Born in Sacramento, California, on January 14, 1915, Mark Goodson became one of the 20th century's most successful television producers. He is credited with creation of the weekly game show, and he produced many of the best-loved game shows of the 20th century, including What's My Line, The Price is Right and Family Feud.
Born on January 14, 1915, in Sacramento, California, Mark Goodson was the son of Russian immigrants Abraham Ellis and Fannie Goodson, who came to America in the early 1900s. The Goodson family struggled through trying times during the Great Depression. In order to help his family, Goodson began acting in amateur theatre productions with the Plaza Stock Company of Sacramento. His childhood acting experiences set the stage for Goodson's future interests in the entertainment industry.
Entry into Entertainment Industry
Goodson went on to attend the University of California at Berkeley, where he received a degree in economics and political science. Despite his major, Goodson maintained his interest in theatre by becoming a regular member of the Berkeley acting troupe and a director of several campus plays. He financed his college education by winning a series of scholarships and by working in a fish market. Although his original intentions were to become a lawyer, Goodson chose to take a job as a disc jockey for a local San Francisco radio station. It was here, at KFRC, where Goodson took on his first role as host of a game show called Pop the Question.
In 1941, Goodson ventured to New York City in order to explore other opportunities in the entertainment industry. He took several jobs as a radio announcer for a variety of game shows (The Jack Dempsey Sports Quiz) and soap operas (Portia Faces Life). While working on a game show project, in 1946, Goodson met Bill Todman, a young radio writer and director. The pairing of Goodson and Todman marked the beginning of one of game show history's most successful collaborations between a writer and producer.
Game Show Empire
In 1950, the Goodson-Todman team embraced the new medium of television by creating the first weekly game show in history. Titled, What’s My Line, the panel show proved to be a critical success and remained on the air for 17 years. Goodson went on to develop a multitude of memorable game shows such as: To Tell the Truth, Password, Card Sharks, and Classic Concentration. Among his most notable contributions to game show television were The Match Game and Family Feud. Goodson could also boast that he created the longest running game show in television history, The Price is Right, which has been on the air for 27 years.
Goodson implemented a number of innovations and created new strategies for game shows. Among the most important are the buzzer and the bell, which have now become an integral part of all audience participation shows. He also developed the idea of a "champion" contestant who continually returns to defend his title until defeated by a challenger.
Awards and Honors
Goodson was a well-respected member of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for many years and acquired 10 Daytime Emmy Awards for outstanding game or audience participation shows. Goodson was honored in 1991, when he became the first game show producer to be inducted into the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame. Throughout his life, Goodson had three unsuccessful marriages and a number of affairs. Goodson died in December 1992, leaving behind a 50-year-game-show legacy. He is survived by his two daughters, Jill and Marjorie, and a son, Jonathan.
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