First episode: June 19, 1952
    Bill's first episode: July 3, 1952
Last episode: April 3, 1967
Seen weekly in prime time on CBS at various times  
 
Bill joined the panel of this popular guessing game on its third episode, and stayed for the next fifteen years.

According to Gil Fates in his What's My Line? memoir, the idea for a show called I've Got A Secret was brought to Goodson-Todman by comedy writer Allan Sherman and his partner, Howard Merrill.  The producers, of course, recognized it as a simple variation on their What's My Line? and told the young pair they didn't want to rip off their own successful program.  "You might as well," Sherman said, "because if you don't start copying your shows, someone else will."  Goodson and Todman agreed, paid both men a royalty and named Sherman associate producer of the new venture.  Years later, Sherman would make a name for himself with a series of novelty folk songs including Hello Mudda, Hello Fadda.

Popular Garry Moore was chosen to host the show.  There was a great deal of turnover on the panel in the first year of the series, perhaps as the producers worked to find the proper chemistry.  None of the original panelists (actress Louise Albritton, comic actor Orson Bean, Broadway vet Melville Cooper and author Laura Hobson) stayed with the show past the first thirteen weeks.  Bill and Jayne Meadows (later to become Mrs. Steve Allen) replaced Albritton and Bean and quickly became regulars.  Original panelist Cooper was replaced by comic Eddie Bracken on October 9.  Bracken appeared in six shows before being replaced by Henry Morgan on November 13.  Morgan stayed with the show thereafter, his cranky and sarcastic demeanor a perfect counterpoint to Bill's boyish enthusiasm.  The second female chair was filled for weeks at a time by several "bright young actresses", including Larraine Day (Mrs. Leo Durocher), Nina Foch and Kitty Carlisle.  By early 1953, Faye Emerson had emerged as the fourth regular.
 

Bill joined I've Got A Secret when original panelist Orson Bean took an acting job out of town.  Years later, Bean would become a regular on To Tell The Truth, often appearing with Bill on the 1970s version.
 
In a 1955 Time Magazine article about panel shows, Bill expressed the fun and the danger in his IGAS role, especially in those early days when they took the game itself more seriously than they would later. "I'm always thinking automatically of what question I can ask in case a joke falls flat," he said.   "But even when jokes go over, I've got to be careful that Henry Morgan and I don't get kidding and forget about the game.  We've had the riot act read to us, let's face it.  We've gotten the riot act for horsing up the show too much."

The team of Cullen, Meadows, Morgan and Emerson remained intact for several years, affected only when one of the ladies took acting jobs that interfered.  That became more common as roles became more available in California than in New York.   Stage actress Betsy Palmer began appearing on the panel in 1957.  New York personality and former Miss America Bess Myerson joined in 1958.  Soon, the new regular line-up became Cullen, Palmer, Morgan and Myerson, and it remained that way through the run of the series.  (Meadows and Emerson had become west coast residents, but still visited the show on occasion.)

The final four-member panel was about as perfect as this sort of thing can be.  Funny Bill, spunky Betsy, grumpy Henry and glamorous Bess brought diverse backgrounds and styles to the game.  They seemed a family to TV viewers, although like most panels, they seldom even socialized off-camera.  (Bill once said of Palmer, "I never got to know her until she'd been showing up regularly for three or four months.")  It was even easy to pair them off, Bill and Betsy representing youthful exuberance, Henry and Bess suggesting worldly (in Morgan's case, world-weary) sophistication.  Not surprisingly, that's the way they were usually paired when a game required it.

With the panel relatively stable, the guest stars provided variety.  Visiting celebrities brought a lot more entertainment to the show than did the What's My Line? mystery guests.  For one thing, their appearance could be promoted, since it was not supposed to be hidden from the panel.  Also, as the years went on, the idea of having a celebrity "secret" for the panel to guess became less and less important, and the guest stars would often introduce some entirely different parlor game to play instead.  Even many of the traditional contestants had some sort of musical or other performance-related secret, which would inevitably be demonstrated after the questioning was through.  It no longer remotely mattered whether the panel got one right, again unlike What's My Line?, which took its game seriously until the end.  I've Got A Secret became a variety show masquerading as a game show.
 

Despite several time changes, I've Got A Secret was a consistent ratings success, nearly always drawing more viewers than What's My Line?.  It ranked #5 among all shows for the 1958-59 season, and was still in the top twenty as late as the 1965-66 season.  At the time I've Got A Secret left the air in 1967, it was the fourth longest running series in the history of prime time television, behind only Ed Sullivan, Red Skelton and What's My Line?. Today, it's still among the top twenty longest running shows of all time.
 
