In Remembrance: Jack Klugman in Game Shows
We have some sad news to report this Christmas Eve evening: Jack Klugman, star of the silver screen, the small screen and the stage, died today in Los Angeles at the age of 90. With a career launch in the 1950s with high notoriety lasting well into the 1980s, Klugman was one of the most notorious “everyman” characters on television and in film. Klugman’s first large role came in 1957, as one of the jurors in the Henry Fonda film classic 12 Angry Men. In 1964, he won his first Emmy Award for his role in the CBS legal drama The Defenders. The next year, Klugman replaced Walter Matthau as Oscar Madison, the sloppy roommate in the Broadway production of The Odd Couple.
Five years later, he was reunited with the Neil Simon concept when he was cast in ABC’s adaption of the play as a television series. Alongside the equally talented Tony Randall as Felix Unger, the show ran for five seasons, carving a legacy in television history, a lasting friendship between the two and earning Klugman an Emmy nod each year the series was on, taking home the trophy twice. In 1976, NBC broadcast a series of telefilms starring Klugman called Quincy, M.E. The movies were so popular, they evolved into a new NBC series, launching Klugman into another facet of his career as an on-screen medical examiner. The series lasted until 1983, fetching Klugman another four nominations for Lead Actor Emmys. Even after Quincy, Klugman still kept busy with a bevy of guest starring roles on TV throughout the ’80s, ’90s and 2000s, along with continuing his work in acting in stage theatre.
Klugman’s contributions to TV game shows are both notable for the on-screen and off-screen happenings. In 1953, he married a bit actress for the stage and screen named Brett Somers, who played a recurring role as Klugman’s character’s ex-wife on the program. The two played against each other as celebrity guests on a 1971 week of Password. When Klugman was booked as a guest for the pilots and then the first week of the 1973 revival of Match Game, he suggested that his wife might be a good fit for the panel. Clearly, the producers agreed as she became a fixture on the Match Game panel until the show’s end in 1982. The couple separated until 1974 (but remained officially married until her death) and Klugman made occasional appearances on the panel, with their relationship often used as a source for ribbing by panelists and host Gene Rayburn.
Tony Randall, co-star of The Odd Couple, was also a big fan of games which were worked into some of the plot lines of the program. “Password,” an episode of the program where Randall’s character gets to play as a civilian with Klugman’s character as a celebrity, was rated number five in a 1997 TV Guide list of the 100 Greatest Episodes of All-Time. Klugman would participate in word games throughout the 1970s, appearing on Password, New York-era episodes of The $25,000 Pyramid and participated in an early week of Password Plus. His humor also had multiple chances to shine through, as a participant on the unique program Celebrity Bowling and on The Hollywood Squares – both in the 1970s and a couple of guest weeks with Tom Bergeron at the helm.
Tomorrow’s Match Game marathon airing on GSN contains two episodes featuring him: the 1973 pilot at 9AM ET and the premiere episode at 9:30AM ET. We have also included some full episodes of Klugman playing on various game shows, along with samples of The Odd Couple episodes where he plays a player. Also, feel free to share your favorite Jack Klugman moments below, whether game show related or not.