Catchphrase (U.S. game show)

Catch Phrase
Genre Game show
Created by Steve Radosh
Directed by Marty Pasetta Jr.
Presented by Art James
Narrated by John Harlan
Theme music composer Marc and Ray Ellis
Country of origin  United States
No. of episodes 65
Producer(s) Steve Radosh
Location(s) Metromedia Square, Hollywood, CA
Running time approx. 22-26 minutes
Production company(s) Pasetta Productions
Distributor Telepictures Corporation
Original network Syndication
Original release September 16, 1985 – January 10, 1986

Catch Phrase is an American game show which ran from September 16, 1985 through January 10, 1986 in syndication. The object of the show was to solve "catch phrases", which were animated picture puzzles designed to represent objects or sayings. Art James was the host of the show, his last game show hosting job before he retired from television, and John Harlan was the announcer. The program was created by Steve Radosh and produced by Pasetta Productions, with Telepictures distributing.

Although Catch Phrase did not succeed in its American run, the format found success in other countries. The British Catchphrase premiered two days after the American series came to an end in 1986 and aired weekly until 2002 on the ITV network, which brought the series back in 2013. In Australia, the show premiered in 1997 on Nine with former Aussie Wheel of Fortune host John Burgess presiding, and was known as Burgo's Catch Phrase from 1999 until it ended in 2002.


Two contestants competed, one usually a returning champion.

Each catch phrase was drawn on a large screen by the show's computer. Once there was enough information on the screen for the contestants to solve a catch phrase, a bell rang to alert them that they could buzz in and answer. If either contestant buzzed in before the bell rang, their opponent was allowed to see the remainder of the catch phrase and given a free guess. If a player gave a wrong answer, the other player got a chance to guess.

Correct answers added money to a bank. To determine how much money would be added to the bank for a correctly solved catch phrase, a randomizer was used before the start of each round of play. A total of nine dollar amounts were displayed on the screen and, to begin the game, the challenger would select one by hitting his/her buzzer to stop the randomizer. The highest initial amount was $200, but as the game progressed the dollar values did as well. Also, for each subsequent round, control of the randomizer was given to the trailing contestant.

Answering correctly gave the contestant that did so a chance to solve the Super Catch Phrase, a completed picture concealed behind nine squares. To pick a square, the contestant was given control of the randomizer and stopped it with his/her buzzer. The square that the randomizer stopped on was then removed from the board, and the contestant was given five seconds to study the puzzle and take a guess. If the contestant did so, he/she won the money in the bank and the round ended. Otherwise, play continued until someone solved the Super Catch Phrase or until all nine squares were uncovered without either contestant being able to solve. If that happened, the solution was given and a new round of play began with the unclaimed bank from the previous Super Catch Phrase carrying over.

The process repeated during the show as often as time permitted. If time was called in the middle of a round, the remaining squares in the Super Catch Phrase were revealed and the first player to buzz in and solve it won the bank.

The contestant in the lead when the game was completed was declared the day's champion and advanced to play for a bonus prize. Both players got to keep whatever cash they won, and the losing player also received parting gifts.

Bonus Round

In the bonus game, the champion faced a board of 25 squares, each concealing a catch phrase and marked with a letter from A through Y. The board was laid out in a five-by-five grid, and the champion had to make a horizontal, vertical or diagonal line by solving catch phrases. The phrase hidden behind the letter M, in the center of the board, was always the most difficult. The champion had 60 seconds to complete a line, and could pass on phrases and return to them later if desired.

The champion could win one of two bonus prizes. If the champion made a vertical or horizontal line that did not include the M square, he/she won a prize with a minimum value of $5,000; this was usually a vacation, but also could sometimes be a piece of merchandise such as a player piano.[1] If the champion made a vertical or horizontal line that included the M, or made any diagonal, he/she would win a prize that was worth at least $10,000; this prize was often a car or a more extravagant vacation.

If the champion failed to complete a line before time expired, he/she won money for each square claimed: $200 if the M phrase was not solved, or $400 if it was.

Champions were allowed to return for five consecutive days. If a champion won on all five of those days, he/she was awarded an additional bonus prize on top of whatever he/she had won to that point. At various points in the run, that prize was a car, $10,000 in cash,[2] or one of the larger merchandise prizes featured in the bonus round.[3]

Overall, contestants on Catch Phrase could accumulate a total of $75,000. Host Art James made it a point to remind contestants and the viewing audience of this at the beginning of every episode.[4]


The mascot for Catch Phrase was a robot named Herbie, who was gold colored and wore a blue bandanna around his neck. On occasion he would appear in catch phrases performing some action that was part of the solution to the puzzle (e.g. carrying a piece of paper with "FISHER" written on it, the solution being Carrie Fisher). Herbie's design, right down to the blue bandanna, was replicated in the British series' mascot "Mr. Chips", with the difference being Mr. Chips having a bright red nose while Herbie did not have an easily visible nose.

2006 pilot

In 2006, a pilot was taped for a possible syndicated revival of Catch Phrase, called All-New Catch Phrase. Hosted by Todd Newton and produced in association with Granada USA, the pilot ultimately did not sell.[5][6]

International versions

Country Local name Host Network Years aired
 Australia Catch Phrase John Burgess Nine Network 1997–1998
Burgo's Catch Phrase 1999–2001
 Greece Bρες тη φράση
Vres ti Frasi
Miltos Makridis (1998–2000)
Joyce Evidi (2000–2001)
Mega Channel 1998–2001
 Indonesia Tebak Gambar David Chalik RCTI 2001–2003
 Italy Caccia alla Frase Peppe Quintale Italia 1 1998
 Poland O co chodzi? Agenieszka Wróblewska TVN 2000
 United Kingdom Catchphrase Roy Walker
Nick Weir
Mark Curry
Stephen Mulhern
ITV 1986–1999
Family Catchphrase Andrew O'Connor The Family Channel 1994 (only 50 episodes were produced for the short-lived series)
 Vietnam Đuổi hình Bắt chữ Xuân Bắc Hanoi Radio Television 2004–2013
Luong Tuan Anh
Pham Hai Anh
Nguyen Minh Tiep
Luong Vu Tuan
Nguyen Xuan Bac
Ta Bich Loan
Tran Xuan Viet
Le Chi Thanh
Thanhhoa Radio Television 1997–2002


  1. Catch Phrase premiere episode, aired September 16, 1985.
  2. Catch Phrase episode aired October 17, 1985.
  3. episode aired January 8, 1986.
  4. Catch Phrase premiere episode, aired September 16, 1985.
  5. Set Pics from the Pilot

External links

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