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|Born||January 14, 1915
Sacramento, California, U.S.
|Died||December 18, 1992
New York, New York, U.S.
|Alma mater||University of California, Berkeley (B.S., Economics, 1937)|
|Known for||early television game shows|
Early life and early career
Mark Goodson was born in Sacramento, California on January 14, 1915. His parents, Abraham Ellis and Fannie Goodson, emigrated from Russia in the early 1900s. As a child, Goodson acted in amateur theater with the Plaza Stock Company. The family later moved to Hayward, California. Originally intending to become a lawyer, Goodson attended the University of California, Berkeley. He financed his education through scholarships and by working at the Lincoln Fish Market. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1937 with a degree in Economics.
That year, he began his broadcasting career in San Francisco, working as a disc jockey at station KJBS. In 1939 he joined radio station KFRC, where he produced and hosted a radio quiz called "Pop the Question" in which contestants selected questions by throwing darts at multi-colored balloons.
Goodson and long-time partner Bill Todman produced some of the longest-running game shows in US television history. Their first television show, Winner Take All, debuted on CBS television on July 1, 1948. The long list of Goodson-Todman productions includes Beat the Clock, Family Feud, Match Game, Password, Tattletales, The Price Is Right, To Tell the Truth, I've Got a Secret, What's My Line?, and Card Sharks. The shows endured through the decades, many over multiple runs, because of Goodson's sharp eye for production and presentation.
While Todman oversaw the company's lucrative businesses outside of television, Goodson handled the creative aspects of producing game shows. The people who worked for the company and created most of the Goodson-Todman shows were pivotal to the success of those shows. Goodson-Todman executives Bob Stewart, Bob Bach, Gil Fates, Ira Skutch, Frank Wayne, Chester Feldman, Paul Alter, Howard Felsher, Ted Cooper, Jay Wolpert, and others were instrumental in making the shows successful.
The company proved itself to be masterful at games, but were not as successful when they tried other fields of television programs, including the anthology dramas The Web and The Richard Boone Show, a talk-variety show for famed insult comic Don Rickles – and what was possibly the company's biggest failure, a sitcom entitled One Happy Family.
Goodson-Todman Productions were also involved with three westerns: Jefferson Drum (1958–1959), starring Jeff Richards as a newspaper editor in the Old West; The Rebel (1959–1961), starring Nick Adams as an ex-Confederate soldier who traveled to the West after the Civil War (Johnny Cash sang the theme); and Branded, starring Chuck Connors as a soldier who had wrongly been given a dishonorable discharge from the Army.
For many years, the company was headquartered in the Seagram Building at 375 Park Avenue, New York City, New York. Most of the company's production moved to Hollywood in the early seventies (as did many other production companies), starting with the ABC revival of Password in 1971. The Los Angeles offices were based first at 6430 Sunset Boulevard and later at 5750 Wilshire Boulevard. The company's last New York-based show was the 1980s version of To Tell the Truth, but the New York office remained open and was used for East Coast Child's Play auditions.
A few years after Bill Todman's death in 1979, Goodson acquired the Todman heirs' share of the company, and in 1982 the company was renamed Mark Goodson Productions. Traditionally, shows would sign off with "This is (announcer's name) speaking for (show name). A Mark Goodson-Bill Todman Production/A Mark Goodson Television Production." To pay off a massive inheritance tax, Goodson's family sold the rights (except for Concentration/Classic Concentration, which had been licensed from NBC) to All-American Television, which was subsequently taken over by Pearson Communications, and, in turn, was acquired by FremantleMedia which now owns the rights to the library from Mark Goodson Productions. At the close of each episode of The Price Is Right since then, the announcer credits the show as "a FremantleMedia Production."
In 1990, Goodson received the Emmy Award "Lifetime Achievement Award for Daytime Television", which was presented to him by Betty White. Two years later, in 1992, Goodson earned induction into the Television Hall of Fame.
