Fans of The Honeymooners may remember that star Jackie Gleason had his own talk show, but likely won’t recall his failed game show that only lasted a single episode.
Gleason hosted a game show called You’re in the Picture, but to say it didn’t last would be an understatement. The new game show debuted on CBS on Friday, Jan. 20 – the same night of John F. Kennedy’s inauguration.
The premise of the show utilized a four-member celebrity panel. Each celebrity would stick their heads through a cut-out in a life-sized, illustrated backdrop of a famous scene or song lyric. Next, the celebrities would ask Gleason yes or no questions as they tried to figure out what scene they were in. Regardless of who won, donations were made on behalf of either the celebrities or the show’s host Jackie Gleason.
The first – and only – episode welcomed four celebrities of the day: Pat Harrington Jr., Pat Carroll, Jan Sterling, and Arthur Treacher. However, they would be the only contestants to ever join You’re in the Picture. Technically, the game show did air the following Friday in its normal time slot, but it took a very different turn as soon as it aired.
As Gleason appeared on screen, the previous game show set had been nixed for a bare studio setting. In unprecedented fashion, the host apologized for creating such a horrendous game show. According to a TIME Magazine article, they called Gleason’s sincere regrets over the show an “inspiring post-mortem.” Additionally, the magazine cited the game show as one of the examples as to why the 1960-61 television season was the “worst in the 13-year history of U.S. network television.”
Jackie Gleason Abruptly Changes Game Show Into a Talk Show
During the same episode, Jackie Gleason immediately transitioned the failed game show into a talk show. As if You’re in the Picture had never happened, The Jackie Gleason Show was reborn. It’s a testament to Gleason’s star power that the show could do a 180 and stay on air.
The host was committed to filling a set number of episodes originally agreed upon for the game show. Gleason instead transformed it into a short-lived talk show where he conducted one-on-one informal interviews. He hosted many of his celebrity friends, including Bobby Darin, Jayne Mansfield, Art Carney, and more. The first run of the revamped The Jackie Gleason Show lasted only eight episodes but would continue under a different format.
The next year in 1962, Gleason continued with the show but changed it to the popular variety format. American Scene Magazine took over with Gleason as host, but the official title of the show, The Jackie Gleason Show, stuck around as well. In its first year, Gleason’s show ratings stomped the competition. It was a huge turnaround compared to the game show flop.
By 1966, the show dropped its American Scene Magazine format and stuck with its counterpart The Jackie Gleason Show. The variety show lasted four more seasons until its cancellation in 1970. The Jackie Gleason Show earned three Emmy nominations during this time. Not many could’ve predicted the show’s success considering its one episode game show origin.