This is it! You don’t have to go any further, I have done it! There have been more game shows that have aired in this country than any other in the world, but which stand the test of time? Is it all the host? The format? The creator in some cases? We go through that here, so buckle up.
11. American Gladiators
I know what you’re saying. This isn’t really a game show. I told you I knew you were going to say that, why did you say it anyway?j Look this is a game show that just happens to be physical instead of mental. Instead of answering trivia, you had to figure out how to maneuver through Gladiators in a feat of skill and also a game plan to move through the courses. If you couldn’t keep it close, then you had to finish with your opponent getting a head start.
Too much of a head start and it was just too much to make up. Look, I get it, you don’t think this is a game show, but just because the “hosts” are spandex clad ass kickers, it doesn’t mean they aren’t hosts in a game show. If it is not a competition of skill, then what is it? And if it is a competition of skill, then how is that different than literally every other game show? Plus, who is smarter than the people planning out the Gladiators steroid cycle? This also ends in a one on one match against the course. Say what you will, but if you make it or can come back, then that is more exciting than just about any other game show at it’s best. I mean check out this final match and tell me I’m wrong.
10. The Running Man
If you don’t think this is a real game show, then we can’t be friends!!
And if we’re not friends, the I hope you leave room for my fist!
9. The Price is Right
This probably belongs higher on the list strictly because of it’s longevity. The Price is Right has been on the air since 1972 and made Bob Barker a household friend of housewives and kids that were home sick for decades. The reason it is not higher is because it has always been a daytime talk show and of that time it has been mostly in the morning. What real competition did it have? That doesn’t mean it isn’t good or that Bob Barker isn’t a pop culture staple since Disco and cocaine where in style, but at it’s best it just lacks real excitement or humor. If you don’t have an exciting moment at the end, then how are you going to be higher on the list. Out of all the shows, the final round of The Price is Right is by far the weakest.
The best part of the Showdown is seeing the prizes that could be won. The most exciting part of the entire show is a contestant that simply gets a chance at a car. I want this show to be higher, I really do. Bob Barker is one of the best talk show hosts ever and also the best name for a dog every….I mean Bob BARK-er?!? You can’t beat it. The problem is that you might remember Plinko or the wheel spin, but the real thing you remember is Bob and someone winning A BRAND NEW CAR!! This isn’t a list of best game show hosts though and overall the wheel and showdown are the weakest part of the show and keeps it from ranking higher.
8. Who Wants To Be a Millionaire
Now we are talking tension! Now we are talking excitement! When this show debuted in prime time it was the biggest hit on this list. It was an absolute phenomenon. Regis was perfect and the way it was set up made for simple rules and built excitement in a way that the other shows on this list just can’t do. The only problem it had is that it got very predictable. Low dollar questions were terribly easy and once the average player made it to the final 5 questions for a chance at real money or a million, the questions were impossibly hard or they got stuck between two choices and had squandered their lifelines. Over the course of it’s original run, the show went over 20 straight nights and started to feel desperate to give away the money. The show only works if there is a real chance of winning and ultimately the format got stale. There are newer versions that are still on the air in daytime, but nothing quite like that original run. The original run alone makes this rank possible and is the best of anything on the list.
7. The Newlywed Game
This show is responsible for the best answer that anyone has ever given on a game show. Sure it’s easy to mistake place and location, but one this is for certain. This couple are super freaks and she has never lived this down. Ever! If you don’t know or can’t figure out what she answered, the weirdest place she ever got the urge to make whoopie was “in the butt”. This happened in 1977, so of course it was censored, but this is 2018 and it is still hilarious!
6. Win Ben Stein’s Money
I completely admit that this is just a sentimental choice for me and me alone. I’m not sure anyone else has watched this, but it was a brilliant game show with great hosts and a terrific final game format. You might recognize a fresh faced young Jimmy Kimmel acting as the games host. He was more of a co-host with Ben Stein, who almost everyone will recognize from Ferris Bueller. What you might not know is that he graduated from Columbia, was the Valedictorian at Yale Law School and is an all around smart mofo!
The format is simple enough to start…3 contestants battle for the 2 highest scores in the first round. In the 2nd round, Ben Stein jumps in as the 3rd contestant and destroys everyone involved, so the other 2 contestants have to work their ass off to gain any ground on each other. At the end, the person with the highest score gets asked the same 10 questions as Stein. Highest score wins. When a contestant actually beats Ben Stein for his money, then it really seems like a major accomplishment. You might not win a million dollars, but man that street cred is something to boast about. It was clever, funny, and very very good. Plus it’s my list, I’ll do what I want!
