Friday, August 12, 2022

"Whew!" - That Was a Close One!

Close to being a hit show, that is... On April 23, 1979, the new game show Whew! premiered on CBS as a lead-in to The Price is Right. It's installation at 10:30 am caused a line-up shuffle that shoved the long-running soap Love of Life to 4:00 pm, signaling its demise months afterward. Ads for the show suggested a maze-like gauntlet of various villains with a pot of gold at the end. The reality wasn't quite that action-filled, but it was every bit as corny. Today's photo essay will take a look at this show, but is chiefly focused on the version that came about in November of that year. 


Whew! kicked off with an animated opening sequence produced by Hanna-Barbera with a theme song written by Alan Thicke.

A determined young lady plodded forward as a string of ten baddies loomed. Occasionally one of them would take a swipe at her.

Having made it past them, she fell onto a huge pot of gold and then exclaimed...

This animated rendition of the show's title...

...transitioned into a cartoon cut-out on the show's sizeable set.

Then host Tom Kennedy would come racing on like a house on fire to introduce the contestants. For the first six months or so, the game pitted a man and a woman against one another for a chance at the $25,000 prize money. In a bid to win more viewers, the format was changed in November in order to give each player a celebrity helper. Naturally, we're more interested in that rendition.

The first celebrity contestants are seen here. On the right is Patrick Wayne. On the left...

...is Carol Lawrence, taking a break from her General Foods International Coffee in order to take part.

I always thought Pat Wayne was cute, inheriting the best traits of his father John Wayne and his Panamanian mother Josephine. Not sure why he felt the need to wear two shirts, though.

I've never been able to drum up much enthusiasm for Miss Lawrence, though. She often came off to me as not quote being 100% with it! Her autobiography (much of it detailing a toxic marriage to Robert Goulet) didn't do anything much to change my mind.

The game play involved one team (The Chargers) working its way up the board shown here, a level at a time (the given category shown at the bottom) while the opposing team were permitted to throw up six secret blocks (outlined in red for this instance.) They were dubbed The Blockers. If the Chargers happened on one of the blocked squares, 5 of the allotted 60 seconds per game would be counted off with no progress.

Taking turns, the teams tried to dart up the board, answering bloopers (questions) along the way and hoping not to be blocked. The underlined part of the clue was usually intended to be humorous. The teams would then switch places with the best out of three games heading to the bonus round.

With that, the set would split apart for the big reveal.

The gauntlet of ten villains would appear.

The team, splitting them up five apiece, then tried to answer more bloopers (read aloud by Kennedy) in the allotted time.Each villain had an arm or the like out to block the player until they got an answer right.

If all ten were answered correctly before the buzzer sounded, the player won $25,000. A combination of nerves, lack of knowledge or the sometimes muddy delivery of the questions by Kennedy meant that it wasn't as easy as it might sound! But some players did achieve it. The remainder of this post will be devoted to depicting and sometimes commenting on the remainder of the celebrity guests prior to the show's cancellation in May of 1980.

The sole reason I recognized the man is because I recently watched season two of Soap for the very first time. I had no idea who the gal was.

Sal Viscuso played a priest on Soap who left the church in order to marry his sweetheart. He'd also been in the short-lived sitcom The Montefuscos and lent his voice to some of the p.a. announcements given on M*A*S*H. Though he is quite unfamiliar to me, Viscuso has continued on to a lengthy career and still works today (albeit looking very little like the curly-haired gent shown here.)

I was surprised to realize that the brunette lady was one Carol Wayne. Showgirl-turned-actress Wayne was almost always platinum blonde during her career. A frequent performer in sketches alongside Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show, Wayne was discovered dead in a Mexican bay amid much speculation in 1985. She was only 42.

As I was going along, I opted to present a few of the performers with a little bit of mystery as to who they are, which is why some of the first shots are in profile.

I certainly didn't expect to see Linwood Boomer as a celebrity guest! Some of you will recall him as Melissa Sue Anderson's blind husband on Little House on the Prairie. Did you know (I didn't!) that he later moved into production and that the series Malcolm in the Middle was based on his own childhood?!

Mary Ann Mobley is the other guest. You can read all about the former Miss America right here.

Not Bruce...! What a head of hair. The way Whew! was edited, guest celebs only had a brief closeup at the beginning of their shift and if they made weird faces or were turned away for that brief moment, it was hard to capture them. Thus I had no particularly solid shot of Boomer.

