Remembering that Great Local TV Game Show, “Pick-A-Show”

Once upon a time, back in at least the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, the three major television stations in our Capital District broadcast area, WRGB-6, WTEN-10 and WAST-13 (no, those were WNYT’s earlier call letters) oftentimes produced their own five-day-a-week morning entertainment programs.  While Channel 13 had “Romper Room” (which I think every city in the United States had their own locally-produced version of this show), and WTEN had “Dialing for Dollars” (their excuse to run an old movie and call people to see if they were actually watching, if they were watching they won money), WRGB had probably the kitschiest game show I’ve ever seen – either locally or nationally.

It was called “Pick-A-Show.”  The program ran for about ten years, starting maybe in 1965 and ending around 1973 or 1974.

The program was part game show, part promotional event for the WRGB-WGY family of announcers and broadcasters and on-air talent, and it was also the chance for housewives throughout the Capital District to pick up a few extra dollars – as long as they could guess the winning answers.  And it starred David Allan, the songwriter-singer-announcer who at last report was working for WABY Radio as an on-air personality.

David Allan in front of the giant Pick-A-Show game board.  Image from The Best of Pick-A-Show, Scooter Records, 1972.
David Allan in front of the giant Pick-A-Show game board. Image from "The Best of Pick-A-Show," Scooter Records, 1972. Photo taken by Gerald Choinard.

This is most likely the only surviving image of David Allan and the giant Pick-A-Show game board, along with the giant cube of postcards and the telephone used to call contestants.

Game play was simple.  Those who wished to play Pick-A-Show sent in postcards with their names, addresses and a daytime telephone number.  Allan would reach into the bin, announce what city he would be calling, and start dialing.  The lucky caller – if he or she was home – would be asked by Allan the name of the Preview show that was announced at the start of the Pick-A-Show telecast (the “Preview show” was often an NBC primetime series like “Name of the Game” or “The Virginian” or one of the other programs WRGB, at that time an NBC affiliate, aired).  If the contestant knew the name of the preview show, then the game began.

The Pick-A-Show Game Board.  Photo from album The Best of Pick-A-Show, copyright Scooter Records, 1972.
The Pick-A-Show Game Board. Image from "The Best of Pick-A-Show," Scooter Records, 1972. Photo taken by Gerald Choinard.

If you can see the game board in the picture, you can see that on the left side of the game board are the illuminated letters W R G B.  The contestant had to guess which of the three shows on the top row of the game board had the letter “W” behind them.  Picking the “W” got the contestant five dollars, and the chance to move to the second round of play.

The second round meant choosing which of the four TV shows listed on the second row had the letter “R” behind them.  Remember, you only get two chances to find that “R”.  Finding it earns the contestant another $5.

Gameplay continues down to trying to find the letter “G” among five television shows, and the letter “B” among the bottom row of six shows.

Should a contestant get to the bottom row and successfully find the “B”, they had one chance to find the “6” behind one of six different WRGB-produced programs.  The picture I scanned wasn’t in very sharp focus, but I can make out that some of the shows listed in the “6” include such programs as “TV Tournament Time,” “Answers Please” and the “6 O’Clock News.”

The $505 amount seen in the picture was a progressive jackpot; the show would add $5 for every contestant who failed to successfully complete the game.

In addition to playing the telephone game, “Pick-A-Show” also, from time to time, had guests who were performing at the Colonie Coliseum stop by – maybe they would sing a song or make small talk with David Allan.  On occasion, several announcers and/or performers from WGY would visit the WRGB studios and entertain the viewers by singing a song or playing a guitar.

David Allan left WRGB in the mid-70’s and joined WAST-13, creating a different variation of “Pick-A-Show” with the call-in game “Pitfall.”  Same style of gameplay, in that you had to find certain prizes that were hidden behind the letters P, I, T, F, A, and LL.  Not as fun as Pick-A-Show, IMHO.

As for Pick-A-Show, I believe that all the episodes of the show were broadcast live, and I highly doubt that any episodes were ever saved to videotape.  The only evidence of the show’s existence was a 1972 record album, “The Best of Pick-A-Show,” that was produced as a fundraiser for the Muscular Dystrophy Associations of America.  The record album focuses on Allan’s humorous interactions with contestants, as well as musical performances by WRGB/WGY personalities Harry Downie and Earle Pudney, as well as a vocal number by General Electric Broadcasting President Reid L. Shaw.  Sadly, the record album has very little recorded gameplay, focusing instead on Allen’s telephone calls and the musical numbers.

Hey WRGB – maybe it’s time to have a “Retro” Week where you can bring back shows like “Pick-A-Show,” “TV Tournament Time,” “Student Spectrum,” “Teenage Barn,” “Answers Please” and “The Freddie Freihofer Show” – if not the original broadcasts, then how about creating new episodes for a few weeks?  Might be kind of fun.

Or maybe somebody in the WRGB archive might have a copy of an old episode of Pick-A-Show that could be shown on WRGB’s website?  Maybe?