Hi again. Once again, we continue with our interview with Roger Dobkowitz, and this is getting a lot of buzz on Facebook (particularly at a group called Game Show Fever Chat) and at Golden-Road.net, of which I am a member. I’m glad you guys are enjoying it as much as I’m enjoying bringing it to you. We now shift into what has to be my favorite decade, the ’80s.
EDIT: Took out a number of videos.
GP: As we enter 1980, Match Game went solely to syndication, the network Price was in its 8th season, and the syndicated Price went kaput. Seems the weekly version couldn’t keep up with the daily strips. I also understand that you were, as you put it, “involved with the creative processes at Mark Goodson Productions”. How many concepts did you work on, and can you give us a few notable examples?
RD: I was fortunate to work and be involved with almost all the shows Goodson put together. Goodson had a unique way of working on formats. He would first stage an extensive office run-thru of the show. Everyone in the company was obliged to attend the run-thru. After the presentation, Goodson would ask the group what they felt about the show. He would listen very intently. He was especially interested in those comments that were critical of the format. Then after he got the feedback from the people watching the run-thru he would begin a second meeting that just involved the producers and creative people in the company (about 10-20). I was flattered that Goodson considered me part of that group…I had not yet been made producer but he realized I had a special talent with game shows. It was at this meeting that the kinks of the show were worked out. Sometimes it took many more run-thrus and meetings before a show was as perfect as could be (Family Feud took many many meetings!)
GP: In 1984, something very big happened in your career. You moved up to producer with Phillip Wayne (now known as Phil W. Rossi). I’m interested in producing myself. How did you work your way up?
RD: I moved up into the producer position when the previous producer, Barbara Hunter left. It was a good fit for the show…. I was experienced with every position on the show, I had created games for the show, I had proved to be quite dependable, and I knew something about gameshows. However, I still had to go after the position and plead my case in a meeting with Mark Goodson. Goodson consulted with Bob Barker and the director, Marc Breslow and they all agreed that I should be promoted to producer.
GP: I want to skip ahead to 1985, when Coca-Cola Telecommunications (through The Television Program Source) distributed a new daily version of the show for syndication. Interestingly, it featured Tom Kennedy as the host. I’m curious, why was that? Why didn’t Barker double-shift as he had been 5 years prior?
RD: I do not know the real reason Bob did not do the show. When any talent decides to turn down a position it could be for a myriad of reasons and often the real reason is kept secret.
GP: In comparison to Barker, what was it like working with Tom Kennedy? Did you work with him on either of his other 2 Goodson games? RD: I remember Tom Kennedy being a truly nice person. Unlike some of the other MC’s I have worked with he did not have an ego problem and he did not act like he had to run the show. He let the producers run it.
GP: As I will mention in another section, one of the reasons the ’94 Price didn’t do so well was because it was openly lambasted by the cast of the daytime version. To my knowledge, Barker never gave this nighttime version a bad word on his version. This version often found itself in late night slots because of the power of what I like to call the “Merv Griffin Suite” (Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune). Which is a shame because I liked it. I still like it. I can’t seem to figure out why it flopped the way it did. In your opinion, what went wrong? RD: The Tom Kennedy version was really run by executive producer Frank Wayne. Frank was losing his grip on the daytime show because of Bob Barker. Frank was a controlling person and he was unable to fully control Price because of Bob. However, now with Tom Kennedy doing the show, Frank took over much of the decision making…he scheduled the games and had a big part in choosing the prizes. The show really didn’t flop that badly. What happened was that the show promised high ratings to the stations that bought it. Stations paid good money for it. When it didn’t perform as well as it was promised, stations dropped it and the show appeared to be a failure. Any normal show would have survived with the ratings that Tom Kennedy got…they just weren’t as high as promised.
GP: In late ’85, Johnny Olson died. Yes, he died, and I’ve grown to like him more than Rod Roddy. I’m reading Stan’s book [Come on Down! Behind the Big Doors at The Price is Right], and Stan mentions it was a great loss to him personally. Was it that way to you? RD: Johnny Olsen was another nice man. I don’t recall him ever missing a day of work. He never never gave any problems to anyone. He would gladly do anything he was told (as you can see by some of the sketches we had put him in). he always had a smile and he was always positive. We didn’t know, at that time, his true age, and we were always amazed at the energy he showed during the warm-ups. The loss of Johnny hurt everyone involved with the show.
GP: Of course, the show had to go on and go on it did. You ran a lot of auditions that winter. I know you had Gene Wood and Bob Hilton, and I saw a short clip of a Rich Jeffries episode. And then, according to Rod Roddy’s Wikipedia page, he announced 6 episodes. My personal favorite is Bob, with Gene in second. Which of the announcers did you like and why? I read that the show gave the job to Bob, who turned it down because of a failed pilot he was hosting. That brings me to my personal second choice, Gene Wood. He took over the Kennedy version until Rod came in. And please, don’t get me wrong. I thought Rod was a perfect match for Whew! and Press Your Luck. I know he did other games as well, even subbing for Gene on Family Feud. It’s just that I think Gene was given more of an opportunity than Rod was. What ultimately made Rod the best pick?
RD: Of the announcers we auditioned, we all like Rod the best. He was also CBS’s favorite. Bob Hilton was extremely good (there was some talk on stage on how the show would operate with both a MC and a announcer called Bob). Gene Wood had lots of experience and gave one of the best warm-ups in the business. However, many, including Bob, Mark Goodson, and me, felt his voice was a little on the harsh side and not really suitable for TPIR. Despite what might have been written somewhere, the job was never given to Bob Hilton.
GP: In 1988, Price suffered another loss in Frank Wayne, the Exec Producer. How did Bob end up becoming EP? Was that just a title? What did he do in this capacity?
RD: When Frank Wayne passed on, Bob became the official Executive Producer of the show. However, in reality, Bob was the de facto executive producer since the 70’s…he just didn’t have the title. In other words, Bob basically went along with what the producers wanted…but he had veto power. If Bob wanted something done, the show would do it. Please don’t get the wrong impression…Bob was not interested in taking over the show…he just wanted some things done a certain way that he felt important to make the show better and his performance better. During the years after Frank died, he let Phil Wayne and me run the show. Then after Phil left, I was the sole producer. I had much leeway in doing things…I just had to check them out with Bob first (new games, set changes, etc.) . Bob’s office was his dressing room…we would confer there either before or after the show.
Thanks again, Roger. We’ll be looking forward to the next part of the interview. A lot has been shared today. More great stuff coming up.