This probably matters to no one but me--and makes me sound older than God, but, damn, I miss those middle of the night What's My Line reruns. At the start of the month GSN pulled the classic panel show from its 3 a.m. timeslot where I've been PVR'ing it for the past year or so. What's My Line ran 17 seasons in the '50s and '60s and is a fascinating time capsule of mid century America. I used to love scanning to the mystery guest slot, then catching a glimpse of young, up and coming stars like Paul Newman, Sophia Loren, Andy Griffith, Dick Clark, Julie Andrews, Sean Connery, Jane Fonda and Harry Belafonte. Old Hollywood stars like Fred Astaire, Gary Cooper, Olivia DeHavilland and Groucho Marx (hilarious as a panelist) mix with historical figures like Frank Lloyd Wright and Salvador Dali. Some guests are names now forgotten, Like doctor, humanitarian and Vietnam footnote Tom Dooley, baseball Hall of Fame executive Branch Rickey, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Peter Lind Hayes and Robert Q Lewis. Milton Berle was already on the comeback trail the night somebody from the studio audience leapt onto the stage to shake his hand and kept right on running. `My agent!`Berle ad libbed.
What`s My Line boasted an impressive panel, including Arlene Francis, a TV pioneer and Broadway star who got away with some pretty racy double entendres for the times. Dorothy Kilgallen was a New York columnist who might have been on to a big scoop on the Kennedy assassination when she died under mysterious circumstances in 1964. Bennett Cerf was a Random House publisher who had a penchant for puns. Moderator John Charles Daly was an ABC news anchor who was the last word on taste and decorum.
What sucks is that GSN was replaying the series in order right from the beginning. They had burned through a decade--from 1950 to 1960--when GSN pulled the plug. Too bad--it was a cool time capsule, a peek at a kinder, gentler time and I was looking forward to seeing the damn thing through right until its 1967 demise. GSN--it is the middle of the night, what the hell, finish the string!