The Choice is Yours

Taped November 28, 1970 for ABC

The Show:

"People from 43 states are in our studio audience today! In one moment, we'll ask this cross-section of America to voice their opinions on...The Choice is Yours!"

Bill asks the studio audience and the three panelists a question, such as “Do you think it’s time to begin teaching sex education in grade schools?” The panelists place their votes and explain their reasoning, after which the studio audience vote their opinions. A panelist scores points for having an opinion that matches the majority of the studio audience.  If all three panelists match the audience majority, they receive 5 points apiece. If two panelists match, they win 10 points each. If only one matches, that panelist wins 15 points.

 

The highest score after four hypothetical situations wins the game and a bonus prize for their designated member of the studio audience (in the pilot, the winner gets a TV with Monty Hall’s picture pasted on it). In the event of a tie, which happens in pilot #2, each celebrity guest wins the grand prize for their audience member.

Some of the questions are posed in the form of pre-taped skits. In pilot #1, a wife has to decide whether to play Scrabble to win or throw the game to appease her opponent, her husband’s annoying boss. In pilot #2, the same actors (who are never identified) perform a skit about a woman on a disastrous blind date who has to decide whether to see it through to the end or just make up an excuse to leave immediately.

Bill touts that a regular feature of the show will be letters from viewers seeking advice, and the letters are used as questions for the actual game. In Pilot #1, the home viewer is a father asking if he should forbid his teenage daughter from attending an anti-Vietnam demonstration.

Notes:

Buried somewhere in this weirdness is a potentially fascinating game. Using current events and public opinion polls would certainly have been something new in 1970 when the pilot was taped (and heck, it would even stand out now). The idea of in-studio panelists answering questions from viewers wasn’t new (Juvenile Jury and Life Begins at 80 were both doing this in the 1950s) but making a game show out of it sounds like an interesting concept.

In the pilot, the celebrities did the best they could to wring entertainment out of what was ultimately a dull and rather pointless game (what's with the political motif?) but it's easy to see why this didn't get picked up by the network. 

The show was produced by Stefan Hatos & Monty Hall. The duo had famously uprooted Let's Make a Deal from NBC to ABC in a heated contract renegotiation in 1968. Part of their deal with ABC involved a commitment from the network to finance and screen pilots for additional game show formats from Hatos-Hall Productions.

We have reason to believe that The Choice is Yours was created by Stu Billett. The Choice is Yours was one of the pilots that was developed as part of that agreement, but it was over a year before ABC finally picked up another series developed by Hatos-Hall Productions. That show, Split Second with Tom Kennedy, would run for over three years. Split Second employed a very similar scoring system, and we can confirm that series was created by Billett, who was retained by Hatos-Hall for the purpose of coming up with new shows. Billett would later depart the company and join forces with Ralph Edwards. As part of that partnership, Billett would create The People's Court.

The announcer for this pilot was Let's Make a Deal's own Jay Stewart. Although he was a ubiquitous voice on game shows for years, this pilot actually marks the only time that he and Bill crossed paths professionally.

 

It was also one of the only times that Bill worked with Stefan Hatos-Monty Hall Productions, which was likely due to location, location, location. Bill remained rooted in New York until 1978, while Hatos & Hall were based in Hollywood. The company peaked in success and productivity during the early 1970s. By the time Bill settled down permanently on the west coast, the company was in a slow period In 1978; their primary income came from selling reruns of Let's Make a Deal, which had ended production. And Monty Hall tended to cast himself as host for the company's new output from that point onward.

At least two pilots were taped for this series. The date at the top of this page is the date of one of the pilots that we have stills of on this page. We're not sure if the second pilot was taped on the same day.

The Choice is Yours 1970 game show Bill Cullen
The Choice is Yours 1970 game show Bill Cullen
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The Choice is Yours 1970 game show Bill Cullen
The Choice is Yours 1970 game show Bill Cullen
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The Choice is Yours 1970 game show Bill Cullen Melvin Belli Meredith MacRae Nipsey Russell
The Choice is Yours 1970 game show Bill Cullen Melvin Belli Meredith MacRae Nipsey Russell
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