Many Goodson-Todman games were produced internationally, some under different titles, and were distributed by Reg Grundy Productions – Family Feud was known in the United Kingdom as Family Fortunes, and Card Sharks went under the title Play Your Cards Right. In Germany, Match Game was known as Schnickschnack (loosely translated, "something, anything" and used as a counterpart for the word "blank", for which there is no direct word in German). In the United Kingdom, it was known as Blankety Blank, while in Australia, it was known as Blankety Blanks (which, coincidentally, was the title of an unrelated American game show, created by former Goodson-Todman staffer, Bob Stewart).
Most Grundy-produced counterparts of Goodson-Todman games had low payouts, but made up for it with almost identical sets or unique sets of their own (e.g., Family Fortunes).
Of the numerous shows Goodson produced in his lifetime, two are still on the air and are being produced by successor companies (All-American Television from 1995–1998, Pearson Television from 1998–2002, and FremantleMedia from 2002–present) as of 2014: The Price Is Right, which has run continuously, and Family Feud, which was canceled in 1995 but revived in its current form in 1999.
Goodson–Todman Productions (1948–1982)
- Beat the Clock (1950–1961, 1969–1974, 1979–1980)
- The Better Sex (1977–1978)
- Blade Rider
- Blockbusters (1980–1982, 1987)
- Branded (1965–1967)
- Broken Sabre
- By Popular Demand (1950)
- Call My Bluff (1965)
- Card Sharks (1978–1981, 1986–1989)
- Choose Up Sides (1956)
- Concentration (1973–1978, 1987–1991)
- The Don Rickles Show (1968–1969)
- Double Dare (1976–1977)
- Family Feud (1976–1985, 1988–1995)
- Get the Message (1964)
- Goodyear Theater (1957–1960)
- He Said, She Said (1969–1970)
- It's News to Me (1951–1953, 1954)
- I've Got a Secret (1952–1967, 1972–1973, 1976)
- Jefferson Drum (1958–1959)
- Judge for Yourself (1953–1954)
- Las Vegas Beat
- Make the Connection (1955)
- Match Game (1962–1969, 1973–1982, 1990–1991)
- Mindreaders (1979–1980)
- Missing Links (1963–1964)
- The Name's the Same (1951–1954, 1954–1955)
- Now You See It (1974–1975, 1989)
- Number Please (1961)
- One Happy Family (1961)
- Password (1961–1967, 1971–1975)
- Password Plus and Super Password (1979–1982, 1984-1989)
- Philip Marlowe (1959–1960)
- Play Your Hunch (1958–1963)
- The Price Is Right (1956–1965, 1972–present)
- The Rebel (1959–1961)
- The Richard Boone Show (1963–1964)
- Rider Beyond Vengeance
- Say When!! (1961–1965)
- Showoffs (1975)
- Snap Judgment (1967–1969)
- Split Personality (1959–1960)
- Tattletales (1974–1978, 1982–1984)
- That's My Line (1980–1981)
- To Tell the Truth (1956–1968, 1969–1978, 1980–1981, 1990–1991)
- Two for the Money (1952–1956, 1957)
- What's Going On? (1954)
- What's My Line? (1950–1967, 1968–1975)
- The Web (1950–1954)
- Winner Take All (1948–1950, 1951, 1952)
Mark Goodson Productions (1982–1995)
- Child's Play (1982–1983)
- Match Game-Hollywood Squares Hour (1983–1984)
- TV's Funniest Game Show Moments (1984)
- Body Language (1984–1986)
- Trivia Trap (1984–1985)
Personal life and final years
In 1941, Goodson married his first wife, Bluma Neveleff, and moved to New York City, where he teamed up with partner Bill Todman. The pair's first radio show, Winner Take All, premiered on CBS in 1946. Outside of television production, Goodson and Todman went on to own several newspapers in New England as well as radio station KOL in Seattle, Washington. Bill Todman died in 1979, and in the early 1980s the Goodsons acquired the Todman heirs' portion of the company.
Goodson had two children, Jill and Jonathan (1945— ), by his first wife Bluma, and a daughter, Marjorie (who was a prize model on Classic Concentration from July 1987 until its finale in September 1991), by his second wife Virginia McDavid, Miss Alabama 1953. In 1972, he married his third wife, Suzanne Waddell, who had once been a guest on What's My Line?. They divorced in 1978. Goodson also had a brother, Marvin (November 6, 1918 – July 7, 2007), who was an attorney.
