The Fans Decide
Compiled by Matt Ottinger, Summer 2006
(WEBMASTER’S NOTE: This list was compiled based on votes from regulars and visitors of the The Game Show Forum. Each person submitted their list of the 50 greatest shows, with each show receiving points based on their ranking. The top show on each person’s list received 50 points, 49 points for the #2 show, 48 for #3, and so on, down to 1 point for the #50 show.)
The work is done! Eighty of you helped compile what we, as game show fans, consider to be the fifty greatest shows of all time. Some initial thoughts before we begin:
Our wildly non-scientific exercise is clearly skewed in two notable ways. As game show fans, we tended to be fans of shows that had games to them. Might seem obvious to us, but not to the average TV viewer. Two examples are the love we did not show to “Love Connection” (tied with several others for #154 on our list) and “Studs”, which did not receive a single vote from any of us. Beyond that, we as a group generally placed an emphasis on the quality of the game rather than the fame of the show. You’ll see what I mean soon.
Secondly, there’s definitely an age bias, though probably not as enormous a one as some had feared. Most of us came of age in the eighties, so a lot of quality shows from that decade probably got rated a little higher overall than they would if we were a slightly older bunch. Another good example of age bias is the children’s shows. Six shows aimed at kids made the top 100, and they’re all from the 80s and beyond. Meanwhile, “Shenanigans” didn’t make the top 100, and shows like “Choose Up Sides” and “Runaround” didn’t get any votes at all.
Our top show that didn’t make the GSN list came in at #23 — and it wasn’t “Double Dare”. Nine shows in our top 50 were on neither the GSN list nor the TV Guide list from 2001.
We had one tie in the top 50 (for 47th), and the difference between our number 2 and number 3 shows was a single point (3494 to 3493), a statistical tie if ever there was one.
77 of our 80 first place votes were shared by the top sixteen shows. The remaining first place votes went to another show in the top fifty, a reality show and a local show.
A sampling of hosts and the number of their shows included in the top 50:
Bill Cullen: 9
Tom Kennedy: 6 (his seventh was #51)
Jack Barry: 5
Alex Trebek: 5
Chuck Woolery: 4
Jim Lange: 4
Wink Martindale: 3
Bob Barker: 2 (sorry, Parent Game)
Patrick Wayne: 1
Thanks to everyone who contributed!
50 – Gambit/Las Vegas Gambit (1972-76/1980-81)
(579 points, appeared on 32 out of 80 ballots)
(Did not appear on the GSN or TV Guide lists)
That OTHER card game, or that OTHER game show based on blackjack, depending on how you look at it. One of six Heatter-Quigley shows in our Top 100.
49 – Weakest Link (2001-03)
(614, 38/80)(GSN: 22)
The worldwide smash was a relative flash in the pan in the US, burning through a prime time AND syndicated run in less than three years before disappearing. Still, one of the few “modern” shows to make our list.
47 – The Dating Game (1965-74, 78-80, 86-89, 96-98)
(629, 34/80)(GSN: 10)(TVG: 28)
As I said in the intro, we show no love to the relationship shows. This bona fide classic barely made it onto our list. Thanks to his CIA connections, Chuck Barris knows where you all live, and he’s gunning for you.
47 – Remote Control (1987-91)
(629, 34/80)(GSN: 36)(TVG: 36)
“TV mattered, nothing else did.” The show that launched the careers of Adam Sandler, Colin Quinn and Ken Ober. One’s still doing pretty well.
46 – College Bowl (1959-70, 1987, 1990-95)
(639, 25/80)(GSN: 39)(TVG: 3)
Arguably the most imitated and influential game show ever. (Seriously, how many high schools have “Hollywood Squares” clubs?) Without this show’s impact, many people on this forum (well, me and mmb5 anyway) would not have cool part-time jobs. On fewer ballots, but those who had it ranked it higher.
45 – Treasure Hunt (1956-59, 73-77, 81-82)
(675, 44/80)(GSN: 49)
From “College Bowl” to this? The first show to be on more than half the ballots, it didn’t rank very highly on many of them. Still, Chuck Barris’ second show on our list (and Geoff Edwards’ first) proves it has its guilty-pleasure fans. And we actually put it higher than GSN did!
44 – Deal or No Deal (2005-present)
(696, 34/80)(GSN: 26)
A spiritual cousin to “Treasure Hunt” in many ways (lots of boxes and random chance), there’s no doubt that the show is a modern sensation, but our collective jury is still out about its historical greatness.
43 – Now You See It (1974-75, 1989)
Perhaps the first example of how we know more about game shows than the average viewer (or even GSN, which coulda shown this). Originally only the most modest of a success (little more than a year) but a fun game with great play-at-home value. Because, you know, ever answer to every question is right there before your eyes. First of three Jack Narz shows.
