You're in the Picture

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You're in the Picture
Jackie Gleason Youre in the Picture 1961.JPG
Promotional photo for the show.
Created byDon Lipp
Bob Synes
Written bySydney Zelinka
James Shelton
("special material")
Directed bySeymour Robbie
Presented byJackie Gleason (game)
Dennis James (spokesman for Kellogg's)
StarringPat Harrington Jr.
Pat Carroll
Jan Sterling
Arthur Treacher
Narrated byJohnny Olson
Composer(s)Jackie Gleason
Country of originUnited States
No. of episodes2
Producer(s)Steve Carlin
Running time30 minutes
Production company(s)Idees Grandes, Inc. and Solar Enterprises, Inc., in association with the CBS Television Network
Original networkCBS
Picture formatBlack-and-white
Audio formatMonaural
Original releaseJanuary 20 (1961-01-20) –
January 27, 1961 (1961-01-27)
Followed byThe Jackie Gleason Show

You're in the Picture was an American television game show that aired on CBS for only one episode on Friday, January 20, 1961 at 9:30pm, the evening of the Inauguration of John F. Kennedy.[1]

The show, created by Don Lipp and Bob Synes,[2] was an attempt by its host and star Jackie Gleason to "demonstrate versatility" after his success within variety shows and The Honeymooners.[3] Gleason was joined by Johnny Olson as announcer and Dennis James doing live commercials for sponsor Kellogg's cereals.

Technically, the show could be said to have run for two episodes, since the following Friday, Gleason appeared at the same time, but in a studio "stripped to the brick walls" and using the time to give what Time magazine called an "inspiring post-mortem", asking rhetorically "how it was possible for a group of trained people to put on so big a flop."[4] Time later cited You're in the Picture as one piece of evidence that the 1960-61 TV season was the "worst in the 13-year history of U.S. network television."[5]


A four-member celebrity panel would stick their heads into a life-sized illustration of a famous scene or song lyric with a hole cut out, then take turns asking yes/no questions to Gleason to try to figure out what scene they were a part of. If they were able to figure out the scene, 100 CARE Packages were donated in their name; if they were stumped, the packages were donated in Gleason's name. Live music was provided by a Dixieland band (supposedly arranged by Gleason himself, who had some experience in easy listening arrangements outside his television work) under the direction of Norman Leyden.


The celebrity panel for the premiere consisted of Pat Harrington Jr., Pat Carroll, Jan Sterling, and Arthur Treacher.

Among the tableaux-like backdrops featured in the premiere were a scene of Pocahontas saving John Smith, a depiction of four playing cards, and a scene of high school hurdlers in a track meet.[4]


The debut of You're in the Picture received negative reviews across the board.

The following Friday (January 27), instead of the game, the broadcast consisted of Gleason sitting in a chair on the now-bare stage and apologizing for the previous week's show. Stating that the series failed because of "the intangibles of show business", Gleason also noted that more than 300 combined years' worth of show business experience had been involved in the production.

He commented that the program "laid, without a doubt, the biggest bomb in history", adding that it "would make the H-Bomb look like a two-inch salute."[4] Acknowledging the critics, he also stated that "You don't have to be Alexander Graham Bell to pick up the phone and find out it's dead."[4]

Gleason included some topical remarks in the opening moments of the apology, joking that he had been set to go watch the Los Angeles Open golf tournament, implying that it would've been more enjoyable to watch Arnold Palmer struggle on the 18th hole at Rancho Park where he took a 12 (on January 6, 1961) or that he could've gone on a cruise on a Portuguese ship and been spared from hosting the show, referencing the Santa Maria hijacking (on January 23, 1961).

