Merrill Heatter

Merrill Heatter
Born Merrill M. Heatter[1]
(1926-12-16) December 16, 1926
New York City, New York, U.S.
Occupation Producer, screenwriter
Years active 19472011
Known for Hollywood Squares
Wacky Races
Catch 21
Spouse(s) Elaine Stewart (m. 19642011; her death; 2 children)
Parent(s) Edward Heatter
Frances Heatter
Relatives Gabriel Heatter (uncle)
Maida Heatter (cousin)

Merrill M. Heatter (born December 16, 1926) is a retired American screenwriter and producer. He was best known for his collaboration with writer Bob Quigley for over 20 years and the formation of their production company Heatter-Quigley Productions in 1960.[2] The company was responsible for the game shows Hollywood Squares and Gambit and the animated television series Wacky Races.

He also formed Merrill Heatter Productions in 1980 which is responsible for the Gambit-based show Catch 21.

Early life

Merrill M. Heatter was born on December 16, 1926, in New York City, New York to parents Edward, (18981991) and Frances Heatter.[3] His paternal grandparents were immigrants from Austria.



Heatter's career began in the late 1940s when, on July 7, 1947, CBS Radio and writer Goodman Ace launched the historical educational program You Are There. The format of the series was to present important events from history to the viewer as if the viewer were listening to an actual news broadcast. The series aired its last radio broadcast on March 19, 1950.[4]

On February 1, 1953, the series made a transition to CBS television. The series starred Walter Cronkite of CBS News with several field reporters including radio announcing veterans Dick Joy and Harlow Wilcox. Heatter was one of the head writers of the series. The series' last telecast was on October 13, 1957.

Heatter-Quigley Productions


In 1960, Heatter met Bob Quigley. Quigley was a former writer for comedian and pianist Victor Borge.[5] Shortly after the two met, they decided to form Heatter-Quigley Productions specifically to produce game shows.

Quiz show scandals and early game shows

The first game show the two created was entitled Video Village. The series premiered on CBS on July 1, 1960. Video Village was one of the first new game shows produced after the infamous quiz show scandals.[5] The quiz show scandals were a series of revelations that contestants of several popular television quiz shows were secretly given assistance by the show's producers to arrange the outcome of a supposedly fair competition which took place between 1956 and 1958.[6]

The scandals first arose in 1956. That year, the Jack Barry-hosted game show Twenty One featured a contestant, Herb Stempel, coached by producer Dan Enright to allow his opponent to win the game. The matter was brought into focus in 1958 when Enright was revealed to have rigged the show; this revelation caused networks to cancel their entire lineups of quiz shows.[7]

The quiz shows scandals came to an end in 1958 after three popular game shows were cancelled. Those game shows were Twenty One on October 16, The $64,000 Question on November 2 and Dotto on August 15. They were the most publicized of all the shows involved in the scandals.

Heatter and Quigley took the chance and aired Video Village with Jack Narz as the original host, (Narz also served as the host of Dotto during the scandals). Narz was replaced by future Let's Make a Deal host Monty Hall in September 1960. The series was well known for its gigantic life-sized game board which was the set of the show. The series ended its run in 1962.

Heatter and Quigley created and produced several unsuccessful game shows before their breakthrough hit Hollywood Squares premiered. Some of those shows included People Will Talk which ran for six months on NBC in 1963, Shenanigans which ran on ABC for one season, and PDQ which ran in syndication for three seasons.

Hollywood Squares

Sometime after the premiere of Shenanigans, Heatter and Quigley decided to create a panel game show. The game show, which would be called Hollywood Squares, was a televised quiz show version of tic-tac-toe.

A pilot episode of the series was taped at CBS Television City and aired on April 21, 1965. The pilot featured Bert Parks of Break the Bank fame as the host. The pilot also featured future HS regulars Rose Marie and Charley Weaver with Jim Backus in the center square.[8][9]

Shortly after the taping of the pilot episode, NBC acquired the rights to the game show and after some reworking of the CBS pilot, NBC taped a second pilot episode of the game show, with Peter Marshall as the host and aired it on October 17, 1966. The Marshall-hosted pilot became the official first episode of the game show. NBC aired Hollywood Squares' final episode on June 20, 1980. The series continued to air in syndication until September 11, 1981.

Several spinoffs and revival series aired over the next 25 years. The spinoffs included Storybook Squares, Match Game-Hollywood Squares Hour and Hip Hop Squares. There was also a 1986 revival[10] and a 1998 revival of the series.

Acquisition by Filmways

In 1965, Heatter and Quigley sold their company to Filmways. The company still continued to operate with Filmways as the owner.

Gambit and other game shows

As the 1970s rolled around, Heatter and Quigley were still at work on producing their existing game show, Hollywood Squares, and creating new game shows.

On September 4, 1972, CBS premiered the new game show Gambit. The series was the first new game show of the 1970s produced by Heatter-Quigley. The show was based on the card game blackjack. The series starred Wink Martindale as the presenter and Elaine Stewart as the card dealer.[11] The series was filmed at Television City.[12] The series ended on December 10, 1976. A spin-off series entitled Las Vegas Gambit aired on NBC during the 1980–81 television season.

