Jack Barry (born Jack Barasch; March 20, 1918 – May 2, 1984) was an American television personality and executive who made a name for himself in the game show field. Barry served as host of several game shows in his career, many of which he developed along with Dan Enright as part of their joint operation Barry & Enright Productions.
Barry's reputation became tarnished due to his involvement in the 1950s quiz show scandals and the ensuing fallout affected his career for over a decade.
Early life and career
Barry was born and raised in Lindenhurst, New York, on Long Island. His family was Jewish. He graduated from Lindenhurst Senior High School and the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, in Philadelphia. In the 1940s, he began hosting programs on radio, including AM 710 WOR. Through his radio work, he met his eventual business partner Dan Enright.
Once television broadcasting began, Barry and Enright got involved in local programming, and eventually national shows, thanks in part to the success of early Jack Barry hits such as the children's show Winky Dink and You, reputedly the world's first-ever interactive television program. Barry and Enright also produced Juvenile Jury, Life Begins at Eighty, and Wisdom of the Ages. In the 1950s, Barry and Enright got involved in game shows, with Barry hosting The Big Surprise. He was eventually dismissed from his hosting duties and was replaced by Mike Wallace, persuading Barry to begin packaging game shows by himself.
Quiz show scandal
In 1956, Barry and Enright launched Tic-Tac-Dough and Twenty-One, the latter sponsored by Geritol. Both quiz shows were hosted by Barry. In a 1992 PBS documentary, Barry's partner, Dan Enright, said that after the first unrigged broadcast of Twenty-One, sponsor Geritol complained to Barry and Enright the following day about the dullness of that episode (the two contestants repeatedly missed questions). According to Enright, "from that moment on, we decided to rig Twenty-One." The show was then meticulously choreographed, right down to how contestants comported themselves on the air, making them complicit in the deception.
In 1958, a match between challenger Charles Van Doren and champion Herb Stempel was found to have been rigged, with Van Doren's victory having been pre-determined by the producers. (The 1994 movie Quiz Show was based on the Stempel-Van Doren contests.) Within three months of the published revelation, Twenty-One was cancelled. Dough Re Mi and three other shows were taken over by NBC. Another Barry-Enright production, Tic Tac Dough, was cancelled as well. Barry next hosted the nighttime version of a new show Barry and Enright created with Robert Noah and Buddy Piper, Concentration. With the quiz show scandal heating up, Barry left Concentration after four weeks. Barry and Enright were forced to sell all rights of their shows to NBC.
Though Enright and producer Albert Freedman actually carried out the rigging of Twenty-One, Barry admitted in the 1970s and 1980s his role in covering up for the partners. However, Barry himself was apparently not averse to "juicing" a show, even after the Twenty-One and Tic-Tac-Dough debacles left his career in eclipse. A veteran quiz producer once said that in the 1960s, when Barry was working on a pilot of a Mark Goodson–Bill Todman production featuring "spontaneous" filmed responses, Barry fed his respondents scripted lines to make them funnier (game show pilots sometimes contain scripted elements for the purpose of helping to "sell" the game to a network).
After the scandal
Enright found television work in Canada with Columbia-Screen Gems, while Barry remained in New York. Unable to find any TV jobs, Barry worked as the Executive Vice President for the Fragrance Process Company, a Manhattan-based chemical firm that manufactured scented pellets used for packaging products. Barry had purchased stock in the company as an investment earlier in the 1950s while he was still working in TV, but when his TV jobs dried up, the company offered him a full-time position. In the spring of 1961, Barry attempted a return to TV hosting a local series called Kidding Around for WNTA-TV (now WNET) in New York. This show, which was similar to Juvenile Jury, was cancelled after six weeks when Barry contracted mononucleosis and was unable to work for several months.
In the fall of 1961, Barry moved to Hollywood, Florida, where he and Dan Enright still owned a small AM radio station, WGMA (now WLQY), which they had purchased in 1957; Barry ran the station for nine months and used it as a base of operations for a new production company to create game shows. He developed a game show called Hole in One, which he hosted for station WLBW-TV (now WPLG) in Miami in the spring of 1962. The show combined a word game with golf and offered a prize of $5,000 to anyone able to sink nine holes-in-one in a row. The show was cancelled after thirteen weeks.
