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Game Show

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One of the oldest TV show types, and the granddaddy of Reality TV; individuals or teams compete for cash and prizes. Descended from radio quiz shows (which are also covered here), they have fluctuated in popularity since their debut in the 1920s.

Game shows were enormously popular in America during the 1950s when TV became a progressively more viable purchase, until several of the most popular ones note  turned out to be rigged in some manner to influence the outcome and manufacture drama.


Mind you, the problem with the rigging wasn't that anyone had done anything illegal (as it wasn't yet a crime to do so), but rather that most tried to cover up what they did during the investigations that took place from 1958-60. Nobody went to jail over the rigging, but rather for committing perjury. As a result, a law was passed in 1960 that made it illegal to run a game show that deceives the public into thinking it's a fair contest.

The fallout from the scandals resulted in many low-stakes games, with big-ticket ones (especially quizzes) generally falling out of favor until 1973 and The $10,000 Pyramid. The 1970s-80s brought flashy sets and catchy music, with 1975, 1985, and 1987 being particularly good years for the genre.

The British had an identical scandal in 1958 (Twenty One on Granada) and this resulted in a limit of £1,000 on cash prizes until the mid-1990s; more frequently the top prize would be a car or in one case a speedboat.


The 1990s brought with it a sense that ideas were running out, as networks and cable stations dropped games left and right (the last Big Three victim being Caesar's Challenge in January 1994). Only The Price Is Right, Wheel of Fortune, and Jeopardy! remained through the entire decade, with a few other games briefly popping up here and there. GSN began in December 1994, giving fans a constant home for classic games (although it eventually went into Network Decay); prior to that, they'd had to rely on other cable nets, including Nickelodeon, USA Network, and The Family Channel for their fix. In 2015, many of the shows began airing on another classic game channel, Buzzr. Or at least the ones owned by Fremantle, who owns the channel.

In 1998, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? gave the genre a shot in the arm and brought a new age of Follow the Leader games that use the editing room to manufacture drama legally. However, in the mid-2010's this started to fall out of favor, especially after ABC began ordering revivals of more traditional games (such as Match Game and Pyramid) with formats that were relatively faithful to their classic formats (yet still distinctly modern).


For the celebrity-oriented variant, see Panel Game. For the variants which allow audiences at home to participate, see Phone-in Game Shows and Home Participation Sweepstakes. See also Game Show Tropes.


Producers (arranged alphabetically by last name):

  • Paul Alter
  • Ralph Andrews (You Don't Say!, I'll Bet/It's Your Bet, Liars Club, 1969-70 It Takes Two, Celebrity Sweepstakes, 50 Grand Slam, 1987-88 Lingo, Yahtzee)
  • Peter Arnell (1952-53 Wheel of Fortune)
  • Chuck Barris
  • Jack Barry and Dan Enright
  • Mark Burnett
  • Stephen J. Cannell (Caesars Challenge)
  • Bill Carruthers (Give-N-Take, Second Chance, Press Your Luck)
  • Carsey Werner (Bill Cosby version of You Bet Your Life)
  • Desilu Studios (By the Numbers, Show Me, Zoom)
  • Ralph Edwards (Truth or Consequences, 1970s-81 Name That Tune, The Cross-Wits, Knockout, Bzzz!)
  • Fremantle Media (and its predecessors, All-American Television and Pearson Television)
  • Mark Goodson and Bill Todman
  • Merv Griffin
  • Reg Grundy (Hot Streak, Scrabble, 1980s Sale of the Century, Time Machine, almost every Australian adaptation of an American game)
  • Stefan Hatos and Monty Hall (Let's Make a Deal, Split Second)
  • Merrill Heatter and Bob Quigley
  • Wink Martindale (Headline Chasers, Bumper Stumpers, Family Channel's interactive games of 1993-94)
  • Nick Nicholson and E. Roger Muir (Pay Cards!, Spin-Off; also created The Newlywed Game)
  • Allan Sherman (creator/producer of I've Got a Secret, 1952-58)
  • Scott Sternberg (Let's Go Back, Wheel 2000, Jep!)
  • Bob Stewart
  • Talent Associates (1960s Supermarket Sweep and The Honeymoon Race, among others)
  • Greggo (Greg Wicker; The Pokemon Game Show)
  • Jay Wolpert

Alternative Title(s): Quiz Show, Game Shows


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