Merrill G. Heatter
Heatter in 1966
Merrill Gabriel Heatter
December 16, 1925
New York City, U.S.
|Died||October 8, 2017 (aged 91)|
Beverly Hills, U.S.
|Known for||Hollywood Squares |
|Spouse(s)||Elaine Stewart (m. 1964–2011; her death; 2 children)|
|Relatives||Gabriel Heatter (uncle) |
Maida Heatter (cousin)
Merrill Gabriel Heatter (December 16, 1925 – October 8, 2017) was an American screenwriter and producer. He was best known for his collaboration with writer Bob Quigley for over 20 years and the formation of their production company Heatter-Quigley Productions in 1960. The company was responsible for the game shows Hollywood Squares and Gambit and the animated television series Wacky Races.
Heatter's career began in the late 1940s when, on July 7, 1947, CBS Radio and writer Goodman Ace launched the historical educational program You Are There. The format of the series was to present important events from history to the viewer as if the viewer were listening to an actual news broadcast. The series aired its last radio broadcast on March 19, 1950.
On February 1, 1953, the series made a transition to CBS television. The series starred Walter Cronkite of CBS News with several field reporters including radio announcing veterans Dick Joy and Harlow Wilcox. Heatter was one of the head writers of the series. The series' last telecast was on October 13, 1957.
In 1960, Heatter met Bob Quigley. Quigley was a former writer for comedian and pianist Victor Borge. Shortly after the two met, they decided to form Heatter-Quigley Productions specifically to produce game shows.
Quiz show scandals and early game shows
The first game show the two created was entitled Video Village. The series premiered on CBS on July 1, 1960. Video Village was one of the first new game shows produced after the infamous quiz show scandals. The quiz show scandals were a series of revelations that contestants of several popular television quiz shows were secretly given assistance by the show's producers to arrange the outcome of a supposedly fair competition which took place between 1956 and 1958.
The scandals first arose in 1956. That year, the Jack Barry-hosted game show Twenty One featured a contestant, Herb Stempel, coached by producer Dan Enright to allow his opponent to win the game. The matter was brought into focus in 1958 when Enright was revealed to have rigged the show; this revelation caused networks to cancel their entire lineups of quiz shows.
The quiz shows scandals came to an end in 1958 after three popular game shows were cancelled. Those game shows were Twenty One on October 16, The $64,000 Question on November 2 and Dotto on August 15. They were the most publicized of all the shows involved in the scandals.
Heatter and Quigley took the chance and aired Video Village with Jack Narz as the original host, (Narz also served as the host of Dotto during the scandals). Narz was replaced by future Let's Make a Deal host Monty Hall in September 1960. The series was well known for its gigantic life-sized game board which was the set of the show. The series ended its run in 1962.
Heatter and Quigley created and produced several unsuccessful game shows before their breakthrough hit Hollywood Squares premiered. Some of those shows included People Will Talk which ran for six months on NBC in 1963, Shenanigans which ran on ABC for one season, and PDQ which ran in syndication for three seasons.
Sometime after the premiere of Shenanigans, Heatter and Quigley decided to create a panel game show. The game show, which would be called Hollywood Squares, was a televised quiz show version of tic-tac-toe.
A pilot episode of the series was taped at CBS Television City and aired on April 21, 1965. The pilot featured Bert Parks of Break the Bank fame as the host. The pilot also featured future HS regulars Rose Marie and Charley Weaver with Jim Backus in the center square.
Shortly after the taping of the pilot episode, NBC acquired the rights to the game show and after some reworking of the CBS pilot, NBC taped a second pilot episode of the game show, with Peter Marshall as the host and aired it on October 17, 1966. The Marshall-hosted pilot became the official first episode of the game show. NBC aired Hollywood Squares' final episode on June 20, 1980. The series continued to air in syndication until September 11, 1981.
Several spinoffs and revival series aired over the next 25 years. The spinoffs included Storybook Squares, Match Game-Hollywood Squares Hour and Hip Hop Squares. There was also a 1986 revival and a 1998 revival of the series.
