Auditioning for Game Shows
A game show is a type of radio or television program in which members of the public, television personalities or celebrities, sometimes as part of a team, play a game which involves answering questions or solving puzzles usually for money and/or prizes. On some shows contestants compete against other players or another team while other shows involve contestants playing alone for a good outcome or a high score. Game shows often reward players with prizes such as cash, trips and goods and services provided by the show’s sponsor prize suppliers, who in turn usually do so for the purposes of product placement.
Many television game shows descended from similar programs on radio. The very first television game show, Spelling Bee, was broadcast in 1938. Truth or Consequences was the first game show to air on commercially-licensed television. Its first episode aired in 1941 as an experimental broadcast.
Over the course of the 1950s, as television began to pervade the popular culture, game shows quickly became a fixture. Daytime game shows would be played for lower stakes to target stay-at-home housewives. Higher-stakes programs would air in prime time. During the late 1950s, high-stakes games such as Twenty One and The $64,000 Question began a rapid rise in popularity. Hover, the rise of quiz shows proved to be short-lived. In 1959, many of the higher stakes game shows were discovered to be rigged. Ratings decline led to most of the prime time games being canceled. Only the daytime games survived during this period; game shows remained a fixture of daytime television through the 1960s along with soap operas and reruns. Lower-stakes games made a slight comeback in daytime in the early 1960s; examples include Jeopardy! which began 1964 and the original version of The Match Game first aired in 1962. Let’s Make a Deal began in 1963 and the 1960s also marked the debut of Hollywood Squares, Password, The Dating Game and The Newlywed Game.
Though CBS gave up on daytime game shows in 1968, the other networks did not follow suit. Color Television was introduced to the game show genre in the late 1960s on all three networks. The 1970s saw a renaissance of the game show as new games and massive upgrades to existing games made debuts on the major networks. The New Price Is Right, an update of the 1950s era game show The Price Is Right, debuted in 1972 and marked CBS’s return to the game show format in its effort to draw wealthier, suburban viewers. The Match Game became “Big Money” Match Game 73, which proved popular enough to prompt a spin-off, Family Feud, on ABC in 1976. The $10,000 Pyramid and its numerous higher-stakes derivatives also debuted in 1973, while the 1970s also saw the return of formerly disgraced producer and host Jack Barry, who debuted The Joker’s Wild and a clean version of the previously rigged Tic-Tac-Dough in the 1970s. Wheel of Fortune debuted on NBC in 1975. The Prime Time Access Rule, which took effect in 1971, barred networks from broadcasting in the 7-8 p.m. time slot immediately preceding prime time, opening up time slots for syndicated programming. Most of the syndicated programs were “nighttime” adaptations of network daytime game shows; these game shows originally aired once a week, but by the late 1970s and early 1980s most ouf the games had transitioned to five days a week.
Game shows were the lowest priority of television networks and frequently were rotated out every thirteen weeks if they were unsuccessful. Most tapes were destroyed until the early 1980s. Over the course of the late 1980s and early 1990s as fewer new hits were produced, game shows lost their permanent place in the daytime lineup. ABC gave up on game shows in 1986. NBC lasted until 1991, but attempted to bring them back in 1993 before cancelling its game show block again in 1994. CBS phased out most of their game shows, except for The Price Is Right, by 1993. To the benefit of the genre, the move of Wheel of Fortune to syndication in 1983 and the modernized revival of Jeopardy! in 1984 was highly successful, leading to the two games becoming fixtures in the prime time “access period” and several failed attempts at imitation. Cable television also allowed for the debut of game shows such as Supermarket Sweep (Lifetime), Trivial Pursuit and Family Challenge (Family Channel), and Double Dare (Nickelodeon). It also opened up a previously underdeveloped market for game show reruns; Game Show Network debuted in 1994.
After the popularity of game shows hit a nadir in the mid-1990s (at which point The Price Is Right was the only game show still on daytime network TV), the British game show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? began distribution across the globe. Upon the show’s American debut in 1999, it was an instant hit and became a regular part of ABC’s prime time lineup until 2002. Several shorter-lived high stakes games also were attempted around the time of the millennium, such as Winning Lines, The Chair, and Greed. During this period, several game shows returned to daytime in syndication (e.g., Family Feud, Hollywood Squares, and Millionaire). These higher stakes contests also opened up the door to reality television contests such as Survivor and Big Brother, in which contestants win large sums of money for outlasting their peers in a given environment.
The popularity of game shows in the United States was closely paralleled around the world; Reg Grundy Organisation, for instance, would buy the international rights for American game shows and create detailed reproductions in other countries, especially in his native Australia. In the UK, game shows have had a more steady and permanent place in the television lineup and never lost popularity in the 1990s as they did in the United States, due in part to the fact that game shows were highly regulated by the Independent Broadcasting Authority in the 1980s and those restrictions were lifted in the 1990s, allowing for higher-stakes games to be played.
CBS is currently the only major network airing daily national game shows. It still airs The Price Is Right (U.S. game show), and as of 2009 is airing a revived version of Let’s Make a Deal weekdays. Let’s Make a Deal airs at 10am or 3pm on weekdays, while The Price Is Right still airs weekdays at 11am. Although ABC does not air any national game shows, its syndication wing Disney-ABC Domestic Television distributes Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, and many of their local affiliates air it in syndication.
Many of the prizes awarded on game shows are provided through product placement; although in some cases, they are provided by private organizations or purchased at either the full price or at a discount by the show. There is the widespread use of “promotional consideration”, in which a game show receives a subsidy from an advertiser in return for awarding that manufacturer’s product as a prize or consolation prize. Some products supplied by manufacturers may not be intended to be awarded at all, and are instead just used as part of the gameplay (such as the low-priced items used in several Pricing Games of The Price Is Right).