About the Show
I’ve Got a Secret (IGaS) is a Mark Goodson-Bill Todman Production created by Allen Sherman. It ran from June 19, 1952 until April 3, 1967 (and was revived a few more times, see the IGaS revivals section for more details on those). It was hosted by Garry Moore from 1952 to 1964. The panel was composed of four celebrities. They changed from time to time, but most often you would see a combination of Bill Cullen, Betsy Palmer, Henry Morgan, Faye Emerson, Jayne Meadows, and Bess Myerson.
You may have read or heard somewhere that the format was much different when the show first aired. Most of those episodes are lost or destroyed, so I have no information other than what I have read on other sites. Basically, the stage was set as a courtroom, and Garry was dressed up as a judge. The panelists were lawyers cross-examining the “witnesses” (contestants). I’ve Got a Secret was actually cancelled after the first season, but immediately brought back (luckily!). None of the “regulars” were on the panel for the first few episodes (Bill joined on the third episode).
The show usually consisted of three “secrets” per episode. A contestant would come out and whisper their secret to Garry (and at the same time it would appear on-screen for the home audience to see). Each panelist would then take a turn asking “yes or no” questions about the secret until they were BUZZED. Originally the buzzer came after a certain amount of time had passed. For each ‘stumped’ panelist, $20 was given to the contestant for a possible total of $80. A lot of the secrets involved some sort of talent that would be demonstrated after the questioning. On every episode (at least) one contestant was a celebrity. Most of the celebrities’ secrets were really just parlor games that they would play with the panel.
Not a serious show at all, the panelists were often buzzed after only a couple questions if they were getting too close to the secret. Even if the panel DID guess the secret, Garry would often give the full $80 to the contestant. That’s what made the show so much fun. It was a total party, and the panel was so perfectly balanced that you felt right at home with them.
When Garry Moore left the show in 1964, Steve Allen took over until 1967 when the show was cancelled. The panel remained the same the whole time Steve Allen hosted (Betsy, Bill, Bess, and Henry). These episodes aren’t that bad, as Steve is pretty funny, and the panel remained intact. However, IGaS quickly became more of “The Steve Allen Show” and less of a show about the panelists and guests. While Garry never hogged the camera and air time, Steve, as others have said, “seemed to use IGaS as a vehicle for his own brand of humor.” In Steve’s defense, however, it should be realized that he had to follow up Garry, an amazing host. Many others wouldn’t have even been able to do what Steve did. Nevertheless, I’ve Got a Secret lost what it once had, and it’s not surprising it didn’t last very much longer after Steve took over (comparatively speaking). Of course that can’t all be blamed on Steve either—maybe the show had just gotten old and dry by then. The show is much more than just the host; perhaps the writers had lost all their creativity and originality by then.
The Final Episode
They seemed to cancel the show without warning, as there was no indication even in the final episode that it was over. Please see the Final Episode transcript for more information.
The show was brought back in 1972 for one season with Steve still the host. Henry Morgan and Jayne Meadows (Steve’s wife) were on the panel for some of the episodes.
Some of these episodes have been shown on GSN during their “Breakfast with the Stars” week, which I have on tape. You can see a few shots on this site, although the site is mainly for pictures of Richard Dawson and Charles Nelson Reilly. Thanks to theblankgirl for sending me the link and letting me use the picture of the set.
It was on once more in 1976 with Bill Cullen as the host, but this only lasted for four episodes. I don’t have much info on this, although the Bill Cullen Homepage lists in their IGaS section the panelists being Elaine Joyce, Richard Dawson, Pat Collins and Henry Morgan for the first two episodes. The special guests were drummer Buddy Rich, and then Rodney Dangerfield. For the final two episodes Phyllis George replaced Elaine Joyce on the panel, and the special guests were Loretta Swit and then Charles Nelson Reilly.
There is another version of I’ve Got a Secret shown on the Oxygen Network, but this site does not really cover that version (see the Does Not Cover portion of the About This Site section). However, I have put up a page with some of the secrets shown on “OxyIGaS” if anyone is interested. Yet another revival aired on GSN with an all-gay panel.
For more information about any of the people involved, check out the biographies section. Read some transcripts to see some of the secrets in action (kinda; they have pictures). Many segments are up on YouTube.
“I’ve Got a Secret” used to air on Game Show Network (GSN) during its “Black and White Overnight” block. It was airing every single day until November 2003 when they cut the B&W block down to an hour.