Acquisition by Filmways
In 1965, Heatter and Quigley sold their company to Filmways. The company still continued to operate with Filmways as the owner.
Gambit and other game shows
As the 1970s rolled around, Heatter and Quigley were still at work on producing their existing game show, Hollywood Squares, and creating new game shows.
On September 4, 1972, CBS premiered the new game show Gambit. The series was the first new game show of the 1970s produced by Heatter-Quigley. The show was based on the card game blackjack. The series starred Wink Martindale as the presenter and Elaine Stewart as the card dealer. The series was filmed at Television City. The series ended on December 10, 1976. A spin-off series entitled Las Vegas Gambit aired on NBC during the 1980–81 television season.
Some of the other game shows that Heatter-Quigley produced included Baffle, High Rollers, and The Magnificent Marble Machine. Las Vegas Gambit was the last title produced by Heatter-Quigley. Bob Quigley retired from show business shortly after Las Vegas Gambit went off the air.
Merrill Heatter Productions
Heatter went on to produce several more game shows solo. Most of those game shows were revivals or new versions of Heatter-Quigley produced shows. Some of those shows included Battlestars, All-Star Blitz, Bargain Hunters and the 1980s version of High Rollers. The last game show that Merrill Heatter Productions produced in the 20th century ended in 1990. On September 28, 1998, Heatter leased the worldwide rights to his solo-developed game shows to King World (now CBS Television Distribution). They now own the rights to those game shows.
On July 28, 2008, Game Show Network premiered a new game show, created by Heatter entitled Catch 21. The show was the first game show Heatter created in 19 years. The series was a revival of Heatter's successful 1970s game show Gambit. He created the series along with Scott Sternberg.
Heatter was married once to actress and model Elaine Stewart. They were married on December 31, 1964. Stewart was known for her roles in the movies The Adventures of Hajji Baba and Night Passage. She was also known for her guest appearances on the television shows Bat Masterson, Burke's Law and Perry Mason. Stewart also was the hostess for two Heatter-Quigley shows, Gambit and High Rollers. Stewart was previously married to actor Bill Carter. Heatter and Stewart had 2 children, Stewart Heatter and Gabrielle Heatter. They were married until Stewart's death on June 27, 2011.
- Video Village/Video Village, Jr. (1960–1962)
- Double Exposure (1961)
- People Will Talk (1963)
- The Celebrity Game (1964)
- Shenanigans (1964–1965)
- PDQ (1966–1969)
- Showdown (1966)
- Hollywood Squares/Storybook Squares (1966–1981 version)
- Temptation (1967–1968)
- Funny You Should Ask (1968–1969)
- Wacky Races (1968–1970, co-produced with Hanna-Barbera Productions, rights owned by Hanna-Barbera Cartoons and Warner Bros. Animation; the only non-game show produced by the company, although it was intended to have a game show element)
- Name Droppers (1969)
- Gambit (1972–1976)
- Runaround (1972–1973)
- Amateur's Guide to Love (1972)
- Baffle (1973), a revival of PDQ.
- All-Star Baffle (1974), Baffle with no "civilian" contestants.
- High Rollers (1974–1976; 1978–1980)
- The Magnificent Marble Machine (1975–1976)
- Hot Seat (1976)
- To Say the Least (1977–1978)
- Bedtime Stories (1979)
- Las Vegas Gambit (1980–1981)
Merrill Heatter Productions
- Battlestars (1981–1982)
- Fantasy (1982–1983) (co-produced by Earl Greenberg Productions and Columbia Pictures Television)
- The New Battlestars (1983)
- All-Star Blitz (1985) (co-produced by Peter Marshall Enterprises)
- Bargain Hunters (1987) (co-produced by Josephson Communications, Inc.)