I think most of us are familiar with that thick mane on the gentleman.

That's actor-turned-TV host (of Hour Magazine) Gary Collins. He was the longtime husband of Mary Ann Mobley and they later returned to the show as opponents.

The gal is Trish Stewart, best known for her role on Young and the Restless and also for frequent guest appearances on TV. She left the business only a year after this except for a 1984 appearance on Y&R.

This being 1980, long, long before cellphones, it was fascinating to see an outline in Collins' pocket like the one above.

Same thing with Pat Wayne. They had packs of cigarettes on their person during the game play! It was a far more common sight then than it would ever be today.

In this ep, I had no clue on earth who the man on the left was, though I certainly knew Robert Mandan.

Mandan had a long career on stage, TV and the occasional movie, though he's most remembered for his outrageous role of Chester Tate on Soap.

This man turned out to be Michael Young. Young was the host of a talk/variety show aimed at youth called Kids Are People Too!, which I never, ever watched.

Perhaps I would have tuned in if I had known about him and his impossibly tight jeans! (Not even a millimeter of room left for any cigs here!)

This is the way we wore them back in the day (long before stretch denim!) Sometimes I actually had to lie down to zip mine up in high school...! Ha ha!

On another of his eps, he sported some very snug brown trousers.

Dig the atrocious shirt on Three's Company's Richard Kline.

Kline scored a hit on the hot sitcom as John Ritter's swinging buddy Larry.

With him that day was Oscar-winning actress Rita Moreno.

While viewing a different episode of theirs from that week, I was able to score a couple of closeups.

Here we find a far more buttoned-up Mr. Kline.

I recently had one of my coworkers half-convinced that Kline grew up to become one of the judges on Hot Bench! Ha ha!

After only a few weeks, Viscuso was back on the scene. Recognize the woman? I thought she resembled Phyllis Elizabeth Davis from Vega$.


The lady turned out to be TV series and game show stalwart Elaine Joyce. (And no, this isn't her ventriloquist dummy. It's that day's female contestant in a state of... something.)

Did Whew! film an episode on safari? LOL

The hunk is Eight is Enough's Brian Patrick Clarke. The girl is Gina Hecht.

I always thought Clarke was very hubba hubba. And I've realized while working on this post that I seem to be drawn to men with strong jawlines.

I must tell you, however, that I NEVER missed Mork & Mindy as a kid, which Hecht appeared on for three years, and I have ZERO recollection of her at all. And she has enjoyed a very long and busy career since. But I am unfamiliar with her!

Eight is Enough and Soap provided plenty of celebs for Whew! even though they were ABC shows and the game aired on CBS.

Jay Johnson was generally seen with his "dummy" Bob on Soap, who also dressed just like him.

Bob also was quick with put-downs and wisecracks that Johnson disavowed (even though they came from his own mouth!)

Joan Prather came onto Eight is Enough as the girlfriend and eventual wife to Grant Goodeve. I should have been jealous of her, but I actually liked her a lot and was stunned many years later when a female roomie expressed her complete distaste for the woman! Of course, I was not at all pleased to discover later that she was a recruiter for a certain popular Hollywood "religion."

Here, she's depicted with Dustin Hoffman in a dry run for 1982's Tootsie! Just kidding, but - hey - this informs you about the sort of look that was prevalent in 1980 and which was adopted by the actor for his Oscar-nominated role.

On this installment, Kennedy asked his male guest if the fringed get-up he was sporting came from a car wash.

Richard Paul did seem to see the humor. He had worked on the middling sitcom Carter Country and was now costarring on a new (and brief) one called One in a Million, which featured Shirley Hemphill (of What's Happening.)

A busy guest star on TV and occasional movie actor, Paul was stricken with cancer and died on Christmas Day of 1998 at only age 58.

The other guest this week was the engaging Roxie Roker of the long-running hit The Jeffersons. You're probably aware that she was the mother of singer-songwriter Lenny Kravitz. (But did you know she was also second cousin once removed to TV weatherman Al Roker?!) Sadly, she was also taken by cancer in 1995 at age 66.

Pat Wayne was back on the program for another go 'round.

Yes. I like those carved jawlines.

His opponent this week was Didi Conn, famous as Frenchie in the movie Grease (1978.) Conn was about to serve for several seasons on Benson. As you might guess, Conn did quite a bit of voice-acting over the course of her career. She recently popped up in the wake of the tragic loss of Miss Olivia Newton-John, who you can read all about right here.