The Secret gig was perhaps the easiest of all Bill's assignments.  Along with the rest of the panel, Bill seldom showed up much more than ten minutes before the show was to begin.  There were no rehearsals, no run-throughs (at least not for the panel), no briefings, nothing but a spontaneous, live, half-hour performance.  Once Steve Allen took over in 1964, the panel had even less of a time commitment.  In order to limit Allen's commute from his California home, they began doing two shows (one live, one on tape) once every two weeks.

Bill described the cushy Secret job in a 1967 interview.  "It's been like stealing," he said.  "Imagine getting paid handsomely to turn up at a studio every other week at 7pm in a clean shirt, without preparation, and play a parlor game for a half-hour.  Then there was time to smoke a cigarette and maybe talk to Henry Morgan awhile, and then play a parlor game for another half hour and go home."

 
Bill made $200 a show when he began appearing on the I've Got A Secret panel.  By the time the show ended fifteen years later, he was making close to $2000.  This for a commitment of about an hour of his time a week.
 
The show was revived in syndication for a season in 1972 with Steve Allen once again hosting.  Bill did not participate in that version, which taped in Los Angeles while he was still living in New York.  It returned to network television as a brief summer series hosted by Bill in 1976 (see below) then sat dormant for nearly a quarter century until being revived again in 2000 for the female-friendly Oxygen cable network.  The Oxygen version was the first time I've Got A Secret had been produced as a daily program.  Alumni Steve Allen and Betsy Palmer appeared on a special episode of the show.  In 2006, GSN: The Network for Games launched their own version of the series.  It was also a daily show, though only eight weeks of shows were produced.  Bil Dwyer hosted this version, and the regular panel consisted of Frank DeCaro, Suzanne Westenhoefer, Billy Bean and Jermaine Taylor.

As the loosest of all the panel shows, as well as the highest-rated, I've Got A Secret was probably more influential than even What's My Line?, its older sibling.  An entire generation of Nickelodeon watchers, for example, have no idea how much the popular Figure It Out resembles Secret.

VIDEO         
The vast majority of episodes have survived, though not the first few.  Most of these episodes have turned up on GSN, including a great number of episodes which were originally sponsored by Winston cigarettes.  GSN has aired classic episodes of I've Got A Secret as recently as December, 2009 as part of their Black and White Overnight block of shows, though it is not on their current schedule.

Watch an early episode with Lucille Ball and some great secrets:   
 
Watch a 1967 episode with Pearl Bailey:   

FOR MORE INFORMATION
    
   
Tommy Gun's I've Got A Secret Online is an amazing repository of information, including a detailed episode guiide.
Adam Nedeff's classic I've Got A Secret page at Bill Cullen's World
The I've Got A Secret page on Wikipedia



 
First episode: June 15, 1976        
Last episode: July 6, 1976        
Tuesdays at 8pm on CBS      

Bill hosted this four-week summer replacement series, with Henry Morgan returning as a regular panelist.

Read a Variety review from June 30, 1976
 
Two shows in the four-week 1976 revival were taped in the Ed Sullivan Theater, currently the home to David Letterman's late-night show.

The first two shows were actually shot on September 28, 1975, almost nine months before they aired.  These two shows served as pilots, and the panel consisted of Elaine Joyce, Richard Dawson, Pat Collins and Henry Morgan.  Drummer Buddy Rich was the special guest for the first show that aired, Rodney Dangerfield for the second.  Two additional shows were shot in the Ed Sullivan Theater on June 11, 1976.  Phyllis George replaced Elaine Joyce for those two shows, and the special guests were Loretta Swit and Charles Nelson Reilly.

 
I've Got A Secret was one of three four-week summer series introduced by CBS during the same week in 1976.  The others were variety shows, one featuring comic Kelly Monteith and the other featuring the Jackson 5.
VIDEO         
It's almost impossible to believe that these four episodes no longer exist.  However, they have not been seen on Game Show Network, and only the Rodney Dangerfield pilot (in an unedited form that runs slightly longer than thirty minutes) is known to be in the hands of collectors.  One collector has generously provided us an audio recording of the Loretta Swit episode.

FOR MORE INFORMATION
Adam Nedeff's 1976 I've Got A Secret page at Bill Cullen's World