- High Rollers (1987–1988) (co-produced by Century Towers Productions and syndicated by Orion Television Syndication)
- The Last Word (1989–1990) (syndicated by Turner Program Services)
- Catch 21 (2008–2011) (co-produced by Scott Sternberg Productions)
Awards and nominations
|1969||Primetime Emmy Award||Outstanding Achievement in Daytime Programming||Hollywood Squares||Nominated|
|1972||Primetime Emmy Award||Outstanding Achievement in Daytime Programming||Hollywood Squares||Nominated|
|1973||Primetime Emmy Award||Outstanding Program Achievement in Daytime||Hollywood Squares||Nominated|
|1974||Daytime Emmy Award||Outstanding Game/Audience Participation Show||Hollywood Squares||Nominated|
|1975||Daytime Emmy Award||Outstanding Game/Audience Participation Show||Hollywood Squares||Won|
|1976||Daytime Emmy Award||Outstanding Game/Audience Participation Show||Hollywood Squares||Nominated|
|1977||Daytime Emmy Award||Outstanding Game/Audience Participation Show||Hollywood Squares||Nominated|
|1978||Daytime Emmy Award||Outstanding Game/Audience Participation Show||Hollywood Squares||Won|
|1979||Daytime Emmy Award||Outstanding Game/Audience Participation Show||Hollywood Squares||Won|
|1980||Daytime Emmy Award||Outstanding Game/Audience Participation Show||Hollywood Squares||Won|
|1981||Daytime Emmy Award||Outstanding Game/Audience Participation Show||Hollywood Squares||Nominated|
|1983||Daytime Emmy Award||Outstanding Variety Series||Fantasy||Nominated|
|1984||Daytime Emmy Award||Outstanding Variety Series||Fantasy||Nominated|
- "Merrill Heatter in the 1940 Census". www.archives.com. Retrieved January 28, 2015.
- "You Are There". Audio Karma. Archived from the original on May 10, 2011. Retrieved January 28, 2015.
- "Merrill Heatter & Bob Quigley - The Classic Hollywood Squares Site". www.classicsquares.com. Retrieved February 17, 2015.
- Venanzi, Katie (1997), "An Examination of Television Quiz Show Scandals of the 1950s", found at "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-06-08. Retrieved 2013-12-02.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) [accessed February 17, 2015].
- Gross, L. S. (2013). Electronic media: An introduction. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
- on YouTube
- on YouTube
- Graham, Jefferson (August 23, 1988). Now it's hip to watch 'Hollywood Squares'. USA Today
- Schwartz, David; Ryan, Steve; Wostbrock, Fred (1999). The Encyclopedia of TV Game Shows (3 ed.). Facts on File, Inc. pp. 82–83, 123. ISBN 0-8160-3846-5.
- "Shows–CBS Television City". Archived from the original on July 13, 2011. Retrieved February 17, 2015.
- KING WORLD INTERNATIONAL ACQUIRES EXCLUSIVE INTERNATIONAL FORMAT RIGHTS TO GAME SHOW CATALOGUE FROM MERRILL HEATTER PRODUCTIONS, INC., prnewswire.co.uk
- "GSN Launches Catch 21 With Merrill Heatter". www.luckyblackjack.com. Retrieved February 17, 2015.
- "Merrill Heatter project expected to debut on GSN this summer". Archived from the original on February 17, 2015. Retrieved February 17, 2015.
- Grosvenor, Carrie. "Catch 21 Explained". About.com. About Entertainment. Retrieved February 17, 2015.
- Barnes, Mike (June 27, 2011). "Elaine Stewart obituary in 'The Hollywood Reporter' (June 27, 2011)". Hollywoodreporter.com. Retrieved February 17, 2015.
- "Actress Elaine Stewart dead at 81". CBS News. June 28, 2011. Retrieved February 17, 2015.
- Alt, Eric (July 28, 2011). "Actress and Game Show Personality Elaine Stewart Dies at 81". NBC News. Retrieved February 17, 2015.
- "Elaine Stewart: "I'm Company"". Retrieved February 17, 2015.