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Jack Barry
Jack Barry.jpg
Name: Jack Barasch-Barry
Born: March 20, 1918
Died: May 2, 1984
Place of death: New York City, NY
Occupation: Host, Actor, Producer
Years active: 1942-1984
Known for: His game show producing work with Dan Enright.

Jack Barry (born Jack Barasch; March 20, 1918 – died May 2, 1984) was an American television producer and host, best known for his work on The Joker's Wild. He and his partner, Dan Enright, produced many game shows from 1956 until Barry's death in 1984.

Early life and career[]

Barry was born and raised in Lindenhurst, New York, graduating from Lindenhurst High School. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Finance and Commerce, in Philadelphia. In the 1940s he began on radio, where he met his eventual business partner, Dan Enright.

Once television broadcasting began, Barry and Enright got involved in local programming, and eventually national programs, thanks in part to the success of early Jack Barry hits such as the children's show Winky Dink and You, reputedly the world's first-ever interactive television program. Barry and Enright also produced Juvenile Jury, Life Begins at 80, and Wisdom of the Ages. In the 1950s, Barry and Enright got involved in game shows, with Barry hosting The Big Surprise. He was eventually dismissed from his hosting duties and was replaced by Mike Wallace, persuading Barry to begin packaging game shows by himself.

Quiz show scandal[]

In 1956, Barry and Enright launched Twenty One (sponsored by Geritol) and Tic Tac Dough. Both quiz shows were hosted by Barry. In a 1991 PBS documentary, Barry's partner, Dan Enright, said that after the first (unrigged!) broadcast of Twenty-One, sponsor Geritol complained to Barry and Enright the following day about the dullness of that episode. (The two contestants repeatedly missed questions.) According to Enright, "from that moment on, we decided to rig Twenty-One."

In 1958, a match between challenger Charles Van Doren and champion Herbert Stempel was found to have been rigged, with Van Doren having been provided answers in advance. (The 1994 movie Quiz Show was based on the Stempel-Van Doren contests.) Within three months of the published revelation, Twenty-One was canceled. Dough Re Mi and three other shows were taken over by NBC. Another Barry-Enright production, Tic Tac Dough, was canceled as well. Barry next hosted the nighttime version of a new show Barry and Enright created with Robert Noah and Buddy Piper, Concentration. With the quiz show scandal ramping up, Barry left Concentration after four weeks, and Barry and Enright were forced to sell their shows to NBC.

Though Enright and producer Albert Freedman carried out the rigging of Twenty-One, Barry admitted, in the 1970s and 1980s, his role in covering up for the partners. However, Barry himself was not averse to "juicing" a show, even after the Twenty-One and Tic Tac Dough debacles left his career in eclipse. A veteran quiz producer once said that in the 1960s, when Barry was working on a pilot of a Mark Goodson-Bill Todman production featuring "spontaneous" filmed responses, Barry fed his respondents scripted lines to make them funnier, though it should be noted that most, indeed almost all, game show television pilots contain scripted elements to help to "sell" the game to the network. (This information comes from a Game Show Network disclaimer which it showed whenever it aired a pilot on its network.)

After the scandal[]

Dan Enright found television work in Canada with Columbia-Screen Gems, while Jack Barry went to California. The two collaborated on small Canadian-produced quiz shows including Line 'em Up, Photo Finish, shot in Montreal, and It's a Match, taped in Toronto. It was on these shows that several young American and Canadian producers and directors got their start, including Mark Phillips and Sidney M. Cohen.

Move to Los Angeles[]

After being unable to find national broadcasting work for several years in the wake of the quiz scandal, Barry decided to purchase a Los Angeles-area radio station (KKOP 93.5 FM, Redondo Beach, later renamed KFOX, now KDAY). In later interviews, he stated that he bought the station specifically because it would require him to have a license from the Federal Communications Commission and that if the FCC would be willing to grant him a license, then that would decisively demonstrate that his reputation had cleansed itself of having been "tainted" by the game show scandals. Barry also acquired ownership of a cable TV system in Redondo Beach.

In the mid-1960s, Barry was featured on KTLA (Channel 5 in Los Angeles) in a variety-format program dubbed The Jack Barry Show. This started as a weekly program but slowly became locally popular, because it featured celebrities performing in Los Angeles who wanted to promote their local appearances. The show continued for about three years, during which at one point it became a daily program and was also, rather briefly, syndicated.

An interesting feature of this program was the appearance of a group of five children dubbed "The Juvenile Jury," later "The Paramount Panel" (KTLA was then owned by Paramount Pictures, who also served as the syndicator when Barry's show went national), who commented on the news and other current events amusingly. Art Linkletter, at that time, had a popular program based principally on such a format, so in some sense, the Barry show was attempting to capture this audience segment (as well as revive the memory of one of Barry's popular 1950s TV creations).

Notable among the child actors on this panel was Gary Goetzman, today a well-known director and producer of major films. It was probable that Barry's unfortunate game show experiences had sensitized him to people ostracized by the Hollywood establishment of the time. As an example, he had several artists and comedians as guests on the show who had been blacklisted during the McCarthy period of the 1950s and were attempting to return to the American stage in the mid-1960s. The musical director of the program, Kip Walton, was responsible for bringing in major jazz artists with regularity, such as Lionel Hampton.

After a successful three-year run, the show was canceled, mainly because of scheduling changes on the station brought into effect by a purchase of KTLA from Paramount by an investment group headed by Gene Autry, which later controlled the California Angels (now the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim) baseball team and Channel 5.

