On September 14 to 18, 1998, King World bought the worldwide format rights to the show from MGM (successor-in-interest to Orion Pictures and Filmways, who produced the respective previous incarnations of the series) and relaunched the final version of the show to date, hosted by Tom Bergeron. Whoopi Goldberg, who also served as co-producer, was the "Center Square" for the first four seasons. It was taped at CBS Studio 33 which is also known as the Bob Barker Studio. The first season also saw up to two "Secret Square" games. The first one was in its customary position as the second game played on each episode with its prize package carrying over to the third game if it wasn't won. From the second season onwards, the "Secret Square" reverted to essentially its old Marshall-era format: played as the second game on each show worth an accruing prize package (Bergeron referred to it as "The Secret Square Stash"). In the last season, the "Secret Square" was played in the second game of each match with a different prize offered each time. Overall, the show was once again known for its hilarious, sometimes catty, sometimes bawdy one-liners. But the presence of writers was more obvious here, with witticisms seemingly popping effortlessly out of the mouths of non-comedians like athletes, teenaged singers & bubblegum groups, and Survivor contestants. On the other hand, some of this revival's most classic moments appear to be spontaneous. Once, both contestants needed comedian and semi-regular Gilbert Gottfried for a win, but they both kept missing the questions. This went on for a good part of the show, and prompted the acerbic Gottfried to scream "You fool!" whenever the contestant made the wrong guess, with the audience and even stars laughing more hysterically each time.
Common theme weeks included shows devoted to teen idols, athletes and shows like Survivor and Everybody Loves Raymond (Brad Garrett was a new Squares semi-regular). There were multiple classic TV weeks and a week devoted to classic TV crimefighters like Mike Connors and Hal Linden. There were even two weeks devoted to game shows, with classic hosts and panelists including Brett Somers and Charles Nelson Reilly (Match Game) and Bob Eubanks (Card Sharks, The Newlywed Game). Burned-out supermodel and bizarre reality show spectacle Anna Nicole Smith also made an appearance that was documented on her own reality show on E! At first the show was so successful in the ratings, the CBS O&O's carrying the show renewed it through the 2001-02 season. A sudden ratings plummet that year, though, lead to a shakeup, with Goldberg, Bruce Vilanch and Caroline Rhea (as well as the producers) among the missing. Henry Winkler took over as the new executive producer in September 2002, with actor Jeffrey Tambor (The Larry Sanders Show) taking care of the announcing chores.. The show also began featuring rotating center squares, with Ellen Degeneres up first. The set (especially the contestant area) underwent a major overhaul, with the contestants standing (a first) and monitors showing prize totals. "I Love Hollywood" was replaced as the show's theme by a remix of the old Teena Marie hit "Square Biz ," and the show even acquired an "official" nickname, H2.
The newer, revamped version was just as entertaining as always, but it still lacked the personality of the 1998-2002 Whoopi & Friends era. In fact, the rotating center square, while apparently helping the producers save money, also prevented the show from developing that very personality, and made it appear somewhat inconsistent in tone. And with that, the free fall in the ratings never stopped. Stations moved the show out of prime access into daytime or afternoon hours, and in some cases even ran it late at night after the late-night talk shows. One problem the Bergeron version always suffered was how, at the turn of the millenium, more commercial time was needed and producers opted for more bumper music in and out of breaks. (The Marshall version had always gone to and from commercial breaks in "cold pitches.") These factors ate into the game time, so there was little time to get invested in the outcome. The show also lost viewers to such demographic favorites as Access Hollywood, then found it could no longer attract the bigger names it had in the past (like Vivica A. Fox, for instance). King World finally pulled the plug in 2004, with the last week featuring behind-the-scenes crew members competing as contestants for charity. On the last show, Bergeron brought out the crew onstage--by now a Squares tradition, as Peter Marshall and John Davidson did this on their versions' finales--and ended the show by saying, "These are the people who have brought you Hollywood Squares. From all of us, to all of you, all the best. It's a wrap! Bye, everybody!" Reruns of this version began in 2000 on GSN and switched to weekends only in July 2004. In a bit of irony, karma, or just webmaster ineptitude, the link to the Bergeron Squares schedule listing on the GSN website during those last few months, actually showed a description, even a still, of the long-gone reruns from the Marshall era. And when it was rerun in a Saturday Night at the Classics marathon in May 2005, one aired promo actually mentioned the Marshall version by mistake.
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