Game shows are hot again

After Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! became major successes in the mid-1980’s, games shows became a hot property in syndication. By 1988, more than ten of them were on the air, including Win Lose or Draw, and Wipeout!, and successful revivals of Hollywood Squares, The Dating Game, and Family Feud.

But the game show boom went bust by 1991 after several highly anticipated game shows flopped. A total of twelve games were canned in syndication over a two-year period, claiming veterans (Win Lose or Draw), freshman entries (Remote Control, Talkabout, The Challengers) and revivals (The Joker’s Wild, Tic Tac Dough and The Krypton Factor) alike. Even Donald Trump had his name on a game show, aptly named Trump Card. And that flopped, too.

When the carnage cleared, there were only five game shows on the air. Total. And none of them were in prime-time (of course), and only The Price Is Right and Classic Concentration were on networks’ daytime schedule. Even Bill Cosby’s jump into the fray with the revival of classic game show You Bet in Life in 1992 was a bust.

Fast forward to today, where it is a completely different story. Game shows aren’t only prospering in syndication – they’re prospering in prime-time as well – something we haven’t seen since the 1950’s, pre-game show scandals. Last Thursday, NBC’s Deal or No Deal drew 11 million viewers – even without the Million Dollar Mission episodes. The Price Is Right may have a shot of CBS’ fall schedule for the first time after its prime-time specials have been deemed a success (and this comes after two syndicated nighttime versions failed.) And more are in development.

In syndication, Wheel and Jeopardy! continue their two-and-a-half decade dominance in the ratings, while the weekday strip version of Deal or No Deal and Trivial Pursuit debuts this fall and joins other successful games (Millionaire and Family Feud) and a mediocre-performing one (Merv Griffin’s Crosswords).

This TV Week article details this and more, and why game shows are hot in syndication again.