The Name's the Same
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|The Name's the Same|
Host Robert Q. Lewis with celebrity guest Dagmar, 1952
|Directed by||Jerome Schnur
|Presented by||Robert Q. Lewis (1951–1954)
Dennis James (1954–1955)
Bob Elliott & Ray Goulding (1955)
Clifton Fadiman (1955)
|Narrated by||Lee Vines|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||4|
|Running time||24–25 minutes|
|Original release||December 5, 1951 – October 7, 1955|
The Name's the Same is an American game show that was produced by Goodson-Todman for the ABC television network from December 5, 1951, to August 31, 1954, followed by a run from October 25, 1954, to October 7, 1955.
It was alternately sponsored by Swanson and Johnson Wax for the majority of its run. It was also sponsored by the Bendix home appliance division of Avco early in its run, and Clorets and Chicken of the Sea tuna midway through its run. The show's final sponsor, Ralston Purina, also sponsored Ethel and Albert, the program that replaced The Name's the Same on the ABC schedule.
Robert Q. Lewis was the original "host and moderator" from December 5, 1951, to August 31, 1954. During three separate personal vacation breaks, in 1953 and 1954, Conrad Nagel, Brian Aherne and Clifton Fadiman substituted for Lewis. After Lewis' final show, where he implied the show's future was in doubt, The Name's the Same went on hiatus, giving Lewis more time to devote to his variety shows on CBS. (Announcer Lee Vines continued with Lewis on CBS.)
The Name's the Same returned on October 25 with a new set and Ralston Purina joined as the sponsor. During this 39-week run the moderators changed three times. Dennis James hosted for 18 weeks, through April 4; Bob and Ray shared the moderator's duties for 10 weeks, from April 11 to June 21; Clifton Fadiman returned to the emcee's chair on June 28, hosting for 11 weeks through the final episode on October 7.
The only panelist to remain for the show's entire run was New York-based actress and socialite Joan Alexander. The original two co-panelists with Alexander were comic Abe Burrows and composer Meredith Willson. Burrows left the show in November 1952 and comedian Jerry Lester took his seat, followed by comedian Carl Reiner on April 14, 1953. Willson stayed on until July 1953, and his place on the panel was taken by ABC sportscaster Bill Stern. On September 15, 1953, Reiner left Alexander and Stern were joined by New York radio personality Gene Rayburn.
On February 9, 1954, the panel's makeup was adjusted. Bess Myerson, Miss America 1945, was added to the panel to replace Bill Stern and a fourth panelist was added to the game. That fourth panelist was originally Sherlock Holmes portrayer Basil Rathbone, but he left on April 6 and was replaced by Texaco Star Theater regular Arnold Stang. Stang then left on May 18 and was replaced by humorist Roger Price, who stayed on until the final episode.
In January 1955, Rayburn and Meyerson left the panel and were replaced by The Jackie Gleason Show's Audrey Meadows and New York Herald Tribune columnist and future To Tell The Truth regular Hy Gardner. Gardner was replaced by actor Walter Slezak in March 1955, who in turn left in July due to a timeslot switch. Mike Wallace, then a fledgling journalist, took over as the last permanent panelist.
Each standard round featured a contestant who had a "famous name": the contestant's full name was the same as either an actual person ("Jane Russell," "Abraham Lincoln," "Napoleon Bonaparte"), a place ("Virginia Beach," "Monte Carlo"), a thing ("A. Lap," "A. Table," "Ruby Lips"), or an action ("I. Draw", "Will Kiss"). The contestant was introduced and referred to throughout the game as "Mr. X" (or "Mrs./Miss/Master X"). A small curtain was opened to the audience, showing a placard with the contestant's name, along with a drawing depicting the namesake; famous people were often caricatured.
The panelists were allocated 10 questions each, with the number remaining denoted in running tally on the wall behind them. The questions had to be "yes or no" questions, and were posed to the contestant as if they were the person, place, or thing their name represented with the contestant answering as their namesake. The panel could pass to save some of their questions for later on in the game. Any member of the panel who failed to identify the contestant's name wrote the contestant a check for $25, meaning each contestant won either $50 if their name was guessed by a panelist, or $75 if it was not. When a fourth panelist was added in early 1954, the check amounts were decreased to $20 per panelist, making the prizes $60 for a correct guess and $80 if the panel was stumped.
Many of the contestants' names lent themselves to comedy. Robert Q. Lewis would always call on Carl Reiner first when the mystery name was a thing: Reiner's innocent questions always took on funny meanings, followed by Joan Alexander straying even farther away, to the studio audience's delight. For "A. Harem," Reiner asked, "Is this thing used for recreational purposes?" and Alexander pursued this: "Do fat men use this to reduce their weight?" Lewis would enjoy these detours as much as the audience. It was then left to Bill Stern, a veteran reporter, to zero in on the actual name with serious, shrewd questioning.
Sometimes a contestant's celebrity namesake was brought out at the end of the round to surprise the contestant; other times, a celebrity was the guest without pretext. The celebrity then played a special round called "I'd Like To Be..." in which the panel tried to guess, in the same fashion as with civilians, who the celebrity would like to be if they could be anyone else. In late 1953, "I'd Like To Be..." was replaced with "Secret Wish", in which the panel attempted to guess something that the guest would secretly like to do or have happen (for example, Kirk Douglas wished to coach the Vassar lacrosse team, and Van Johnson wanted Marilyn Monroe to sit on his lap). The celebrity's winnings ($50/$75, later $60/$80) went to his or her favorite charity.
A few times near the end of the run, host Clifton Fadiman would welcome the panel, then reveal the episode's guest to the studio and home audience. The curtain would pull back with the guest standing behind it in place of the usual caricature.
A typical episode contained four rounds - two standard rounds, the celebrity round, and then a final standard round; some episodes would feature one less or one more standard round. At the end of each episode, each panelist would tell how much money they "lost" followed by a good-night.
For most of the show's run, the theme for The Name's the Same was a busy string arrangement called "Shooting Star" by Sidney Torch. This was used until the program's last season, when an instrumental version of "Meet Me in St. Louis, Louis" by Kerry Mills was used (Ralston Purina of St. Louis was the show's sponsor).
A UK version was made for radio (BBC Home Service) and TV (BBC Television) with British namesakes of famous people, buildings and things. It ran on TV from 1954 to 1955 with Bernard Braden as the original host, later replaced by Peter Martyn.
A one-off revival edition was produced for BBC Four in 2005 as part of a season of programs detailing the "lost decade".
At least some episodes with all four regular hosts were saved as kinescope films. Most recently, the show aired in reruns on GSN at 3:30 AM ET every morning following What's My Line? in GSN's "Black & White Overnight" block. The latest run began on July 14, 2008, with an episode from August 6, 1952, and ended on December 2 with the series finale.
Several episodes rerun by GSN are available in their original, uncut form (e.g., with commercials and uncrunched credits) in the collectors' trading circuit, as well as from "public-domain" dealers like Shokus Video. One of these is from April 25, 1955, in which famous clown Emmett Kelly fulfills his "Secret Wish" – painting co-host Ray Goulding's face like that of a clown.
The UCLA Film and Television Archive has over 40 episodes of the program from 1953–1955, including the aforementioned Emmett Kelly episode.
- Sterling, Christopher H. (ed.) (2004). Encyclopedia of Radio. Fitzroy Dearborn. ISBN 1-57958-249-4, p. 188.
- "Passings: Raymond Jones, Cal Montney, Allan Eckert, Lee Vines, Ramona Hahn, Frank Billerbeck". Los Angeles Times. 2011-07-11. Retrieved 2011-07-12.