Additional news reports from various sources about the "wayward stepchild" (as somebody termed it) of the original Squares:

To the list of "rotating center squares" in the new season of Hollywood Squares, which already includes Ellen DeGeneres, Alec Baldwin and classic Squares veteran Burt Reynolds, add the one name we never thought we'd see: The Master of The Hollywood Squares himself, Peter Marshall!

Both TV webmaster Steve Beverly and webmaster Dixon Hayes (who first broke the story on the Classic Squares site based on a recent Peter Marshall radio interview) report that Peter will occupy the center square for a week of shows being taped November 2, for airing in either late December or early January.

Peter, who is not a fan of the Whoopi Goldberg era shows and expressed early reservations about Henry Winkler's ability to handle producing a game show (although Winkler is also at the helm of GSN's new quiz Wintuition, hosted by Marc Summers), nonetheless had good things to say about his successor, Tom Bergeron, in an interview with Steve Beverly (which you can read in its entirety by going to

Premiering Sept. 16th, 2002!

King World Press Release:

Series' Updated Formula Includes Rotating Center Squares, Brand New Game Elements, Entirely New Set, Bold New Look and Logo

Los Angeles, CA; August 1, 2002 - Popular actress/comedian Ellen DeGeneres and feature film star Alec Baldwin have signed on to be Center Squares, as Hollywood Squares prepares to kick off its fifth season on Monday, September 16, 2002, it was announced today by the series' new Executive Producers Henry Winkler and Michael Levitt. DeGeneres will be the first of several high-profile celebrities to occupy the Center Square during the 2002-2003 season. Baldwin will follow her in the Center Square later in the season.

"As longtime fans of the show, Michael and I are determined to bring viewers more of what they want, and we know we will with Ellen DeGeneres and Alec Baldwin," said Winkler. "Ellen is one of Hollywood's sharpest wits, and we are thrilled that she's coming onboard as the first of our many rotating Center Squares. Alec is smart, unpredictable and has a wild sense of humor that is perfect for our new vision of the show."

"We're thrilled to have Ellen and Alec join us as Center Squares, as we prepare to kick off a season of great stars and great comedy," added Levitt. "The Center Square absolutely sets the tone for this show, and we are going to have some terrific stars in that role this year."

"I grew up watching Hollywood Squares," DeGeneres said. "I also grew up watching Gunsmoke. Unfortunately, that's not on the air anymore. I'm afraid of horses anyway, and this seems like it will be a lot more fun. So, let the games begin."

In addition to rotating the Center Square, Winkler and Levitt are making major changes to the series' overall look and feel. The set has been completely redesigned, a new team of writers is in place and contestants will now play the game standing rather than sitting. A new Bonus Round will include all nine celebrities, and will give each day's returning champion the opportunity to take home great prizes, including brand new automobiles, trips around the world and everybody's favorite, cash.

A lively new theme song will invite viewers to join the five-day-a-week party, and the new show opening will employ graphics that will give Squares a look unlike any other show on television. Fun and exciting footage of each celebrity guest will take viewers backstage to experience the same energy that fuels the series' enthusiastic studio audience. Another new feature this season will be that viewers will be able to submit their own questions. In addition, the series will be branded with a new logo.

The first and only female comedian to be summoned by Johnny Carson to sit down and chat with him following her first performance, on The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson in 1986, Ellen DeGeneres continues to break new comedic ground. She has starred in two comedy series bearing her name, and, beginning in Fall 2003, will host her own syndicated daytime talk show. This past season, she hosted VH-1's Divas Las Vegas, the Saturday Night Live Christmas Special and the 53rd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards. In 1997, DeGeneres was the recipient of the coveted Peabody Award, as well as the Emmy Award for writing. She has received numerous other Emmy Award nominations for performance, as well as The People's Choice Award, two Golden Globe nominations and two Screen Actors Guild Award nominations. In 1995, her first book, My Point…And I Do Have One, debuted at #1 on The New York Times bestseller list.

Alec Baldwin has starred in numerous critically-acclaimed feature films, including The Hunt for Red October, Glengarry Glen Ross, Malice, Pearl Harbor and Prelude to a Kiss, among others. In addition to his motion picture career, Baldwin has worked extensively in television, on Broadway and in regional theater, and has founded his own production company, El Dorado Pictures. In the past 12 years, Baldwin has hosted NBC's Saturday Night Live ten times. On Broadway, he was nominated for a Tony Award for his performance in the 1992 revival of Tennessee Williams' "A Street Car Named Desire," and was also nominated for an Emmy Award and a Golden Globe Award for the television movie of that same production. A staunch supporter of various causes related to public policy, Baldwin will donate all proceeds he receives from his appearance on Hollywood Squares to the Carol M. Baldwin Breast Cancer Research Fund, the charity named after his mother, a breast cancer survivor.