Move to Los Angeles
In the fall of 1962 Barry moved his family again, this time to Los Angeles, after landing a job with KTLA (Channel 5). First, he hosted an updated version of Kidding Around, the show he had hosted the previous year in New York, then helmed another game show, You Don't Say, from November 1962 to January 1963. NBC picked up You Don't Say for its daytime schedule, but the hosting job went to Tom Kennedy. Back on the KTLA front, Barry's workload gradually increased: in January 1963, Kidding Around expanded to 60 minutes in length and morphed into a variety show, re-titled The Jack Barry Show. Originally a weekly program, the show gained popularity by featuring celebrities performing in Los Angeles who wanted to promote their local appearances. The show continued for two years during which at one point it became a daily program.
An interesting feature of The Jack Barry Show was the appearance of a group of five children dubbed "The Juvenile Jury" (and later "The Paramount Panel", as KTLA was then owned by Paramount Pictures), who commented on news and other current events amusingly. Art Linkletter, at that time, had a popular program based principally on such a format, so in some sense, the Barry show was attempting to capture this audience segment (as well as revive the memory of one of Barry's popular 1950s TV creations). Notable among the child actors on this panel was Gary Goetzman, today a well-known director and producer of major films. Barry had a number of artists and comedians as guests on the show who had been blacklisted during the McCarthy period of the 1950s and were attempting to return to the American stage in the mid-1960s. The musical director of the program, Kip Walton, was responsible for bringing in major jazz artists with regularity, such as Lionel Hampton.
Barry also hosted the game shows By the Numbers, Addograms, and Pick 'n' Choose, as well as a two-hour talk show titled L.A. Today. In 1964, KTLA-TV was purchased from Paramount by an investment group headed by Gene Autry, which later controlled the California Angels (now the Los Angeles Angels) baseball team and Channel 5. Autry overhauled the station's schedule and dropped most of the game and variety shows, and Barry lost his job with the station in August 1964. Barry spent the next two years working primarily as a game show consultant to other producers. Barry even dabbled in acting, playing a newsman on the premiere of the mid-1960s TV series Batman. He also assisted direct several episodes of Batman in 1966. He also did a guest reporter spot on the TV series The Addams Family.
Working in Canada
In 1966, Barry accepted an offer from Dan Enright, who was working for Screen Gems in Canada, to collaborate on small Canadian-produced quiz shows. Barry hosted Photo Finish, shot in Montreal, and It's a Match and The Little People, taped in Toronto. It was on these shows that a number of young American and Canadian producers and directors got their start, including Mark Phillips and Sidney M. Cohen. Rather than move to Canada, Barry commuted from his home in Los Angeles working for 10 days at a time taping several episodes of his shows. By 1968, the commute was wearing on Barry and his wife, Patte, threatened to walk out on him with their two small children if he did not find work closer to home. With the family's finances in dire straits, Barry briefly moved his family to Southern Spain to find an inexpensive place to live. It was here that Barry's savings finally ran out.
Barry then borrowed $40,000 from his father-in-law and put a down payment on a Los Angeles-area radio station (KKOP 93.5 FM, Redondo Beach, later renamed KFOX, now KDAY). In later interviews, he stated that he bought the station specifically because it would require him to have a license from the FCC, and that if the FCC would be willing to grant him a license, it would decisively demonstrate that his reputation was no longer "tainted" by the game show scandals. "Slowly," said a 1984 article in TV Guide that discussed game show hosts, "he began to receive calls: Would he fill in for five weeks on this game show? Yes. Of course." In December 1968, Barry embarked on an idea that would launch his national comeback, and eventually become the most successful game show project of his career. He developed and produced two pilots for The Joker's Wild emceed by Allen Ludden. CBS held off on picking up the series at first. Finally, in 1969 Barry became a host again, for ABC's The Generation Gap, replacing original host Dennis Wholey for the final weeks of its series. In the summer of 1969, Barry entered into a limited association with Goodson-Todman Productions to collaborate on new game show creations but the partnership was short-lived. In 1970, Barry produced a pilot with a similar concept to The Joker's Wild called The Honeymoon Game, hosted by Jim McKrell. After that failed to sell, Barry reworked the format and launched a local version of The Joker's Wild in 1971 on Los Angeles' KTLA, while early in that same year also selling The Reel Game to ABC. Barry also hosted this show, pitting three contestants in answering questions centered around vintage newsreel footage, for cash prizes, and the chance for a new car (which no contestants won during the run). The series ran weekly in prime-time for 16 weeks.
