“Honesty is the best policy. We had a show last week that laid the biggest bomb! I’ve seen bombs in my day, but this one made the H-bomb look like a two-inch salute.”
Comedian Jackie Gleason returned to national television after a two-year absence as host of the panel show You’re in the Picture, a show that would last for only one episode, inspire a live thirty minute apology by Gleason the following week, and lead to an all-out war of the wills with CBS
On the deubt episode, four celebrity panelists (including Pat Harrington, Jr. and Pat Carroll, later known to the world as the voice of Ursula the Sea Witch) put their heads through a giant painting, seven feet high and ten feet wide.
The panelists were not able to see the paintings within which they were framed. The five used that night were Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka-Dot Bikini, Goldilocks and the Three Beats, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Pocahontas Resuces John Smith and (pictured) The Burlesque Beef Trust Girls.
Gleason would give the panel a single clue as to the identity of the painting and the panelists would, in turn, ask questions about what he or she was doing in the picture.
The show was clearly cooked up to suck off some of the success of established panel shows I’ve Got a Secret and What’s My Line. However, the lack of an average joe contestat to root for, panelists being virtually imprisoned behing the wall of a set, unable to gesture or create any physical funny business, plus the fact that Gleason had never warmed to the concept himself, led to a painfully pitiful half-hour of television.
But Gleason was still at the top of his game in 1961, and what he did the following week probably saved his career. Read the full story here.