Password (American game show)

Last updated
Password (TV series) 1967.jpg
Also known asPassword All-Stars
Created by Bob Stewart
Directed by Lou Tedesco, Mike Gargiulo (1961–67)
Stuart W. Phelps, Ira Skutch (1971–75) [1]
Presented by Allen Ludden
Judges David H. Greene, Reason A. Goodwin
Dr. Robert Stockwell, Dr. Carolyn Duncan [1]
Narrated by Jack Clark
Gene Wood
Bern Bennett
Lee Vines
John Harlan
Theme music composer Bob Cobert (1961–67)
Score Productions (1971–75) [1]
Country of originUnited States
No. of episodes1,555 (CBS Daytime)
201 (CBS Primetime)
1,099 (ABC)
Producer Frank Wayne (1961–75)
Howard Felsher (1971–75) [1]
Running time25–26 minutes (1962–1967 prime-time), 22–23 minutes (other versions)
Distributor CBS Films
CBS Enterprises
Original networkCBS (1961–67)
ABC (1971–75)
Original releaseOctober 2, 1961 (1961-10-02) 
June 27, 1975 (1975-06-27)
Followed by Password Plus (1979–1982)
Super Password (1984–1989)
Million Dollar Password (2008–2009)

Password is an American television game show which was created by Bob Stewart for Goodson-Todman Productions. The host was Allen Ludden, who had previously been well known as the host of the G.E. College Bowl . In the game, two teams, each composed of a celebrity player and a contestant, attempt to convey mystery words to each other using only single-word clues, in order to win cash prizes.


Password originally aired for 1,555 daytime telecasts each weekday from October 2, 1961, to September 15, 1967, on CBS, along with weekly prime time airings from January 2, 1962, to September 9, 1965, and December 25, 1966, to May 22, 1967. [1] An additional 1,099 daytime shows aired from April 5, 1971 to June 27, 1975 on ABC. The show's announcers were Jack Clark and Lee Vines on CBS and John Harlan on ABC.

Two revivals later aired on NBC: Password Plus from 1979 to 1982, and Super Password from 1984 to 1989, followed by a primetime version, Million Dollar Password , on CBS from 2008 to 2009. [2] All of these versions introduced new variations in gameplay.

In 2013, TV Guide ranked it #8 in its list of the 60 greatest game shows ever. [3]


Two teams, each consisting of one celebrity player and one "civilian" contestant, competed. The word to be conveyed (the "password") was given to one player on each team, and was shown onscreen to viewers as well as spoken softly on the audio track. Game play alternated between the two teams. On each team, the player who was given the password gave a one-word clue from which their partner attempted to guess the password. If the partner failed to guess the password within the allotted five-second time limit, or if an illegal clue was given (two or more words, a hyphenated word, "coined" words, or any part or form of the password), play passed to the opposing team. If the password was revealed by the clue giver it was thrown out.

The game continued until one of the players guessed the password correctly, any form of the password was given as a clue, or until ten clues had been given. Scoring was based on the number of clues given when the password was guessed, e.g. ten points were awarded for guessing the password on the first clue, nine points on the second clue, eight points on the third clue, etc., down to one point on the tenth and final clue. On the ABC version a limit of six clues was imposed to expedite game play, with the last clue worth five points. In addition, teams were given the option of either playing or passing control of the first clue to the opposing team. Specifically, the team that was trailing in score, or that had lost the previous game, was offered the pass/play option; when the score was tied, the team that failed to get the previous password was awarded the pass/play option.

On the CBS daytime edition, the first team to reach 25 points won that contestant $100. On the nighttime edition, the winner won $250. The winning team earned a chance to win up to an additional $250 by playing the "Lightning Round", in which the civilian contestant on the prevailing team tried to guess five passwords within 60 seconds from clues given by his/her celebrity partner. $50 was awarded for each correctly guessed password (increased to $100 from 1973 to 1974).

The Lightning Round was among the first bonus rounds on a television game (along with the scrambled phrase game on the original Beat the Clock ). On the ABC version from 1971 to 1974, immediately after completing the Lightning Round the player was given a chance at "the Betting Word," in which they could wager any amount of their winnings on their celebrity partner's ability to guess it within 15 seconds. This increased the maximum bonus prize to $500 ($1,000 from 1973 to 1974 when the regular Lightning Round values were doubled).