42 – Break the Bank (1976-77)
(757, 37/80 including one first place vote)
For a lot of fans, the one that got away. At least now, we never have to wonder how Barry-Enright would have done a Heatter-Quigley show. BTW, this is NOT the shortest-lived show on our list!
41 – Twenty-One (1956-58, 2000)
(769, 39/80)(GSN: 40)(TVG: 15)
The original destroyed careers and, for a decade or so, a genre. Critics say it wouldn’t work unrigged, which was more or less proven in 2000, but not before making one of our members rich. Whether deliberately being clever or not, two members had this at #21 on their list.
40 – Go (1983-84)
Sixteen weeks on the air (plus cable reruns) and a flawed scoring structure that frequently rendered the third round meaningless. But golly, what a fun little game to watch. Somewhere in a parallel universe, Kevin O’Connell is a game show legend and Wink Martindale is doing the weather in Buffalo.
39 – The Gong Show/Extreme Gong (1976-80, 1988-89/1998-99)
(810, 35/80) (GSN: 12)(TVG: 16)
Infamous, notorious, legendary, it pretty much had to make our list even though “greatest” is rarely used to describe it. Many of you probably left it off on “not-a-game-show” principle or it would have ranked even higher (as it did for GSN and TV Guide). You know, technically, George Gray made our list twice.
38 – Whew! (1979-80)
Another example of a show most people have forgotten, we may not be able to pronounce it but we remember it for its addictive gameplay. Tom Kennedy’s “traffic cop” skills were never put to better use. Randy [Amasia] is smiling.
37 – The Who What or Where Game/The Challengers (1969-74/1990-91)
Interestingly, ballots were pretty evenly split, with older members remembering the classic and younger ones recalling the updated version. Both versions toiled under the shadow of Jeopardy!, but both had their fans. And again, if we had counted them as separate shows, neither would have made the Top 50.
36 – You Bet Your Life (1950-61, 1980-81, 1992-93)
(855, 39/80)(GSN: 31)(TVG: 24)
Sure there were two remakes, but we remember “The one, the only…Groucho!” Debuting on radio in 1947, this show is about to turn sixty. Could another remake be around the corner?
35 – Lingo (1987-88, 2002-present)
(856, 48/80)(GSN: 16)
Though many (myself included) consider the remake a compromised version of the original, it is GSN’s most successful original show, and you can’t beat the play-at-home factor. You knew they had to include it — but look what we were willing to rank even higher at #32!
34 – Truth or Consequences (1950-51, 1954-75, 1977-78, 1987-88)
(864, 37/80)(GSN: 44)(TVG: 21)
For years and years, everybody knew Bill Cullen for The Price Is Right and everybody knew Bob Barker for this. Its historic significance is unmistakable, a 1941 special was the first game show on commercial television.
33 – The $64,000 Question/The $128,000 Question (1955-58, 1976-78)
(916, 36/80)(GSN: 28)(TVG: 22)
Speaking of historic significance, the biggest and best-remembered of the big-money quizzes did everything from making a star out of Dr. Joyce Brothers to diluting the TV exposure of Edward R Murrow. That last one may be a bigger crime than the rigging. The first one too, come to think of it.
32 – Chain Reaction (1980, 1986-91, present)
We joked that GSN would include the original to promote their new version, then as it turns out, we not only put it in our own Top 50, we ranked it higher than Lingo. Though the cable run was healthy, the original was yet another “brilliant but cancelled” Stewart offering.
31 – He Said, She Said/Tattletales (1969-70, 1974-78, 1982-84)
(934, 47/80)(GSN: 43)(TVG: 31)
It’s actually quite remarkable today to look back at the enormous success Goodson-Todman had with reworking their old formats for a new audience in the early seventies. This one may not have reached the heights of Match Game and The Price Is Right, but it worked, in no small part because it was a perfect fit for Convy’s talents.
30 – Jackpot (1974-75, 1985-89)
Leave it to Stewart to keep coming up with innovative ideas, like having sixteen contesants all playing together for an entire week. The last Bob Stewart Production on our list until you-know-what.
29 – Win Ben Stein’s Money (1997-2003)
(963, 47/80)(GSN: 27)(TVG: 30)
More than just an ingenious twist to the quiz game, this had tons of smart (and silly) humor masking the challenging questions, and hosts with such good rapport that they won an Emmy together.
28 – Supermarket Sweep (1965-67, 1990-2004)
(1063, 52/80)(TVG: 50)
The show that would not die. The original was run in actual supermarkets, the long-running cable remake on an eerily realistic set. (I know, I was there.)
