July 20, 2019


(CBS, November 2-12, 1953
NBC, January 7-March 31, 1956)

Goodson-Todman Productions

Bob Kennedy (pilot) & Dean Miller – Host (CBS)
Gene Rayburn – Host (NBC)
Bob Pfeiffer – Announcer (CBS)
Don Pardo (NBC) – Announcer, Mr. Mischief
Tommy Tompkins – Team Captain
Roger Peterson – Team Captain

            Choose Up Sides was a children’s game show created by the game show powerhouse team of Mark Goodson and Bill Todman and was the only show of theirs made specifically for that demographic. It was largely based on their earlier 1950 show, Beat the Clock, where contestants would try to perform a crazy stunt (like trying to get a bag off of their person without laying down or using their hands, or stacking paper cups with their mouths); however, instead of racing against a clock they were competing against other contestants. Clock stunt-designers Frank Wayne and Bob Howard were retained to do the same for Choose.

The CBS set.

            There were two versions of the show. Initially, Goodson-Todman Productions pitched the show to CBS with a pilot that had Bob Kennedy hosting. CBS picked it up with Dean Miller taking over the hosting duties and Bob Pfeiffer announcing but decided not to broadcast it nationally. Instead, it was aired locally in New York City from November 2-12, 1953. In 1956 NBC acquired a retooled version of the show hosted by Gene Rayburn and announced by Don Pardo.

Host Gene Rayburn with a player from the Bronco Busters.

            On both versions, the audience of children was divided up into two groups: “Space Cadets” and “Bronco Busters” (“Space Rangers” and “Cowboys” on the CBS version), with a team of four players in front (usually three boys and a girl).  On the CBS version, one kid from each team would compete in a stunt and the winner would get to toss two rings at a ring-toss board while the loser would only toss one. Each toss would net them a marked score, with a bonus ten points awarded to the team hit one of three “magic numbers” in their scoring. The kid who threw the “magic number” ring would also win a special prize. This pattern would continue until the show ran out of time. All the kids were given a “sportsmanship prize” while the winning team and several home viewers selected from a pool of write-ins were given a grand prize.

Mr. Mischief.

            The NBC version had adult team captains (Tommy Tompkins & Roger Peterson) dressed up in outfits corresponding to their team names who aided setting up for the stunts. Before each stunt, one of the players would pull out a random postcard from a kid at home that would win a prize along with the winning team. Stunts included any number of silly competitions including putting on an entire pile of clothing first, moving a bop bag clown around the stage with their head, or blowing sheets of paper into a basket. The winner of a stunt won 100 points for their team. The losing player was introduced to Mr. Mischief (Pardo doing a falsetto), a giant limited-movement wall puppet that would supply a timed stunt in which the player could earn 50 points for their team. Originally a whistle would signal the end of Mr. Mischief’s stunt, but it was later replaced by a balloon that would inflate in his mouth until it burst. Mr. Mischief also initiated a “Super Duper Doo” stunt where an audience member chosen by whose birthday was closest to an announced date would perform a stunt for a chance to win a grand prize at the end of a four-week period. Like the CBS version, the losing team was given a “sportsmanship award”.

The captain of the Space Cadets team.

            Choose Up Sides debuted on NBC on January 7, 1956 and ran for 13 weeks until March 31 when it was ultimately cancelled. Rayburn would go on to have a long association with Goodson-Todman, most notably helming their Match Game program from the 60s through the 80s. Pardo would become a prolific announcer, most well-known for his tenure on Saturday Night Live from its debut in 1975 until his death in 2014. Because of network practices of wiping at the time—deleting content from expensive recording media for reuse to save money and storage space—the status of the full show is currently unknown even though Goodson-Todman did keep an archive of all their programs which is currently owned by Freemantle Media. At least five episodes of the NBC run and the CBS pilot have aired on Game Show Network, the first NBC episode on Buzzr, and several are available for viewing online.

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