He also told stories of his other flops (adding at one point "I wish I didn't know so much about these things"), and had the John Smith/Pocahontas illustration brought out to show what the format was for those "fortunate enough not to see last week's show". He also fulfilled contractual obligations by incorporating live commercials into the broadcast. He also noted that nobody commented on how the show itself was after it finished airing, instead mentioning how good the commercials were and that the show went off the air at the right time. He ended his commentary with, "I'm coming back next week! I don't know what we're gonna do ... so, take my word for it ... tune in on the next chapter, because this might be the greatest 'soapless' opera you've ever seen!".

This comical half-hour apology got much better reviews than the game show, and Gleason finished out his series commitment by renaming the program The Jackie Gleason Show and turning it into a talk/interview show, which lasted until March 24, 1961. Shortly after the series commitment was completed, CBS picked up on a more permanent basis another talk/variety program from Gleason, American Scene Magazine, which would run from 1962 to 1970.

However, due to a moment during the apology in which Gleason hinted that the coffee cup he was sipping from wasn't really filled with "coffee" (he called it "Chock Full O'Booze"[4]), the show's original sponsor, Kellogg's, pulled out of the series a week later and publicly claimed, "This isn't the show we bought". They reportedly told CBS executives they were offended by the coffee cup reference, and wanted no further association with Gleason or the show after that.[citation needed] However, Liggett & Myers, the show's alternate sponsor, continued with the series until it ended. The supposedly "spiked" cup of coffee was a running gag Gleason often used as part of the monologue of his variety shows.


Upon the premiere, the game show received extremely negative reviews.

In 2002 TV Guide ranked the series number 9 on its '50 Worst TV Shows of All Time' list.[6]

In his book What Were They Thinking? The 100 Dumbest Events in Television History, author David Hofstede ranked the show at #4 on the list.[7]

Episode status[edit]

Both the premiere and Gleason's apology exist and are available for viewing at the Paley Center for Media in New York City. Both appear to be from the original broadcasts, as both have the original commercials intact.[citation needed] The apology episode is widely circulated on video-sharing sites like YouTube.

A second episode of the game show format was recorded on videotape for a future airing,[citation needed] but it did not air due to the premiere's poor reception. It is unknown if this episode still exists. In an October 18, 1985 Tonight Show interview with Gleason, Johnny Carson stated that he appeared on the program; surviving clips do not show him involved, however.[8][9]

Similar guessing games[edit]

The concept of a contestant putting his or her head through a hole in a portrait and trying to guess the picture was attempted again for a 2013 episode of the UK panel show Celebrity Juice.[10] The Dutch television game show De Jongens tegen de Meisjes also includes a challenge in which the celebrity candidates have to guess who they are by asking their team members yes-no questions about their identity.


  1. ^ "Time Listings: Jan. 20, 1961". Time. January 20, 1961. Retrieved 2009-10-11.
  2. ^ "Don Lipp dies at 70". Variety. August 24, 2009. Retrieved 2009-10-11.
  3. ^ "Gleason, Jackie: U.S. Comedian/Actor". Museum of Broadcast Communications. Retrieved 2009-10-11.
  4. ^ a b c d e f "Television: Inspiring Post-Mortem". Time. February 3, 1961. Retrieved 2009-10-11.
  5. ^ "Television: The Season". Time. March 31, 1961. Retrieved 2009-10-11. As the bloodstained 1960-61 season crawled toward its grave last week, it had proved one thing to everybody's satisfaction: it was the worst in the 13-year history of U.S. network television.
  6. ^ TV Guide Book of Lists. Running Press. 2007. p. 180. ISBN 0-7624-3007-9.
  7. ^ David Hofstede (2004). What Were They Thinking? The 100 Dumbest Events in Television History. Back Stage Books. pp. 197–199. ISBN 0-8230-8441-8.
  8. ^ Gleason's big bomb! Television's Most Forgotten Show?, a article on the program, including links to clips.
  9. ^ 'The Jackie Gleason Show' on IMDb
  10. ^ "Kelly Brook makes a pop at Katie Price after she is 'transformed' into her nemesis on Celebrity Juice". Daily Mail. March 22, 2013. Retrieved 2013-03-22.

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