. But the big benefit from Blackout was that it was my first exposure to dealing with celebrity contestants. That really paid off down the road when I got to Entertainment Tonight.

Blackout gave me some national credibility, so when Wheel Of Fortune needed to replace Rolf Benirschke (who had replaced Pat Sajak) on the daytime Wheel, I had the experience and the resume to get the job. I auditioned like the other two dozen or so guys, but when I handled the game well, and clicked with Vanna, Merv Griffin pointed to me. That was about the biggest day of my life, and I had a blast hosting that show. Since we were on during the day, and under a network TV budget, we were the poor step-sister to the night-time syndicated version with Pat and Vanna. They were making millions and giving away BMWs, while we were stuck with $50 spaces on the wheel and giving away GEO Metros. It was a bit of an embarrassment, and I think, the ultimate demise of my version of the show. Why watch a guy win a trip to Santa Barbara, when you could wait a few hours and see a different guy win a vacation in Spain? But for me, it was OK, because I was now a legimate name in TV, and was always considered when a new show needed a host. [Editor’s Note: Here’s the 2nd episode from the CBS run, plus two bonuses. The premiere, along with a bunch of other Goen eps, are all on YT.]

[As you may or may not know, both this and the nighttime version stayed at Television City until 1995, when they moved to Sony Pictures Studios. The daytime version moved to NBC in 1991 and ended a few months after. Here’s the NBC premiere, the finale’s on the Tube.]

 [Meanwhile, Bob also did a few commercials for Sears.]

So when CBS decided to take a chance on a prime time game during the summer of ’92, I was named the host. The Hollywood Game was an amazing show for me, becuase it was trivia based (my passion), on in prime time, and produced by two of the titans of TV, Marty Pasetta and Ray Stark. As good as that show was (and it was awesome!) it was VERY expensive to produce because of all the movie clips that had to be paid for, and it just couldn’t sustain the budget. It only lasted 4 weeks, but it was a glorious month for me!

Next, I was reunited with my first producer, Scott Stone, who tabbed me to host Born Lucky. That was a wild show, taped in malls and using shoppers who were wandering by. The interesting part of that show for me, was that after we finished the first season, we were waiting on pins and needles for a pick-up from the network. While we waited and waited, I got called in for my audition at ET, and ultimately got the job. The problem was, I couldn’t take the dream ET job, because I was still under a syndication contract with Born Lucky. But Scott Stone, a great man, said, “Go do ET, and we’ll figure out the rest later.” Born Lucky was cancelled, I went to ET, and the rest as they say, is history. [Editor’s Note: I couldn’t find anything for Born Lucky, but trust me, there wasn’t that much to see. Your mileage may vary, though.]

ET was an amazing experience, and I’m sure that’s what will be whittled on my tombstone, “…former host of Entertainment Tonight…” despite the fact that I have always considered myself a game show host. After ET, I gratefully got back into game shows when my old line producer from Perfect Match, Scott Sternberg, asked me to host That’s The Question for GSN.

[Premiere ep from S1]

That was a fascinating experience, because I did it on a moment’s notice, and with one day to pack and prepare, had to fly to the Netherlands to tape the first season. As I recall, we taped 6 weeks worth of shows in 5 days, and I was suffering from the worst stomach flu I’ve ever had. I really don’t know how I got through the first few days of that. But I slowly recovered as the week went on and the show did well enough to get a second season that we thankfully shot in Hollywood. I loved the Netherlands, but Hollywood is a lot easier!

Because of my association with GSN during TTQ, they thought of me when they were launching GSN Radio. This was a great treat for me, getting back to my radio roots, doing a game show, and working with my amazingly talented wife, Marianne Curan, on a streaming, daily, live, radio show. GSN Radio was a dream job, was very well received by the audience, and has convinced us that radio is a future that we would love. So look for an announcement soon! I always felt like working in game shows was a privilege and a joy. Like Ray Horl told me from the outset, as a game show host, you are the host of a dinner party. It’s your job to make sure that everyone around your table has a good time.

And we’ve had a good time with you, Bob. Alex Davis of BuzzerBlog got two interviews with him, one solo and one with his wife. See, Alex? I’m catching up with you.

Thank you very much, Bob. You can see him working with Passages Malibu, touting an alcohol and addiction cure. In fact, you can see him right here.

We’ll get to some game show news in a minute.

About gameking77

I'm an average guy who loves game shows and interviewing people.
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