Mark Leo Goodson
January 14, 1915
|Died||December 18, 1992 (aged 77)|
New York City, US
|Alma mater||University of California, Berkeley (B.S., Economics, 1937)|
|Known for||Early television game shows and Goodson-Todman Productions|
Mark Leo Goodson (January 14, 1915 - December 18, 1992) was an American television producer who specialized in game shows, most frequently with his business partner Bill Todman, with whom he created Goodson-Todman Productions.
Goodson was born in Sacramento, California on January 14, 1915. His parents, Abraham Ellis (1875-1954) and Fannie Goodson (1887-1986), emigrated from Russia in the early 1900s. As a child, Goodson acted in amateur theater with the Plaza Stock Company. The family later moved to Hayward, California. Originally intending to become a lawyer, Goodson attended the University of California, Berkeley. He financed his education through scholarships and by working at the Lincoln Fish Market. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1937 with a degree in Economics.
That year, he began his broadcasting career in San Francisco, working as a disc jockey at radio station KJBS (now known as KFAX). In 1939 he joined radio station KFRC, where he produced and hosted a radio quiz called "Pop the Question" in which contestants selected questions by throwing darts at multi-colored balloons.
Goodson and long-time partner Bill Todman produced some of the longest-running game shows in US television history, and their names were well known at least to the large audiences for these shows. Their first television show, Winner Take All, debuted on CBS television on July 1, 1948. The long list of Goodson-Todman productions includes The Price Is Right, Family Feud, Match Game, Password, Beat the Clock, To Tell the Truth (Goodson's personal favorite show), I've Got a Secret, What's My Line?, Card Sharks, and Tattletales. Goodson-Todman Productions/Mark Goodson Productions created content for U.S. channels and other international channels. (including Talbot Television Ltd. and Fremantle UK Productions Ltd.). such as CBS, NBC, and ABC in the US, BBC1, ITV (Anglia, Central, Granada, LWT, TVS, Scottish Television, and Yorkshire Television), Channel 4, and Sky One, (also Challenge TV). It licensed many of its shows to the Reg Grundy Organisation to be adapted in Australia and Europe.
Goodson and Todman's shows endured through the decades, many over multiple runs, because of Goodson's sharp eye for production and presentation, and the two's strict insistence on maintaining clean, honest contests, thus allowing their shows to survive the quiz show scandals of the late 1950s. After those scandals wiped out most of their competition, much of the newer game show output of the 1960s and 1970s would come from either Goodson-Todman or companies launched by their former employees: Merv Griffin, Bob Stewart, Monty Hall, and later Jay Wolpert. Goodson-Todman was involved with Jack Barry's comeback vehicle The Joker's Wild for its 1969 pilot but ended involvement with the show before it debuted in 1972.
While Todman oversaw the company's lucrative businesses outside of television, Goodson handled the creative aspects of producing game shows. The people who worked for the company and created most of the Goodson-Todman shows were pivotal to the success of those shows. Goodson-Todman executives Bob Stewart, Bob Bach, Gil Fates, Ira Skutch, Frank Wayne, Chester Feldman, Paul Alter, Howard Felsher, Ted Cooper, Jay Wolpert, and others were instrumental in making the shows successful.
The company proved itself to be masterful at games, but were not as successful when they tried other fields of television programs, including the anthology dramas The Web and The Richard Boone Show, a talk-variety show for famed insult comic Don Rickles - and what was possibly the company's biggest failure, a sitcom titled One Happy Family.
Goodson-Todman Productions were also involved with three westerns: Jefferson Drum (1958-1959), starring Jeff Richards as a newspaper editor in the Old West; The Rebel (1959-1961), starring Nick Adams as an ex-Confederate soldier who traveled to the West after the American Civil War (Johnny Cash sang the theme); and Branded, starring Chuck Connors as a soldier who had wrongly been given a dishonorable discharge from the Army.
For many years, the company was headquartered in the Seagram Building at 375 Park Avenue in New York City. Most of the company's production moved to Hollywood in the early 1970s (as did many other production companies), starting with the ABC revival of Password in 1971. The Los Angeles offices were based at 6430 Sunset Boulevard, moving to 5750 Wilshire Boulevard. The company's last New York-based show was the 1980 version of To Tell the Truth, but the New York office remained open and was used for East Coast Child's Play auditions.
A few years after Bill Todman's death in 1979, Goodson acquired the Todman heirs' share of the company, and in 1982 the company was renamed Mark Goodson Productions. Traditionally, shows would sign off with "This is (announcer's name) speaking for (show name), A Mark Goodson-Bill Todman Production/A Mark Goodson Television Production." After Goodson's death, to pay off a massive inheritance tax, Goodson's family sold the rights (except for Concentration/Classic Concentration, which had been licensed from NBC) to All-American Television, which was subsequently taken over by Pearson PLC (an educational publisher and communications company based in the United Kingdom), and, in turn, was acquired by RTL Group (a division of Bertelsmann), to form Fremantle, which now owns the rights to the library from Mark Goodson Productions. The Mark Goodson Productions name, logo, and announcement continued to be used for some shows until 2007, when Bob Barker's last episode of The Price Is Right aired. Afterwards, at the close of each episode of The Price Is Right, the announcer credits the show as "a FremantleMedia Production" until 2018; it is now credited simply as "a Fremantle Production", reflecting the name change of the company.
