Long before we watched The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, in a land far, far away... (Sorry to be so snarky.) On December 20, 1965, a new and different game show called The Dating Game came on the air.
The usual concept was an attractive bachelorette questioning three bachelors, as they were hidden behind a big screen, so the bachelorette couldn't see them. She would ask the guys several questions, then choose one to go on a date, all the while never seeing what the guy looked like.
Sometimes the concept would be reversed and there would be a bachelor grilling three bachelorettes, but the three guys idea was much more prevalent. I always liked the three bachelorettes concept better. Heck, three cute girls to look at instead of one!
All female guests on the show, whether the questioning bachelorette or one of the three questioned bachelorettes, always wore an obligatory miniskirt (the better to attract male viewers).
Although kind of similar to The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, The Dating Game was more like a blind date, albeit one where you could hear your potential partner and even grill them a little before an ultimate meet took place.
According to the show's creator, Chuck Barris, although The Dating Game was taped in the relatively tame '60's and '70's, some of the male guests answers to the girl's questions were incredibly lewd and raunchy. All tapes of the show were carefully censored by the suits at ABC to make sure nothing too suggestive got through to shock or offend the home viewers.
Any questions were allowed by the questioning guy or gal, except four: these being name, age, occupation or income.
Every once in a while, the show could get quite snarky. The three bachelors would make snide or sarcastic cracks about their fellow contestants or one of the three bachelorettes could get catty about her female adversaries.
Many celebrities appeared on the show, some before they were famous and some after they were already big stars. For obvious reasons, after they were already rich and famous, they would be the lone questioner, not the "unknowns" behind the screen.
The following stars and future stars appeared on The Dating Game:
Adam West was the biggest star in show biz as Batman when he was the first celeb to appear on the show in 1966.
Later celebrities appearing on the show include Sally Field, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Farrah Fawcett, Paul Lynde (Paul was gay, but it was a lark, I guess), Dick Clark, Ron Howard, Jay North, Jimmie Walker, Mama Cass, Phil Hartman, Steve Martin, and John Ritter.
Tom Selleck (pre-Magnum P.I.) was on twice and was not picked either time. (I’m sure there are two regretful girls out there somewhere.)
Paul Reubens (pre-Pee-wee Herman) was also on.
Andy Kaufman appeared and his name was given as “Baji Kimran,” so he could play one of his crazy characters.
Michael Jackson made an appearance on the show (I will leave it up to the reader's opinion on this one).
Two of The Brady Bunch kids did Dating Game segments- Barry “Greg" Williams and Maureen “Marcia" McCormick.
The legendary Groucho Marx made a comic appearance as the bachelor in 1967. It was a prank. One of the three bachelorettes behind the screen was his daughter, Melinda. (Gee, i'll bet she really thought that was a riot!!) Incidentally, Groucho was 77 at the time, probably making him the oldest person ever to appear on The Dating Game.
After the bachelorette had chosen her Prince Charming of the three guys, the happy couple was awarded a date at some exotic location, like Barbados or Paris or Rome. Jim Lange, a very affable guy, was the show's original host.
The Dating Game was officially cancelled after the 1972-73 season but immediately was picked up for one additional year of syndication in 1973-74. Three later incarnations were filmed in the '80's and '90's, but none of these later incarnations was ever anywhere near as popular and widely-viewed as the original.
Later future celebrities to be seen on the new versions included Oprah Winfrey, Cuba Gooding Jr., Jim Carrey and Michael Richards.
To those of us who grew up in the '60's, The Dating Game was a part of all of our collective memories. The show always ended with the host and the winning, chosen couples blowing a big kiss to the audience. Ah, simpler, more innocent times, weren't they?