Chuck Barris (born Charles Hirsch Barris on June 3, 1929) is an American game show producer and presenter who was responsible for many of the best-known game shows of the 1960s and 1970s. He is also an author. Barris is a survivor of lung cancer.
Barris got his start in television as a page and later staffer at NBC in New York, and eventually worked backstage at the TV music show American Bandstand, originally as a standards-and-practices person for ABC. Barris soon became a music industry figure. His most successful venture in this area was the writing of Freddy Cannon's hit "Palisades Park" which reached #3 in mid-1962. In addition to this Barris eventually wrote or co-wrote some of the music that appeared on his game shows (see Discography below for more information).
Barris was promoted to the daytime programming division at ABC in Los Angeles and was put in charge of deciding which game shows ABC would air. Barris admitted to his bosses that the producers' pitches of game show concepts were worse than Barris' own ideas. They suggested that he quit his ABC programming job and become a producer himself.
Barris first became successful during 1965 with his first game show creation The Dating Game on ABC hosted by Jim Lange in which three bachelors or bachelorettes competed for the favor of a contestant of the opposite sex blocked from their view. The contestants' racy banter and its "flower power" set was a revolution for the game show genre. The show would air for 15 years.
The next year Barris produced The Newlywed Game, originally created by Nick Nicholson and Roger Muir, for the same network. The combination of the newlywed couples' humorous candor and host Bob Eubanks' exuberant sly questioning made the show another hit for Barris - and to date the longest lasting of any developed by his company, running for 19 full years on 'first run' TV, network and syndicated.
The planned host of the NBC show was John Barbour, who did not understand the show's concept and considered it a straight talent show as opposed to Barris' parody concept. An NBC executive suggested that Barris host the show himself.
Barris' jokey, bumbling personality, his accentuated hand-clapping between sentences (which eventually had the studio audience joining in with him), and his catch-phrases (he would usually go into commercial break with, "We'll be right back with more STUFF...", and "This is me saying 'bye'" was one of his favorite closing lines) was the antithesis of the smooth TV host (such as Gary Owens, who hosted the syndicated version in its first season). Dubbed "Chuckie Baby" by his fans, Barris was a perfect fit with the show's goofy, sometimes wild amateur performers and its panel of three judges (including regulars Jamie Farr, Jaye P. Morgan and Arte Johnson). In addition, there was a growing "cast of characters" including an NBC electrician who played "Father Ed," a priest who would get flustered when his cue cards were deliberately turned upside-down; Canadian comedian Murray Langston, who as "The Unknown Comic" wore a paper bag over his head (with cut-outs for his eyes, mouth, and even a box of Kleenex) and dressed in a tacky polyester jacket and open-buttoned shirt, told deliberately awful jokes (example: "Did you hear about the missionary who got barfed up when cannibals tried to eat him? Just goes to show you can't keep a good man down!!"), and "Gene Gene the Dancing Machine" (Gene Patton), arguably the most popular member of the "cast," another NBC stagehand who would show up and dance whenever the band played the song, "Jumpin' at the Woodside." Siv Aberg, a one-time Miss Sweden, was also on hand, acting more or less as the show's "hostess".
One Gong Show episode consisted of every act appearing singing the song "Feelings", which was popular at the time. One of its most infamous incidents came on the NBC version in 1978, when he presented an onstage act consisting of two young women slowly and suggestively sucking Popsicles. Another incident resulted in Jaye P. Morgan's firing from NBC broadcasts of the show, when she exposed her breasts on-camera while Gene-Gene was performing.**
The empire crumbled again amid the burnout of another of his creations, the 1979-80 Three's A Crowd (in which three sets of wives and secretaries competed to see who knew more about their husband/boss). At the same time, Newlywed lost the sponsorships of Ford and Procter & Gamble and earned the resentment of Jackie Autry, whose husband and business partner Gene Autry owned the show's Los Angeles outlet and production base, KTLA. During the winter of 1980, he brought back another game show that was not an original of his, Camouflage, in which contestants answered questions for the chance to locate a "hidden object" (such as a toaster) concealed within a cartoon-type drawing. It lasted only a short time in syndication, and by September 1980 all the Barris games were off the air.
Barris revived Treasure Hunt again in 1981 in partnership with the original 1950s version's producer, Budd Granoff, who had become his business partner (the show itself was created by its original host, Jan Murray). Unlike the 1970s version of Treasure Hunt, Barris did not have direct involvement with the production of the show itself. This revival lasted only one year.
Barris came back again in the mid-1980s. After a week-long trial of The Newlywed Game on ABC in 1984 (with Dating Game emcee Jim Lange), Barris produced a daily Newlywed Game (titled The New Newlywed Game) in syndication from 1985 to 1989, with old host Eubanks (and in 1989, comedian Paul Rodriguez). The Dating Game returned to syndication the next year for a three-year run (the first year hosted by Elaine Joyce, and the next two hosted by Jeff MacGregor). The Gong Show would also return for one season in 1988, now hosted by "True" Don Bleu.
After the shows' runs ended, Barris sold his TV holdings to what is now Sony Pictures Television, which revived Dating and Newlywed from 1996 to 1999. Sony also revived Gong in 1998, this time as Extreme Gong, a Game Show Network original production. Another Barris show, Three's a Crowd, would be revived as All New Three's a Crowd, which, like Extreme Gong, was a GSN original. A few years after Extreme Gong ended, Sony planned to revive the show again under its classic name and format for The WB Television Network, but this version never made it to air. Sony and MTV Networks' Comedy Central collaborated on a fourth Gong revival in 2008 that made it on-air.
One more attempt at reviving an old game show that was not his own originally resulted in an unsold pilot of the 1950s-era game Dollar a Second, hosted by Bob Eubanks. It had at least one showing on GSN, and has since become part of the collector/trader's circuit. Another unsold pilot was called Comedy Courtroom. Chuck Barris no.1
Barris also composed the following songs (with performer, who performed the music first, listed on each). The first two songs were released on "Swan" 45rpm records, and the third released on a "Decca" LP record:
Barris released an LP of television game show music called "Chuck Barris Presents Themes From TV Game Shows" (Friends Records). All tracks are instrumentals and are arranged by Tom Scott, Mike Barone, and Dale Oehler. The tracks for the LP, as listed from the back of the LP jacket, are as follows:
Will the real Chuck Barris step forward . . . ; America knew Chuck Barris as a genius of game-show TV. But did he really carry out assassinations for the CIA, as he claims? Ryan Gilbey finds out
Apr 12, 2003; When preparing for lunch with Chuck Barris, a man who has written candidly about his secret life as a CIA assassin, some...
Profile: Chuck Barris: A Date with Danger; Chuck Barris Was Both a TV Mogul and a CIA Hitman - or Was He? by Alun Palmer
Mar 14, 2003; Byline: ALUN PALMER He was the first man to be accused of dumbing down America when he masterminded such classic TV series as...