55th Anniversary of You’re in the Picture

Today marks the 55th anniversary of Jackie Gleason’s famous one-and-done flop You’re in the Picture. The first and only episode of the game show aired on Friday, January 20th, 1961 from 9:30-10PM on CBS. Panelists Pat Carroll, Arthur Treacher, Jan Sterling, and Keenan Wynn stuck their heads through cutouts in life size illustrations and pictures then tried to identify the scene they were in. Gleason served as host.

Critics were harsh in their condemnation of You’re in the Picture. But nobody was more critical than Gleason, who returned the following week (January 27th) for a live, half-hour apology. He continued the apology on February 3rd and then spent the next seven weeks hosting The Jackie Gleason Show, a series of informal interviews with the likes of Art Carney, Jayne Mansfield, Floyd Patterson, and Bobby Darin.

Supposedly, a second episode of You’re in the Picture was videotaped but never aired. Apparently only the premiere was intended to be live. All subsequent episodes would be taped. However, the existence of this fabled second episode has yet to be confirmed. The Paley Center for Media has in its collection the January 20th premiere and the January 27th apology, plus two episodes of The Jackie Gleason Show. Archival Television Audio, Inc. has audio from six episodes of that series in its collection.

I wrote a spotlight about You’re in the Picture back in 2009 and revised it a bit yesterday to mark the anniversary. However, I must admit that I haven’t watched the January 20th premiere or the January 27th apology all the way through. Have you?


2 Comments

  • David says:

    I never saw it, but I first read about it in a book when I was 10 or 11 years old. It really was infamous!

  • Bill says:

    I’ve seen a clip of the game show with Hans Conreid, so that must’ve been the second episode. The apology seems to be something only Gleason would do, taking personal responsability, rather than blaming the network, his staff, or Ed Norton.

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