The Top Game Shows of All Time

What follows is a directory of the 115 most important American game shows of all time, as selected solely by your webmaster, along with airdate and host information and a very brief synopsis of each. These synopses are purposely somewhat vague so as not to compete with the true reference guide for the genre, The Encyclopedia of TV Game Shows, which you should reference for specifics, photos and great memories of these shows and hundreds more. It’s available at better bookstores everywhere.

Please note that although I may consider a show culturally important, this does not necessarily mean that I enjoyed it.

A note on syndication (for non-USA readers): The term means the shows were offered to individual local stations, rather than through a broadcast network. Generally, syndicated shows were weekly offerings (with some more popular shows airing twice weekly) until the very late ’70s, with “Family Feud” being one of the first to go to 5 days/week. Since the ’80s, the majority of syndicated shows aired 5 days/week.


CBS/Bruckheimer/2001, 2002, 2003-

11 teams of two compete in a race around the world, stopping along the way to complete a wide array of challenges. The last team to check in at each “pit stop” is eliminated from the Race. The first team to the finish line splits $1 million. A simple premise, but great television. Host: Phil Koeghan.


Syndication/Samuel Goldwyn, 4-Point Entertainment/1989-1997

Physical contests with two male and two female contestants battling series-regular “Gladiators.” Each year was a tournament crowning one grand champion of each gender. Games included “joust,” “powerball” and the winner-deciding “Eliminator.” Hosted by Mike Adamle, with football Hall of Famer Larry Csonka as his longest-running co-host.



Teams of two tried to guess words and phrases with as few letters as possible. Hosted by Dick Enberg, based on a nearly-identical syndicated 1965 show called “PDQ”.


NBC/Heatter/1981-1982, 1983

Similar to Heatter’s former “Hollywood Squares” with six celebrities seated in connected triangles. Players “captured” the stars by agreeing or disagreeing with the stars’ answers to host Alex Trebek’s questions.


CBS/Goodson-Todman/1950-58, 1979-80 … ABC/Goodson-Todman/1958-61… Syndicated/Goodson-Todman/1969-74… PAX/FremantleMedia/2002-present

Couples compete in silly stunts to win cash and prizes. Starting in ’69, the couples were in direct competition with each other, and celebrities often played as well. Hosts: Bud Collyer (to ’61), Jack Narz (’69-’72), Gene Wood (to ’74), Monty Hall (’79-’80), Gary Kroeger.



Six men compete against six women to correctly answer survey questions, with the winning team getting a chance at $5000 by taking on 50 opposite-gendered members of the audience in a bluffing game. Cancelled before its time due to the expansion of ABC’s daytime soap operas. Hosts: country-music star Bill Anderson and Sarah Purcell.


CBS/Endemol/summers only, 2000-

The show that made voyeurism hip. Contestants are confined to a cramped house and watched 24/7 by the show’s camera crew and internet feed. Every week or two, someone gets voted out, and the last one standing wins a half-million. Host: Julie Chen.



Three contestants answer questions of categories worth 1 to 6 points, trying to reach “payoff points” – scores that they can’t go over until they’ve been hit exactly. Correct answers give the conetstant the right to choose how many points the next question can be worth, blocking those opponents who may be put over the payoff point from getting a chance to answer. Winner rolls a pair of dice for a shot at up to $10,000 in cash. Host: Jim Peck. Famous blooper: Peck tripped coming down the stairs to open a show.


NBC/Goodson-Todman/1980-82… NBC/Goodson/1987

A team of two players faces a solo player, answering questions for the right to place their color on one of the game board’s hexagons. Completing a chain (left-to-right for the pair, top-to-bottom for the solo player) wins the game; winning two games rewards them with a shot at $5000 in the bonus round. Host: game-show god Bill Cullen (’80-’82), Bill Rafferty. Spawned many foreign versions, famously with teen players in the UK.



Two celebrity-civillian teams play charades to fill in blanks in a statement, then win money by guessing what the statement refers to. Winning team plays more charades for up to $10,000 cash. Host: Tom Kennedy (brother of Jack Narz and brother-in-law of Bill Cullen; Kennedy is Cullen’s closest rival in number of series hosted).


ABC,NBC,CBS/Wolf Productions/1948-57

Contestants chosen from the audience answer questions of rising cash values; those that reached $500 without missing two could answer one more question to “break the bank” and win the show’s jackpot. In 1956, became “Break the $250,000 Bank,” but nobody made it to the really big money. Host: Bert Parks, Bud Collyer (’53 daytime version only).