27 – Split Second (1972-75, 1986-87)
A quiz show that runs at about twice the speed of Jeopardy, this really ought to be a bigger hit than it was. A misguided remake didn’t help. Our highest ranked show that was on neither the GSN or TVG lists.
26 – The Newlywed Game (1966-80, 1984, 1985-89, 1996-98)
(1337, 57/80)(GSN: 9)(TVG: 11)
Once again, a show that the general public immediately recognizes as a classic, but it’s only halfway up our list. Chuck Barris continues to take names…
25 – Double Dare (1986-2000, in one form or another…)
(1369, 54/80)(TVG: 29)
The kids’ game that practically defined the kids’ network for a generation of
kids. How did GSN miss this?
24 – Beat the Clock (1950-61, 1969-74, 1979-80, 2002)
(1579, 62/80)(GSN: 35)(TVG: 23)
One of the first game shows to take advantage of the ‘vision’ part of ‘television.’ Bud Collyer kept things moving, and lovely Roxanne was the Vanna of her day. (Dolls have been made of both of them!)
23 – High Rollers (1974-76, 1978-80, 1987-88)
(1602, 68/80)(TVG: 39)
Hardly anybody had this dice game in their top twenty, but so many people had it somewhere on their list that it almost made it to Top-20 status anyway. As some of you guessed, our highest-ranked show that didn’t make the GSN list at all.
22 – Blockbusters (1980-82, 1987)
(1821, 66/80)(GSN: 48)
The shortest-lived show of any in the Top-25, again we reward an interesting game as opposed to a successful show. The first of eight in the Top-25 that were hosted at one time or another by Bill Cullen.
21 – I’ve Got A Secret (1952-67, 1972-73, 1976, 2000-02, present)
(1938, 64/80)(GSN: 21)(TVG: 27)
The oft-remade panel show with one of the simplest and most flexible formats in history. Panelists have included such TV icons as Lucille Ball, Johnny Carson, Carol Burnett and Jermaine Taylor.
20 – Scrabble (1984-90, 1993)
(2027, 67/80)(GSN: 29)(TVG: 40)
A great, rare example of a show that was improved by its on-air tweaks (though the ‘mosquito’ blooper is still funny). Also the highest-rated show on our list to have had only one regular host.
19 – Name That Tune (1953-59, 1974-81, 1984-85)
(2053, 74/80)(GSN: 17)(TVG: 26)
There have been other music identification games (I personally think the British Keynotes is the best) but this is the one that outlasted them all. “I can name that tune in X notes” doesn’t get mentioned alongside the classic catch phrases, but everybody knows it.
18 – Tic Tac Dough (1956-59, 1978-86, 1990-91)
(2114, 74/80)(GSN: 32)
The Joker’s Wild was a nice comeback for Barry-Enright, but not nearly as impressive a feat as the successful relaunch of one of their actual rigged shows. Though not nearly the media sensation that Ken Jennings became, Thom McKee gave this show some juice at just the right time.
17 – Let’s Make A Deal (1963-77, 1980-81, 1984-86, 1990-91, 2003)
(2341, 71/80)(GSN: 7)(TVG: 18)
At some point, after all the Billy Bushes and Ricki Lakes get through with it, we’ll all realize that this show is Monty Hall, Monty Hall is this show, and no one should ever try to remake it ever again.
16 – Sale of the Century (1969-74, 1983-89)
(2359, 70/80 including 2 First Place votes)(GSN: 34)(TVG: 41)
Another game we give more credit to than most, since behind all the flash and dazzle of the prizes was a pretty sharp fast-paced quiz. Jim Perry ruled.
15 – The Joker’s Wild (1972-75, 1977-86, 1990-91)
(2478, 76/80)(GSN: 23)(TVG: 32)
September 4, 1972 was a good day to be a game show fan.
14 – What’s My Line? (1950-67, 1968-75)
(2492, 69/80 including one first place vote)(GSN: 14)(TVG: 5)
A pretty good showing for a show that hasn’t been in production in over thirty years. What gave the original its classy rep? Part of it was that everybody, even the host, held down other jobs. The show made them household names, but without stigmatizing them as “game show celebrities”.
13 – Card Sharks (1978-81, 1986-89, 2000)
(2511, 75/80)(GSN: 30)(TVG: 37)
An engaging show which tied together all its elements seamlessly. Such a simple and effective format that nobody could possibly screw it up. Well, almost nobody.
12 – Press Your Luck/Second Chance/Whammy! (1977, 1983-86, 2002-04)
(2523, 73/80 including three first place votes)(GSN: 13)
Most underrated part? Rod Roddy’s open. It’s the only time “from Television City in Hollywood” sounded exciting. Coolest trivia? The guy who made the Whammys went on to direct one of the best comedies of the eighties, “Better Off Dead”. I want my two dollars.