Some of the other game shows that Heatter-Quigley produced included Baffle, High Rollers, and The Magnificent Marble Machine. Las Vegas Gambit was the last title produced by Heatter-Quigley. Bob Quigley retired from show business shortly after Las Vegas Gambit went off the air.

Merrill Heatter Productions

Heatter went on to produce several more game shows. Most of those game shows were revivals or new versions of Heatter-Quigley produced shows. Some of those shows included Battlestars, All-Star Blitz, Bargain Hunters and the 1980s version of High Rollers. The last game show that Merrill Heatter Productions produced in the 20th century ended in 1990. On September 28, 1998, Heatter leased the worldwide rights to his solo-developed game shows to King World Entertainment, (now CBS Television Distribution).[13] They now own the rights to those game shows.

On July 28, 2008, Game Show Network premiered a new game show, created by Heatter entitled Catch 21.[14] The show was the first game show Heatter created in 19 years. The series was a revival of Heatter's successful 1970s game show Gambit.[15] He created the series along with Scott Sternberg.[16]

Personal life

Heatter was married once to actress and model Elaine Stewart. They were married on December 31, 1964.[17] Stewart was known for her roles in the movies The Adventures of Hajji Baba and Night Passage. She was also known for her guest appearances on the television shows Bat Masterson, Burke's Law and Perry Mason.[18] Stewart also was the hostess for two Heatter-Quigley shows, Gambit and High Rollers.[19] Stewart was previously married to actor Bill Carter.[20] Heatter and Stewart had 2 children, Stewart Heatter and Gabriel Heatter. They were married until Stewart's death on June 28, 2011.

Heatter was the nephew of journalist Gabriel Heatter and is the cousin of cook Maida Heatter.

Heatter currently resides in Beverly Hills, California.[1]


Heatter-Quigley Productions

Merrill Heatter Productions

Awards and Nominations

Heatter has received three Primetime Emmy Award nominations and six nominations for the Daytime Emmy Award. He has also won four Daytime Emmy Awards.

Year Award Category Work Result
1969 Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Achievement in Daytime Programming Hollywood Squares Nominated
1972 Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Achievement in Daytime Programming Hollywood Squares Nominated
1973 Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Program Achievement in Daytime Hollywood Squares Nominated
1974 Daytime Emmy Award Outstanding Game/Audience Participation Show Hollywood Squares Nominated
1975 Daytime Emmy Award Outstanding Game/Audience Participation Show Hollywood Squares Won
1976 Daytime Emmy Award Outstanding Game/Audience Participation Show Hollywood Squares Nominated
1977 Daytime Emmy Award Outstanding Game/Audience Participation Show Hollywood Squares Nominated
1978 Daytime Emmy Award Outstanding Game/Audience Participation Show Hollywood Squares Won
1979 Daytime Emmy Award Outstanding Game/Audience Participation Show Hollywood Squares Won
1980 Daytime Emmy Award Outstanding Game/Audience Participation Show Hollywood Squares Won
1981 Daytime Emmy Award Outstanding Game/Audience Participation Show Hollywood Squares Nominated
1983 Daytime Emmy Award Outstanding Variety Series Fantasy Nominated
1984 Daytime Emmy Award Outstanding Variety Series Fantasy Nominated


  1. 1 2 "People Search Report on Merrill M Heatter in Beverly Hills, CA". Retrieved January 28, 2015.
  2. "Creator: Merrill Heatter". Retrieved January 28, 2015.
  3. "Merrill Heatter in the 1940 Census". Retrieved January 28, 2015.
  4. "You Are There". Audio Karma. Retrieved January 28, 2015.
  5. 1 2 "Merrill Heatter & Bob Quigley - The Classic Hollywood Squares Site". Retrieved February 17, 2015.
  6. Venanzi, Katie (1997), "An Examination of Television Quiz Show Scandals of the 1950s", found at [accessed February 17, 2015].
  7. Gross, L. S. (2013). Electronic media: An introduction. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
  8. Part 1 on YouTube
  9. Part 2 on YouTube
  10. Graham, Jefferson (August 23, 1988). Now it's hip to watch 'Hollywood Squares'. USA Today
  11. Schwartz, David; Ryan, Steve; Wostbrock, Fred (1999). The Encyclopedia of TV Game Shows (3 ed.). Facts on File, Inc. pp. 82–83, 123. ISBN 0-8160-3846-5.
  12. "Shows–CBS Television City". Retrieved February 17, 2015.
  14. "GSN Launches Catch 21 With Merrill Heatter". Retrieved February 17, 2015.
  15. "Merrill Heatter project expected to debut on GSN this summer". Retrieved February 17, 2015.
  16. Grosvenor, Carrie. "Catch 21 Explained". About Entertainment. Retrieved February 17, 2015.
  17. Barnes, Mike (June 27, 2011). "Elaine Stewart obituary in 'The Hollywood Reporter' (June 27, 2011)". Retrieved February 17, 2015.
  18. "Actress Elaine Stewart dead at 81". CBS News. June 28, 2011. Retrieved February 17, 2015.
  19. Alt, Eric (July 28, 2011). "Actress and Game Show Personality Elaine Stewart Dies at 81". NBC News. Retrieved February 17, 2015.
  20. "Elaine Stewart: "I'm Company"". Retrieved February 17, 2015.
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