The History of Game Shows- Part 1

Whether rooting against a Whammy in “Press Your Luck,” silently hoping your name is called to “Come on down!” in “The Price is Right,” or screaming the answer to a Daily Double question while watching “Jeopardy,” game shows have long had Americans enthralled. Although their popularity wavers at times, game shows are a television staple nearly as synonymous with the country’s culture as peanut butter and jelly.

Some experts assert that the game show’s popularity directly ties in with America’s lofty rags-to-riches dreams, wherein we love to see an average person win a fantastical vacation or pocket a million dollars for doing little more than showing up. Other theories state that we simply can’t get enough of what Andy Warhol dubbed our 15 minutes of fame, especially when the end result is something every self-respecting member of the consumer culture craves—symbols of the Good Life, of Success, of Prestige.

Regardless of the reason, game shows continue to draw massive audiences. With individual episodes boasting more than 8,000,000 viewers in 2015, “Family Feud” follows a lengthy history of game show fame. Originally, game shows entertained listeners via the radio waves. It didn’t take long for Americans to become entranced by the excitement and thrill of competition.

This newfound passion quickly moved into television, with the first televised game show being “Spelling Bee” in 1938. Three years later, in 1941, “Truth or Consequences” became the first game show to air on commercially licensed television.

With the advent of the boob tube’s popularity in the 1950s came an onslaught of quiz-format game shows. During the daytime hours, lower stakes games aired, primarily geared toward stay-at-home moms. In later hours, shows with higher stakes played. As series such as “The $64,000 Question” and “Twenty One” rose in fame throughout the ‘50s, scandal quickly brought the quiz-style format to a screeching halt in 1959.

Under pressure to build more and more suspense, shows strived to outdo one another. This led to unethical practices in the pursuit of drama. Having debuted in 1958, game show “Dotto” grew to immense popularity within a very short period of time. However, a mere year later, audiences figured out that the show was rigged. Producers were feeding selected contestants the questions and answers. As this series ended, people began to scrutinize other game shows. Before long, “Twenty One” came to a close under the same circumstances.

Surprising to many, game shows managed to survive the turmoil these scandals created. The focus began to shift so that having fun with celebrities became the big draw. “Match Game” and “Hollywood Squares” became hits with their big personalities selling the show.

It was just before this time that “The Price is Right” was first broadcast. Having the distinction of being the longest running daytime game show in North American history, it boasts only having had two hosts. Until 2007, Bob Barker led the way to contestants spinning the big wheel. Once he retired, he handed the reins to comedian Drew Carey, who has been the host ever since.

As game shows continue to evolve over time, several key components stay the same: contestants seemingly pulled at random, incentives for players to win, and some sense of rushing against the clock.

Fortunately, many of the alluring premises of prime-time game shows hold true at one of Magic Barry’s game shows—and, of course, many other elements of surprise offer entertainment value, too.

While Magic Barry can’t promise you a trip overseas, a new car, or earnings to double your income, he does promise A LOT of fun and audience participation, which is what makes his “Magic Barry Interactive Game Shows” one of the most popular corporate entertainment options in the country.

Please consider Magic Barry Entertainment for your next corporate team-building event if you want fun, humor and a bit of competition—along with a great deal of camaraderie—among colleagues.