On each episode from 1961 to 1975, Ludden would caution the players about unacceptable clues by stating, "When you hear this sound (a buzzer would sound) it means your clue has not been accepted by our authority, (name of word authority)." Word authorities on the CBS version included New York University professor David H. Greene and World Book Encyclopedia Dictionary editor Dr. Reason A. Goodwin (that dictionary being still a work-in-progress at the time of the show's first airing, first appearing in print form in 1963). Robert Stockwell from UCLA and Carolyn Duncan served as word authorities during the ABC version.

Clark, Vines, and Harlan whispered the password to viewers on the first two versions of the show, but the practice was discontinued, beginning with Password All-Stars, when a computer (referred to as "Murphy" by Ludden) was incorporated. The computer would display the password one letter at a time (like a typewriter), followed by the quotation marks. A beeping sound would accompany each letter as it appeared on the screen. A final beep would signal that the password was revealed to the home viewer, and play would start. On Password Plus, a bell would ring when the password was revealed. On Super Password from September 24, 1984 to October 31, 1986, a chirping sound was heard when the password was revealed. However, Gene Wood began whispering the words on Super Password just like in the original, starting on November 3, 1986. The practice was again discontinued on Million Dollar Password.

Before the cancellation of the Goodson-Todman game show Snap Judgment on NBC in 1969, that program's set was changed in order to make it resemble the look of the CBS Password. Goodson-Todman did this to correspond to rule changes that, in fact, made Snap Judgment identical to Password.


On the CBS daytime version, contestants played two matches, win or lose, with each game awarding $100 to the winner. For most of the CBS nighttime version's first year, the same two players stayed for the entire show, playing as many matches as time allowed. However, after three contestants managed to break the $1,000 mark, this practice was changed in November 1962 to having two new contestants play each game (generally, three pairs of contestants competed in the course of each show), with winning contestants receiving $250 and losers receiving $50.

For two shows in July 1965, the nighttime version experimented with a "championship match" format, in which the winners of games 1 and 2 would return to compete against each other in the final game. Also in 1965, the show adopted an annual "Tournament of Champions" where contestants on the daytime version who won both their games were invited back to compete for more money.

Early on the ABC version, contestants played a single elimination game; winning contestants could stay until they were either defeated or won a maximum of 10 games, thus retiring them as undefeated champions. Later on, the limit was dropped, and champions stayed on the show until defeated. From 1973 to 1974, the first contestant to win a two-out-of-three match played the Lightning Round.

Every three months, the four top winners during that period would return for a quarterly contest. The winner would earn $1,000 and the right to compete in the annual Tournament of Champions. The winner of the annual contest won $5,000, received a free trip to Macedonia and faced the previous year's champion in a best-of-seven match for $10,000. Lewis Retrum, from Boston, won the Tournament of Champions two years in a row and retired undefeated when the show went off the air.

Format changes

From November 18, 1974, to February 21, 1975, Password became Password All-Stars, where teams of celebrities played for charity in a tournament-style format. At the end of each week, the highest scorer would win $5,000 and advance to the Grandmasters' Championship, which would award the winner another $25,000. The first tournament's finalists were Dick Gautier, James Shigeta, Peter Bonerz, and Don Galloway, with Shigeta winning the championship; the second tournament's finalists were Richard Dawson, Bill Bixby, Hal Linden, and Betty White, with Dawson winning the championship (Dawson had almost made it to the first tournament finals, but Gautier beat him out during their preliminary week by just one point).

After the celebrity format modification proved unpopular with viewers, Goodson-Todman made Password All-Stars simply Password again, but the show carried over elements of All-Stars mainly in order to use the set that had been redesigned for the all-celebrity period. Among these were an elimination round in which four contestants (two new players and the two players from the previous game) competed with the help of the two celebrities in the first round. In the qualifying round, one of the two celebrities used a one-word clue to a password (with both celebrities alternating turns on giving clues), and the four contestants would ring in with the password. If no contestant identified the password after four clues, the word would be discarded. A correct response earned that contestant one point, with three points needed to qualify for the regular game. An incorrect response locked that player out of the word in play. The first two contestants to reach three points went on to play the regular Password game.

