THE ORIGINAL NBC NETWORK VERSION (CONTINUED)...


The nighttime color version of Concentration ended its run on September 18, 1961. About two years later on September 9, 1963--the same day that a new Goodson-Todman game, Missing Links, debuted on NBC--a new opening was unveiled for the ongoing daytime Concentration. This was the more familiar filmed open that lasted till the series' end almost ten years later, with an odd mass of letters beginning as a compacted square, then "unfolding" into the show's title in a weird-looking letter font, to an equally-weird music theme incorporating what sounded like drums, a calliope and a slide whistle. Four screen captures from it appear below; it was made in color but I had to colorize the last three myself, as they came from a black-and-white kinescope:


Although a color version of this show open was ready to roll when needed, it was a black-and-white print which accompanied the monochrome telecasts. By 1963, all of NBC's daytime game shows were colorcast with the exceptions of Concentration and The Match Game. Whatever it was that withheld the year-old Match Game from colorcasting, it finally gave way sometime in 1965.

By the fall of that year, most NBC shows, old and new, were in color, joined by only a handful of black-and-white holdouts. Aside from an occasional special or old movie, they were: I Dream Of Jeannie, which would have been impractical to colorcast in its freshman year with all those special "magic" effects combined with the uncertainty of it gaining enough fans to warrant a second season and a switch to color, Convoy, a Naval drama which probably depended on a lot of old monochrome stock footage (and didn't even make it into January), Fury, a longtime live-action staple of NBC's Saturday morning kiddie lineup which ended production in 1960 and was all reruns (and would be put out to pasture along with its horsey star a year later), The Doctors and Another World, a pair of daytime soaps two to three years old*, and finally, Concentration.

*Moment Of Truth, a third NBC daytime drama then being broadcast in black-and-white, would be dropped as of November 5, 1965 and replaced by the new Days Of Our Lives, NBC's third serial after Morning Star and Paradise Bay to be colorcast from Day One.

But despite Concentration still being broadcast in monochrome, its popularity remained high, enough so that ABC, in 1965, came up with its own version of a rebus game called The Rebus Game and hosted by Jack Linkletter, the son of House Party host Art Linkletter. It only lasted a few months; a few vidcaps from a network promo appear below:



A year later in September of 1966, all regular non-movie series making up all of NBC's dayparts were multihued...except Concentration. Why did this remain a black-and-white show in the morning for such an abnormally long time when everything else went to color...especially considering that there once was a color Concentration at night five years earlier? According to one source, producer Norm Blumenthal--who also came up with all those rebuses--was certain that a conversion to color for this show would require the artists to start painting the final versions of the puzzles in full color...a proposal he objected to. He was concerned that if certain pictured objects in a rebus were to be depicted in their natural hues (such as a bunch of yellow bananas), the players would be able to solve the puzzle too soon in a game. But NBC was getting antsy; they wanted to be able to truthfully promote themselves as "The Full Color Network" and they also knew that more and more households across the country were being outfitted with new color TV sets. If their owners were to tune in to mere monochrome broadcasts of Concentration much longer, they reasoned that those viewers would label it as too old-hat, and switch it off until the next colorcast game came on. The ratings for Concentration would start to plummet, and a great classic would be gone before its time.

As for the 1961 prime-time color edition, NBC may have fought similarly with Blumenthal for multihued rebuses, but the fact they only consisted of white characters on a brown background (see the picture on the previous page) was presumably attributed to either the fact that fewer than one million color sets were in use then and neither party felt the need to create full-color rebuses for this temporary nighttime throwaway version, or perhaps that NBC reluctantly agreed to continue here with the use of two-tone puzzles to satisfy Norm.

Nonetheless, 1966 viewers wanted to watch COLOR programs on their color sets if they had one, so Norm met NBC halfway: the rebuses would again have brown backgrounds as they did on Monday evenings in 1961 (some sources say they were maroon), but he'd look into using pastel pink illustrations. The network brass conceded, and on the morning of November 7, 1966, although Hugh Downs unfortunately wasn't on hand for the occasion, viewers watching Concentration on a color TV saw the opening title sequence and substitute host Bob Clayton's entrance in...black-and-white??? But Bob promptly advised that section of the home audience to watch their screens closely because they were about to see something "magical" occur. He snapped his fingers, the studio technician pushed a button...and suddenly the daytime Concentration was broadcasting in Living Color on NBC--at last! This and future colorcasts helped assure that Concentration would remain a staple of NBC's daytime lineup for at least several years.

