The game show "Password" was created by Bob Stewart for Mark Goodson-Bill Todman Productions. It actually made its debut on another Goodson-Todman game show, "I've Got a Secret," in which Vivian Vance's secret was that she wanted to play a great new word game with the panel.
After that stellar example of corporate synergy, "Password" debuted on CBS's schedule at 2:00 P.M. Eastern time on October 2, 1961, and ran in the same time slot until it was canceled by CBS as of September 15, 1967. Meanwhile, a prime time version ran weekly from January 2, 1962 to May 22, 1967 in various time slots.
On this version, the score for each word started at 10 points if the contestant or their celebrity partner guessed it on the first clue. If they couldn't guess it, the other contestant-celebrity team had a chance for 9 points. Play continued back and forth until the final chance was worth only 1 point. The judging was very strict, with only non-hyphenated one-word clues allowed. World Book Encyclopedia Dictionary editor Reason A. Goodwin sat offstage to serve as the word authority.
The first contestant to get to 25 points won $100 on the daytime version or $250 on the prime-time version, and then got to play the Lightning Round for up to $250. The celebrity would have 60 seconds to try to communicate five words to the contestant, with a $50 prize for each one correct. Peter Lawford held the speed record, once communicating all five words in 12 seconds.
The contestants would then walk around the front of the desk to change celebrity partners, and would play another game.
After "Password" was canceled, episodes from the last year of the daytime version, which had been produced in color, were butchered to cut out the sponsorship announcements and dated references and then put into syndication. Game show reruns airing on another channel was unheard of in those pre-Game Show Network days.
"Password" was revived by ABC, where it premiered on April 5, 1971, at 4:00 P.M. Eastern time. This version was essentially the same until November 18, 1974, when it became "Password All-Stars," with only celebrities playing the game. Regular contestants returned a few months later, but the last episode aired June 27, 1975.
It returned on January 8, 1979, this time on NBC, with a new format and a new title. "It's more than Password, it's Password Plus," as announcer Gene Wood said at the beginning of each show.
On this version, instead of each word in the main game being completely separate, every five words would be linked together and add up to the name of a person, place, or thing. The teams only got four chances to guess each word, and a correct guess led to a chance to guess the puzzle's solution. The first and second correctly solved puzzles were worth $100 each, and subsequent puzzles were worth $200 apiece.
Whichever contestant was first to reach $400 would go with their celebrity partner to play Alphabetics, the replacement for the Lightning Round. The celebrity had 60 seconds to communicate 10 words, starting with consecutive letters of the alphabet. The prize was $100 per word, or $5,000 for correctly guessing all 10.
The judging for what was an acceptable clue was less strict on "Password Plus" than it had been on "Password," although for a time, "Password Plus" adopted a no-opposites rule, resulting in some strange decisions, such as a producer deciding that cat was the opposite of dog.
Allen Ludden gradually became more and more ill with what turned out to be stomach cancer during the run of "Password Plus." At one point, Bill Cullen served as guest host for several weeks; eventually, Ludden was too sick to continue and was replaced by Tom Kennedy in early 1981. Kennedy continued as host until "Password Plus" ended on March 26, 1982.
The "Password Plus" format returned to NBC with the title "Super Password" on September 24, 1984, lasting until March 24, 1989, despite airing at noon Eastern time and thus being preempted for local news by many East Coast NBC affiliates.
Bert Convy was now the host. The puzzles were now worth $100, $200, $300, and $400, with at least $500 required to win the game and go to the bonus round. The winner of the $200 puzzle played the special "Ca$hword," in which the celebrity had three chances to communicate an especially hard word to the contestant. The prize for guessing the Ca$hword started at $1,000 and went up by $1,000 every time a word wasn't guessed; a correct guess meant the contestant would immediately be handed a check for the prize amount, rather than the usual method of not being paid until the show aired.
Although the Alphabetics name was dropped, the bonus round was played exactly the same, but the prize for guessing all 10 words started at $5,000 and went up by $5,000 every time a contestant was unsuccessful. Since contestants could only play the bonus round five times before having to retire from the show, it was to a new contestant's potential monetary advantage to be brought in after a long string of bonus round losses rather than after a win.
The catch phrase from the original version of "Password" was the announcer whispering "The password is (word)" for the audience at home, immediately followed by a bell that was audible in the studio to indicate that the announcer had finished. In later versions, the announcement was replaced by an electronic sound effect, but "the password is..." returned in the later years of "Super Password."
The videotapes of ABC's "Password" and "Password All-Stars" were destroyed, as were the non-syndicated episodes of CBS's daytime "Password," but all other versions have been rerun on Game Show Network.