In the regular game, an addition to the rules was the "double" option, in which the first clue giver could ask to increase the word value to 20 points by giving only one clue; if that word was missed, the other team could score the 20 points with a second clue. The first team to reach 50 points or more could win thousands of dollars in the Big Money Lightning Round, using a three-step structure in which the winning team attempted to guess three passwords within 30 seconds per step. The contestant was paid as follows:

Broadcast history

CBS: 1961–1967

With Goodson-Todman established as a reliable producer of high-rated games for CBS, including What's My Line? , To Tell the Truth , and I've Got a Secret , the network gave the new word association game the 2:00 PM (1:00 Central) time slot, replacing the courtroom-themed game Face the Facts. As television's first successful celebrity-civilian team game, Password attracted a large and loyal audience that made it into a solid Nielsen favorite for nearly five years as shows came and went with great frequency on the other networks. A concurrent prime time version which debuted in January 1962 was also successful, albeit somewhat less than the daytime show. Both versions performed strongly in the ratings.

On July 11, 1966, CBS preempted Password in favor of CBS News' live coverage of a press conference held by Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara on the progress of the Vietnam War. The other two networks went ahead with their regular schedules, as their news divisions had not been granted the power to make programming decisions. A new show beginning that day on ABC The Newlywed Game —attracted some Password fans. NBC also benefited from the CBS programming decision, experiencing success with their recently launched soap opera Days of Our Lives .

Over the next year, Newlywed and Days achieved higher ratings than Password. CBS daytime head Fred Silverman, who was not a personal fan of the genre, cancelled Password in the spring of 1967. The cancellation occurred after squabbles over where the show would be taped (New York City or Hollywood). Silverman wanted the show permanently moved to CBS Television City, where it was moved for part of the 1966–1967 season to allow the show to tape in color, as CBS' New York studios had not made the full switch to colorization.

Password was most often taped in New York at CBS-TV Studio 52 (later converted to the Studio 54 discothèque) and CBS-TV Studio 50 (the Ed Sullivan Theater) until the end of the daytime run in 1967. The original CBS version made annual trips to CBS Television City during the 1960s, including once when the CBS New York studios were refurbished for color TV. During its run, Password was taped in all four of the studios at different times (31, 33, 41 and 43). [4]

As Mark Goodson opposed a permanent move of the show to Hollywood, Silverman canceled the series on September 15, 1967.

ABC: 1971–1975

The show was featured in a 1973 episode of The Odd Couple series, in which Oscar and Felix were contestants Allen Ludden Jack Klugman Tony Randall Odd Couple.JPG
The show was featured in a 1973 episode of The Odd Couple series, in which Oscar and Felix were contestants

Goodson-Todman sold reruns of the CBS version to local stations via syndication in the late 1960s, and in some markets they performed quite well in mid-morning or late-afternoon slots. This prompted ABC to contact Mark Goodson about reviving the game; this time around, Goodson agreed to have the show tape in Hollywood per ABC's wishes. Password would become Goodson-Todman's first show to be staged in Los Angeles full-time rather than New York City. The company eventually moved almost all production to southern California during the 1970s. The show was taped at ABC Studio TV-10, "The Vine Street Theater," in Hollywood and the ABC Television Center.

The network slated Password to replace the cult soap Dark Shadows at 4:00 PM (3:00 Central) on April 5, 1971. Some of the more devoted Shadows fans threatened ABC with physical disruption of the first tapings of Password at the Hollywood studios. These plans never materialized and ABC went ahead, managing strong results against NBC's Somerset and reruns of Gomer Pyle, USMC on CBS.

