The New Hollywood Squares (1986–1989)
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Positives: -Theme music. Next to the prize music in the H2 era (2002-2004), this was the best music ever used for the show. Yes it was cheesy, yes it had "80's" written all over it, and yes it was mostly catered to the daytime crowd, but it worked, it was catchy, and it was fun.
-Celebrities. I was surprised when I hear Joan Rivers' comments stating that she felt there wasn't enough "star power" on this version. I thought the cast of celebrities offered up was very unique and varied. Obviously we had the unpredictable and over-the-top Jm J. Bullock, Joan and Alf among others, but it was also cool seeing Richard Simmons on the same show as John Matuszak, having Louie Anderson and Rose Marie taking turns in the center square, or about Howard Stern himself making an appearance on the show, despite his well-known disdain for it. Also making announcer Shadoe Stevens a regular was a neat idea and something that had never been done before. Most announcers are lucky to get so much as an acknowledgment from their host, let alone camera time.
-Shadoe Stevens. OK I have to mention again. He was easily the best announcer Hollywood Squares has ever had. He was enthusiastic and involved, and always did a great job with the introductions of the celebrities. I wish they'd kept him through the entire 98-2004 run.
-The set. The one thing that separates this from the other versions is that the audience is right up close to the celebrities. They literally are the ones that divide the host and contestants from the panel. It did make for some awkward camera angles, but it was still a nice touch.
Negatives: -The end game. It relied too much on chance and not skill. For those not aware, the contestant had to pick a giant prop key out of a jar that might or might not start up one of the cars displayed on the set. There was no process of elimination based on knowledge or success from the main game, so it wasn't very fair. Admittedly, the losing sound effect was funny, and the good luck celebrity was again a nice way to bridge the contestant and panel, but it was completely skewed.
-The bits. Sometimes the game would rely on a visual prop or skit involving the celebrities (Cooking, singing, etc.) It was a distraction and too "cutesy" for my taste, not to mention taking up valuable time from the main game.
You'll note I have not mentioned host John Davidson yet. It's simply because I have no real opinion on him. All in all, he was a pretty good host, and a worthy follow up to Peter Marshall, but hosting didn't really seem to come naturally to him. He clearly knew the game and had fun with it, but he wouldn't have been my first choice, personally speaking. Then again, he had to follow in the footsteps of the Master of the Hollywood Squares, so that no doubt had an effect on his performance.
This show used to rerun quite frequently on USA but has been retired. However, you can still catch some episodes on YouTube. I recommend checking it out.
John Davidson, who was a guest on the Marshall version many times did an outstanding job as host. Shadoe Stevens, taking over for the late Kenny Williams as the show's announcer also appeared on camera. His brother Richard and radio personality Howard Stern also handled the announcing duties.
I also remember seeing many celebrities on the show, including regular center square Joan Rivers and JM J. Bullock. Both were outstanding and really funny. The one difference I remember was the bonus round, where the winning contestant tried to win a car by picking the right key. It reminded me of Split Second and a short-lived game that was hosted by Betty White, Just Men! But this version had a much shorter run than the original, lasting three seasons. I will always remember Shadoe's host introduction "And here's your host, Johhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhn Davidson!"