I doubt there is much mistaking the male guest in this ep, but you would be hard-pressed to know the gal from this shot.

Jon Walmsley was one of only two people to appear in EVERY episode of the long-running family drama The Waltons as Jason. (The other was Eric Scott as Ben Walton.) He was born in the UK, but came to America at age two. He later emerged as a valued composer and musician, touring with Richard Marx.

His opponent was former Petticoat Junction actress Meredith MacRae who by this time was hosting a local program called Mid-Morning Los Angeles, for which she won a local Emmy. Sadly (like too many people in this post!), she died young at only 56 from brain cancer in 2000. 

Rita Moreno was back for more fun, sporting a huge head of curls.


Appearing with her was TV and movie veteran Ross Martin, famous from his role on The Wild Wild West. Still busily guest-starring on hit shows of the time, he dropped of a fatal heart attack just about a year after this at age 61.

I didn't have access to all of the remaining celebrity episodes of Whew!, though I covered most of them. The final pairing came in the way of Richard Kline, once more, and one of our most beloved human beings ever, the divine Miss Betty White.


Apart from her rather staggering TV, stage and movie career, the tireless Miss White worked on many, many games shows. She and host Tom Kennedy had a warm connection as it was he who'd taken over for her husband Allen Ludden on Password Plus, when Ludden became too ill to continue. She went on that show many times (as well as its later incarnations) and was here when Whew! breathed its final sigh... Once yanked from the air, it remained out of circulation until Buzzr recently unearthed it. All the episodes sampled here are available on YouTube.com. It was replaced by reruns of Alice until a new show, Child's Play, took the time slot, though it also failed to catch on long term.

14 comments:

BryonByronWhatever said...

I always found Patrick Wayne to be much more than cute 🔥

Shawny said...

What a tacky game show. I love it! I have to see it now. I used to watch Kids are People Too haha.

My hub and I have been watching Password from the early 1960s. Started in 1962 to be exact. And there's an early year episode with BW. At one point the other guest celeb cracks a joke about Alan and Betty hinting they are an item, and you can see their giddy very happy reactions. Then some months later BW is on again, and it's mentioned they are going to be married. It's very cute. We are currently watching as of 6/14/63 or so which is right before the Kennedy assassination. So I'm wondering if there's any tone shift or visible change in people. Probably not. But I only have a few episodes to go.

Gingerguy said...

Fun stuff. I still lay down to button my pants by the way and got a big kick out of the double shirt look, that always was a mystery to me. I watched game shows with my friends mother (while other boys were playing sports of course) and she stuck to the same ones so this one doesn't ring a bell. I am probably repeating myself but "Soap " was a huge issue in my house. It was condemned by the Catholic Church, the best way to make it must see tv, and for some reason my very liberal Catholic Mother took a stand on it. My sisters and I adored it and just wouldn't stand for the hypocrisy and we drowned her out on it. Never missed an episode. So fun to see all the Soap people here, I forgot about Sal Viscuso. And looking back now Robert Manden is super hot, yes Daddy, Thanks for this, I never thought I would ever see Carol Wayne as a brunette, wow.

Forever1267 said...

Thanks for the history on this. I've seen a few episodes without the celebrities, and was not impressed. I don't remember this at all from childhood.

Gina Hecht was Henry Winkler's diet and wedding obsessed fiancee in Ron Howard's early movie "Night Shift". Hilarious movie.

I must be thinking of someone else, because Michael Young looks familiar, but his IMDB isn't telling me what I remember him from.

Patrick Wayne was a looker. You and I both like strong chins.

IndyAdam said...

I caught an episode a few months back that featured a very familiar looking contestant. Turned out to be Julie Brown, later of "Medusa - Dare to be Truthful" and "The Homecoming Queen's Got a Gun" fame. She won some $, as I recall.

http://ricksrealreel.blogspot.com/ said...

Hey Poseidon,
Rita Moreno looked older back then than she does now... hmmm!
Cheers, Rick

Ptolemy1 said...

I have to agree with BBW, I always found Patrick to be gorgeous, and perplexed that John had had a hand in producing him. He made a VERY striking Sinbad. He also stands out big time in one of my favorite films "Shenandoah". Thanks.

Dan said...

Interesting how so many gimmicky game shows came and went so quickly (like some dates I recall), but a handful of basic concepts lasted, my favorite being Pyramid - “Things that spew!”