ABC promoted the show to 12:30 PM (11:30 AM Central) on September 6, where it faced stronger challenges in the form of CBS' long-running Search for Tomorrow and NBC's The Who, What, or Where Game , which had been on for two years. Password held up well there for six months until the network moved it up a half-hour to 12:00 PM (11:00 AM Central) on March 20, 1972 for the new Hatos-Hall game Split Second . Password came in a solid second to NBC's Jeopardy! and out-performed three-year-old CBS soap Where the Heart Is . CBS replaced Heart on March 26, 1973 with the youth-oriented The Young and the Restless , causing Password and Jeopardy! to hit ratings trouble that summer.

Even though NBC moved Jeopardy! on January 7, 1974 from 12:00 PM to 10:30 AM (9:30 Central) in favor of Jackpot! , the ABC Password was sliding into third place. In May, the show won the first-ever Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Game Show. A large Emmy statue then became part of the set's backdrop until the overhaul in November.

Beginning on July 15, 1974, several gimmicks were tried to boost ratings. [5] This included:

On November 18 (after one final week of unknown content) the show ran an all-celebrity format called Password All-Stars. Although Goodson-Todman had success with celebrity-driven formats such as Match Game (which debuted in 1973) and Tattletales (which began earlier in the year) through the late 1970s, the lack of civilian contestants and significantly altered rules on Password drove more viewers away.

On February 24, 1975, Goodson-Todman abandoned the format (but changed the contestant configuration in order to avoid another set redesign) in a last-ditch effort to save the program. Although Password was given another eighteen weeks, ABC had all but given up on the show. Aside from a week in which Betty White hosted while her husband played (March 24–28), no more gimmicks were attempted for the rest of the run.

On June 27, 1975, four members of the show's staff played a "mock game" which filled some time after the final Lightning Round. [6] Mark Goodson then appeared to declare Ludden "Mr. Password" and mentioned that numerous elementary schoolteachers in the U.S. used the various editions of the Milton Bradley-packaged home game as a tool to teach their pupils English. Ludden and White then gave an emotional farewell. Password was replaced with Showoffs , which lasted six months.


NBC greenlit a new version of the show from Fremantle with current Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon on May 17, 2021 during NBCUniversal's upfronts presentation. A premiere date has yet to be announced. [7]

Other versions

Password Plus

In 1978, Goodson-Todman tried again and successfully brought Password to NBC on January 8, 1979, with Allen Ludden returning as host. It was originally announced in Variety magazine as Password '79, in the manner that Match Game named its 1973 version with the year. Celebrity guest Carol Burnett remarked during a run-through that with the various new elements the show had adopted, it was "Password Plus". The name stuck and became the title of the revival. Password Plus ran until March 26, 1982.

Ludden hosted until 1980, when he was forced to step down due to a bout with stomach cancer. Initially, Ludden took a month off from taping to deal with his illness and Bill Cullen took time off from hosting Chain Reaction to step in for him. (During this time Geoff Edwards stepped in for Cullen on Chain.) Eventually Ludden's cancer worsened and he left the series after October 24, 1980. He succumbed to the disease in 1981. The producers, reportedly at Ludden's request, hired Tom Kennedy to take over Password Plus, and he remained as host until the show was cancelled.

Super Password

On September 24, 1984 NBC brought the format back as Super Password with Bert Convy hosting. Rich Jeffries was the first announcer until November 23, 1984 and filled in for Wood sporadically thereafter. Bob Hilton also filled in on occasion on the show.

Super Password ran until March 24, 1989 and was canceled on the same day as another NBC game show, Sale of the Century . In some markets in the Eastern time zone, the show was preempted by local news due to its 12:00 PM time slot. NBC stations in the Central and Pacific time zones usually preempted Scrabble at 11:30 for local news and aired Super Password at 11:00.

Million Dollar Password

CBS picked up a new version of the show entitled Million Dollar Password , hosted by Regis Philbin, which premiered on June 1, 2008 and ran for 12 episodes over two seasons. [2] The series was taped in New York, and was the second million-dollar game show that Philbin has hosted (the first being the American network version Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? ). The first season taped at the Kaufman Astoria Studios in New York City, and the second season was taped at the CBS Radford studios in Los Angeles.

