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Tom Bergeron: Hollywood Squares Host.

Tom Bergeron, host of Hollywood Squares, isn't one to let an opportunity miss a comic spin. When quizzed about what new elements might be added to the series for its third season, he noted, "Taking a cue from Survivor, the stars will vote one of their own off the game board at the end of each show, and all rats consumed will be catered by Spago. Also, we're taking the show to New York for the first time, so Bruce Vilanch has invited John Rocker to ride the subway with him." Amidst all the congratulations for winning the 2000 Daytime Emmy Award for "Outstanding Game Show Host" - an honor he shared with Bob Barker and for which conventional wisdom was pointing elsewhere - Bergeron adds, "I don't know who the judges were or what they were drinking."

Bergeron was tapped for the hosting role on Hollywood Squares following an exhaustive search for someone with the right combination of wit, charm and patience - after all, keeping nine laugh-grabbing celebrities in line isn't for the faint of heart. In fact, it was Center Square Whoopi Goldberg's commitment to the project that made him sign on. "Like many people, I had long been a fan of Whoopi's from afar, and the chance to work with her on a daily basis was simply too good to pass up."

Now, entering its third season, Bergeron claims, "The job has actually gotten easier for me, particularly as the Squares 'family' (the series regulars) continue to mesh as a group. I genuinely love working with these people both in front of and behind the camera, and I think that our chemistry comes across onscreen."

Hosting a legendary series such as Hollywood Squares is the latest move in a career that includes critically-acclaimed (and cult-following) network television talk, award-winning local programming and top-rated radio.

When he was 17, Bergeron became the youngest DJ ever at WHAV Radio, the station in his Haverhill, Massachusetts hometown. Working his way up in radio, he soon found himself hosting his own show, The Tom Bergeron Show, a late night talk/comedy show that tripled ratings for the New Hampshire station on which it aired. In 1982, while still hosting the New Hampshire broadcast, Bergeron added television to his plate, as host of the Emmy Award-winning magazine series Super Kids at WBZ-TV Boston.

The success of Super Kids earned Bergeron other hosting duties at the station, including the daily broadcast 4 Today and the Emmy Award-winning children's series Rap Around. Then, in 1987, he was tapped to host People Are Talking, the station's popular morning series, where he remained for the next six years. While still on People Are Talking in 1990, Bergeron also began the city's #1 morning radio show on WBZ-AM. The dual duties took him to a new level of success, but Bergeron now admits, "I spent most of my on-camera time bleary-eyed from doing so many jobs at once. Looking back, I wonder if that's the look they were going for."

In 1993, Bergeron made the leap from local to national television as host of upstart cable network FX's Breakfast Time. His sardonic humor and anything-goes approach made him an instant hit with viewers. Two years later, the series moved over to FOX broadcast network, reaching an even larger audience. He proved up to the challenge: "I danced, sang, hurtled over furniture with Jackie Chan, rode a horse down 5th Avenue and was a Pip for a day with Gladys Knight. Talk about a Renaissance man!"

Following FOX, Bergeron served as a guest anchor of Good Morning America.

Tom and his wife, Lois, and their two children live in New Hampshire.

 

Tom Bergeron: Roundabout road to 'Hollywood Squares'

Tom Bergeron says he feels like a kid in a candy store.

The 45-year-old host of the syndicated "Hollywood Squares" shares a Daytime Emmy with Bob Barker.

He has what he describes as a brotherly relationship with Whoopi Goldberg.

He has a contract to work about 20 weekends per year, playing celebrity tic-tac-toe. And "Hollywood Squares" is watched by some 10.4 million viewers weekly.

Not bad for someone who was bumped from "Good Morning America." Bergeron had worked as fill-in anchor to Charlie Gibson. When Gibson left the show, Bergeron was considered for the seat full-time -- but it went to newsman Kevin Newman.

Bergeron says he has no hard feelings about his ABC-TV co-anchor Lisa McRee. "We were just different personalities and we were approaching it from a different perspective," during the search for Charlie Gibson's replacement. "She had a belief that the show was going in a hard-news direction. And clearly, without a journalism background, I was regarded, justifiably to some extent, as an outsider.

"I came away from that experience" in March 1998 "sort of reaffirming that my own comfort zone is in entertainment and less in news."

That "comfort zone" these days is centered around Goldberg, the show's executive producer, ensconced at the heart of the familiar nine-box set design of "Hollywood Squares." Regulars Caroline Rhea, Bruce Vilanch, Brad Garrett and Gilbert Gottfried rotate through the mix.