Copyrights to many of the Goodson-Todman's game shows were assigned to its specially-formed companies, named in The (program name) Company scheme, such as The Family Company, The Password Company etc. They are currently an in-name-only units of Fremantle North America.
In 1990, Goodson received the Emmy Award "Lifetime Achievement Award for Daytime Television", which was presented to him by Betty White. Two years later, in 1992, Goodson earned induction into the Television Hall of Fame.
On June 3, 2000 an episode of Biography called Mark Goodson: Will the Real Mark Goodson Please Stand Up? aired on A&E where it profiled his life and career. This features many interviews of the hosts, panelists and co-workers such as Betty White, Bob Barker, Gene Rayburn, Kitty Carlisle, Marjorie Goodson and Suzanne Goodson.
Goodson's shows have continued to dominate both the GSN (Game Show Network) and Buzzr (TV Channel) schedules in reruns, due to the fact that his company saved most of the episodes of the shows while other companies wiped theirs in order to reuse the tapes. The practice of wiping would stop by the start of the 1980s.
The series was based on the British format called Ant & Dec's/Vernon Kay's Gameshow Marathon and ran on CBS from May 31 until June 29, 2006 hosted by former actress/talk show host Ricki Lake, announced by Rich Fields (who formerly announced for The Price Is Right from 2004 until 2010) and Todd Newton as the prize deliverer in which six celebrities (i.e. Lance Bass, Paige Davis, Tim Meadows, Kathy Najimi, Leslie Nielsen and Brande Roderick) play seven classic game shows for their favorite charities and the home viewer featured five formats based on Goodson-Todman/Goodson shows along with the recreation of their original sets such as The Price is Right (1972 version), Beat the Clock, Card Sharks, Match Game and Family Feud.
In 2014, the buzzr brand was first used by its parent company FremantleMedia (now Fremantle) for its YouTube channel created by its digital content studio Tiny Riot. The channel features mostly classic clips along with its short-form reboots of its classic game show properties by using various internet celebrities as contestants. Four of the Goodson-Todman/Goodson shows were Family Feud, Password, Beat the Clock and Body Language.
Many Goodson-Todman games were produced internationally, some under different titles, and were distributed by Reg Grundy Productions - Family Feud was known in the United Kingdom as Family Fortunes, and Card Sharks went under the title Play Your Cards Right. In Germany, Match Game was known as Schnickschnack (loosely translated, "something, anything" and used as a counterpart for the word "blank", for which there is no direct word in German). In the United Kingdom, it was known as Blankety Blank, while in Australia, it was known as Blankety Blanks (which, coincidentally, was the title of an unrelated American game show, created by former Goodson-Todman staffer Bob Stewart).
Of the numerous shows Goodson produced in his lifetime, four are still on the air and are being produced by successor companies (All-American Television from 1995 to 1998, Pearson Television from 1998 to 2002, and FremantleMedia since 2002) as of 2016: The Price Is Right, which has run continuously since 1972; Family Feud, which was canceled in 1985, revived in 1988 and then canceled again in 1995, and revived in its current form in 1999; and Match Game and To Tell the Truth, both of which were revived in 2016 after lengthy stints off the air. As of 2018: Beat the Clock is still on the air after a lengthy stint off the air.
In 1941, Goodson married his first wife, Bluma Neveleff, and moved to New York City, where he teamed up with partner Bill Todman. The pair's first radio show, Winner Take All, premiered on CBS in 1946. Outside of television production, Goodson and Todman went on to own several newspapers in New England as well as radio station KOL in Seattle, Washington. Bill Todman died in July 1979, and in 1982, the Goodsons acquired the Todman heirs' portion of the company.
Goodson had two children, Jill and Jonathan (born 1945), by his first wife Bluma, and a daughter, Marjorie (who was a prize model on Classic Concentration from July 1987 until its finale in September 1991), by his second wife Virginia McDavid, Miss Alabama 1953. In 1972, he married his third wife, Suzanne Waddell, who had once been a guest on What's My Line? They divorced in 1978.
Goodson died of pancreatic cancer on December 18, 1992 in New York City, a month before his 78th birthday. He is interred at Hillside Memorial Park in Culver City, California, along with Fannie Goodson and A.E. Goodson. After his death, Bob Barker gave him a small tribute that aired after an episode of The Price Is Right, as an attached segment that followed the end credits.