Betty White is a national treasure. A talented actress, writer, and comedienne, she has made her mark on numerous genres. While she is certainly beloved by fans across the globe there is no more dedicated group of White's fans than those who adore her for her support and involvement with game shows.
Her first game show appearance was as a panelist on a little-known and short-lived show called Make the Connection, hosted by Gene Rayburn, in 1955. Since then she's been so successful and beloved in the genre that she's been nicknamed the First Lady of Game Shows. Betty White's biography is widely published, but here we'll focus almost entirely on her history with game shows.
To Tell the Truth
Betty White shines as a celebrity panelist on any game show. She was a frequent guest on To Tell the Truth, the game that placed one "real" person amongst two imposters and challenged the celebrity panel to determine who the real personality was. White joined some of the biggest names in showbiz at the time - Johnny Carson, Kitty Carlisle, and Dick Van Dyke, just to name a few - and became a favorite with viewers.
What's My Line?
Another panel show, What's My Line? presented contestants with unusual occupations. The celebs asked a series of yes or no questions in an attempt to determine what the contestant did for a living. Betty White's appearances on the panel of What's My Line?, starting in 1955, showcased her quick wit and easy charm. She became one of the first panelists that producers would turn to when a new game show was looking for celebrity contestants.
White's success as a game show panelist led her to star on Password, the gig that would change her life. Of course she was exceptional at the game itself - this time she actually got to play a challenging word game rather than just act as a panelist, and she proved to be a formidable opponent on Password. More importantly though, White met, fell in love with, and married the show's host, Allen Ludden. Their romance is one of the most heart-warming stories in the world of game shows, and indeed in all of Hollywood lore.
The Match Game
The Match Game has become one of the most popular classic game shows on the planet, and it's easy to see why. The game itself wasn't exceptional - the real draw was the celebrity panel that seemed to have more fun than any other cast on television. Betty White appeared with the likes of Richard Dawson, Charles Nelson Reilly, and Brett Summers, and the comedy that came out of this show was top-notch. Viewers were guaranteed to laugh during every episode.
After the original Password went on hiatus, a new version of the show appeared in 1979. Once again Betty White was asked to play, and she did with gusto. Allen Ludden also returned to host the show.
While Just Men! never really made the big time as a classic game show, it was notable for one very good reason - its host. Betty White earned the first Daytime Emmy Award given to a female host for Outstanding Game Show Host in 1983. She would be followed eventually by Who Wants to Be a Millionaire host Meredith Vieira in 2005.
By 1984 it was impossible to imagine any iteration of Password without including Betty White as a celebrity player. When the show was once again revamped as Super Password, White was front and center. Sadly Allen Ludden had passed away in 1981, so it was bitter sweet to have Betty White on the show without him at the helm.
It was really only a matter of time before Betty would appear on Pyramid, a show with many similarities to her beloved Password. White was a frequent celebrity contestant on The $10,000 Pyramid starting in 1982, returning for a brief stint on the reworked version of Pyramid in 2002.
Million Dollar Password
As if all of these shows weren't enough, Betty White has appeared in a host of other game shows. Here's a quick rundown of some of the other games she's been involved with:
- Chain Letter
- Liar's Club
- You Don't Say
- The Cross-Wits
- The Hollywood Squares
- Chain Reaction
- Trivia Trap
- Family Feud
- Body Language
- Double Talk
- Win, Lose or Draw
It's clear that Betty White is the best-known celebrity name in game shows, and there's no doubt that she has earned her title as the First Lady of the genre. Not only is she engaging and fun to watch, but she is genuinely good at all of the games she plays.