The Merv Griffin Show (TV Series 1962–1986)
|Genre||Comedy, Family, Music, Talk-Show|
|Content Rating||TV-PG (TV-PG)|
|Awards||Nominated for 1 Golden Globe. Another 11 wins & 19 nominations.|
|Company||National Broadcasting Company (NBC), Merv Griffin Entertainment, CBS|
The Merv Griffin Show
The Merv Griffin Show is an American television talk show starring Merv Griffin. The series ran from October 1, 1962 to March 29, 1963 on NBC, May 1965 to August 15, 1969 in first-run syndication, from August 18, 1969 to February 11, 1972 at 11:30 PM ET weeknights on CBS and again in first-run syndication from February 14, 1972 to September 5, 1986.
After a short run on NBC from October 1962 to March 1963, Merv Griffin launched a syndicated version of his talk show produced by Westinghouse (Group W) Broadcasting, which made its debut in May 1965. Intended as a nighttime companion to The Mike Douglas Show and succeeding Steve Allen and Regis Philbin in the time slot, this version of the Griffin program aired in multiple time slots throughout North America (many stations ran it in the daytime, and other non-NBC affiliates broadcast it opposite The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson). Stations had the option of carrying either a 60-minute or a 90-minute version. Griffin's announcer-sidekick was the veteran British character actor Arthur Treacher, who had been his mentor. Treacher would introduce Griffin with the phrase: "...and now, here's the dear boy himself, Meeeer-vyn!" after reading off the list of guests for that evening's show.
Seeing his strong ratings, CBS offered him a network series opposite the powerhouse Tonight Show, and his program moved there in the fall of 1969, with his debut guest lineup consisting of Hedy Lamarr, Ted Sorensen, Leslie Uggams, Moms Mabley, and Woody Allen. Although the series did well enough to quickly force the cancellation of another Carson competitor, ABC's The Joey Bishop Show, it was unable to make much of a dent in Carson's ratings. Furthermore, the network was uncomfortable with the guests Griffin wanted, who often spoke out against the Vietnam War and on other taboo topics. When political activist Abbie Hoffman was Griffin's guest in April 1970, CBS blurred the video of Hoffman so viewers at home would not see his trademark American flag pattern shirt, even though other guests had worn the same shirt in the past, uncensored, and Pat Boone appeared in an automobile commercial on that very broadcast wearing a similar flag-motif shirt.
That same year, Griffin relocated his show from New York to Los Angeles, but without sidekick Arthur Treacher, who told him "at my age, I don't want to move, especially to someplace that shakes!". From that point on, Griffin would do the announcing himself, and walk on stage with the phrase: "And now..., here I come!"
However, Griffin's show continued to rank in second place behind Carson, even after the move. By early 1972, sensing that his time at CBS was ending, and tired of the restrictions imposed by the network, Griffin secretly signed a contract with Metromedia and its production arm, Metromedia Producers Corporation (MPC) to continue his program in syndication soon as CBS canceled Griffin's show. Within a few months, Griffin was fired by CBS. His new show began the following Monday and proved to be more successful than its network counterpart. This version returned Merv to late-afternoon and late night time slots. Metromedia also gave Griffin prime time clearances on the company's group of independent stations, which included outlets in New York, Los Angeles, Minneapolis–Saint Paul and Washington, D.C. Beginning in 1981, The Merv Griffin Show was cut back to one hour in order to accommodate stations who preferred that length over the 90-minute version.
King World Productions (now CBS Television Distribution) took over syndication of the program in 1984 as part of a wider, blanket deal with Merv Griffin Enterprises which included the launch of the nighttime version of Wheel of Fortune, and later a revival of Jeopardy! Though MPC no longer syndicated the program, Metromedia's independent stations continued to carry it until they were sold in early 1986 to News Corporation and 20th Century Fox, who used the stations as the nucleus of the Fox Broadcasting Company. As Fox was already setting up its own late-night talk show, The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers, the former Metromedia stations dropped the show soon thereafter. The show was canceled altogether later that year, and aired its final episode on September 5, 1986.
Griffin's conversational style created the perfect atmosphere for conducting intelligent interviews that could be serious with some and light-hearted with others. Rather than interview a guest for a cursory 5- or 6-minute segment, Merv preferred lengthy, in-depth discussions with many stretching out past 30 minutes. In addition, Griffin sometimes dedicated an entire show to a single person or topic, allowing for greater exploration of his guests’ personality and thoughts.
Griffin’s idea of the perfect show was to have as many diverse guests as possible, from entertainers to scientists, Hollywood glamour to Vegas variety, and from comedians to political leaders. A perfect example lies in an episode from September 1965 which featured the zany comedian Phyllis Diller followed by an interview with Capt. Mitsuo Fuchida, the Japanese navy officer who planned and led the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941— a truly unique moment in television history.
For over a quarter of a century, more than 25,000 guests appeared on The Merv Griffin Show including numerous significant cultural, political, social and musical icons of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. Four U.S. Presidents -- Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan appeared, as did Dr. Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Dr. Jonas Salk and Robert F. Kennedy. Legendary actors and directors who appeared on the program include Orson Welles, John Wayne, Judy Garland (who took over as guest hostess for Griffin on one program in January 1969, six months before her death), Doris Day (Griffin's longtime friend), Robert De Niro, Tom Cruise, Sophia Loren, George Clooney, Tom Hanks, Gene Wilder, Francis Ford Coppola, Dustin Hoffman, Clint Eastwood and Grace Kelly. Musical performers and composers ranging from Devo to Aretha Franklin with Bobby Vinton, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Marvin Gaye, Merle Haggard, The Bee Gees and Johnny Cash all guesting. The Merv Griffin Show hosted Whitney Houston’s first TV appearance in 1983. Sports figures interviewed by Merv on the show include Muhammad Ali, Joe Namath, Roger Maris, Willie Mays and Reggie Jackson. In addition, many of the most important comedians of the era were on the show including early performances by George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Andy Kaufman, Steve Martin and Jerry Seinfeld, who made his TV debut on the show in 1981. Other notable guests that rarely made TV appearances showed up to talk to Merv include Andy Warhol, Norman Rockwell and Salvador Dalí.