11 – Who Wants to Be A Millionaire (1999-present)
(2701, 73/80 including one first place vote)(GSN: 5)(TVG: 7)
It’s the one that changed television and caused the networks to rethink game shows, and still we don’t put it as high as either of the other lists. Either we haven’t forgiven ABC for the primetime flameout, or our collective jury is still out on the show’s historical context.
10 – To Tell The Truth (1956-68, 1969-78, 1980-81, 1990-91, 2000-02)
(2763, 78/80)(3 first place votes)(GSN: 19)(TVG: 9)
There have been more hosts of TTTT (at least twenty, including Merv Griffin and Mark Goodson) than of any other game show.
9 – Concentration/Classic Concentration (1956-73, 1973-78, 1987-91)
(2859, 76/80)(4 first place votes)(GSN: 20)(TVG: 20)
Still think there ought to be a good computer game of this. On a personal note, this is the show I have the earliest memories of seeing, and learning the history of it from Buddy Piper and Norm Blumenthal last summer at Game Show Congress was terribly special to me.
8 – Hollywood Squares (1966-81, 1986-89, 1998-2004)
(2930, 78/80)(2 first place votes)(GSN: 11)(TVG: 19)
I’m still disappointed that the rumors of Planet Hollywood Squares never materialized. Still, we’re bound to see this turn up again in a few years.
7 – Wheel of Fortune (1975-present)
(3086, 77/80)(1 first place vote)(GSN: 6)(TVG: 25)
Aside from a couple of modern shows, the only one on the list that’s never been out of production since its premiere. Woolery left, though.
6 – Family Feud (1976-85, 1988-95, 1999-present)
(3164, 78/80)(3 first place votes)(GSN: 3)(TVG: 14)
A game show rule of thumb is that actors and comedians don’t tend to be good hosts. For some reason, Feud has always been hosted by actors and comedians, every one of whom has had a long run. Good luck, John!
5 – The Match Game (1962-69, 1973-82, 1990-91)
(3311, 79/80)(6 first place votes)(GSN: 1)(TVG: 10)
4 – Password (1961-67, 1971-75, 1979-82, 1984-89)
(3431, 78/80)(5 first place votes)(GSN: 15)(TVG: 4)
3 – The Pyramid (1973-80, 1981, 1982-88, 1991-92, 2002-04)
(3493, 79/80)(11 first place votes)(GSN: 8)(TVG: 6)
2 – Jeopardy! (1964-75, 1978-79, 1984-present)
(3494, 79/80)(13 first place votes)(GSN: 2)(TVG: 2)
1 – The Price Is Right (1956-65, 1972-present)
(3659, 78/80)(22 first place votes)(GSN: 4)(TVG: 1)
And… if you’re playing along at home, here are the shows that ranked 51-100:
51. You Don’t Say (569 points)
52. Win, Lose or Draw (524)(GSN: 24)(TVG: 45)
53. Where in the World/Time is Carmen Sandiego? (484)(TVG: 47)
54. Russian Roulette (483)
55. Big Showdown (475)
56. Bullseye (473)
57. Celebrity Sweepstakes (471)
58. Body Language (460)
59. Greed (435)(GSN: 37)
60. Hot Potato (396)
61. Three on a Match (380)
62. Liar’s Club (317)(TVG: 38)
63. Cross-Wits (308)
64. Eye Guess (282)
65. Survivor (280)(TVG: 12)
66. Wipeout (272)
67. Hit Man (222)
68. Double Dare (Trebek) (220)
69. Video Village (213)(TVG: 17)
70. Starcade (208)
71. Two Minute Drill (203)(TVG: 33)
71. American Gladiators (203)
73. Debt (199)
74. The Amazing Race (189, 1 first place vote)
75. Face the Music (187)
76. Fun House (183)
77. Battlestars (179)
78. Pantomime Quiz/Stump the Stars (171)(TVG: 35)
79. Pass the Buck (168)
80. Hollywood Showdown (167)(GSN: 46)
81. Hot Streak (154)
82. Child’s Play (126)
83. Talk About (125)
84. Winning Lines (123)
84. History IQ (123)
86. Dream House (119)
87. Monopoly (118)
87. Caesar’s Challenge (118)
89. Legends of the Hidden Temple (117)
90. Trivia Trap (115)
90. The Mole (115)
92. Money Maze (105)
93. Queen For A Day (104)(GSN: 42)(TVG: 13)
94. Name’s the Same (101)
95. PDQ/Baffle (99)
96. Play the Percentages (87)
96. Street Smarts (87)
98. Make Me Laugh (85)
99. Pitfall (84)
100. The Magnificent Marble Machine (82)
100. Finders Keepers (82)