Return to game shows[]

"Slowly," said a 1984 article in TV Guide which discussed game show hosts, "he began to receive calls: Would he fill in for five weeks on this game show? Yes. Of course." Barry appeared on a few local game shows in Los Angeles during this time (mostly on KTLA), which included a local version of You Don't Say! This was later hosted nationally by Tom Kennedy. Barry even dabbled in acting, playing a newsman on the premiere of the mid-1960s TV series Batman. He also did a guest reporter spot on the TV series The Addams Family.

Finally, in 1969 he became a host again, for ABC's The Generation Gap, replacing original host Dennis Wholey for the final weeks of its series.

Later in that year, Barry embarked on an idea that would not only launch his national comeback but also, eventually, become the most successful game show project of his entire career. He developed and produced two pilots for The Joker's Wild in association with Goodson-Todman Productions, both moderated by Allen Ludden. CBS held off on picking up the series at first. In 1970, Barry produced a pilot with a similar concept called The Honeymoon Game, hosted by Jim McKrell. After that failed to sell, Barry reworked the format and launched a local version of The Joker's Wild in 1971 on Los Angeles' KTLA, while early in that same year also selling The Reel Game to ABC. Barry also hosted this show, pitting three contestants in answering questions centered around vintage newsreel footage, for cash prizes, and the chance for a new car (which no contestants won during the run). The series ran weekly in prime-time for 16 weeks.

The Joker's Wild made its national debut on CBS on September 4, 1972, the same day both Goodson's and Todman's revival of The Price is Right, with Bob Barker, and Merrill Heatter's and Bob Quigley's Gambit, with Wink Martindale, premiered. Barry himself hosted and packaged the show, under the Jack Barry Productions banner, until CBS canceled it in 1975. Jack Barry Productions, meanwhile, also packaged Hollywood's Talking, Geoff Edwards's first game show, and Blank Check, hosted by veteran quiz and game host and announcer Art James. Even before Joker, however, Barry had displayed no loss of concurrent hosting and production skill, doing both with The Reel Game and a 1970s revival of Juvenile Jury.

Barry even brought Dan Enright back as The Joker's Wild's executive producer toward the end of its first network run, mentioning Enright at the end of the final CBS installment. The two renewed their working partnership full-time in 1976, launching Break the Bank, hosted by Tom Kennedy, on ABC's daytime lineup. (When ABC canceled the show despite decent ratings, Barry himself hosted and produced the show for weekly syndication during the 1976-77 season.)

In the fall of 1976, Barry sold reruns of The Joker's Wild's final CBS season to several stations, including New York's WOR-TV and Los Angeles' KTLA. These reruns rated highly enough that Barry and Enright chose to bring the game back into production for first-run syndication beginning in 1977, with Barry again the host. The show was distributed by Dick Colbert Television Sales and produced at the Chris Craft Studios of KCOP-TV in Hollywood. The series was seen in Los Angeles on KHJ-TV, despite being produced at KCOP, and despite the test run of the final CBS season having aired on KTLA the season before. Joker eventually did air on its flagship, KCOP, during the last several seasons.

The new, syndicated Joker was a huge success, enough that it enabled Barry to reach back to his days as a children's program creator and host, launching in 1979 Joker Joker Joker, a weekly kids' version of The Joker's Wild in which children could win savings bonds (their family members assisted them in playing the bonus rounds).

The new Joker was so successful that Barry and Enright gambled on reviving a show whose reputation had been somewhat damaged by the ancient quiz show scandal. Tic Tac Dough, with new host Wink Martindale, first had an unsuccessful eight-week run on CBS' daytime schedule in 1978. The syndicated run of the show debuted in the fall of 1978, whereupon it became wildly successful and ran for eight years with Martindale and in its final year, with Jim Caldwell as host. From there, Barry & Enright in the 1970s and early 1980s developed and produced games like Bullseye, Play the Percentages, Hot Potato and The Hollywood Connection. They also produced several unsold pilots such as Decisions Decisions. They even developed a resurrected Twenty-One in 1982, though this version was never transmitted. In due course, Barry & Enright Productions moved to film and series television production work. One of their motion-picture productions was Private Lessons, the film version of Dan Greenburg's novel Philly, which starred Eric Brown alongside Sylvia Kristel with, and later verses, Howard Hesseman.

In his final years, Barry renewed ties with NBC and began developing game show projects, including Hot Potato, which proved to be his last that made it to television. He also attempted to sell The Joker's Wild and Tic Tac Dough to NBC affiliates in an attempt to remove a winnings limit of $50,000 imposed due to the amount of CBS affiliates (in compliance with a network rule) airing both series, as NBC imposed no such winnings limit on its own or its affiliates' programming. That limit was eventually removed shortly before Barry's death.


Since 1981, Barry, along with then-producer Ron Greenberg, eventually began grooming Jim Peck as his successor for The Joker's Wild. Peck had periodically stood in for Barry from 1981–1984, and Barry had planned to retire from hosting in September 1984. On May 2, 1984, less than a month after completing Joker's seventh syndicated season and returning from a visit to his daughter in Europe, Barry suffered a massive cardiac arrest during a morning jog in Central Park. He died at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City after doctors were unable to save his life. Barry's body was flown back to Southern California and is now buried in Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale, California.

However, Bill Cullen became the new host of The Joker's Wild and continued to host until the syndicated version ended in September 1986. Peck did host a few more weeks' worth of episodes in Cullen's place before the series ended.