And this week's scheduled round of guest square-dwellers has the "zone" looking comfortably Olympian in a rerun of shows first aired in September. There's track and field's Carl Lewis, Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Bruce Jenner; gymnasts Bart Connor, Mitch Gaylord, Kerry Strug and Nadia Comaneci; diver Greg Louganis; skaters Scott Hamilton and Oksana Baiul; swimmer Janet Evans; and volleyballer Karch Kiraly.

Bergeron has admitted that the thought of being a game-show host didn't sit well initially. But he's gotten over it. The "Squares" airs on more than 200 stations and normally ranks within the Top 15 among syndicated shows.

He describes himself as "somebody who treats what he does as a job that's fun, that he enjoys, but that doesn't define him. And that's sort of always how I've dealt with working in broadcasting, regardless of whether it's a national show or a regional or local show."

It was the manager of a small radio station who took a chance on Bergeron as a 17-year-old high school student in Haverhill, Massachusetts, putting him in front of a microphone for the first time. Bergeron was hooked and decided to bypass college in pursuit of broadcasting.

By 1982, when he'd moved to a station in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, his offbeat style and quick humor on the airwaves was attracting television stations in Boston. Bergeron found himself making a smooth transition from one medium to the other, hosting a variety of Boston regional-issue talk shows.

In 1993, the cable channel FX tapped Bergeron to lead a morning talk show, his first work for a national audience -- "Breakfast Time."

"I was absolutely smitten with their approach to live television," Bergeron says.

His laid-back manner made him a hit with viewers, and the Fox network came calling two years later with an idea to expand the show to reach a larger audience. The new show, aptly called "Fox After Breakfast" gave Bergeron a lot of latitude.

"One show," he says, "Gladys Knight was my co-host. "Garth Brooks was there, and Martin Sheen, Emilio Estevez and Beau Bridges were all just hanging around chatting. That made it look like, from the viewer's standpoint, they were Peeping Toms at this incredible party. For someone like myself, it wasn't like work.

"It was designed to be a live, flexible environment and -- given that it had an entertainment base -- I loved it. It was like breathing pure oxygen."

The show was cancelled in 1997, but not before exposing Bergeron to a wider audience.

Bergeron says he never expected to be pegged into "Hollywood Squares." Prior to his short stint as Gibson's backup on "Good Morning America," syndicate giant King World Productions in Los Angeles wanted him to test as host of a revamped version of the original "human tic-tac-toe game," which had run from 1966 to 1981.

What Bergeron didn't know at the time was that Goldberg -- with whom he'd hit it off when she "guested" on "Fox after Breakfast" -- had signed on as center square and co-producer.

Following his departure from "Good Morning America," King World approached him again about flying to California and testing with Goldberg.

"I did and we had a ball and it just took off from there." Bergeron says. "I thought from afar, 'Oh shoot. This is probably going to be a good show now. She's got some clout. She's got star power and can raise the bar for the whole show.'"

An offer to let him commute from the East Coast to LA for weekend tapings cinched it for him.

But does he worry about game-show hosting damaging his credibility in talk radio and TV?

"I've been in broadcasting for 28 years and I never really thought of myself as anything but a broadcaster. I've done TV shows that ran the gamut from issue talk, exploitive talk, to entertainment, to now a game show.

"I nod I smile," he says of the artistic freedom the show gives him as host -- "and then I pretty much do what I want.

"There's an element of performance in all of it and I don't think so much of any potential pitfalls -- although clearly they exist. People get typecast and doors slammed in their faces everyday because of the perception of what they do. But it doesn't concern me that much. I wouldn't sacrifice the people who I'm able to work with, nor the quality of life that it affords me right now."

His shared win of the "Outstanding Game Show Host" Daytime Emmy last spring with Bob Barker of "The Price is Right" was a surprise in the industry, especially considering the indirect snub it represented to Regis Philbin of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire." (Philbin's show did win the Outstanding Game Show award, but isn't a daytime program -- the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences was unable to find a category for it in the prime-time Emmys.)

"That was a such a treat," says Bergeron, "because it was so unexpected given Regis' popularity. I did have a few lines prepared just in case, which I had just planned to tell my wife (Lois, a former TV producer) privately after I lost."

Tom Bergeron's show is fun to watch

What's the formula that draws the show's audience week after week?

"I think, number one, it has to be funny," Bergeron says. "We genuinely like and respect each other for what we cumulatively bring to the party. I think ultimately it boils down to the chemistry of the people involved."

There's a balance to be struck here because the majority of the celebrities on the show make people laugh for a living.

"We can't forget that the contestants are the representatives of the viewers at home," Bergeron says, "and if we make it too much of a yuk-fest at the expense of the contestants, that turns off the viewer."