The Joker's Wild made its national debut on CBS in 1972 (debuting on the same day as The Price Is Right and Gambit) with Barry hosting and packaging the show (under the Jack Barry Productions name) until CBS cancelled it in 1975. Jack Barry Productions, meanwhile, also packaged Hollywood's Talking, Geoff Edwards' first game show, and Blank Check, hosted by veteran quiz and game host and announcer Art James. Even before Joker, however, Barry had displayed no loss of concurrent hosting and production skill, doing both with The Reel Game and a 1970s revival of Juvenile Jury.
Barry even brought Dan Enright back as The Joker's Wild's executive producer toward the end of its first network run, mentioning Enright at the end of the final CBS installment. The two renewed their working partnership full-time in 1976, launching Break the Bank, hosted by Tom Kennedy, on ABC's daytime lineup. When ABC cancelled the show despite decent ratings, Barry himself hosted and produced the show for weekly syndication during the 1976–77 season. In 1975, Jack Barry became the first client of what became the powerhouse Creative Artist Agency.
In the fall of 1976, Barry sold reruns of The Joker's Wild's final CBS season to several stations, including New York's WOR-TV and Los Angeles' KTLA. These reruns rated highly enough that Barry and Enright chose to bring the game back into production for first-run syndication beginning in 1977, with Barry again the host. The show was distributed by Dick Colbert Television Sales and produced at the studio facilities of Chris Craft's KCOP-TV. The series was seen in Los Angeles on KHJ-TV, despite being produced at KCOP, and despite the test run of the final CBS season having aired on KTLA the season before. Joker eventually did air on its flagship, KCOP, for two seasons, before moving back to KHJ on March 4, 1984.
The new, syndicated Joker was a huge success, enough that it enabled Barry to reach back to his days as a children's program creator and host, launching in 1979 Joker! Joker!! Joker!!!, a weekly kids' version of The Joker's Wild in which children could win savings bonds (their family members assisted them in playing the bonus rounds).
The new Joker was so successful that Barry and Enright gambled on reviving a show whose reputation had been somewhat damaged by the ancient quiz show scandal. Tic-Tac-Dough, with new host Wink Martindale, first had an unsuccessful eight-week run on CBS' daytime schedule in 1978. The syndicated run of the show (debuting in the fall of 1978) became successful and ran for eight years with Martindale and in its final year, with Jim Caldwell as host. From there, Barry & Enright in the 1970s and early 1980s developed and produced games like Bullseye, Play the Percentages, Hot Potato, and Hollywood Connection. They also produced several unsold pilots such as Decisions, Decisions. They developed a resurrected Twenty-One in 1982, though this version never saw air. In due course, Barry & Enright Productions moved to film and series television production work.
In his final years, Barry renewed ties with NBC and began developing game show projects, including Hot Potato, which proved to be his last that made it to television. He also made an attempt to sell The Joker's Wild and Tic Tac Dough to NBC affiliates in an attempt to remove a winnings limit of $50,000 imposed on the former series due to the amount of CBS affiliates (in compliance with a network rule) airing both series, as NBC imposed no such winnings limit on its or its affiliates' programming. That limit was eventually removed shortly before Barry's death.
Barry also started a specialty TV company named Jack Barry Cable, which served customers in the Los Angeles area. The company was sold shortly after his death in 1984.
Barry married violinist Marcia Van Dyke in 1952. They had two sons, Jonathan and Jeffrey. The marriage ended in divorce in 1958. On February 14, 1960, Barry wed Patte Preble, who had worked as an associate producer on the Barry-Enright game show Concentration. Their daughter Barbara was born in 1961 and son Douglas in 1963.
In 1981, Barry, along with then-producer Ron Greenberg, began grooming regular stand-in Jim Peck as his successor for The Joker's Wild. Peck had periodically stood in for Barry, and Barry had planned on announcing his retirement at the opening of the eighth-season premiere in September 1984, then handing over the hosting duties to Peck.
However, on May 2, 1984, less than a month after completing Joker's seventh syndicated season and returning from a visit to his daughter in Europe, Barry suffered a massive cardiac arrest during a morning jog in Central Park. He died at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan later that day. His remains are interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale, California.
Rather than replacing his partner with Peck, Dan Enright hired Bill Cullen as the new host of Joker, a role he held until September 1986, when the syndicated version ended.
In popular culture
Barry was portrayed by Christopher McDonald in the 1994 film Quiz Show.