ABC and Syndicated versions/Barry-Enright/1976-77

Different game with nine celebrities seated along two sides of a 5×4 grid of boxes. Two players claimed the boxes by agreeing or disagreeing with the stars’ answers to questions (a la “Hollywood Squares”). A player claiming three boxes with a like dollar amount won the game and the money; claiming three “money bags” won a growing jackpot that started at $5000. Host: Tom Kennedy (ABC), producer Jack Barry (Syndicated). Note: There was yet another completely different game called “Break the Bank” in syndication from ’85-’86.



Two contestants compete in a Q&A. One contestant stops three spinning wheels, two of which reveal a choice of categories, the third shows the number of questions that must be answered that round. First player to $2000 wins and plays for $3000+ more in cash and stuff. Five-time winners get a car. Host: Jim Lange.


USA Network/Global, Barry-Enright, (Wink) Martindale/1987-90

Produced in Canada. Two teams of two players decipher “vanity license plates” for a shot at $2000 in cash. Host: Al DuBois.


NBC/Goodson-Todman/1978-81… CBS/Goodson/1986-89… Syndicated/Pearson-Fremantle-Goodson/2001

First two versions involved players predicting the outcome of survey questions for the right to try to call their row of five cards correctly (whether each card is higher or lower than the preceeding). Winners play the “Money Cards” bonus, where they bet money on each such card. Top prize: $28,800 on NBC, $32,000 on CBS. Newest version replaced surveys with pre-taped hidden-camera bits and the two rows of five cards with one shared row of seven. Money Cards was raised to $51,800, but everything else about the 2001 version was awful. Hosts: Jim Perry (NBC), Bob Eubanks (CBS), Pat Bullard (Syn). Known as “Play Your Cards Right” in the UK.



Two contestant solve picture-puzzles for cash. Winner tries to solve five in a row on a board of 25 for a big prize (a bigger one if they solved the hardest one in the middle). Host: Art James.



Three audience contestants tried to predict the answers of a panel of nine celebrities to some rather personal questions. The fewer contestants got it right, the more money they won. Host: Carl Reiner, creator of “The Dick Van Dyke Show”.


NBC/Andrews-Sugarman/1974-76… Syndicated/Andrews-Sugarman/1976-77

Three contestants and six celebrities. Host reads a question, and the studio audience places odds on which celebrities they think will answer correctly. The contestants could then wager their money on the celebrity of their choice. The final question required a wager of either “nothing” or “all of it.” Three-time winners received a car. Became “Sweepstakes Game” in the UK. Host: Jim MacKrell.


NBC/Stewart/1980… USA Network/Stewart/1986-91

Two teams, each with two stars and one contestant, tried to fill in words of an eight-word chain where each word relates in different ways to the ones above and below it. Winners played for $10,000 by answering questions created, one word at a time, by their celebrity partners. The USA version (taped in Canada) featured teams of two civillians and a more boring bonus game, spiced up in the final season with a $40,000 tournament. Known as “Lucky Ladders” in the UK. Host: Bill Cullen (NBC), Geoff Edwards (USA); Blake Emmons hosted early and little-seen episodes of the second version.



A new version of the ’70s show “Who, What or Where Game,” with a focus on current events. Each category offered questions of three different values; if more than one of the three contestants wanted to answer a certain question, it became a buzz-in. Early on, three-time winners faced three hard questions for a jackpot of $25,000 or more; later, daily winners faced one such question for $10,000. Host: Co-producer Dick Clark.



Two in-studio contestants tried to guess the words being described on tape by young children. Winners played a similar bonus game for $5000 cash. Host: The Great Bill Cullen.


CBS/Moses-Reid-Cleary/1959-63… NBC/Moses-Reid-Cleary/1963-70… Disney Channel/Reid/1987

Two teams of four students representing their college competed in the toughest Q&A show in American TV history. Winning teams earned $1500 in scholarships and returned the following week. Local versions with high school students are still produced all over the USA, while the show’s producers still stage live versions on college campuses. Known as “University Challenge” in the UK. Host: Allen Ludden (’53-’59 on NBC radio and ’59-’62 on TV), Robert Earle (’62-’70), Art Fleming (’70s radio – one of the last major radio games), Dick Cavett (’87).


