The 1970s would have existed without Brett Somers. They just wouldn't have been as saucy.
Somers, the gravely voiced wiseacre to naughty Charles Nelson Reilly on TV's Match Game, died last Saturday at her Connecticut home of stomach and colon cancer. She was 83.
Asked once to describe Match Game, Somers told CBS News: "You'd get six people who are not smart, don't know what they're doing, put them on a panel, and find two contestants off the street, and ask them dopey questions." (Watch a vintage Match Game clip.)
She forgot to mention the orange set, the orange-shag carpet and the wah-wah guitar that was the show's theme music.
More than anything, Match Game, the most popular version of which ran from 1973 to 1981, was about the by-play between the panelists. Or, as Somers described them, "the six people who are not smart."
Somers' position on the panel was top row, center chair. To her right was Reilly. His position was to tweak Somers until, with a glance through her big, round glasses, she cut him back down to size. Per the rules of the game, all the two were supposed to do was fill in host Gene Rayburn's blank—no euphemism intended.
Reilly died in May at age 76.
GSN will remember Somers, and, in turn, Reilly, in an all-day Match Game marathon this coming Saturday, the cable network said Monday.
While Reilly's Match Game run obscured his Tony-nominated stage work, Somers' tenure shined a light on a woman best known for a time as actor Jack Klugman's wife.
It was Klugman, TV lore says, who suggested Somers for Rayburn's panel after appearing himself on the game-show's first episodes.
Born July 11, 1924, in Canada, Somers was an actress in her own right. In the 1950s, she worked a lot in the live television dramas of the day. In the 1960s, she guest starred on some of the leading series dramas of the day, including The Fugitive. In the 1970s, she appeared on several episodes of TV's The Odd Couple as the ex-wife of Klugman's sloppy Oscar Madison.
In real life, Somers and Klugman costarred in a marriage from 1953 to 1974. The Associated Press obituary says that while the couple separated in 1974, they never formally divorced, but the biography on Somers' own Website refers to her as Klugman's ex-wife.
Somers' onscreen career wound down with Match Game's own run. In recent years, she cowrote and performed a one-woman musical show, An Evening with Brett Somers. The New York Post, in a review, called the production, in an attempt to channel the late Rayburn, "enchanting."
"And she has a surprisingly good voice," the paper said.
Match Game fans would not be surprised to hear Somers gave good voice. Or cutting quips.
"What you saw was what you got," she recalled to CBS News. "You were up there without a net."