DATELINE: Whose Line?
If you want to see what high-powered cerebral entertainment appeared on Sunday nights in 1955 on your television, you can look up What’s My Line? It is in glorious black and white, which is a shame, but technically that was its limit.
The show’s title has lived on longer than the show, as a punchline and as part of cultural heritage. We tuned in to a random episode from the first season to see what this upper-crust New York game show was all about. It was not for kids even back then.
We were not surprised in many ways. The panel is decked out in dress clothes, obviously out on the town in Manhattan earlier for dinner. They are also not your usual young, demographic and telegenic pretty airheads.
You have a fairly high-powered group: Bennett Cerf, a publisher, and Dorothy Kilgallen, a Broadway muckraking journalist. The other woman on the panel was Arlene Francis, whose career as a singer was long gone. They were joined by satirical Fred Allen. The show’s host was another journalist, John Daly.
The money given to guests is downright insulting. If the panel tries to guess the occupation, each “no” answer wins $5. Maybe it was worth more back then.
This is middle-aged fun for late on the weekend on your TV back then. The so-called lines of the guests are odd, always, and the highlight is a special celebrity guest who must use a fake voice as the panel wears masks.
This is not a dumb group, and they know how to frame a question and narrow done the selection of jobs. We cringe at what a modern version of this might be like! Back then, audiences were literate, older, more inclined to modest humor and good-natured ribbing. It’s a long-gone America.
It’s worth looking at if you’re a senior citizen wanting to have a nostalgic moment. Otherwise, you will be horrified and bored.