NBC/NBC/1958-73… Syndicated/Goodson-Todman/1973-78… “Classic Concentration” NBC/Goodson/1987-91

Two contestants face a board with thirty numbered squares and try to match identical prizes. Doing so puts the prize in their kitty and reveals two pieces of a rebus (picture puzzle). Solving the puzzle wins all the prizes on their board. The latter two versions had bonus games that offered new cars. Host: Hugh Downs (1958-69), show announcer Bob Clayton (’69), Ed McMahon (’69), Clayton again (’69-’73; Downs, who was also host of NBC’s “Today Show”, talked NBC into giving Clayton the job); Jack Narz (’70s), Alex Trebek (“Classic”).


Syndicated/Edwards/1975-80… Syndicated/Crossedwits/1986-87

Two teams, each with two celebrities and one civillian, filled in crossword puzzles for points. The winners went to a bonus crossword for a bonus prize; In the second version, a second bonus was also played for a car. Host: Jack Clark (first), David Sparks (second).


ABC/Barris/1965-73… Syndicated/Barris/1973-74, 1978-80, 1986-89… Syndicated/Columbia-TriStar/1996-99

A girl asks questions of three unseen “bachelors” (or vice versa), then chooses one to go out on a date with. The couple goes on a trip with a Dating Game chaperone. Rather tame in the ’60s, growing more and more risque with each future remake. Known as “Blind Date” in many other countries. Hosts: Jim Lange (’65-’80), Elaine Joyce (’86-’87), Jeff MacGregor (’87-’89), Brad Sherwood (’96-’97), Chuck Woolery (’97-’99).


Lifetime/Faded Denim-Buena Vista/1996-98

“Jeopardy!” knock-off with pop-culture questions and a smart-aleck attitude. Each contestant was playing for the right to eliminate their real-life debt in the bonus round. If successful, they could win that same amount in cash by answering one single question in their favorite category – or plunge themselves right back into debt with a wrong answer. Host: Wink Martindale.


CBS and NBC/Cooper/1958

Different versions aired on both networks simultaneously, a rarity. Contestants answered questions for the right to have dots connected on a picture of a famous person. Being the first to name the face won cash for every dot left unconnected. This was the first show forced off the air due to the game show scandals, when popular contestant Marie Winn was caught studying the answers to upcoming episodes’ questions. Host: Jack Narz.



Two contestants, each in isolation booths, saw clues to a person, place or thing. Players who buzzed-in first and answered correctly could earn extra cash by “daring” and “double-daring” their opponent to answer with more clues. The winner tried to stump the show’s resident PhD panel (“The Spoilers”) by giving the four least-effective clues out of eight available; if any one of the Spoilers failed to guess the subject correctly, the player won $5000. Host: Alex Trebek.


Nickelodeon/MTV Networks/1986-91… Syndicated/MTV Networks/1988-89… Nickelodeon/MTV Networks/2000

Kids’ trivia game, with a twist: if one team didn’t know the answer, they dared the other team to answer for double the money. The other team could double-dare back for 4x the money, forcing the first team to answer or compete in a messy physical challenge. Winning team ran an obstacle course for up to eight prizes in 60 seconds. Host: Marc Summers, Jason Harris (2000). Summers also hosted the spinoff “Family Double Dare,” which added adults to the mess, from ’88-’90 on FOX and throughout the ’90s on Nickelodeon.


ABC/Reid/1968-70… NBC/Reid/1983-84

Two couples competed to answer trivia questions, with the day’s winner receiving a room full of furniture. On the original version, seven-time winning couples received a new home; on the NBC version, five-time winners got a house automatically, but a bonus “combination-lock” game gave them a chance to win each day. Host: Mike Darrow (ABC), Bob Eubanks (NBC).



Eight answers to questions are hidden on the game board. After the contestants are shown the answers for ten seconds, host Bill Cullen read a question. The contestants had to give the number the correct answer was hidden behind.



Celebrity-contestant teams answered general knowledge questions for the right to see one of eight scrambled pieces of a famous face. Correctly identifying the face won the contestant $100; two such wins led them to a bonus game possibly worth $5000. Host: Jack Whitaker.



Three players name tunes played by the Tommy Oliver Orchestra (and occasionally sung by Lisa Donovan), then relate the song titles to people, places, and things to win points. Winners faced the previous day’s champ in a bonus round worth as much as $10,000. Not a hit, but rerun incessantly for the next 15 years on various cable channels, giving the show a cult popularity (mainly for its many bloopers, which were never edited from the tape). Host: Ron Ely.


