Sunday, July 23, 2006

TV: 50 Greatest Game Shows

• Thanks to Deal or no Deal, game shows are in again.

Logistics: GSN, 9 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays
Verdict: &&&

GSN has shown no reluctance to jump on bandwagons, and the latest hot trend to catch the network's attention is, ironically, game shows. While NBC and other networks are developing new games, GSN, on Aug. 1, launches two new quizzers — Chain Reaction (a welcome remake) and Starface, and the network is currently running a weeks-long series, 50 Greatest Game Shows, which, at best, trots out some titles from the vault that the network doesn't show these days. I'll give them credit for showing some full episodes and enlisting the amiable and funny Bill Dwyer as host, but the list immediately lost its credibility by not only including the dating show Studs but also by ranking it higher than Blockbusters. Since GSN will obviously get this all wrong, I'm presenting my own top five:

5 The Price Is Right (CBS, 1972-) I don't watch it regularly today, but Price is like a great friend who's always just been there. It's still a fun hour, even if the axing of the popular models was a mistake, and the late Rod Roddy is sorely missed as announcer. But it still has Plinko, Punch Board, the Big Wheel and one of the great hosts in Bob Barker.

4 Jeopardy (Syndicated, 1984-) I never truly appreciated this show until the Ken Jennings run — the elimination of the five-day limit was a brilliant move. I love the show for the wagering strategy, Alex Trebek's wackiness, and because it shows that our boneheaded culture can still sometimes celebrate knowledge.

3 Press Your Luck (CBS, 1983-1986) The best of those spin battles, to me, are among the most exciting moments in game show history. And Press had everything else going for it — the perfect host for the show in Peter Tomarken; a huge, dazzling game board; enough flashing lights to short circuit a nuclear plant; and some of the best music ever to come from the genre. It is so 1980s.

2 Blockbusters (NBC, 1980-1982) What "B" describes big-budget, cash-cow movies and is the name of an '80s game show with a hexagon-filled game board? Yep, Blockbusters, which had the two-players-against-one gimmick, a cleverly crafted word game, and arguably the last great turn as host by the lovable Bill Cullen.

1 $ale of the Century (NBC, 1983-1989) Nothing against Wheel of Fortune, but this is the show that should have become the juggernaut that Wheel is today. The brilliance of this show was the interwoven elements — rapid-fire questions, instant bargains, fame games and the tense speed round, all in the context of glamorous consumerism. At its best, $ale built tremendous suspense as the champion worked his way up to playing for all the prizes "plus the cash jackpot of $91,000!" It was a classy production with the consummate host, Jim Perry.

1 comment:

Patrick said...

Interesting list. I'll have to think about mine a bit. I'd put 'Price' at the top of mine, and I think my second would be the 70's "Match Game."

I was very surprised -- okay, I wasn't really that surprised -- that GSN would make some of the choices that they have so far. 'Sale' wasn't one of my top favorite shows, but it definitely deserved a lot higher ranking. And "The $1.98 Beauty Show" ranks right up there with "Studs." Neither would belong, in my opinion, in even the top 100 list!