“Press Your Luck” , “Card Sharks” make grand return to TV

ABC expands summer game show slate as game shows regain traction in popular culture

Over the last few weeks, Jeopardy was dominating the headlines with James Holzhauer’s amazing winning streak earning over $2 million over his run, helping earn the show’s highest ratings in years. And though Jeopardy never really went away, the game show genre has had its ups (Who Wants To Be A Millionaire) and downs (a game show named after Donald Trump, leading a parade of 1990 failures) in the last three decades.

Consider the time we’re in now a huge upswing.

June 12 saw the return of two classic game shows in prime-time: Press Your Luck, being revived for the third time; and Card Sharks, being revived for the fourth time (this excludes CBS’ Game Show Marathon in 2006, where both were one-time revivals.) These two Fremantle game shows already join several rebooted game shows on ABC’s summer slate, including Celebrity Family Feud, $100,000 Pyramid, To Tell The Truth, and Match Game.

This comes as the major broadcast networks are looking for more and more cost-efficient options in the summer months in order to keep viewers from tuning to cable and streaming options. Recently, a rerun of Celebrity Family Feud drew more viewers than many first-run comedies and dramas on ABC such as Whiskey Cavalier.

Of course, all of this started with the success of Millionaire in the summer of 1999 and Survivor in 2000. Since, the networks have chucked the traditional reruns and busted pilots of summer season and filled slots with non-scripted and (some scripted) programming, spawning hits such as Big Brother, America’s Got Talent, and of course, American Idol.

In addition to ABC’s game show kick, CBS is airing new dating show Love Island, based on a foreign concept; and NBC is returning Hollywood Game Night and The Wall.

Both Luck and Sharks have gotten off to decent starts. Wednesday’s episodes drew a 0.9 and 0.8 in the adult 18-49 demo, about the same ratings from a week ago despite being delayed in Chicago over WLS-TV until 1:05 a.m. and 2:05 a.m., respectively due to a White Sox-Cubs game airing in prime-time (this won’t be an issue after this year, as all non-nationally broadcast Cubs games are moving to their new Marquee Sports Network.)

Both new games shows have stayed true to their original versions in a fantastic way, even with Press Your Luck introducing a way too-long bonus round with some unusual prizes (a lifetime supply of SpaghettiOs!) Card Sharks is absolutely nuts, with a raucous studio audience and over-the-top contestants – something not present in previous versions of the show – but it’s quite entertaining. New hosts Elizabeth Banks (Luck) and Joel McHale (Sharks) each have done a wonderful job as emcees.

Ironically, both Luck and Sharks were inexplicably linked to one another. In late 1985, CBS canceled the game show Body Language and decided to replace it with a revival of Card Sharks. But with the network planning to give back the 4 p.m. ET time slot back to affiliates effective September 29, 1986, the network placed Sharks in Luck’s morning slot and shifted the whammies to 4 p.m. Ratings dropped and the show was canceled shortly thereafter (in Chicago, Press Your Luck moved to 11 a.m. before being replaced by the syndicated Superior Court.)

For more on the history of Press Your Luck and Card Sharks, click here and scroll down to the third item.

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