Truth or Consequences
|Truth or Consequences|
Actress Buff Cobb as part of a 1949 stunt for the radio program.
|Created by||Ralph Edwards|
|Presented by||Ralph Edwards (1940–57)
Jack Bailey (1954–56)
Bob Barker (1956–75)
Bob Hilton (1977–78)
Larry Anderson (1987–88)
|Country of origin||United States|
|Running time||30 minutes (per episode)|
|Original network||CBS (1950–54)
Syndicated (1966–78, 1987–88)
|Original release||1940 – 1988|
Truth or Consequences is an American television show originally hosted on NBC radio by Ralph Edwards (1940–1957) and later on television by Edwards (1950–1954), Jack Bailey (1954–1955), Bob Barker (1956–1975), Bob Hilton (1977–1978) and Larry Anderson (1987–1988). The television show ran on CBS, NBC and also in syndication. The premise of the show was to mix the original quiz element of game shows with wacky stunts.
The daily syndicated show was produced by Ralph Edwards Productions (later Ralph Edwards/Stu Billett Productions), in association with and distributed by Metromedia Producers Corporation (1966–1978) and Lorimar-Telepictures (1987–1988). Current rights are owned by Ralph Edwards Productions and FremantleMedia.
On the show, contestants received roughly two seconds to answer a trivia question correctly (usually an off-the-wall question that no one would be able to answer correctly, or a bad joke) before "Beulah the Buzzer" sounded (in the rare occasion that the contestant answered the question correctly before Beulah was heard, the question inevitably had two or even three parts). If the contestant could not complete the "Truth" portion, there would be "Consequences," usually a zany and embarrassing stunt. From the start, most contestants preferred to answer the question wrong in order to perform the stunt. Said Edwards, "Most of the American people are darned good sports."
In many broadcasts, the stunts on Truth or Consequences included a popular, but emotional, heart-rending surprise for a contestant, that being the reunion with a long-lost relative or with an enlisted son or daughter returning from military duty overseas, particularly Vietnam. Sometimes, if that military person was based in California, his or her spouse or parents were flown in for that reunion.
During Barker's run as host, a side game, "Barker's Box", was played at the end of the show. Barker's Box was a box with four drawers, and if a contestant picked all three drawers with money in it, they won a bonus prize; however, if a contestant chose a pop-up "surprise" before choosing all three cash drawers, the game ended and the contestant left with the cash won at that point. Barker also ended each episode with the phrase, "Hoping all your consequences are happy ones."
Ralph Edwards stated he got the idea for a new radio program after playing the parlor game Forfeits. The show premiered on NBC Radio in March 23, 1940, and was an instant hit with listeners.
Truth or Consequences was the first game show to air on broadcast television, airing as a one-time experiment on the first day of New York station WNBT's commercial program schedule on July 1, 1941. Truth or Consequences did not appear on TV again until 1950, when the medium had caught on commercially.
Edwards pioneered several technologies for recording live television programs. When Truth or Consequences established a permanent presence on TV in 1950, Edwards arranged to have it be recorded on 35mm film, using multiple cameras simultaneously—the first TV program recorded before a live audience to do so. A similar process was then adapted by Desilu for I Love Lucy the following year. On January 22, 1957, the show, which was produced in Hollywood, became the first program to be broadcast in all time zones from a prerecorded videotape; this technology, which had only been introduced the previous year, had previously been used only for time-delayed broadcasts to the West Coast.
In 1966, Truth or Consequences became the first successful daily game show in first-run syndication (as opposed to reruns) to not air on a network, having ended its NBC run one year earlier. This version continued through 1974.
Three years later, in the fall of 1977, a syndicated revival titled The New Truth or Consequences premiered; because Bob Barker was unavailable due to his work on the daytime and nighttime versions of The Price is Right, he was replaced by Bob Hilton. However, this version did not click in the ratings, and was cancelled after a single season.
A decade later, Truth or Consequences returned in syndication for the 1987-88 season, this time with actor Larry Anderson as host, assisted by Murray Langston (better known as "The Unknown Comic" of The Gong Show fame). This effort also failed to attract audiences, and was gone after one season.
The program entered the lexicon of pop culture and has been referenced numerous times in other media.
The town of Hot Springs, New Mexico, was renamed Truth or Consequences after the game show in 1950, when Ralph Edwards announced that he would host the program from the first town so renamed. Edwards himself continued to make appearances at the town's annual fiesta every May until his death.
On George Carlin's 1967 debut album, Take-Offs and Put-Ons, the character Congolia Breckinridge appears on a similar show called Truth or Penalties (although at one point Carlin says the original show's name). Because she has too little time to buzz in, when she is invited to pull back the curtain, an empty stage is revealed. The host then announces, "We were going to reunite you with your sister, whom you haven't seen in 27 years, but you blew the question, so we sent your sister back to Maine."
A 1977 SCTV sketch featured the show as a news item on The SCTV Evening News when the host, Bert Parks (Dave Thomas), angry and tired of hosting the show, loses it and throws a bottle of acid in the face of the contestant (Andrea Martin), then pulls out a gun and shoots the studio audience.
- People Are Funny
- CBS Television Quiz (CBS Television, 1941–1942)
- Spelling Bee (BBC game show, 1938)
- Truth or Consequences, New Mexico
- Id. at p193
- "Ralph Edwards," Current Biography 1943, p192, 193.
- "Station WNBT Week of June 30th–July 5th, 1941". Retrieved 10 January 2012.
- Ralph Edwards discusses the details of the process in a 1997 interview conducted by the Television Academy Foundation, http://www.emmytvlegends.org/interviews/people/ralph-edwards .
- "Daily N.B.C. Show Will Be on Tape", The New York Times, Jan. 18, 1957, p. 31.
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