ABC and Syndicated/Goodson-Todman/1976-85… CBS/Goodson-Todman/1988-93… Syndicated/Goodson-Todman/1988-95… Syndicated/Pearson-Fremantle-Goodson/1999-current

Two families compete to give the most popular answers to questions previously posed to 100 people. Winning families play the Fast Money bonus game, where two family members try to score 200 points between them, giving one answer each for five similar questions. Doing so won a grand prize of $5000 (in the beginning) to $20,000 (starting in 2001). America’s highest-rated game show from ’76-’83. Known as “Family Fortunes” in the UK. Host: Richard Dawson (1976-85 and 94-95), Ray Combs (1988-94), Louie Anderson (1999-2002), Richard Karn.


Nashville Network/Reid-Land/1983-89

Three contestants competed in a trivia quiz about country music. Taped in Nashville, TN – “Music City U.S.A.” Featured “Edgar,” the smart-alecky talking jukebox (actually the show’s announcer, whose identity is still unknown). Host: Country-music star “Whisperin'” Bill Anderson.


NBC/Endemol/2001, 2002-present

Often tasteless but undeniably popular competition between 3 men and 3 women, who face remarkable physical (and sometimes disgusting) challenges, with the winner typically earning $50,000 – although sweeps stunts have occasionally raised the prize as high as $1 million. Host: Joe Rogan.


Syndicated/Stone-Stanley/1988-90… FOX/Stone-Stanley/1990-91

Popular but obvious ripoff of “Double Dare.” Two teams of two kids competed in stunts and in answering trivia questions for the right to run through the giant fun house for cash and prizes. Host: J.D. Roth. Cheerleaders: twins Jackie and Sammi Forrest.


CBS/Heatter-Quigley/1972-76… (“Las Vegas Gambit”) NBC/Heatter-Quigley/1980-81

Two married couples played blackjack, earning their cards by answering trivia questions. Hitting 21 exactly scored a cash prize; in the bonus game, it was also worth a new car. Host: Wink Martindale.


NBC/Barris/1976-78… Syndicated/Barris/1976-80, 88-89

Part serious talent show, but mostly wild spoof on talent shows from hell. Three celebrity judges watched acts which ranged from the truly talented to the disgusting, each able to terminate the act immediately if they so choose by banging a gong behind them. If the act finishes, the judges score them from 0 to 10, with the highest scorer of the day earning $516.32 in cash ($712.05 on the nighttime show, $701 even in ’88). Frequent non-contestant acts showed up in the ’70s, among them paper-bag-headed The Unknown Comic and stagehand Gene-Gene The Dancing Machine, who would come out and dance to fill time while people threw stuff at him. Host: creator Chuck “Chuckie Baby” Barris (NBC and ’77-’80 Syn), Gary Owens (’76-’77 syn), “True” Don Bleu (’88-’89). Game Show Network did a lame takeoff called “Extreme Gong” from ’98-’99, hosted by George Gray; home viewers did the gonging by calling a pay-phone number.



Four celebrity couples tried to match answers to personal questions, attempting to win a vacation for couples in the studio audience. Would be revived as the much more successful “Tattletales” in 1974. Host: Joe Garagiola.


NBC/Heatter-Quigley/1974-76, 1978-80… Syndicated/Heatter-Quigley/1975-76… Syndicated/Heatter/1987-88

Two contestants answer questions for the right to roll (or to force their opponent to roll) a pair of dice, eliminating numbers from 1-9 off the game board for prizes. A bad roll lost the game. Two-game winners played a similar bonus game for cash or a car. Host: Alex Trebek (’74-’80), Wink Martindale (’87-’88).


Game Show Network and PAX-TV/S. Stewart/2000-02

Movie/music/TV trivia game with a ‘king of the hill’ challenging other players to best-of-five quizzes; when the player holding the hidden ‘box office’ marker (the other players’ markers showed an amount of money to be added to the jackpot) is chosen, the winner of the challenge tries to answer five questions for the jackpot of at least $10,000. Host: Todd Newton.


