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Tapped by Merv, a host with the most

By Michael D. Schaffer
Inquirer Staff Writer


Ty Treadway's got game.

He's cleft-chinned and blue-eyed handsome, gracious of manner and nimble of wit, brimming with energy and enthusiasm.

The former soap-opera actor from Trenton, who played twins Colin and Troy MacIver on One Life to Live, seems to have everything needed to conquer the unforgiving landscape of daytime television as a game show host.

No less a TV eminence than Merv Griffin, creator of Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy!, knew it.

Griffin, who died last month, picked Treadway in April to preside over his last gift to TV viewers: Merv Griffin's Crosswords.

The half-hour syndicated show, with a time clock that revs up puzzle-solving from leisurely to lickety-split, made its local debut yesterday on CBS3, where it can been seen weekdays at 9 a.m.

Treadway counts himself lucky to have been Griffin's choice.

"Man, I couldn't be in a better place," he says, but he took a roundabout route to get there.

Born and raised in Trenton, the youngest of seven children, Treadway was an athletic kid. Even though his dad, Richard, a scout for the Los Angeles Dodgers, named him after baseball immortal Ty Cobb, he was drawn to soccer. Treadway was good enough to win a scholarship to Rider University, where he stayed for a year before transferring to the College of New Jersey.

After graduating in 1989, Treadway went to work for the New Jersey Legislature as an auditor. It wasn't a good fit, but Treadway hung on for seven years, frozen in place by his expectation of how his life would play out: "Get an education, get a secure job, marry, have children, retire."

It took the death of his mother, Mary Lou, of breast cancer in 1996 at age 59 to make Treadway revise his assumptions.

"I think the final gift that my mother gave to me in her passing was that I realized that the whole world was open up to me, that I was really, really limiting my options by staying in just one path," he says. "I didn't know what I wanted to do, but I wanted to experience more out of life, that's what I knew."

Treadway already had done some modeling, and now the accountant shucked his tie for good and took his handsome face to New York to become an actor.

"I trained with some intensive acting schools and did a lot of theater there in New York, and was fortunate enough to get on All My Children," he recalled during a recent promotional visit to the CBS3 studios at 16th and Spring Garden Streets.

Treadway got other work in television and independent movies and moved to Los Angeles. But in 2000, just a year after he arrived, he was offered the MacIver role on One Life. Back to New York.

Still, the West Coast beckoned. The guy who had been so passive during his auditor days made a pitch to the cable network SOAPnet and ended up cohosting a program called Soap Talk with actress Lisa Rinna. He commuted between New York and L.A. until his run on One Life ended in 2003.

Soap Talk, which debuted in 2002, was canceled last year. "It was a great run," Treadway said, but with the talk show behind him, he was looking for work that would allow him to spend as much time as possible with his family. By now, he was married (he hadn't discarded the entire life plan from his earlier days), and he and wife Monica had two children, Samantha, 2, and Ryder, 1.

A game-show spot would be just right, and Griffin was looking for a host.

Treadway won the job in a two-hour meeting in Griffin's Beverly Hills office, with the entertainer/entrepreneur seated "in a fancy Italian chair, behind a big, king-sized desk in a room filled with all of his staff and his Emmys everywhere."

Griffin did everything he could to rattle Treadway. "He tried to throw me off as much as he possibly could," Treadway recalls. "He wants to see how you perform under pressure. . . . About halfway through, I knew I had sort of passed the test."

Griffin, who was obsessed with crosswords and wouldn't get out of bed until he had done three of them every morning, told Treadway he had been thinking for 20 years about how to bring a crossword game to TV.

No detail of the show was too small to escape Griffin's attention, says Treadway, who speaks of him in terms approaching awe.

Griffin composed the music for the show, picked out Treadway's wardrobe, even told him when to get a haircut.

With all that grooming, will Treadway be a success?

His GQ good looks are bound to help him with an audience that is "heavily female," says David Schwartz, author of The Encyclopedia of TV Game Shows and historian for GSN, formerly the Game Show Network.

"Women love to go up and give that game show host a hug and a kiss."

But few actors have become game show hosts. The skills needed for the two jobs are different. Actors rely on a script; game show hosts rely on their ability to ad-lib and interact with the contestants, Schwartz says.

"A game show host is part traffic cop, trying to get the best out of the contestants and reacting to situations that can't be predicted," Schwartz explains.

Treadway is confident that he's up to it.

"I love unpredictability," he says.

He also loves working with the contestants.

"We are all interconnected and have something to learn from everybody we meet," he says.

Most of all, he loves working on the show that Merv Griffin entrusted to him: "Ultimately, I'm looking to have a good time."
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