Throughout much of the 1970s, Match Game and The Hollywood Squares were among the most successful game shows on TV (as well as a steady source of employment for a slew of C-list celebrities). So back in 1983, when NBC decided to combine the two programs into one — called, what else, The Match Game-Hollywood Square Hour — it seemed like a surefire winner. It wasn’t: Despite the presence of original Match Game host Gene Rayburn (and Sha Na Na icon Jon “Bowzer” Bauman as host of the Squares half of the show), ratings were meh, prompting the Peacock to pull the plug after just one season. But amazingly, unlike so many vintage shows — even the flops — the nearly 200 produced episodes of Match Game-Hollywood Squares never found a second life in syndication or cable. And much to the chagrin of game show nerds, they’ve been completely absent from the airwaves for 35 years. That’s finally about to change.
Vulture has learned that Buzzr, a digital broadcast network devoted to the game show genre, will resurrect original episodes The Match Game-Hollywood Squares Hour later this month. The network (available for free via the network’s website and over-the-air antenna, as well as on various cable systems, Samsung TVs, DISH, and the free Pluto TV and STIRR streaming platforms) will start with a four-hour mini-marathon of the show on Sunday, February 17. More episodes will follow, though not immediately. That’s in part because the process of cleaning up and digitizing original master tapes from that era is time-intensive and not inexpensive.
“It takes four to five times the amount of time an episode lasts to get it prepared for air,” Buzzr general manager Mark Deetjen tells Vulture. He says his team is working on preparing a bigger batch of episodes beyond these first four with the goal of adding MGHSH to the network’s regular lineup later this year. Rather than wait until all the episodes were ready, “We really wanted to get something out as soon as possible,” he says, citing intense lobbying from Buzzr viewers via the network’s social media channels.
While MGHSH wasn’t a massive hit, it’s worth remembering that back in 1983, even a “failed” series airing on a major network like NBC regularly pulled in millions of viewers. A decent-sized chunk of that fan base is still alive and will no doubt welcome the chance to relive a show gone for more than three decades. But reviving MGHSH also lets Buzzr give its game show diehards more episodes of the very popular Match Game format (the ‘70s version runs multiple times each day, while ABC is now airing a revival in primetime) as well as some form of Hollywood Squares, reruns of which haven’t been seen regularly in years. While Deetjen would likely be very open to the idea of airing the original Peter Marshall-hosted Squares, Buzzr parent company Fremantle doesn’t own the rights to it (unlike most of the other games on the channel). “This is a way to slide in Hollywood Squares to our lineup,” he says. “If you were to do a Mt. Rushmore of game shows, it and Match Game would both be on it.”