Griffin's longtime bandleader was Mort Lindsey. Griffin frequently clowned and sang novelty songs with trumpeter Jack Sheldon.
In 2012, Reelin' In the Years Productions started handling all rights to the series on behalf of The Griffin Group. As of February 2014, 1,800 episodes, spanning over 2,000 hours of footage, have been located and preserved for future generations. Episodes of the show have been released on DVDs. Selected edited episodes, distributed by Paul Brownstein Productions, are airing on the GetTV channel.
In popular culture
Seinfeld spoofed the show in Season 9, Episode 6, “The Merv Griffin Show,” in which Cosmo Kramer pretends that he hosts his own talk show using the discarded set from the show, which he sets up in his apartment.
Andy Kaufman's appearance on the show was a feature in the plot of the 1999 biopic Man on the Moon, with Griffin being played by character actor Mike Villani. The movie claims that all guests of the show receive an autographed photo of Griffin, coupons, and Turtle Wax.
The Merv Griffin Show was parodied on Second City Television, with Griffin played by Rick Moranis. The sketches included a crossover with The Andy Griffith Show and a mash-up of 2001: A Space Odyssey and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
Since making her TV debut in June 1983, pop/R&B singer Whitney Houston’s performance of Home has been used heavily in Houston’s discography. The performance made its way onto Whitney: The Greatest Hits DVD (2000), the DVD version of Houston’s 25th anniversary debut album (2010), “We Will Always Love You: A Grammy Salute to Whitney Houston” (2012), Whitney Houston Live: Her Greatest Performances (2014), and the 2018 docu-film Whitney. The performance is considered one of Houston’s best and her introduction to the music world.
Awards and nominations
|1971||Nominated||Golden Globe Award||Best TV Actor - Musical/Comedy||Merv Griffin|
|1970||Nominated||Emmy Award||Outstanding Achievement in Music Direction of a Variety, Musical or Dramatic Program||Mort Lindsey||Episode from Las Vegas featuring Chuck Connors, Joey Heatherton, Buddy Greco and Jack E. Leonard|
|1971||Nominated||Emmy Award||Outstanding Achievement in Music Direction of a Variety, Musical or Dramatic Program||Mort Lindsey||For episode "Big Band Salute" (Part 1 and 2)|
|1976||Nominated||Emmy Award||Outstanding Individual Achievement in Daytime Programming||Richard W. Wilson||For episode with Tony Bennett, Peggy Lee, and Fred Astaire|
|1974||Nominated||Daytime Emmy Awards||Best Individual Director for a Talk, Service or Variety Program||Ron Appling||For episode with Clint Eastwood, Forrest Tucker and Stanley Myron Handelman|
|Nominated||Daytime Emmy Awards||Best Host or Hostess in a Talk, Service, or Variety Series||Merv Griffin|
|Won||Daytime Emmy Awards||Outstanding Talk, Service or Variety Series||Bob Murphy|
|Won||Daytime Emmy Awards||Best Writing for a Talk, Service or Variety Program||Tony Garafalo, Bob Murphy, Merv Griffin||For episode with Billie Jean King, Mark Spitz, Hank Aaron, and Johnny Unitas|
|Won||Daytime Emmy Awards||Best Individual Director for a Talk, Service or Variety Program||Dick Carson||For episode with Rosemary Clooney, Helen O'Connell, Fran Warren, and Kay Starr|
|1975||Won||Daytime Emmy Awards||Outstanding Individual Director for a Daytime Variety Program||Dick Carson||For episode with Robert Goulet, Louis Prima, and Shecky Greene|
|1976||Nominated||Daytime Emmy Awards||Outstanding Host or Hostess in a Talk, Service or Variety Series||Merv Griffin|
|1977||Nominated||Daytime Emmy Awards||Outstanding Individual Director for a Daytime Variety Program||Dick Carson||For episode "Merv Griffin in Israel"|
|Nominated||Daytime Emmy Awards||Outstanding Host or Hostess in a Talk, Service or Variety Series||Merv Griffin|
|Won||Daytime Emmy Awards||Outstanding Talk, Service or Variety Series||Bob Murphy|
|1978||Nominated||Daytime Emmy Awards||Outstanding Talk, Service or Variety Series||Bob Murphy|
|1981||Won||Daytime Emmy Awards||Outstanding Variety Series||Peter Barsocchini|
|1982||Won||Daytime Emmy Awards||Outstanding Host or Hostess in a Variety Series||Merv Griffin|
|1983||Won||Daytime Emmy Awards||Outstanding Variety Series||Peter Barsocchini|
|Won||Daytime Emmy Awards||Outstanding Individual Direction for a Variety Show||Dick Carson|
|1984||Won||Daytime Emmy Awards||Outstanding Variety Series||Bob Murphy and Peter Barsocchini|
|Won||Daytime Emmy Awards||Outstanding Host or Hostess in a Variety Series||Merv Griffin|
|1985||Won||Daytime Emmy Awards||Outstanding Directing in a Talk/Service Show||Dick Carson|