You're In The Picture

Celebs sticking their heads into holes in pictures and hilarity ensues?

CBS: (January 20th, 1961 - January 27th, 1961)

The Great One.

Hearing that makes you think of the funniest man on TV at that time, Jackie Gleason.  Although some of his jokes don't stand the test of time, his sitcom, The Honeymooners and his other comedic pieces are some of the funniest things ever broadcast on national TV.  During that time, it seemed like he could do no wrong.  The Honeymooners was one of the highest rated TV shows & everybody thought he was the funniest thing on TV.  He was pitched an idea by Don Lipp & Bob Synes, the latter went on to do some great stuff with Fun House & Dream House.  The idea was of a panel show, where the celebrities will be in a picture & they have to guess the picture/situation they are in.  Jackie Gleason would be the master of ceremonies and be quipping all the while.  Jackie started to think that this show could be something.  Little did he know that the pitch that sounded good, would turn out to be the biggest bomb in televised game show history.

Now some of you are saying, what about The One or Show Me The Money or Who's Your Daddy?

Well, let's get one thing straight about those shows.  None of those shows starred the biggest name in TV history at that time, was given a great time slot, wasn't a rehash of another show's format & didn't involve stuff that would have been better suited for an episode of Maury. 

But I'm getting off track.  Ladies and Gentlemen, It's time for You're In The Picture.

As I said, the host of this show was Jackie Gleason.  Now, while I said this show was the biggest bomb in history, that wasn't to say that everything about this show was bad.  Jackie Gleason was his very funny self in a great moderator role.  He knew what to do and when to do it.  He had some great one-liners in this show & practically was the only reason people watched this show.  They had an ace announcer as well with Johnny Olsen, who seemed to announce almost every game show that CBS did at that time, panel show wise.  He did What's My Line, I've Got a Secret, To Tell The Truth, among others.  So, you have a great host, a great announcer, the set looks good.  Why did it fail?

Well, here's where it all falls apart.  The panel who was supposed to help make this show work.  Now, you do have some notables there in Pat Carroll and Pat Harrington, before they made it big, or bigger than they were.  You also had Jan Sterling and Arthur Treacher.  To this day, I don't know what they were famous for.  I think they wanted 2 funny people to counterbalance the blandness factor of those two and make the panel somewhat hilarious.  It backfired and made the panel completely worse than it was.  Although the panel was bad, despite the efforts of Pat Carroll and Pat Harrington, it doesn't quite compare to the gameplay.

Quite simply, it was this.  The four panelists would be in a picture, mainly a famous scene in history or a lyric from a song, or some other thing of that sort.  They would stick their heads in the picture, where the cartoon heads were.  More often than not, they would get cheap laughs by sticking one of the guys heads where a female head was.  The panelists would ask Jackie Gleason yes or no questions.  Jackie would come up with a very clever quip sometimes to at least make the show somewhat entertaining.  After a certain amount of time, it would pass to the other panelist until time ran out and Jackie told them what the picture was.  The panel that guessed the situation or the picture correctly would get 100 CARE Packages donated in their name.  If the panel blanks, the 100 CARE Packages will be donated in Jackie Gleason's name.

Already, it was a bad idea.  The execution itself, makes the show downright painful to watch.  Watching celebs aimlessly guessing the picture or the situation was hardly entertaining to watch.  But they had no variety in how they did it, thus making the show boring, and unfunny.  If they would have made it where they brought in normal people to be in the pictures and had celebrities help the contestant, then it might have been intriguing.  It's always better to have regular people play the game than an all-celebrity game, unless it's a game where it's very humor based, like QI in the UK.  Anyways, the CARE Package donation idea was something that hasn't been done before, and I liked that idea.

If you think my take on it is harsh, the critics at that time where even more harsh.  It was critically panned all across the board.  Not one major publication at that time gave it a positive review.  Time Magazine is quoted as saying that this show was "the worst television show in the 13-year history of U.S. Network television."  After seeing those words, Jackie Gleason, who had complete control of the show, decided to improve on it.

And he did.  The show after this was his "apology" to everyone.  The set was stripped bare, except for a chair, and an end table with his ash tray & a coffee mug.  His opening words set the tone.  It's best to hear them for yourself.

Jackie Gleason Apologizes as only he knows how.

That's why he was called The Great One.  He was brutally honest about the show, and unlike You're In The Picture, that line got a great laugh from the crowd.  That wasn't the only time they laughed during this Apology show.  The crowd was rolling all throughout the broadcast.  Quite simply, this apology was funnier than some of the best Honeymooners episodes.

He also demonstrated how the show should have worked.  What made it even better was that the prop guys brought the set piece in, with their backs to the audience, with Gleason saying, "They're even embarrassed to have been a part of this show." 

The apology show got much better reviews than the game show did.  So, Jackie decided to turn the show into "The Jackie Gleason Show".  It became a talk/interview show for the duration of the episode order, lasting until March 24, 1961.  Further proof that Jackie Gleason knew what he was doing most of the time.  His career wasn't affected by the flop of You're In The Picture, but I don't think Arthur Treacher or Jan Sterling did much after this.  Pat Carroll would become a great comedienne and Pat Harrington would sleaze it up a bit in the 70s and become Snyder on One Day At a Time.  So, at least the cream rose and became stars, and the garbage fell off the face of the earth.