NBC/Heatter-Quigley/1966-80… Syndicated/Heatter-Quigley/1971-81… Syndicated/Century Towers-Rosner/1986-89… Syndicated/Moffitt-Lee-One Ho-Columbia TriStar/1998-2002… Syndicated/Winkler-Columbia TriStar/2002-2004

One of TV’s most enduring favorites. Nine celebrities (or more) occupy the squares of a giant tic-tac-toe board, with two contestants competing to put their X’s and O’s in the squares by determining whether the celebrity has answerd their question correctly. Starting in the ’70s, bonus rounds of various forms gave winners a shot at prizes, big money or cars. Host: Peter Marshall (’66-’81), John Davidson (’86-’89), Tom Bergeron (’98-present). Regular “center squares” included Paul Lynde, Joan Rivers, and Whoopi Goldberg (who also co-produced the newest version until her departure in ’02). See also “The Match Game Hollywood Squares Hour.”


CBS/Goodson-Todman/1952-67, 1976… Syndicated/Goodson-Todman/1972… Oxygen/Carsey-Werner/2000-2002

The most popular of CBS’s attempts to clone its popular “What’s My Line?”, the show featured a panel of four celebrities who tried to guess a secret held by the contestants via yes-or-no answers. Contestants earned $20 for each panelist unable to find the secret on the original version; prizes increased over the years. Host: Garry Moore (’52-’64), Steve Allen (’64-’72), The Great Bill Cullen (’76; Bill and Henry Morgan were regular panelists from ’52-’67), Stephanie Miller (’00-today).


NBC/Stewart/1974-75… USA Network/Stewart-Global/1985-88… Syndicated/Stewart/1988-89

Sixteen contestants competed for a full week. One player, “the expert,” chose one of the other fifteen, who read a riddle and revealed the amount of cash it added to the Jackpot. If the expert answered correctly, they continued on, otherwise the riddler became the expert. One riddler held the “jackpot riddle;” if the expert answered it correctly, the riddler and expert split the jackpot. If the jackpot ever matched a pre-set target amount, the riddler and expert could split a “Super Jackpot” that could be as much as $50,000 (but not nearly that much on the USA version, which was taped in Canada). Host: Geoff Edwards (first and third), Mike Darrow (second).


NBC/Griffin/1964-75, 78-79… Syndicated/Griffin-Columbia TriStar/1974-75, 1984-present

The classic “A&Q” question, where the questions are phrased as answers and the players preface their answer with “What is…?” A correct answer wins money, but an incorrect answer costs the player the same amount. In round one, answers were worth $10 to $50; in “Double Jeopardy!”, the amounts doubled; and in “Final Jeopardy!”, each of the three players risked any or all of their winnings on one last question. The first-round answers grew to $25-$125 in 1978, $100-$500 in 1984, and $200-$1000 in 2001. Host: Art Fleming (’64-’79), Alex Trebek (’84-today). A music spinoff, “Rock & Roll Jeopardy!”, hosted by Jeff Probst, has aired on VH1 since ’99, and a kids’ version, “Jep!”, with Bob Bergen, aired on Game Show Network in ’98. Contestant Ken Jennings became TV’s richest winner ever in 2004, amassing over $2.5 million in 74 consecutive appearances; he’ll soon return in the show’s $2 million ultimate Tournament of Champions.


CBS/Barry/1972-75… Syndicated/Barry-Enright/1977-86… Syndicated/Kline & Friends-Barry/1990-91

Classic Q&A game. Two contestants took turns spinning a huge slot-machine full of categories and jokers, trying to make pairs and doubles to answer questions worth $50, $100 or $200. The first to $500 won the game and continued on to the bonus round, the longest-running of which involved spinning the wheels (now filled with various dollar amounts), trying to reach $1000 in cash before seeing The Devil. Doing so won the cash plus about $2500 in prizes. Five-time winners earned a car. The 1990-91 format was almost completely different, and not as good. Host: creator/producer Jack Barry (’72-’84, when he died), The Great Bill Cullen (’84-’86), Pat Finn (’90-’91). Barry also hosted a kids’ version, “Joker Joker Joker,” from ’79-’81.


NBC/Hatos-Hall/1963-68… ABC/Hatos-Hall/1968-76… Syndicated/Hatos-Hall/1971-77, 80-81, 84-86… NBC/Greenberg-Clark/1990-91… (“Big Deal”)FOX/Stone-Stanley/1996… NBC/2003

The classic game of speculation. Contestants dressed in outrageous costumes vied for the chance to trade something they brought to the host for possible cash, cars, trips and more. Most games involved several chances to trade and required more luck than skill (although some games required knowledge of product prices to win). The trick? Some prizes, “Zonks”, were worthless. At show’s end, the biggest winners were offered the chance to trade one more time for the Big Deal of the Day, which was usually worth over $9000 on the syndicated versions. The 1996 version was an insulting remake that included embarassing stunts; the 2003 version was better, but had a worse host. Host: “TV’s Big Dealer”, creator/producer Monty Hall (’63-’86), Bob Hilton (’90-’91), Hall again (’91, after the new producers begged him to return), Mark DeCarlo (’96), Billy Bush (2003). From ’63 to ’76, Hall’s supporting cast was Jay Stewart and “The Lovely” Carol Merrill. As of 2005, Spanish-speaking Universion airs the show as “Trato Hecho” (“Done Deal”), hosted by Guillermo Huesca.


