(1959-1970 (Original TV Run))
Created by Don Reid
Hosts Alan Ludden (1959-1962), Robert Earle (1962-1970
Game shows can be pretty dumb. I usually prefer the “hard quiz” variety where people are asked difficult questions and have to come up with the answer.* And one of the hardest of the hard quizzes was the GE College Bowl.
The show originated in radio, where two teams of college students answered questions. When it moved to TV in 1959, the format was set. In the first round, there would be a “toss-up” question. If you got that question right, you would be asked a multipart bonus question on the subject that was the basis of the toss-up. You got ten points for the toss-up and different points for the bonus questions. The teams could collaborate on the bonus question. If you were wrong on the toss-up, the other team got a chance to answer. If you buzzed in before the host finished the question, that was fine if you got it right, but a five point penalty if you got it wrong.
After two halves, the team with the most points was declared the winner and the school would get money for scholarships.** If you win five weeks in a row, you were declared an undefeated champion and got extra scholarship money.
The interest in the show was the due to the quality of the questions. They were all fairly difficult and the audience had to see the teams come up with the answers.
Alan Ludden was the original host, but left to become host of Password.*** He was replaced by Robert Earle, who remained with it, staying after a switch from CBS to NBC in 1963 until it went off the air in 1970. It was a Sunday afternoon fixture until sports squeezed it out.
When I was a kid, I was able to be part of the studio audience.**** I don’t recall much of the show except the end. Earle was giving a wrap-up to the camera, but, just out of camera range, he kept clenching and unclenching his hands. It was enlightening to see someone who had done this many times before could still be nervous.
After it left the air, it was revived in various form, on radio with Jeopardy’s Art Fleming and in syndication.Eventually, though costs put an end to one of the most challenging of all game shows.
*Or come up with a question, as the most successful of the genre, Jeopardy, does.
**$1500, which sounds pretty chintzy when you look at college tuitions today
***He’s probably best known these days as the husband of Betty White.
****My father sold GE appliances, so he had an in.