Bank on the Stars
First episode: June 20, 1953
Bill's first episode: May 15, 1954
Bill's last episode: July 10, 1954
Last episode: August 21, 1954
Bill's episodes seen Saturday nights 8:00-8:30 on NBC
During the course of an episode, three couples would each play a game. For each game, the couples would watch a clip from a movie currently in theaters. Bill would then ask the couple three two-part questions. If one part of a question is answered correctly, the couple wins $50. If both parts are answered correctly, they win $100. If both parts are answered incorrectly, the game ends and the couple's money is tallied. If they fail on the first question, each member of the couple may dip one hand into a barrel of silver dollars as a consolation prize.
At the end of the night, the top money winning couple returns for the Bank Night Bonus. The couple listens to another movie clip, without being able to see it. If they can answer a single question correctly, they win a $500 bonus.
Bill hosted the show concurrently with his work on Place The Face. While that show emanated from Los Angeles, Bill hosted Bank on the Stars in New York. The show opened each week with a cute reference to this, with announcer Bill McCord introducing him as "That bright young comedy star who just flew in from Hollywood...Bill Cullen!"
Bank on the Stars was originally seen on CBS the previous year with host Jack Paar. Bill hosted no more than ten episodes before being replaced by Jimmy Nelson.
The show was actually a comedy quiz akin to Groucho Marx's You Bet Your Life. The contestant interviews were lengthy, with Bill playing off the contestants' end of the conversation with quips that were a mix of scripted lines and ad-libs. At this point, Bill was still hosting the radio quiz Walk a Mile, which was similarly structured. Groucho noticed and respected his rival. He was famously quoted referring to Bill as "the second-wittiest man on the air."
A total of four episodes from this series have turned up, and their survival suggests that the entire run may still exist on kinescopes. Three of the shows known to exist feature Bill and one has Jimmy Nelson at the helm. The episodes featuring Bill are from June 12, June 19 and July 3. In all three cases, original kinescope prints survive so the quality is very good. The June 19 episode features scenes from Apache, The Caine Mutiny and the French farce Mr. Hulot's Holiday, as well as an appearance by Roger Price to plug his show Droodles, which would debut two days later.