5. Wheel of Fortune
Merv Griffin knows how to make a game show and how to make one last. You better be good at something if your parents named you Mervyn because you know he got his ass kicked as a child. Pat and Vanna have been staples in American households since the early 80’s and they look as young now as they did when they started. How is that possible??
Some possible theories include:
Pat and Vanna drink the blood of young children in an effort to stay young forever.
Vanna has been replaced multiple times and we have a fem-bot situation.
When you don’t work a day in your life, you really don’t age.
They live in California and have the means for multiple plastic surgeries.
All plausible, but I actually hope they are aliens. The format works, it’s simple enough to play along, and is short enough to be engaging. When you include that Pat and Vanna have been reported to show up shit faced several days a week because they are bored, then it makes the urban legend of them even better. Can you imagine that many people watching you walk back and forth in high heels after you’ve been drinking for 6 hours? This show has survived for decades now because of the great format and even leaves room for some comedy when people make stupid guesses. Overall it is very solid, even if it’s not one of my favorite.
4. Hollywood Squares
If you do not know who is in the picture above, then stop reading this and go do some research. This person is Paul Lynde and he is one of the funniest people of all time! He had such a unique voice and was a rock solid center square for a long time. He had a way of delivering a one liner response that so unique to him that it could never be duplicated. He was Templeton the rat in Charlotte’s Web, he was Uncle Arthur in Bewitched, and he was a staple of Hollywood Squares. He had a voice that was unmistakable and a charisma that was unmatched.
Ask anyone who remembers and he was legit one of the biggest stars on the planet. Now all of this doesn’t have anything to do with the game show, but when you are that good at something the rest of the show rises with you. He was that good. Sure the show carried on after him, but he was the original reason it survived. Everyone showed up to be on this show and all of them knew he was the funniest. This show ranks 4th because of Paul Lynde and Paul Lynde alone.
3. Family Feud
This is the only show listed here that has had a revolving door at host, but it still ranks this high because it has such a great format. You may have your favorite list, but personally Steve Harvey is the best of all of them. He is funny, kind of mean, and can still build drama. The final round where 2 members of the winning family work together to get the list is the best as well. It’s exciting when the first family member lays an egg and the second cleans house to win. It’s also high comedy when the first tears it up and the the second only needs like 30 points to win and just completely shits the bed.
Everyone can play along with this game and that is proof by the fact that Game Show network shows about 86 episodes a day on its network. People love to guess along and none is more guilty of this than my wife and I at House Soapbox. Do not be surprised if House Soapbox goes on Family Feud one day and cleans house for 5 straight episodes because we have been practicing for this for a very long time. We want that free mid-sized car at the end of 5 episodes! it will be ours!!
2. 100,000 Pyramid
DICK CLARK IS A MOTHER FUCKING AMERICAN TREASURE AND IF YOU DISAGREE WITH ME THEN I WILL STRAIGHT UP FIGHT YOU!! Who is the best game show host ever? Dick Clark. Who is the best host of anything ever? Dick Clark. If you needed someone as a tag team partner in an underground fight and could only pick one person, who would it be? Dick Clark.
This show is almost perfect and has the hardware to prove it. It’s 9 total Emmy’s for Outstanding Game Show ranks second all time. This show was a ratings beast and was for decades. People would stick around when it was delayed for the Watergate hearings just to watch Pyramid. The fact that it was such a ratings beast led to board games and it also led to a version of this show being played on TV in 18 different countries with 18 different hosts. The game itself is terrific and when you pair a good game with the GOAT of hosts, then you get something that has destroyed almost all other game shows for decades.
We have already discussed that Merv Griffin knows how to make a game show. So what happens when you pair him with a young mustachioed Canadian who is smarter than everyone? This iiiiiiiissss Jeopardy! This is everything that you want out of a game show, but not only that it’s everything you want out of a TV show in general. Jeopardy is not only the best game show, it’s one of the best shows in the history of television. It’s won a Peabody award, it has 33 Emmy’s to it’s name, and it has the most recognizable music for any of them. You’re thinking of the music now aren’t you? 3 contestants are coming up with their answer in the form of a question and….that…..music….starts……!!! Alex Trebek.
I’m not sure if Alex Trebek actually knows all of the answers or not without reading the card, but I believe he does and so do you, so that is all you need. He can pull it off like nobody else and I truly believe that he is wicked smart. Nothing else on this list has what this show has, but also no other show on this list had such a great recurring sketch like Jeopardy did on SNL. Sean Connery and Trebek on the SNL version of Celebrity Jeopardy was consistently hilarious! Nothing else on this list can compare to the game play, the host, the cultural relevance like Jeopardy. It is far and away the best game show of all time.
Stephen Balding is the founder of Cinema Soapbox. You can reach him at email@example.com