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
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
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
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
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.