Merv Griffin

Merv Griffin, PBS Pioneers of TelevisionMost big breaks in Hollywood come serendipitously, and this is true for entertainment magnate Merv Griffin. In 1958 Griffin was tapped to host the game show, “Play Your Hunch,” and his breakout moment on the show happened when famous late night TV host Jack Paar accidentally stumbled onto his stage during a live taping of the program. Despite his reluctance to do guest appearances, Paar stuck around the live taping and allowed himself to be interviewed by the young game show host. Griffin turned the embarrassing moment into an impromptu interview spot, to wild acclaim from the live studio audience. Paar was taken with Griffin’s unflappable nature and asked studio executives to book Griffin as a Monday night guest host on “The Tonight Show.”

“If somebody asks you what show business is all about — accidents. For some reason you plan your career, and just before you go to sleep at night you say, ‘Yeah, I’ll do this, I’ll do that.’ It never works. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time,” says Griffin.

Merv Griffin’s Gamesmanship

The young talent excelled at hosting, and in 1965 he earned his own program, “The Merv Griffin Show.” But Griffin’s claim to fame is his uncanny ability to dream up, produce and host well-received game shows. Griffin was a hit-maker.

“You had no script, and that’s why game show hosts did very well at talk shows,” explains Griffin, who notes that greats Jack Paar and Johnny Carson had both hosted game shows.

Among his most successful creations are “Jeopardy” and “Wheel of Fortune,” both of which have legions of fans and have made millions for the networks and Griffin.

“I never anticipated ever being a talk show host in my life,” says Griffin. Every day of it, every day of my career, I’ve cherished. I love it,” he says.