ABC Is Bringing Back Match Game — With Alec Baldwin As Host

Photo: Justin Jay

Holy blank! ABC is mounting a revival of the star-studded, big-money 1970s comedy panel show Match Game — and 30 Rock star Alec Baldwin has signed on to host, Vulture has learned. The network and producer FremantleMedia North America will announce later today that they are teaming up for ten one-hour episodes of Match Game 2016, a new twist on the long-running staple, which will air Sundays at 10 p.m. as part of a three-hour  game-show block on ABC this summer. Dubbed ABC’s “Sunday Fun & Games,” the evening, launching June 26, will also include the return of last summer’s Steve Harvey–hosted smash Celebrity Family Feud and a previously announced reincarnation of The $100,000 Pyramid.

Like the original, ABC’s Match Game will lean heavily on laughs: The show’s format will feature civilian contestants trying to guess how a panel of six celebrities will answer comedically tinged fill-in-the-blank questions. (To wit: “Harry and Larry, the Siamese twins, just shaved their heads. Now, from their necks up, they look like a pair of blanks.”) Baldwin, taking control of the skinny microphone long held by original host Gene Rayburn, will serve as the (usually) straight man to a collection of celebrity cutups. He’ll also serve as an exec producer on the show, along with FremantleMedia North America’s Jennifer Mullin. As part of his deal to host what Baldwin is calling a “limited series,” the actor will donate his appearance fee to arts-related organizations via the Hilaria and Alec Baldwin Foundation.

The 1970s Match Game was anchored by the Will & Graceish comedy couple Charles Nelson Reilly and Brett Somers, whose back-and-forth banter was filled with double entendres and subtle references to Things You Couldn’t Say on TV back in the day. Richard Dawson was also a regular presence on the show and ultimately became so popular, he was given his own series (Family Feud). There’s no word yet on whom ABC and FremantleMedia are hoping to land for the new Match Game, though with Baldwin onboard, it’s not hard to imagine some of his celebrity friends taping a few episodes. (Please say yes, Tina Fey, Tituss Burgess, Tracy Morgan, and/or Jack McBrayer.) The show will be taped in New York City.

In its heyday, Match Game was an incredibly popular game-show staple. Its roots actually stretch back to the 1960s, with an early NBC version and a relatively staid half-hour, with straightforward questions and answers. That edition has been surpassed in the minds of baby boomers and Gen Xers by the 1973 CBS revival, in which producers Mark Goodson and Bill Todman decided to add a comedy angle to the mix and bring in more celebs. Various versions of the Rayburn-hosted Match Game ran on CBS and in syndication for a decade, including an ill-fated 1983 move back to NBC as part of the Match Game-Hollywood Squares Hour. After a seven-year hiatus, in 1990, ABC tried to revive the show in daytime; it lasted a year. A syndicated edition that launched in 1998 also flopped. The last time an original Match Game was seen by U.S audiences was in 2006, when the format was revived for a single episode of CBS’s game-show anthology Gameshow Marathon, hosted by Ricki Lake. More recently, RuPaul’s Drag Race has paid homage to the series with its one-per-season “Snatch Game” episodes.