Patrick Wayne is indeed a looker. In the few things I’ve seen him in, he also seems to be a pretty nice guy.

My first take was that this certainly was the year of muddy colors. Just about everything they’re wearing looks like it’s been through the wash a few too many times.

Dan said...

Changing topics - just booked a cruise that will put us at sea on NEW YEARS EVE! Anyone know where I can get one of those pastel tuxedo shirts with the frills down the front and on the cuffs? Preferably with contrast stitching and a built in flotation device.

A said...

What a great post to come out of such a weird show.

I always had the hots for Patrick Wayne. I had no idea he was John Wayne's son. And he's 83 years old now! And looking like Fred Willard!

I recognized Elaine Joyce right away. I don't think I ever saw her on anything but game shows.

I would never have recognized Carole Wayne. Interesting how unremarkable she is in the Farrah Fawcette getup.

I had no idea Roxie Roker was Lenny Kravitz's mother (or Zoë Kravitz's grandmother).

Thanks again Poseidon for the great write-up.

Mrmervis68 said...

I remember watching this show as a kid. Although the biggest thing I remember about it was an unusual edit at the end of one episode where the contestant won and was jumping up and down with such force that he injured himself.

Poseidon3 said...

Lots of response to this post. I'm a bit surprised to be honest!

BryonByron, I agree!

Shawny, I need to hunt up some KAPT and see what I might have been missing. I LOVE the vintage eps of "Password." Many great stars appeared in the b&w era, but you just can't beat the color ones for sheer 1960s eye-popping patterns, colors and styles. And, yes, Allen and Betty were charming on them all.

Gingerguy, in 1984, I was an Oxford over a Polo with the collar up until my mother started doing a Joan/Faye routine over me sending both down the laundry chute after one wearing. LOL These days I wear as little clothing as I can get by with because I'm always hot, even in the wintertime (actually it's worse because artificial heat gets to me in the office.)

Forver1267, people probably tuned out of the original "Whew!" and then the celebs weren't enough to draw them back. I never saw "Night Shift!" Maybe someday. I was never inclined to watch Shelley Long in anything (or Michael Keaton, for that matter), but maybe sometime I'll give it a look now. Thanks!

IndyAdam, wow!!! That's startling to know that Julie Brown was a "Whew!" contestant. I guess she must have been on the young side compared to some of the other ones. I'm curious now if she was demure or wacky or what.

Rick, Rita has aged rather well, with out without some help. LOL I was not big on that 'fro she was sporting the second time. Somehow it was just a bit much. But "big" hair of one sort or another was about to be a hallmark of the '80s.

Ptolemy1, it seemed like Pat never got too many decent movie opportunities except for some adventure flicks. But I always looked forward to seeing him in practically anything. Like I say, he got the BEST of his parents' genes. I like "Shenandoah" at lot, too, and he and Katharine Ross were so cute. Thanks.

Dan, LOL about the murky, dull-looking clothes. All those (usually) too-loose camel-colored polyester slacks...! Dreary phase for clothing it seems. I have a general aversion to pastels and I wonder if it took hold during my childhood when "dusty rose," "peaches and cream," "mauve" and "pale salmon" were so popular.

A, I'm so happy you got a kick out of this. I was just desperately trying to get something up before a weekend of camping! Elaine Joyce seemed to do a lot of "Love Boat/Fantasy Island" type shows, too. I used to see her on "Match Game" a lot back in the day. I'm glad I could surprise you with some family connections.

Mrmervis68, I don't think I ever saw that...! But... You made me think of an uproariously funny moment on "Name That Tune" when a woman slammed her hand on the buzzer and exclaimed "Please Help Me I'm Falling" as the answer, then proceeded to waddle backwards and keel over!!!!! So crazy. Thanks!!

Shawny said...

P, I wouldn't recommend KAPT really. It was purely for kids. And btw, I know you know how much I love your blog. But thank you for continuing to post, I always enjoy everything you post.

Poseidon3 said...

Shawny, I couldn't resist looking into a few snippets from it, at least. It was "lite" but I still enjoyed seeing more of Michael and some of the musical acts who popped up on the show.

Everyone who is agog over Patrick Wayne... I forgot about it myself somehow, but I did a tribute to him back in 2018 with many photos and plenty of info if you're interested in more of him! --->
https://neptsdepths.blogspot.com/2018/03/happy-patricks-day.html