Truth or Consequences

Truth or Consequences is an American television game show originally hosted on NBC radio by Ralph Edwards (1940–1957) and later on television by Edwards (1950–1954), Jack Bailey (1954–1955), and Bob Barker (1956–1975).  The television show ran on CBS, NBC and also in syndication.  The premise of the show was to mix the original quiz element of game shows with wacky stunts.

On the show, contestants received roughly two seconds to answer a trivia question correctly (usually an off-the-wall question that no one would be able to answer correctly, or a bad joke) before “Beulah the Buzzer” sounded (in the rare occasion that the contestant answered the question correctly before Beulah was heard, the question inevitably had two or even three parts).  If the contestant could not complete the “Truth” portion, there would be “Consequences,” usually a zany and embarrassing stunt.  From the start, most contestants preferred to answer the question wrong in order to perform the stunt.  Said Edwards, “Most of the American people are darned good sports.”

In many broadcasts, the stunts on Truth or Consequences included a popular, but emotional, heart-rending surprise for a contestant, that being the reunion with a long-lost relative or with an enlisted son or daughter returning from military duty overseas, particularly Vietnam.  Sometimes, if that military person was based in California, his or her spouse or parents were flown in for that reunion.
During Barker’s run as host, a side game, “Barker’s Box”, was played at the end of the show.  Barker’s Box was a box with four drawers, and if a contestant picked all three drawers with money in it, they won a bonus prize; however, if a contestant chose a pop-up “surprise” before choosing all three cash drawers, the game ended and the contestant left with the cash won at that point.  Barker also ended each episode with the phrase, “Hoping all your consequences are happy ones.”

Truth or Consequences was the first game show to air on broadcast television, airing as a one-time experiment on the first day of New York station WNBT’s commercial program schedule on July 1st, 1941.  Truth or Consequences did not appear on TV again until 1950, when the medium had caught on commercially.  On January 22nd, 1957, the show, which was produced in Hollywood, became the first program to be broadcast in all time zones from a prerecorded videotape; this technology, which had only been introduced the previous year, had previously been used only for time-delayed broadcasts to the West Coast.  In 1966, Truth or Consequences became the first successful daily game show in first-run syndication (as opposed to reruns) to not air on a network, having ended its NBC run one year earlier.  This version continued through 1974.


Truth or Consequences, NMThe town of Hot Springs, New Mexico, was renamed Truth or Consequences after the game show in 1950, when Ralph Edwards announced that he would host the program from the first town so renamed.  Edwards himself continued to make appearances at the town’s annual fiesta every May until his death.