The Love Experts
Produced for daily syndication
Bill moved from a game show podium to a talk show desk to dispense advice & prizes to contestants who had some semi-odd problems with matters of the heart.
Bill interviews three contestants, one at a time, and asks them various questions about the particular problem they're having with their love life. After the questioning is over, the panelists have their turn to ask the contestant any questions they may have and give their respective solutions to the problem.
After the three contestants have told their stories, the panelists vote for their favorite love problem, and the winner gets a mystery prize. (In the event of a tie, Bill casts the tie-breaking vote.)
Also on each show, Bill and the panelists give quick answers to lovelorn audience members.
Nothing in television happens overnight, and Bob Stewart had actually been developing The Love Experts for quite some time. A pilot for syndication was shot as early as 1975, hosted by Jack Cassidy. The series didn't sell and Cassidy died the following year.
Bob Stewart gave his idea another go in 1978 in the midst of uprooting his production company and moving it from New York to Hollywood. Bob, ever loyal to the man he considered his go-to guy for virtually every one of his new projects, turned to Bill to host his new pilot.
There's a strange footnote to the development of this show...Strictly speaking, it didn't become a game show until the series actually went into production. Voting for the "most interesting problem" and giving that person a prize isn't an element in any of the pilots for the series. It was a talk show that became a game show that looked like a talk show.
There was one regular panelist on the series, Geoff Edwards, another favorite casting choice of Bob Stewart. When co-webmaster Adam interviewed him for the book Quizmaster, he told a brief story about a confusing phone call he received after the series ended, from a producer who was looking for the contact info of the writers who scripted the panel's banter. Geoff had to explain that, in fact, the banter was unscripted, and the panel was being funny all by themselves.
During the show's single season run, Edwards was joined by a fascinatingly diverse group of guest panelists, including David Letterman, Jamie Lee Curtis, Peter Lawford, June Lockhart, Bernie Kopell, and Soupy Sales.
An article published in April 1978 indicates that the series had gone into production by that point and episodes were being stockpiled for a fall premiere. Bill and Ann didn't move to Los Angeles permanently until October 1978, so it appears that Bill did a cross-country commute to tape episodes of this show, something he had done earlier in his career for Place the Face. Bill was still doing five-episode tapings each week for Pass the Buck on CBS and at some point, he taped an entire season of The $25,000 Pyramid for syndication, so Bill's spring of 1978 was pretty busy.
One of the lovelorn guests featured on he show was Rhonda Shear, later known as the host of USA Network's Up All Night in the 1990s. Another episode featured a 19-year-old aspiring actress from Arizona named Lilibet Stern. In 1980, she joined the cast of the long-running soap opera The Young and the Restless, on which she played the role of Patty Williams for three years. She even sat on the panel of Match Game during her time on the soap.
Though you could hardly mistake it for the discussions of similarly themed television, radio, and podcasts in future decades, by the standards of 1978, The Love Experts was actually a fairly racy program. At least one station preceded each episode with a viewer discretion warning.
Three episodes (and part of a fourth and fifth) exist in the hands of collectors, as well as Jack Cassidy's pilot. Two slightly different edits of Bill's pilot are known to exist but aren't widely available. It seems likely the full run is in a vault somewhere, but reruns have never surfaced anywhere.
The first 20 episodes were sent to stations with this helpful guide.