The Archive is sad to report the death of game show creator/producer Bob Stewart, who passed away at the age of 91. Stewart began his association with producers Mark Goodson and Bill Todman (Goodson-Todman) in 1955 and created fan favorites Pyramid, The Price is Right, To Tell the Truth, and Password.
Here are some selections from Stewart’s three-hour Archive interview from 1998:
On the genesis of The Price is Right:
On Fiftieth Street and Seventh Avenue in New York there used to be a store which auctioned silverware, glassware, watches, jewelry … and everyday during the lunch hour that place was packed. People would just walk in and bid for the goods. I used to stop by there and watch the stuff and I thought to myself, ‘anybody who pays a nickel more than the retail price has been taken, but anybody who gets it for even a nickel less has got a bargain.’ And that became the core of The Price Is Right.
On how celebrity panelists were selected for To Tell The Truth:
In its original form, we had different visions of making this cross examination more than just entertainment. So as a consequence, we had a couple of reporters whose names escape me right now but they were literally reporters that people knew about. One guy was sort of an entertainment writer for one of the big New York newspapers. We also brought in people like Ralph Bellamy because he was doing Man Against Crime, a fictional detective, but at least he was cross-examining … We ended up with people like Orson Bean and Kitty Carlisle and the classic panelists Peggy Cass, who were there to have some fun and make a good time of it.
On how the Quiz Show Scandals changed game shows:
They brought in what they called Standards and Practices. The first guys hired back in 1958 or ’59, whenever it was, they brought in some ex-FBI men … an FBI guy came in and he oversaw the shows to make sure that nothing crooked was going on. The new thing that was innovated was that all contestants and all producers had to sign certain waivers of sorts saying you wouldn’t cheat and so on. There was that. The physical setup between contestants and production help had to be completely separate. We now had to have contestants briefed in another building at one time, couldn’t be in the same building. And in the studio, the quarters were set up so that there could be no contact except for the person who was the contestant getter, nobody else could be near a contestant.
On creating Password:
On creating Pyramid:
That had a strange development. Originally, we had a pilot that we made for CBS and it was called On The Line. There was a pyramid shape with a series of lines across the pyramid. I think there were ten lines. The bottom row had ten squares, then nine, eight, seven, six, on up to one. It was a different kind of game but we played a game with it. We made the pilot and it was just a so-so pilot. Fred Silverman, who has been said ’shoots from the hip,’ looked at it, didn’t care for it, and said, ‘we’ll do something else.’ I was trying to take advantage of the fact that they needed a show and I brought in some run-through of another show which he liked, and we were working on that in different run-throughs and then one day I got an idea of how to convert that pyramid of ten into another kind of show of quick communication. Although we were scheduled to run-through this new idea I showed Silverman this new version of the old pilot. ‘I kind of like it,’ he said, ‘but I don’t like the front game, the end game is okay.’ So I change that — the network guys do this, they don’t know what they’re looking for and they don’t recognize it so they’re not sure, so they keep sending you back to do it again, again, and again. Finally, one day I show him these two pieces together. Matter of fact, Bill Cullen was helping me demonstrate it, he was one of the players. The next thing I knew I walked into Bud Grant’s office. Bud was the head of daytime television, Silverman was the head of nighttime. I was hanging around CBS to find out whether we’re going to make the schedule and then I noticed in Bud Grant’s office where they have this board of shows, it said ‘Ten Thousand Dollar Pyramid.’ I said, ‘what the hell is that?’ He says, ‘you’re on the air.’
On how game show production changed since he began his career:
Since I haven’t been in it for a few years, I don’t know exactly, but I’ll tell you how part of it changed. The part that’s changed is … I’ll use the word respect. There was a certain respect that the network people or syndicators had for the producers of game shows. In other words, they dealt with them on a rather, even equal keel and said, ‘you have something that has some value, let’s talk about it.’ What I hear today is that when you go to a network or to a cable operation or to a syndicator, they couldn’t care less about the idea of the show. ‘You do business our way or we don’t do business.’ There are stories of syndicators and especially cable operators who say, ‘okay, we’ll take this show we own, we’ll give you some money.’ It’s all gone. Where’s the entrepreneur? What‘s the point in trying to be creative if it doesn’t belong to you? So the business part has changed a lot.
Watch Bob Stewart’s Full Archive Interview.