Every weekday morning at 10:15 a cheerful middle-aged man named Johnny Olsen bounds up the aisle of NBC's Studio 6B in New York to warm up the audience attending the telecast of a program called Play Your Hunch. One of the first principles of warming up an audience is to make sure everyone applauds, and Olsen relentlessly ferrets out delinquents during commercials. Not long ago he upbraided a man who hadn't been clapping. The man showed Olsen his empty right sleeve. "Well, snap your fingers," Olsen told him. "Everybody works on this show. It's a wing-a-ding-a-ding-a-ding-ding." In more reverent moments Olsen reminds the audience that Play Your Hunch "is brought to you by two very talented gentlemen who give us more enjoyment on TV than anyone else—Mark Goodson and Bill Todman. Ring-a-ding-a-ding-a-ding-ding." Out of a sense of duty or appreciation the studio audience invariably applauds, although, as Mark Goodson has remarked, "We're kind of faceless celebrities. When people see us together they say, 'What? You guys actually exist? I thought you were like the Smith Brothers.' "
Whether Goodson and Todman give us more enjoyment on TV than anyone else is arguable, but they certainly give us more TV—almost twice as much as any other independent packager or producer, 17� hours a week. Each of their 35 half-hour shows concludes with the credit: "A Mark Goodson Bill Todman Production." In case the mouth readers are slow getting the message, an announcer recites it at the same time. Early in their partnership Goodson and Todman billed themselves as Todman and Goodson every other month. "It was a point of ego more than intelligence," Bill Todman admits. Nevertheless, their names present an almost insuperable phonetic obstacle. Goodson once purchased a pair of shoes at Saks Fifth Avenue, signing the charge slip "Mark Goodson." "Thank you, Mr. Todson," the clerk said. "Mr. Todman is my partner," Goodson said. "I'm Mark Goodson," "I'm sorry, Mr. Goodman," the clerk said. "No," said Goodson, "it's Goodson and Todman." "Yes, I know," said the clerk. "I adore and respect all the Godson and Toodson shows."
Physically, Goodson, 48, and Todman, 47, present no problem. "I have been called 'lean and alert,' " Todman says, "Mark 'gentle and round.' One writer compared me to an Irish wolfhound. An Irish wolfhound! A Russian wolfhound, maybe, but an Irish wolfhound?" Both are of modest height and have careful, resonant voices. Both worry about their weight, Goodson because he feels he is too heavy, Todman because he feels he is too light. Todman is more articulate than Goodson about his weight problem and, indeed, all health matters; at one time he contemplated becoming a doctor. "I have a terribly, terribly great regard for medicine," Todman says. ("Illness disturbs Mark," one of their friends says, "but it kind of refreshes Bill. It brings out all the best in him.") Both Goodson and Todman are modish, tanned and agreeably scented. In the dressing room that connects their offices on the 30th floor of New York's Seagram Building—its walls are covered with gray flannel and it is furnished with Directoire pieces and towels monogrammed "G-T"—there are seven varieties of cologne.
There are, at present, eight G-T programs on the air: What's My Line?, To Tell the Truth, Password, I've Got a Secret, Play Your Hunch, The Price Is Right, Say When and The Match Game. They are all game or audience-participation shows, in which contestants or panelists guess the value of merchandise (say, a home freezer or 100 cases of Yoo-Hoo Chocolate Drink) or someone's occupation ("I drill the holes in bowling balls") or someone's secret ("I invented a machine with 10,000 moving parts that do nothing") or someone's identity ("Will the real Joyce Shelley please stand up") or plain, ordinary words. G-T shows do not depend upon intellectual virtuosity as do quizzes, which have all but vanished from television, nor do they award great sums of money. On only one G-T program,
The Price Is Right
, where contestants have won merchandise worth $50,000, are the prizes of major value. "It's a game. Smile. Have fun," Bruno Zirato Jr., the associate producer of To Tell the Truth, which has a top prize of $333, begs his contestants. "You get at least $50. It's better than a kick in the head."
"Americans love games," says Bill Todman appreciatively. Indeed, What's My Line? has been on the air since 1950, I've Got a Secret since 1952, To Tell the Truth and The Price Is Right
since 1956. G-T games have become part of popular culture if not the public domain. A recent crossword definition in
The New York Times
read: "Standard of size, a la What's My Line?" (Answer: breadbox.) Several political cartoons have utilized the famous To Tell the Truth tag line. In the 1960 presidential campaign, for instance, a cartoon depicting three Richard Nixons seated at a table was captioned: "Will the real Richard Nixon please stand up." The other day Todman was scowling at an ad for Mother's Gefilte Fish in
The New York Post
. It depicted a fish inquiring, "What's my line?" "What a nerve!" said Todman. "Last year that damn fish was saying, 'I've got a secret!' I'm going to call my lawyer. I want to stop this Mother."
Another indication of the popularity of G-T games is that the home version of Password is the biggest-selling box game in the U.S. In 1962 two million Password boxes were sold. The Milton Bradley Co., which puts out the boxes, expects to sell three million this year. G-T royalties on the boxes for November-December 1962 amounted to $70,000. Still another gauge of the shows' appeal is the more than $5 million G-T received when it sold What's My Line? to CBS and I've Got a Secret to CBS and Garry Moore in 1958. G-T continues to produce these programs, however. Their other packages are leased to the networks under long-term contracts.
G-T, which has offices in both New York and Hollywood, employs 150 people and grossed $20 million last year. Besides game shows, G-T (actually 19 separate corporations) packages filmed TV series, has extensive real estate holdings and owns four newspapers—the Trentonian (of Trenton, N.J.), the Elizabeth ( N.J.) Journal, the Pawtucket ( R.I.) Times and the Delaware County daily Times of Chester, Pa.—a Seattle radio station (KOL), and has an interest in Bernard Geis Associates, the book publishers.
On the basis of the Nielsen ratings, G-T programs are watched by 125 million Americans each week, and the majority of the shows command the largest audience in their time slot. Password is frequently the second-highest-ranked daytime show; the first is a CBS soap opera called
As the World Turns
. One G-T man has said: "Ratings never bother us at Goodson and Todman—unless they're bad." "If you don't get a rating—bye-bye, Charlie," says Goodson with feeling.
Since Goodson and Todman hooked up in 1946 they have said bye-bye, Charlie to Winner Take All, Hit the Jackpot, Beat the Clock, Spin to Win, By Popular Demand, Rate Your Mate, It's News to Me, The Name's the Same, Two for the Money, Judge for Yourself, What's Going On?, Make the Connection, Choose Up Sides, Split Personality and Number Please. The G-T filmed shows—The Web, Jefferson Drum, The Rebel, Philip Marlowe and One Happy Family—have all faded from the picture tubes over the years, too. "Americans can become disenchanted," says Todman. "They get that tired feeling."
"Like a familiar broad," says Goodson. "You look across the room at a cocktail party and one day you realize the broad you're with has had it."