TelevisionWeek Executive Editor Tom Gilbert joins our roster of bloggers with this forum all about classic television, where anything from "Leave It to Beaver" to "Malcolm in the Middle" is fair game for discussion. Reunion specials, DVD releases of classic shows, vintage commercials -- anything that's ever been telecast is the hot topic here.


Timeless TV

R.I.P.: Charles Nelson Reilly

May 30, 2007 5:51 PM

There used to be what you called television “personalities”—folks who never were big stars or associated with a particular role, but who nonetheless frequented the airwaves, forever popping up on talk shows or game shows or in character parts. Charles Nelson Reilly was one of those people.

Like many such personalities (Peggy Cass, Kitty Carlisle, Paul Lynde and Orson Bean are others), Reilly rose to showbiz prominence on the Broadway stage, where he came to the attention of the New York-based television producers. But Reilly had that little extra bit of oomph, a unique, fun quality that set him apart and made you want to see more of him.

While he could play persnickety and fastidious character roles beautifully and mug it up with the best of the comic actors, it was when Reilly’s own bright wit was allowed to shine, as it did on talk and game shows, that he was in his element.

Although he had scores of guest appearances and regular roles on “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir” and “Lidsville,” he is best known for his appearances on the ’70s revival of “The Match Game,” where he was allowed to sparkle, as he does in this clip.

A Tony Award-winning actor, a Tony-nominated director and a drama teacher to boot, he mastered several disciplines. But there’s no denying that he was one singular sensation.

GSN will honor Reilly Saturday, June 2, with a marathon of "Match Game" episodes from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. ET. GSN's original documentary "The Real Match Game Story: Behind the Blank" airs immediately afterward from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. And on Sunday night (really Monday a.m.), June 3, GSN will air episodes of "What's My Line?" from 1964 and "I've Got A Secret" from 1972 on which Reilly appeared, at 3 a.m. and 3:30 AM ET, respectively.


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Comments (3)


I'm setting my TiVo for those shows -- "Match Game" rules!!!!

Jim Forkan:

Hi Tom,
Too bad the networks and stations that reported Charles Nelson Reilly's passing couldnt' give him a minute or two to shine. Viewers who didn't see him on various game shows or on variety shows like Dean Martin's don't know how funny he was!

Tom Gilbert:

Thanks for the comment, Jim ... nice to hear from you. I had forgotten all about his appearances on "The Dean Martin Show"; he was indeed great on those. He was always underappreciated, methinks.

Best regards,

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