But he says he also likes to see how much he can get away with. Like the time he "whacked" a contestant for missing a question on what the Scarecrow asked the Wizard for in "The Wizard of Oz."

"I'm never happier than when I'm at our house in New Hampshire, sitting on the back deck with a cup of coffee, reading the paper. It's all about being with my family and living my life."
— Tom Bergeron, "Hollywood Squares"

"Bruce Vilanch said 'a brain' and the guy disagreed. I took the card and whacked him. I said, 'How can you miss that question?' Whoopi said to him, 'It's "The Wizard of Oz," man! The house falls on the witch and Dorothy is chased by all those little white people.' So then I spent the balance of the show asking if he had any paper cuts."

On a working weekend, Bergeron flies from his New Hampshire home to Los Angeles, arriving at the CBS studios around 10 a.m. " Drink coffee, get makeup smeared on. Get dressed. Introduced to the audience about 10:45. Begin taping at 11."

Three shows are taped before lunch, which is usually catered by Spago. "Doesn't suck."

Bergeron and company are introduced to a new audience about 2:45 p.m. and two more shows are taped. He's usually out the door by 4:30, only to return on Sunday for more of the same. Before long, he's back on a flight to Lois and daughters Samantha and Jessica.

He says one of the best perks is being able to watch those kids grow up.

"There were a lot of years when I was up at 3:30 a.m. and never saw them until briefly in the afternoon and I was in bed before they were. I was sort of this shadowy presence. Lois got them a game one year called "Don't Wake Up Daddy."

Even in his current more workable gig, though, Bergeron says he's not sitting back. "It's like, 'what can scare me now?'"

He's written a novel "which is currently on the rejection-letter circuit", but he's quick to say he's learned from the experience. He also has a network comedy show in development. He'd love to do radio again, he says. And he points out that even an Emmy-winning game-show host isn't that high on the entertainment food chain.

"It's not what drives me anyway. I'm never happier than when I'm at our house in New Hampshire, sitting on the back deck with a cup of coffee, reading the paper. It's all about being with my family and living my life."

Then again: "Larry King has a great gig. Tell Larry if he wants to take a little vacation, I'll even wear the suspenders."

Hot AFV news with host Tom Bergeron

The ABC Television Network announced that an additional 13 episodes of the long-running hit series, "America's Funniest Home Videos," have been ordered for the show which will continue to air Fridays 8:00-9:00 p.m. on WCHS-TV8.
Tom Bergeron, who joined the show as host this season, will continue to introduce the unique videos that present a hilarious look at everyday people caught on tape in their most embarrassing moments. The additional episodes will bring a brand new batch of weekly contests that will culminate in two exciting $100,000 grand-prize award shows.

A new host, a fresh batch of amazing and hilarious home videos and a new, one-hour format kicked off the 11th season of "America's Funniest Home Videos" which premiered on Friday, July 20, 8:00 pm, on WCHS-TV8.
Host Tom Bergeron ("Hollywood Squares") took over the reins and introduced the unique home videos in this weekly treat which has been expanded from its previous half-hour incarnation to a full-hour of fun. The videos, submitted by viewers, offer big laughs and compete to win big money. From practical jokes to home improvement plans gone awry, from animal mishaps to just flat out strange behavior, "America's Funniest Home Videos" pulls out all of the stops to present a hilarious look at everyday people caught on tape in their most embarrassing moments.

Each week throughout the season, $15,000 in prize money will be awarded: $10,000 for the clip the studio audience chooses as its favorite, $3,000 for second place and $2,000 for the third-place winner. All $10,000 winners are eligible for the $100,000 grand-award competition, to air at a later date.

In its more than 10 seasons to date, "America's Funniest Home Videos" has given away over $6 million in prize money and evaluated over half a million videotapes from home viewers.

Vin Di Bona is executive producer, with Todd Thicke and Terry Moore serving as co-executive producers. "America's Funniest Home Videos" is from Vin Di Bona Productions. The series, which is taped before an audience, premiered on January 14, 1990.


Hollywood Squares Show hosted by Tom Bergeron

One of the most popular game shows on TV, mostly because of the scripted and adlibbed celebrity answers and hosted by Tom Bergeron.
Two contestants call on each star to answer trivia, then choose to agree or disagree. If the star & contestant match a correct response, the contestant earns an X or 0 on the Hollywood Squares ad-libbed game grid. Earn 3 Up/Down or Diagonal and win the game.
This Haverhill, Massachusetts native is one of the most well-rounded hosts on TV. A guest stint on CBS's The Early Show quickly led to him presiding over America's Funniest Home Videos and The 2003 Miss America Pageant.
Tom Bergeron hosts Hollywood Squares Saturday at 10:30am et


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