TV & Showbiz

Game Shows Need Your Help!

In case those game show fans out there haven’t noticed, CBS is running a limited summer series called “Gameshow Marathon.” (They expect you to excuse the fact that Game Show should be two words.)

The series, hosted by former talk show host Ricki Lake, brings back classic game shows and has celebrities playing for charities. A home viewer can win the prizes “won” by the champion at the end of each show.

First was “The Price is Right.” Apparently, when the producers of the series were selecting the shows they wanted to “bring back,” someone forgot to tell them that ‘Price’ is still on the air. Second was “Let’s Make a Deal.” This week, viewers will be treated to “Beat the Clock” on Wednesday night and “Press Your Luck” on Thursday night. The following week, they’re planning remakes of “Card Sharks,” “Match Game” and “Family Feud.” ‘Feud’ is another one of those shows that is already on the air.

The hope is that game show fans will encourage everyone else to watch, and that ratings will be strong enough to encourage the networks to put more game shows on the air. Game shows used to be a staple of daytime television. Today, only “The Price is Right” remains on the network schedules. In syndication, there are titles like “Wheel of Fortune,” “Jeopardy,” “Family Feud,” and “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.”

The shows so far have been enjoyable, but that’s about it. Lake is doing a decent job of hosting, but I’d have expected a comeback of classic shows to be hosted by someone with at least a little game show experience under their belts. The celebrity factor is also a problem: think back to those thrilling days of the 1970s, when every network had schedules crammed full of game shows. Other than shows like “The $25,000 Pyramid,” “The Hollywood Squares,” “Match Game” or “Password,” in which celebrities were key parts of the games, a show filled with celebrities playing for charities generally meant one thing: the game itself was dying and this was one last grab for ratings before cancellation. I wonder if viewers aren’t conditioned even today that a “celebrity tournament” means that the show is withering away.

But even if viewers are happy to watch celebrities, I have to wonder what constitutes “celebrity” these days. Other than Leslie Nielsen, star of “Airplane” and the “Naked Gun” movies, there aren’t many “big names” as contestants. I vaguely remember Tim Meadows from “Saturday Night Live.” I’ve heard of Lance Bass, and I’m pretty sure he was in some boy band a few years ago, but I have no idea which one, nor will I lose any sleep while I try to solve that mystery. I remember Kathy Najimby from “Sister Act.” I’ve never heard of Paige Davis or Brande Roderick.

Why not bring back some of the celebrity guests that helped make the old shows so much fun? How about reuniting Charles Nelson Reilly and Brett Somers from “Match Game?” Their chemistry was at least as much fun as the game itself. Why not have folks like Betty White and Fannie Flagg and Don Rickles back on! That’d promise more fun than watching folks you’ve never heard of.

Or, just have folks you’ve never heard of: let real contestants play the games. Game shows proved a long time ago that an audience doesn’t mind watching “regular joes” win prizes.

I hope everyone who watches the show will write the networks and demand more classic game shows. Unfortunately, I’m not sure this revival is all that it’ll take to get those letters started.

But I’ll keep my fingers crossed…just in case.

7 Comments

  1. I wouldn’t call myself a game show fan, and probably wouldn’t go out of my way to watch a game show now. But I have fond memories of I’ve Got a Secret, To Tell the Truth, The Match Game, $20,000 Pyramid, You Don’t Say! (similar to Pyramid), and good old Password. Nearly all of these shows involved interaction between celebrities and non-celebs. That’s what works best, I think.

  2. I love game shows. I grew up watching those you mentioned. It’s always fun to test my knowledge watching such shows as Jeopardy and Millionaire. I also enjoy seeing celebrities compete because it lets me see another side of them. I agree with elleme about Deal or No Deal. It takes no skill or smarts but I find myself watching, hoping that the contestant will walk away with big bucks. By the way, Lance Bass was in the boy band N’Snyc and Paige Davis was host of the TLC show “Trading Spaces” and is a broadway actress. Also, she married a fellow broadway actor whose last name is Page. So her real name is Paige Page. How funny is that?

  3. Oh, and I hate “Deal or No Deal.” I have watched exactly twice. I got bored pretty dang quickly.

  4. I like very few game shows. My favorite is Jeopardy (I guess I qualify as a smartie).

    Before we summarily dismiss the celebrities that play in Jeopardy’s Celebrity Tourney, let me point out that it usually doesn’t just feature famous folk that are actors, but also authors. My favorite Jeopardy Celebrity Champion–Stephen King. King romped everyone in his path the season he played, and not because he got easy questions or had an ego problem. He played like a real champ. So he counts, in my book, as a fellow smartie.

    What I’d like to see is replays of the older shows like “To Tell the Truth” or “What’s My Line?” or even “Truth or Consequences” and “Name that Tune” (I can name that tune in one note). It’s a real pleasure to see some of the stars from the 50s and 60s that have passed on quipping and having a fab time playing a silly game.

    I guess I’m a really strange person for my age, but I really get a charge out of those shows.

  5. I wouldn’t mind the return of game shows (although using some of the original stars may or may not work since the younger generation has no idea who they are!)

    If the do bring them back I sure hope they replace some of the “reality shows”!!

  6. On the roster of current shows, you omitted “Deal or No Deal” which requires no real skill to play but would still qualify as a game show, I think. It’s rather stupid, but compelling. I have to confess that I sometimes watch. It’s attracting a large audience right now but will probably fade rather quickly.

    I don’t think there’s that much interest in game shows any more. Look how quickly the initially very popular “Millionaire” was pushed out of prime time.

    “Deal or No Deal” does indeed qualify as a game show, and it’s probably the only real game show left in prime. I didn’t mean to omit it, but I was more focused on daytime, where game shows held such a wide audience for so long.

    In prime time, other than ‘DOND’ and the occasional “Price is Right Million Dollar Spectacular,” game shows seem to be pushed to the side in favor of “reality” shows which tend to display anything but “reality.”

    The Million Dollar editions of ‘Price’ do quite well when they’re on, but there are only so many shows they can produce.

    As for ‘Millionaire,’ the problem there was that ABC realized that they had a hit and then scheduled it so often that people grew tired of it quickly; the network wore out its own welcome. As desperate as fourth-placed NBC has been for an audience this season, I’m suprised we haven’t seen more ‘Deal,’ but perhaps NBC is trying to keep ABC’s mistake in mind.

    In any case, it’s my understanding that they are developing a syndicated version of “Deal or No Deal” for 2007. So by then, there’ll be plenty of it on the air as well.

  7. On the roster of current shows, you omitted “Deal or No Deal” which requires no real skill to play but would still qualify as a game show, I think. It’s rather stupid, but compelling. I have to confess that I sometimes watch. It’s attracting a large audience right now but will probably fade rather quickly.

    I don’t think there’s that much interest in game shows any more. Look how quickly the initially very popular “Millionaire” was pushed out of prime time.

    Personally, I never have been much of a game show fan, although I still enjoy competing with the smarties on “Jeopardy” every once in a while. “Smarties” does not include the occasional celebrity contestants, who are usually just ego-driven boring.

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 29 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.