Hollywood Squares is co-produced by King World Studios West Inc. and Columbia TriStar Television in association with Fair Dinkum, Inc. and Michael Levitt Productions. It is distributed in the U.S. by King World Productions and globally by CBS Broadcast International.

ASSOCIATED PRESS 4/26/2002 04:49 pm

NEW JOB: Henry Winkler will take over as an executive producer of “Hollywood Squares”

Henry Winkler will take over as an executive producer of “Hollywood Squares,” but don’t look for him to replace Whoopi Goldberg in the center square.

The former Fonz from “Happy Days” will share producing duties for the syndicated game show’s fifth season with Michael Levitt, whose credits include “The Billboard Music Awards.”

The previous producers were let go soon after Goldberg announced her departure this month.

King World CEO Roger King admitted the show “is dying,” and said Winkler and Levitt were brought in with the hope that their longtime Hollywood connections could draw better talent.

“It’s not as funny,” he told Variety for Friday’s editions. “We want to make it fun again.”

King said he expected to find a new star for the center square of the show’s Tic-Tac-Toe board.

The Fonz Gets Gig to Produce Squares

Hollywood Squares' production shakeup is leading to two producers without significant game show experience to take over the show for its fifth season.

Henry Winkler, who gained international stardom as Happy Days' Fonzie from 1974-84, and Michael Levitt have been named executive producers of the somewhat-troubled game for the 2002-03 season.

The decision comes one week after King World CEO Roger King declined to renew the contract of co-executive producer and Center Square Whoopi Goldberg and fired Moffitt-Lee Productions as the overseer of the series.

King has been quoted as saying he wants Squares to move to a more "game show feel" than an "entertainment show feel." The syndication boss also is said to want the series to move into a more family-oriented direction, as are Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! than the heavy emphasis on sexual references of the past four seasons.

The series is down 29 per cent year-to-year in ratings through the week ending April 7.
Source: The Game Show Convention Center

Winkler, Levitt Join Squares
By Steve McClellan
Broadcasting & Cable
4/25/2002 3:52:00 PM

King World Productions hired two new executive producers for Hollywood Squares -- veteran actor/director/producer Henry Winkler (best known for his role as Fonzie on Happy Days) and producer Michael Levitt.

The pair will replace the outgoing John Moffit and Pat Lee.

Winkler’s TV credits include MacGyver and Fox/Sci Fi Channel’s Sightings.

Levitt has produced a slew of entertainment specials, including The Billboard Music Awards from 1997 through 2001.

"This is incredibly exciting," CBS Enterprises and King World CEO Roger King said. "Nobody knows the classic format of Hollywood Squares better than we do and, with the addition of the Winkler/Levitt team’s expertise in talent relations, writing and producing, the show’s going to be more fun to watch than ever."

April 22, 2002 (Electronic Media):
The battle for CBS prime access
'Squares,' 'Millionaire' both need big names

Some prime real estate is available for the right star.

Buena Vista Television and King World Productions are each seeking an A-list name to a fill high-profile seat on their respective game shows, "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" and "Hollywood Squares."

Both series are cleared on the CBS owned-and-operated stations, and both are under enormous pressure to fill the slots quickly as stations ready promo spots for the fall and decide which show deserves the coveted access time slot.

General managers at the CBS O&Os are keeping a close eye on the overall situation. The station group paid dearly for the rights to "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" last year, prompting even some Buena Vista executives to charge that "Millionaire" would be the successor to "Squares" in the prestigious access time slots come fall.

However, a long silence in the Buena Vista camp on who will fill Regis Philbin's shoes in syndication has likely jeopardized that hope. One major-market CBS O&O general manager was quick to note that at least for this season, "Hollywood Squares" will remain in the access time slot with "Millionaire" likely being placed in early fringe. Of course, should "Millionaire" prove to be a hit, that could change in the 2003 season.

"Right now, it's already too late to make a significant programming shift, at least on our station," said the general manager. "Its true we spent a lot on ['Millionaire'], probably enough to justify putting it in access. But without the buzz we were hoping to generate from an A-list host and a prime-time airing, it could be suicide to take that kind of gamble right now."

However, the departure of Whoopi Goldberg as center square and executive producers John Moffitt and Pat Lee on "Hollywood Squares" created uncertainty for the established show. Some analysts last week speculated that the show's new troubles, combined with a 24 percent dip in ratings from last year, could spell cancellation. That, of course, will not happen with two years remaining on station contracts.