Episode status


All of the CBS prime time episodes were preserved on videotape, and have aired on GSN and Buzzr. The final year of the CBS daytime version and the second prime time version were preserved on color videotape, as the producers chose to syndicate those reruns following the program's first cancellation. Most of the earlier daytime episodes are presumed lost; at least two daytime episodes are available on home video, each one as part of a general game show compilation package. A number of episodes exist in the UCLA Film and Television Archive.


The ABC version is considered to be almost completely gone [ according to whom? ]. Clips from the December 7, 1971 episode featuring Brett Somers and Jack Klugman were featured on VH1's I Love the '70s: Volume 2 in 2006. GSN aired the complete Somers/Klugman episode on September 11, 2006 in the early morning hours as part of its weekly overnight classic game-show programming (and aired it again in tribute following Somers' death).

A second studio master from February 14, 1972 with Sheila MacRae and Martin Milner is also known to have survived; the opening of that episode can be seen on YouTube, with the complete episode being uploaded in May 2020. [8] Four episodes from 1975 circulate amongst collectors, two as recorded by home viewers: the Password All-Stars Finale; a studio master of episode #15 of the big-money revamp (March 14, 1975) with Betty White and Vicki Lawrence; a kinescope of episode #24 of the revamp (March 27, 1975); and the June 27, 1975 Finale with Kate Jackson and Sam Melville. An audio recording of an episode featuring Jack Klugman and Loretta Swit from 1975 is also known to have survived. A few more episodes from this run are held in UCLA's film and television archive.

It is believed that the videotapes that were used for the ABC Password were recycled and reused for the Dawson version of Family Feud , which began on July 12, 1976.

DVD release

On December 2, 2008, BCI Entertainment Company LLC (under license from FremantleMedia Enterprises) released a DVD box set "The Best of Password, starring Allen Ludden: The CBS Years - 1962–1967". The set predominately features the nighttime show, with most of the final disc containing daytime episodes from 1967; notably, despite their existence, neither the nighttime nor daytime finales are present. This 3-Disc set contains 30 episodes of Password (1961 daytime episodes and 1962-1967 primetime episodes), uncut and un-edited, and also digitally transferred, re-mastered and restored from the original B&W kinescopes and original 2-inch color videotapes.

Although Password began in 1961, the DVD set consistently states "The CBS Years: 1962–1967". This misleading title may be due to the earliest episode on the set being the nighttime premiere, which aired in early 1962. A rerelease by Mill Creek, which acquired the rights to the Fremantle game-show DVD sets following BCI's collapse, corrected this error.

An early mock-up of the packaging showed host Ludden on the later CBS set, with the original ABC logo on the front of the desk (as well as on the spine), while a slew of celebrities were listed on the bottom of the cover. Further, the press release stated that set would range "from the early 1960s all the way up to the mid 1970s", indicating that ABC episodes would be included. [9] A later update to the box art removed the celebrity list and clarified that the set would only cover the CBS era, although the ABC logo was still present (the front cover now had it in place of the CBS logo above Ludden). [10] The ABC logo was omitted altogether when the DVD set was released, with the CBS logo behind Ludden in the original picture being enlarged.

International versions


The 1962–1966 Nine Network series Take the Hint may have been based at least partially on Password, judging by a description in a newspaper article announcing the series. [11]


An old version was called Passe A Palavra ("Spread the Word") and hosted by Silvio Santos; another version is called MegaSenha, which airs Saturdays on RedeTV!.


An all-celebrity group version, based on the original CBS format, called 連想ゲーム (Rensou Geemu) (Association Game) aired on NHK from 1968 to 1991 with one-off revival specials airing every few years since 2003.

New Zealand

A Maori-language version has aired since 2006.


A version based on Super Password called Palavra Puxa Palavra ("Word Pulls Word") hosted by António Sala ran on RTP2 in 1990 before it moved to Canal 1 due to the success of the show.

