Productions was facing a serious personnel crisis by late 1976. Its "To
Tell The Truth" host Garry Moore had undergone major throat surgery during
the holiday break and could not speak, effectively nixing his ability
to emcee the eight-year-old series. With half the season's episodes yet
to be taped, G-T had to scramble to find a temporary replacement.
After that, the panelists, then the pre-seated Bill Cullen, were introduced. Despite
was sort of an insider's outsider where "TTTT" was concerned.
But that was good enough.
On Tuesday, 25 January 1977, Garagiola taped the first in a string of sessions in which he mentioned, up front, that he was substituting for Moore. Everything except the host seemed the same: Bill Cullen was back on the panel, the show's intro credits were back to the Moore-era format, and the bulk of the guest panelists were those who had been visiting for years and knew how to keep the show entertaining.
As in prior
seasons, the weekday on which "TTTT" taped its programs jumped
around. Tuesday had always been the base day and still comprised well
over half the weekly taping sessions. Wednesday was typically the alternate
production day; twice in Garagiola's 46 weeks the tape day fell to Thursday.
Producers played it safe with the panel during those early sessions without
Moore, using semiregulars and game show pros in the rotating panel chair.
Gradually, invitations were extended to new faces, but by that time, Moore
had made a decision to step down permanently.
When it became
evident that Garry Moore wouldn't be returning to the host's chair, Joe
Garagiola got the job for good. Immediately there were production changes.
First and most obviously, Garagiola dropped the pinch-hitting-for-Garry
schtick with which he had begun each broadcast. Next, exuberant Alan Kalter
replaced longtime "TTTT" announcer Bill Wendell. Then, commercial
fades began to be accompanied by instrumental music, while audience microphones
were opened way up during panelist/contestant walkons and the voting period.
Finally, the show began to open, close, and fade to/return from commercial
breaks using a visual wipe rather than its traditional slow fade. All
of these modifications appeared to be an attempt to update the show by
giving it a fresher, younger feel.
The retired, sneaker-wearing Moore returned to host his own sendoff on the 1,591st program. Moore's unexplained disappearance from the series had really left audiences hanging and was a marked contrast from his highly publicized "Garry Moore Show" and "I've Got A Secret" departures in 1964. So when Moore did return, the entire second half of the program was devoted to letting Moore do what he always did best: tell the truth. Moore explained about his hospitalization. He snuffed out pesky rumors that had begun while he was away. He prodded the panel for anecdotes about all their years together (Carlisle talked about her clothes, Cass about meeting people, and Cullen about Moore's friendship). Moore announced that Garagiola was the new permanent host. And then, just before the closing credits, 62-year-old Garry Moore walked away. Moore's last show was certainly one of "TTTT"'s finest half-hours, compelling for its frankness and willingness to momentarily abandon the game in favor of a going-away party for its charismatic former captain. Had he gone into that taping hoping to leave his audience wanting Moore . . . well, mission seriously accomplished.
Moore's finale was designed to be the first show of the fall 1977 season, but it didn't work that way everywhere. In Los Angeles and Philadelphia, the Garagiola-subbed shows began airing in March 1977 -- just a few weeks after being taped -- and were followed by the ten Cullen-hosted shows just before Moore/Garagiola summer repeats. Moore's goodbye show was indeed used as the first show that fall in those cities. Meantime, Atlanta and Salinas also got to see Moore retire as a season premiere, but viewers in those localities must have scratched their heads when Moore mentioned his earlier disappearance from "TTTT": first they'd heard of it, since the Cullen/Garagiola era hadn't aired there. And then in Kearney, Nebraska, the local "TTTT" audience had to wait until spring 1978 to get their first glimpse of Garagiola and Cullen greeting panels and reading affidavits. For those viewers, Garry Moore was going strong well over a year after he'd actually left the series.
Garagiola handle "TTTT" is less than satisfying, but that's
hardly Garagiola's fault. There's an almost disingenuous feel to his episodes
that springs largely from the production changes instigated early in his
tenure. Suddenly, the audience noise was making a circus out of previously
tame opening entrances; the studio clamor during the voting was enough
to make a TV viewer think fights were breaking out just offstage. The
music, the wide open mics, the wipes: although calculated to update the
show, these new conventions only made "TTTT" look tired and
out-of-date. And after eight-and-a-half years of exterminators and roller
derbyists and silk spinners and child star teachers and camel racers and
world's toughest cops -- not to mention all the animal segments -- who
wouldn't need a rest, anyway?
So, on Tuesday, 28 February 1978, the Goodson-Todman and NBC crew taped "TTTT"'s 1,715th and final program. The featured contestants on that last show were Charles Darwin's great-grandson and a broomball player -- the usual mixture of serious and silly. Kitty Carlisle made a reference to her last vote, and Joe Garagiola's signoff was only slightly less veiled than Garry Moore's opening remarks had been in 1969
That was it.
Most markets would continue to air "TTTT" through the summer
anyway, so direct mentions of the episode's finale status were inappropriate.
It was a sadly muted sendoff for a show that had been in its prime not
so far back.