And here we are again with part 2 of my interview with Roger Dobkowitz. You know him best for The Price is Right, but you probably may not know he did Match Game ‘7x as well. Here’s what he has to say about it.
“I got involved with Match Game because I worked on the pilot show…Mark Goodson did not hire new people to work on pilots…he used people working on other shows (after the show sold he would then hire people to staff the show). Since I was single and had a lot to time on my hands, I asked to work on Match Game…it taped on weekends and since the director was also the one working on Price, I realized there would never be a conflict of tapings.
My job on Match Game was cue cards on stage left (camera right). I would write the responses given by contestants and hold them up to remind Gene what the contestant said (not too difficult of a job!). I would also have to hold up the warning of “Must Match” to Gene to let him know when a positive match was critical for the contestant (that required concentration!) When they played the audience match, I would have to write down the three suggestions that the celebrities gave…I ran into problems here because there were words I couldn’t spell sometimes (“lingerie” and “lieutenant” were problems!) and Gene would make fun of me (which I didn’t mind because I usually got on camera during those moments.
I really enjoyed working on the show…I would actually look forward to it! The atmosphere on the set was one of ‘anything goes”…everyone seemed to have fun and nothing was ever taken too seriously. And it is true…the celebrities did drink during the dinner break and the last two shows of the day were always a little more wilder. Most of the antics did get on the air, because back in those days of television editing was never severe. Marc Breslow (the director) and Mark Goodson did not believe in creating an artificial game show where it had to be edited a certain way (as in today’s shows)…most everything was left in…occasionally a little bit had to be edited out for time restraints. Unfortunately, this editing rule changed during the last few years of the show…suddently the producer (Ira Skutch) felt the chit chat and antics during the “writing” time had to be edited out and the game advanced. Personally, as a staff onlooker, I felt that the show was harmed by this and never really recovered.
Another thing I felt harmed the show badly was when Richard Dawson left. For whatever reason…the studio audience loved him…they would always respond to him far more than any other celebrity on the show. During the head to head match, the contestant almost always chose Richard. The other celebrities didn’t really like this and (I supposed) complained to the producer. Thus, the wheel was introduced. Richard did not like this and this is when the animosity between Richard and the producer began. Later, when Richard was a hit on Family Feud, was when he felt he could leave the show. This was another blow to the show…it was not the same without Richard.
The other thing that harmed the show was the introduction of lazy writing…the staff started recycling questions from the past which started to take away the fresh look of the show. I am a big believer in NOT repeating stuff…even though it is hard to write because one might think “everything has been done” there is always something new to write. Jay Wolpert on price made me realize this when he said he didn’t want to repeat showcase. I remember telling him that everything had been done and I didn’t think anything new could be written. Well…he forced me into creating and thinking up new stuff (even though it was hard) and I learned a valuable lesson…there is always something new!
Thus…editing, exiting of Richard, and lazy writing resulted in the cancellation of one of the biggest hits in daytime TV.
I have mixed feelings about Gene…he was a hugely talened MC…clever, funny, and he knew exactly how to handle the celebrities. However, he really wasn’t that nice of a human being. He cheated on his wife (which was very well known at the time) he was extremely cheap ( in Hollywood, the standard practice of talent is to give gifts at Christmas time to show appreciation to the “little people” of their success…Gene never game the “little people” any gifts, and he was a little bit mean.
Once, we had a session after a taping where Gene had to do a whole bunch of promos for stations across the country. I had to write the cue cards and hold them up for him as he read the message. During one of the messages, Gene screwed up several time and he had to do it over and over…and then he blamed me for holding up the cards badly and because of that he couldn’t read them properly. Well, I didn’t like being blamed in front of a lot of people for his errors he couldn’tt admit to…so I shouted out “well, I guess there’s a reason these cards are called “idiot cards””…he didn’t like that very much (but he couldn’t have me fired because I was a favorite of Mark Goodson!) (historical note: until the sixties cue cards were not called “cue cards” they were called “idiot cards”).”
And thank you again, Roger. We’ll be looking forward to hearing more of him later on. More great interviews plus a tribute to Dick Clark later on.