Goodson died of pancreatic cancer on December 18, 1992 in New York City. He is buried at Hillside Memorial Park in Culver City, California, where the inscription on his gravestone is designed to resemble the Goodson-Todman/Mark Goodson Productions logo.
Aftermath of Mark Goodson Productions
Three years after Goodson's death, his family sold the rights to the library of shows to All American Television in order to pay off an estate tax. AATV acquired 50% of the company that year, and acquired the rest a year later. AATV was bought out by rival communications company Pearson Television in 1998, which, in turn, was acquired by RTL Group subsidiary FremantleMedia four years later (at one time, one of the company's predecessors, Fremantle International, was the distributor of Goodson-Todman game shows internationally). FremantleMedia now owns the rights to the Goodson-Todman library of game shows. While The Price Is Right and Family Feud continue in production to this day, other Goodson-Todman shows have found a new life and a new audience in reruns on cable TV's Game Show Network, and will also be used as the underpinning of the upcoming digital subchannel network Buzzr TV. The only omissions from the library are the 1973 and 1987 versions of Concentration (which were licensed from NBC) and the 1983-84 joint-ventured Match Game-Hollywood Squares Hour.
Goodson's son Jonathan has continued with new game show concepts. He joined the company in 1973 as legal counsel, but began production work with the company's shows, including the original version of Card Sharks; eventually producing the 1990 version of Match Game. He stayed through corporate takeovers until 1998. He left to begin his own production company, Jonathan Goodson Productions, which produces both state lottery game shows and original game show concepts, with 2003's Dirty Rotten Cheater being the newest Goodson game, having already been sold internationally. Another Goodson game, Cram, was produced for GSN and ran for two seasons.
Goodson-Todman shows continued the Mark Goodson Productions name, logo and announcement at the end of each episode, even though the original production company no longer existed. This practice was ended in 2002 with two of the three programs still in production at the time, To Tell the Truth and Family Feud, and ultimately ended in June 2007 when The Price Is Right stopped using the logo with the retirement of host Bob Barker.
- The Price Is Right was the last surviving show that used the Mark Goodson Production name, logo, and announcement until Bob Barker retired in 2007. The first episode of the 2007–2008 season (15 Oct 2007) featured the FremantleMedia name, logo, and announcement. All CBS press releases for the show currently refer to the show as "a Mark Goodson Production, in association with FremantleMedia".
- The 1998 Match Game revival used the Mark Goodson Productions name and logo, but used an alternate announcement: "This has been a Mark Goodson Television Production for...", followed by the Pearson logo.
- On the first three seasons (1999–2002) of the current production of Family Feud, along with the 2000–2002 version of To Tell the Truth, the logo and name were used, but not the announcement.
- The 2001–2002 Card Sharks revival used the Mark Goodson Productions name, logo and announcement.
- Newer versions of other Goodson-Todman properties such as I've Got a Secret (2000 & 2006), Beat the Clock (2002), Celebrity Family Feud and Million Dollar Password (both in 2008), however, did not incorporate elements of the logo, name or announcement.
- "Hollywood Star Walk: Mark Goodson". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 20, 2013.
- a "Born Jan. 14, 1915 in Sacramento, CA." — ¶ 1.
- Feder, Robert (June 28, 1990). "Chicago Sun-Times: Emmy loser Lucci to skip awards show". Chicago Sun-Times. p. 47. Retrieved March 20, 2011.
- McMurran, Kristin (May 14, 1984). "Mark Goodson Wizard of Games". People. Retrieved July 21, 2014.
- Museum of Broadcast Communications: Mark Goodson and Bill Todman
- Mark Goodson at the Internet Movie Database
- Goodson's Emmy acceptance speech on YouTube on the Emmy channel
- Mark Goodson at Find a Grave
- A film clip "The Open Mind - Taking A Stand . . . In Time? (1991)" is available for free download at the Internet Archive