First episode: April 21, 1975
Last episode: June 27, 1975
Seen weekday mornings 11:30-12:00 on ABC
Two teams comprised of a celebrity & contestant compete. The game board conceals six numbered clues, and Bill reads the category and a clue to the right answer.
He then randomly selects one of 100 cards rotating on the wheel next to him and scans it through a device on his podium. Scanning it selects one of the four players and reveals a dollar value, between $100 and $1,000. The chosen player selects which sentence fragment to reveal and guesses the solution. If right, the dollar value goes into their bank, although they haven't necessarily won the cash yet. If wrong, Bill selects another card. Play continues in this manner until the puzzle is solved.
After the puzzle is solved, the winning team is shown a "Blankety Blank," a sentence with 1-4 words missing, to be completed with a pun. ("Arnold Palmer needed new socks because he had a Blankety-Blankety-Blank." HOLE IN ONE) If the team guesses correctly, the money becomes theirs to keep, and their opponents get a strike. If wrong, the money stays in the bank, and should they guess another puzzle later, the dollar value is added and they can win the whole total on a Blankety Blank. Contestants remain on the show until they amass three strikes.
On May 19, 1975, Bill announced that the show was "starting things over" and the game had new rules that stayed in place for the remainder of the show's brief run. The clue to the correct answer was eliminated; the teams were only given the category.
Solving the puzzle earned the amount of money revealed by the computer card, and the team could win that amount of money again by solving the Blankety Blank.
The first team to accumulate $2,500 or more wins the game and meets a new opponent.
This series would have to be considered one of the biggest flops of Bill's later career. Most daytime shows of the era were guaranteed a minimum of thirteen weeks. Blankety Blanks disappeared after only ten.
A cute idea marred by poor execution and the notoriously cheap Bob Stewart production values. It replaced reruns of The Brady Bunch in this time slot. When it bombed, the Brady reruns returned.
In a 1975 magazine article, Bill was philosophical about the failure of Blankety Blanks, which he felt "didn't get a fair shake," as well as the similar demise six months earlier of Winning Streak, which he admitted "just didn't work."
"I've been fortunate," he said. "The passage of shows hasn't hurt, because I don't get blamed for it. It does hurt me in another way, though, because I feel a certain amount of responsibility. But you make yourself realize that nothing more can be done about it."
The pilot episode (with Anita Gillette & Soupy Sales) and the premiere episode (with William Shatner and Anne Meara) circulate among collectors. The episode in which the show's rules change also exists but is not widely available.
The full audio of Episode #5, from April 25, 1975.
The full audio of Episode #50, the final episode, from June 27, 1975.
Variety reviews Blankety Blanks
We find a few interesting details about this list. The first is that, with such a short run, Bob Stewart managed not to repeat any celebrities on the aired episodes until the final week. Second, there are no real surprises to be found anywhere among these names. Every guest listed below had already appeared on the daytime $10,000 Pyramid and/or Bill's $25,000 Pyramid.
Third (and apologies in advance because it's a downer), ABC was preparing to launch a charades game show, Showoffs, in the summer, and had such high hopes that the network gave it an unusual amount of advance hype. Press releases went out as early as mid-April touting the premiere of the series, to be hosted by Larry Blyden; the series pilot hadn't even been taped yet. The pilot was taped on May 24; Blyden then departed for a vacation in Morocco, where, tragically, he died on June 6, 1975. While we don't have any video or audio proof to back this up, it seems likely that Blyden appeared on Blankety Blanks to promote himself as the host of a show that he wouldn't live to see.