United Kingdom

Flag of Australia (converted).svg  Australia Take the Hint Nine Network Frank Wilson 19621966
Flag of Brazil.svg  Brazil Passe A Palavra SBT Silvio Santos 19951995
Flag of New Zealand.svg  New Zealand  ? ? ?20062006
Flag of Portugal.svg  Portugal Palavra Puxa Palavra RTP2 (1990–93)
RTP1 (1993–94)
António Sala30 September 199011 June 1994
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom Password ITV (1963; 1987–88)
BBC2 (1973)
BBC1 (1974–75)
Channel 4 (1982–83)
Shaw Taylor (1963)
Brian Redhead (1973)
Eleanor Summerfield (1974)
Esther Rantzen (1974–75)
Tom O'Connor (1982–83)
Gordon Burns (1987–88)
12 March 19635 August 1988
Flag of Vietnam.svg  Vietnam Ngạc nhiên chưa HTV Đại Nghĩa7 October 201511 March 2020

An episode of The Odd Couple featured both Oscar and Felix appearing on the show season 3, Episode 11 "Password".

The game was parodied as a "porn" version in the 1996 film The Cable Guy .

The game was parodied in Family Guy season 2, episode 20 "Wasted Talent".

Comedy Central parodied the game as "Buzzword" for a promo as part of their "Stand-Up Month" in 2005.

The game is occasionally played on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon with celebrities playing, typically including Fallon, and sidekick Steve Higgins hosting.

The game was parodied as "Secret Word" on Saturday Night Live .

Home games

Although Password can be played without any equipment, commercial versions of the game have been successful. Password game.jpg
Although Password can be played without any equipment, commercial versions of the game have been successful.

The Milton Bradley Company introduced the first home version of Password in 1962 and subsequently released 24 editions of the game until 1986. Owing to common superstition, these releases were numbered 1–12 and 14–25, skipping 13. It was tied with Concentration as the most prolific of Milton Bradley's home versions of popular game shows, and was produced well into the Super Password era of the television show. Milton Bradley also published three editions of a Password Plus home game between 1979 and 1981, but never did a version for Super Password.

More recently, Endless Games has released seven editions of Password since 1997, including a children's edition (with gameplay closer to the various incarnations of Pyramid ), a special "50th Anniversary Edition" in 2011 and a DVD edition featuring the voice of Todd Newton (notably, the latter uses the original ABC logo on its packaging). In addition, Endless released a home version of Million-Dollar Password in 2008.

A computer version of Super Password was released by GameTek for MS-DOS systems, as well as the Apple II and Commodore 64, shortly before the series was canceled. A Nintendo Entertainment System version was also planned but never released. Tiger Electronics released an electronic hand-held "Super Password" game in the late 1990s. More recently, Irwin Toys released a new hand-held electronic version featuring a touch screen with stylus to enter words.

As with several other Goodson-Todman game shows, Password has been adapted into a slot machine by WMS Gaming. A simulated Allen Ludden emcees the proceedings, with the voices and caricatures of Rose Marie, Dawn Wells, Adam West, and Marty Allen. One bonus round offers the player free spins; the other involves choosing from four envelopes offered by the celebrities. Finding the "Password" envelope advances the player to a new level with four more envelopes, worth more prize money. [12]

See also

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  4. "Shows–CBS Television City". Archived from the original on 13 July 2011. Retrieved 25 July 2011.
  6. Only three words were played in the time allowed. All normal rules were in effect; however, no mention was made of what would happen had one team reached the 50-point goal.
  7. White, Peter. "Jimmy Fallon Rebooting Classic Game Show 'Password' For NBC". Deadline . Retrieved 17 May 2021.
  9. "Password DVD news: Announcement for Password - The Best Of -". Archived from the original on 2008-10-21.
  10. "Password DVD news: Box Art for Password - The Best Of -". Archived from the original on 2008-12-08.
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Preceded by
First winner
Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Game/Audience Participation Show
Succeeded by
Hollywood Squares
Preceded by
Face the Facts
2:00 p.m. EST, CBS
10/2/61 9/15/67
Succeeded by
Love Is a Many Splendored Thing
Preceded by
Dark Shadows
4:00 p.m. EST, ABC
4/5/71 8/27/71
Succeeded by
Love, American Style
Preceded by
Love, American Style
12:30 p.m. EST, ABC
8/30/71 3/17/72
Succeeded by
Split Second
Preceded by
That Girl
12:00 p.m. EST, ABC
3/20/72 6/27/75
Succeeded by