Pantomime Quiz

TV classics: Pantomime Quiz

USA 1947-59, aka Stump the Stars 1962-63, irregular seasons, episodes approximately 25 minutes each, KTLA, CBS, DuMont, NBC and ABC, black & white. Hosted by Mike Stokey. Celebrity guests: Lucie Arnaz, Carol Burnett, Raymond Burr, Beverly Garland, Barbara Hale, William Hopper, Eartha Kitt, Michael Landon, Nancy Sinatra, William Talman, Dick Van Dyke et al.

Game summary: Based on the popular game Charades, two groups of celebrity contestants compete against each other to find out who’s faster at miming the titles and sentences contributed by the audience.

Review: Pantomime Quiz is one of those shows I miss a lot these days: pure entertainment for the entire family. These game shows are great fun to watch at any age and apparently brought a lot of joy to the contestants as well back in the days. Beverly Garland was one of the regular contestants on Pantomime Quiz, Sebastian Cabot and Ross Martin. Always supported by an incoming celebrity guest, the ever-changing teams of contestants did their best to explain as many terms, names or phrases as possible. The faster a contestant managed to show his or her given term without using a single word, the more points their team got. If they didn’t stay under two minutes, no points were added to their account and thus lowered their chances to prevail in the end.

Originally airing on KTLA as early as in 1947, Pantomime Quiz survived a successful twelve non-consecutive season run on four different networks. Presented by Mike Stokey, the show won an Emmy for “Most Popular Television Program” at the first Emmy Awards ceremony. Discontinued on ABC in 1959, the show was revived on CBS in 1962 under a new title, Stump the Stars. Pat Harrington Jr. hosted the re-imagined show until veteran emcee Stokey returned to the format and welcomed celebrity guests such as the cast of the Dick Van Dyke Show and Perry Mason.

Today, selected clips are available online and on DVD to enjoy with your (grand)parents and kids. Complete episodes are a real treat, my personal favorite being an episode from 1963 featuring Raymond Burr, Barbara Hale, William Hopper and William Talman (displayed on the 5oth Anniversary of Perry Mason box set). I always root for each one of them to find the right clues and gestures, no matter how often I watch them play. You can have a look a full sample episode here on youtube and see for yourselves or click the links above to share my joy about the Perry Mason gang and their familiar quips and quirks. But be prepared, if you’re into game shows, Pantomime Quiz or Stump the Stars may awaken your inner Charades Queen (or King) who feels the urge to convert everyone around you to play along.

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Family Affair

TV classics: Family Affair

USA 1966-71, 5 seasons, 138 episodes, 25 minutes each, CBS, color. Producer: Don Fedderson. Cast: Brian Keith, Sebastian Cabot, Kathy Garver, Johnny Whitaker, Anissa Jones and Mrs Beasley

Plot summary: After the sudden death of his brother, bachelor Bill Davis “inherits” three children (including doll Mrs Beasley) and tries to raise them in his chic New York City apartment with a little help from his English original butler Mr. French.

Review: Family Affair is a beautiful example of a 1960s family show.

In the beginning, Bill Davis, a bachelor to boot, has a hard time adapting his life to the needs of a teenage daughter and her six-year-old twin siblings. And his butler Mr. French is not much of a help in respect to children. They are quite at odds with their “inheritance”, but of course, as the show progresses, the two men learn to dry tears, find solutions to school problems and understand that there may be many dolls out in the world, but there’s only one Mrs Beasley. As the children grow up in this turbulent, funny but harmless show, so do the adults, and with them the audience.

For an entire generation, Brian Keith was a darling uncle Bill and he is, indeed, a real treat to watch on his journey from a 1960s bachelor (with all the cliches attached) to a loving father of three. The children supporting him were beautifully cast and know how to bounce off Brian Keith’s charm and Sebastian Cabot’s equally entertaining talent and lines. The episodes are easy to follow for children and endearing to adults as one of those classic gems that comes without explicit language, violence or sexual references. That’s what family entertainment in the 1960s looked like and it is a lot of fun to lean back and revisit this bygone era.

Available on DVD. Family Affair opening credits