Unfortunately, the decision to modernize the logo in 1963 and take the show to color three years later wound up being the only noticable changes in the proceedings. The set did go through a post-1963 change or two during the network run, but an inescapable air of "stodgieness" dominated the long-running series during the latter half of the 1960s, by contrast with some of the newer games NBC was airing during that time. When it came to theme music, organs and xylophones were the musical instruments of choice on many daytime games of the fifties and early sixties. NBC's own successful You Don't Say! and Let's Make A Deal used them throughout their original runs, and so did a mid-'60s pair of less-successful NBC games: Let's Play Post Office hosted by Don Morrow, and Chain Letter hosted by Jan Murray. Post Office, however, later tried to get with the times and attempted a "hip" version of its theme with electric guitars. Other new games of the period relied on actual recordings of catchy instrumentals by famed artists. The music of Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass permeated a couple of Chuck Barris and Bob Stewart games, and Stewart's very first independent production, Eye Guess, initially used one segment of Al Hirt's "Sugar Lips" repeated over and over as its theme. And, lest some of us forget, the longtime use of Bert Kaempfert's "A Swingin' Safari" on NBC's The Match Game.

Concentration's staff apparently noticed this and, around or several months before the color switch, decided to replace its cheesy-sounding mid-show bridge organ piece (accompanying a shot of the studio audience with the title superimposed on them) to a portion of the actual recording of "Puppet On A String" by Raymond Lefevre which came from his "Soul Coaxing" album; click on the audience screen shot below to hear it:

After this brief experiment, the organist returned to supply the "bridge" music, but it was now an organ version of "Puppet". A few years later at the start of 1969, Hugh Downs stepped down as the host of Concentration to devote more of his energies to Today, and Bob Clayton became the new Master Of Ceremonies...for a short time. In March of that year, he was displaced by Ed McMahon, right-hand man to Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show and host of NBC's Snap Judgment, a Goodson-Todman game which preceded Concentration at the time but was about to be axed. NBC had favored Ed as the new Concentration host, but he wasn't all that familiar with this particular game and, six months later, Bob Clayton was reinstated as host, this time for good. Shortly thereafter, the 1960s gave way to the 1970s...and Concentration was beginning to look downright hoary, flanked as it was in the decade's first year by the new It Takes Two (which marked Vin "Voice of the Dodgers" Scully's only stint as a game show host), and the slightly-newer Sale Of The Century (which marked Maverick veteran Jack Kelly's only such job; the Reg Grundy-produced revamp with Jim Perry as host would come much later). Both had impressive sets and theme music, and Concentration's future was beginning to seem as much a puzzle as its rebuses, especially in light of NBC's partial overhaul of the daytime lineup sans a few of its old warhorse games, CBS's decision to get back to games itself in Fall 1972, and, most of all, the arrival of one Lin Bolen in 1973. This vivacious and opinionated young woman was unimpressed with the dated look of early-'70s games and set to work on a complete overhaul of the sets, the music, the hosts...everything. Concentration, she might have reasoned, had no place in this massive makeover, so after almost seventeen years, NBC gave Bob Clayton, announcer Wayne Howell, Norm Blumenthal and that ever-present organist their walking papers. The end came on March 23, 1973; the last-ever rebus to be solved by the contestants was, appropriately, "You've Been More Than Kind". I'd have loved to have seen it; in the meantime, here are three vidcaps from that last show:

(Very special thanks to David Jackino for these three vidcaps, as well as the shot of the board from the show's 1963 opening, seen in the upper left corner of that four-shot grouping higher up)

The following Monday, the slot would be taken over by Heatter-Quigley's Baffle hosted by Dick Enberg--a game that, interestingly, wasn't even a new idea but a remake of their earlier syndicated P.D.Q. from the mid-1960s.

Concentration was down...but not yet out.

Back to Page One

The Narz years (coming later)

The Trebek years (coming later)

My Proposal For A Revival