Still, a star of Ms. Goldberg's caliber can be costly. Her salary had been estimated to be as much as $10 million a year and, according to sources close to the situation, the hunt is on for a replacement. As for "Millionaire," speculation has run rampant since the syndicated version of the series was announced last summer.

Speculation on star names for both series continues, with benefits and drawbacks arising with every name mentioned. Rosie O'Donnell has been rumored to be a possibility for both projects (although few people actually expect any deal to come to fruition) after leaving her talk show at the end of the season. Some insiders speculate that "Squares" could end up rotating a trio of center squares including regulars such as Gilbert Gottfried, although most experts feel that stability would be more successful than cost-efficiency.

On "Millionaire," there is some movement to pressure Buena Vista into making a last-ditch effort to land Regis Philbin, who previously announced that he would not take the job. "Survivor" host Jeff Probst is another name being tossed around.

"They are hot right now and want to get this taken care of as soon as possible," one insider said. "For Buena Vista, they clearly need to make an impact to justify the costs stations paid for the show. However, King World is looking to make this more of a game show than an entertainment show, and whoever is signed will reflect that."

Indeed, the departure of Moffitt-Lee Productions signals an overall change in attitude for "Squares." Head writer and show regular Bruce Vilanch is also expected to join the exodus while a new production company, almost certainly with more game show experience, is brought in to take the reins.

"Pat and John are great producers who we have a lot of respect for, but we feel that we need to make some changes on the show," said Roger King, chairman and CEO of CBS Enterprises and King World Productions.

The good news for "Squares" fans is that host and Emmy-winner Tom Bergeron will return even if he is named co-host of CBS's "The Early Show" as many have speculated. The show's schedule would be adjusted to fit Mr. Bergeron's schedule if that happens, as "The Early Show" is based in New York while "Squares" tapes in Los Angeles. Fortunately, "Squares" typically tapes on the weekends, making the schedule easier on the well-regarded host.
© Copyright 2002 by Crain Communications


When it comes to changes on syndicated game show Hollywood Squares, the departure of Whoopi Goldberg as center square is just the tip of the iceberg. The show will have a whole new look and feel next season -- and, hopefully, better ratings.

Just days after Whoopi's departure was confirmed, King World Productions gave the show's two other executive producers -- John Moffit and Pat Lee -- their walking papers.

Another expected departure is Emmy Award-winning comedy writer Bruce Vilanch, whose ties are closer to Moffit, Lee and Goldberg than to King World.

And Caroline Rhea, who appears regularly on the show, will likely leave or cut back her appearances next season given her commitment to her own new syndicated talk show.

Emmy winner Tom Bergeron will return as host of Hollywood Squares for a fifth season even if he is named co-host of CBS's The Early Show.

King World executives confirmed Thursday Bergeron will return to the series despite the upheaval in the show's production ranks this week. The show's taping schedule would be adjusted to accommodate Bergeron if he takes over as CBS's morning show honcho.

Moffitt and Lee have been the show runners for Squares since its launch four seasons ago. The pair have had a longtime association with Goldberg, but sources said King World chairman Roger King never warmed to them. In a prepared statement, however, King said the pair are "great producers, but we feel we need to make some changes for next season."

One reason, of course, is that the show is very costly to produce (Whoopi's salary alone was said to approach $10 million annually), and it hasn't delivered the ratings that King World and its partner station group, CBS, had expected of it.

In February, the show averaged a 3.8 rating and 7 share in the top 100 markets, according to a Katz Media Group analysis of the Nielsen Media Research Station Index ratings for the sweep period. That's well below the two top performers in the genre, Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy!, not to mention a bunch of other shows it competes with on a daily basis (including Entertainment Tonight, Friends and Seinfeld).

Who will get the center square next season remains to be determined. Before Whoopi got the nod, King World reportedly had lengthy talks with Jason Alexander. Billy Crystal was also approached. "You'll be seeing lots of changes on the show next year," one source close to the show said.
-Sources: Broadcasting and Cable, Game Show Convention Center

And while you're at it, be sure to visit Dixon Hayes' excellent tribute site to Squares:

(Click on banner)

THE HOLLYWOOD SQUARES, created by Merrill Heatter and Bob Quigley, was a Heatter-Quigley Production in association with Filmways Television. © Copyright 2002. This unofficial site is not affiliated with Heatter-Quigley, Inc., MGM Television, King World Studios West, Inc., Fair Dinkum, Michael Levitt Productions, or Columbia Tristar Television.