Truth or Consequences, New Mexico: A Game Show Gimmick With Lasting Results

By | July 2, 2021

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“Truth or Consequences” game show with host Ralph Edwards (second from right). Musicians from the audience: (from left) Eddy Lee, trombone; Bob Garcia, fiddle; and Ted Peckham, accordion. Image dated June 1, 1950. (CBS via Getty Images)

Truth Or Consequences was one of the most popular game shows of the genre's golden age, running intermittently on both radio and television from 1940 to 1987. It also changed the history of one American state forever.

Truth Or Consequences

Truth Or Consequences had a fairly simple premise: Contestants were asked bizarre questions, and if they got them wrong—which they usually did, as the questions were expressly written to be unanswerable—they had to complete some zany stunt. They were usually humorous and embarrassing, although occasionally, creator and host Ralph Edwards introduced a heartwarming twist like bringing in a long-lost relative to surprise the contestant mid-stunt. Edwards and his team constantly worked to keep the stunts fresh and the ratings up.

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City Hall (Municipal Building) of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, located at 505 Sims Street, April 4, 2009. (AllenS/Wikimedia Commons)

New Mexico

In 1950, as the game show approached its 10th anniversary, Edwards announced an opportunity for every city in America to submit their town in a drawing, the winner of which would permanently change its name to Truth or Consequences. The publicity grab worked, as municipalities across the country threw themselves into the ring, including Hot Springs, New Mexico. The small town, located south of Albuquerque along the Rio Grande River and named for the many natural hot springs in the area, voted 1,294 to 295 to participate in the contest

On April 1, 1950, Edwards and his crew traveled to New Mexico, where he announced live on the air that Hot Springs would thereafter be known as Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. It was no April Fool's joke: The win was a boon for the puny Southwestern town, which suddenly saw its tourism skyrocket as game show enthusiasts flocked to the area. Every year, the town hosts a Truth Or Consequences Fiesta to honor its heritage and the iconic game show that quite literally put it on the map.