Here’s an idea for a television game show: Get four contestants – make them celebrities – have them stick their heads through a life-sized illustration of a famous scene or a song lyric and then take turns asking the host yes/no questions and try to figure out what scene they’re a part of. Just for insurance, get a big star to be the host. Sound like a winner?
The scenario played out for the first time on CBS at 9:30 pm EST on January 20, 1961, the evening of the inauguration on John F. Kennedy. The program was called You’re in the Picture. The guest celebrities were Pat Harrington Jr., Pat Carroll, Jan Sterling, and Arthur Treacher. The host was Jackie Gleason, who’d been around television for a while hosting his own variety shows and a little number called The Honeymooners. That first episode was also the last episode.
Talk about a bomb. “The biggest bomb in history” said Jackie Gleason, adding that it “would make the H-Bomb look like a two-inch salute.” Time later called it proof that the 1960-61 TV season was the worst in the history of U.S. network television.
The following week, instead of the game show, the broadcast consisted of Gleason sitting in a chair on a bare stage, delivering a lengthy apology for the previous week’s show and a post-mortem noting that more than 300 combined years’ worth of show business experience had been involved in the flop. He ended his commentary by saying “I don’t know what we’ll do, but I’ll be back.”
Gleason’s half-hour apology got much better reviews than the game show, and Gleason returned to finish his series commitment by changing the program’s name to The Jackie Gleason Show and the format to a talk/interview show.
However, he continued without the program’s original sponsor Kellogg’s which pulled out after Gleason, during his apology, referred to the cup of coffee he was sipping as Chock Full O’Booze.
Born January 20, 1922, Ray Anthony became a successful band leader during the 1950s, despite composing “The Bunny Hop.”
It seems only fair: During a 1982 concert in Des Moines, Iowa, heavy-metal musician Ozzy Osbourne was bitten by a bat as he tried to bite the bat’s head off as part of the evening’s entertainment. Osbourne was hospitalized and treated for rabies, living on to further entertain us. History does not record the fate of the bat.
On January 20, 2001, Donald Rumsfeld became the oldest Secretary of State in U.S. history. And possibly the most senile. Exactly two years later he declared: “Saddam Hussein possesses chemical and biological weapons… His regime is paying a high price to pursue weapons of mass destruction — giving up billions of dollars in oil revenue. His regime has large, unaccounted for stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons — including VX, sarin, cyclosarin and mustard gas; anthrax, botulism, and possibly smallpox — and he has an active program to acquire and develop nuclear weapons.”