Syndicated/Andrews/1969, 1976-79… Syndicated/Four Star/1988-89

Four celebrities give descriptions as to what an odd object is actually used for. Four contestants bet money on which celebrity is telling the truth. Host: “Twilight Zone” creator Rod Serling (’69), Bill Armstrong (’76-’77), Allen Ludden (’77-’79), Eric Boardman (’89).


USA Network/MGM/1986-87

Based on the Italian show “M’ama, Non M’ama.” Two contestants tried to capture the most members of the opposite sex by setermining whether the love-and-romance stories they were telling were true. The winner and the most successful storyteller then chased each other around a giant daisy bonus game for cash and prizes. Taped in Canada. Host: Ross Shaffer.



One of the most fondly-remembered flops. Two contestant-and-celebrity teams competed in a nominal word game for the right to play a giant pinball machine for cash and prizes. Host: Art James.


ABC/Program Service/1958… Syndicated/Lukehil-Paramount/1979-80… Comedy Central/Four Point-Buena Vista/1997-99

Contestants faced three stand-up comedians, one at a time, and earned $1 for every second they could keep from laughing. In the ’70s, winners got their cash doubled to $360, and celebrities occasionally played for audience members; the ’90s version tried a number of different sub-games for more money. Host: Robert Q. Lewis (first), Bobby Van (second), Ken Ober (’97-’98), Marc Cohen (’98-’99).



Two teams, each with two contestants and one celebrity, tried to match answers to odd questions posed by the host. $25 was earned per match, with the first team to $100 trying to match audience answers for up to $450 more. Host: Gene Rayburn.


CBS/Goodson-Todman/1973-79… Syndicated/Goodson-Todman/1975-81… ABC/Goodson/1990… Syndicated/Pearson-Goodson/1998-99

One of TV’s greatest hits. Originally as tame as its predecessor, but soon evolved into a hilarious and bawdy double-entendre-thon. Two contestants tried to match a panel of six celebrities’ answers to the hosts’ increasingly bizarre statements; high-scorer played an audience match for up to $500, then a final match with one celebrity for ten or twenty times their winnings to that point. TV’s most popular game show from ’73 to ’76. More info at . Known as “Blankety Blank(s)” around the world. Regular panelists (’73-’81): Brett Somers, Charles Nelson Reilly (also in ’90-’91), Richard Dawson (to ’77). Host: Gene Rayburn (to ’81), Ross Shaffer (’90), Michael Burger (’98 – a version with only five celebrities and terrible writing).



Ill-advised combination of the two formats into one, hour-long game. Two new contestants played Match Game; the winner faced a returning champion on Hollywood Squares (after a third row of celebrities was brought in to complete the board); then the winner played Match Game’s bonus round for up to $30,000. Hosts: Gene Rayburn (MG) and Jon Bauman (HS).


ABC/Stone-Stanley-TTTI/2001, 2002

Contestants are flown to Europe and compete in a number of mental and physical challenges, hoping to add money to the team jackpot. One of the players, though, is The Mole – a double agent working for the producers – and it’s the Mole’s job to prevent the team from completing their challenges as subtly as possible. In each episode, the players take a quiz on the Mole’s identity, and the lowest scorer is eliminated. The final player standing takes the whole jackpot. Host: Anderson Cooper. Reborn in 2003 for two short runs as “Celebrity Mole” with new host Ahmad Rashad (Cooper had chosen to return to news).



After a short front game, the fun began as one member of each of two married couples ran through a huge, on-stage maze trying to light up screens that displayed prizes. The winning couple sent that member back in to light up four zeroes and “the all-important One” for as much as $10,000 cash. Host: Nick Clooney (actor George’s dad).


NBC/Salter/1953-54… CBS/Salter/1954-59… NBC/Edwards/1974-75, 1977… Syndicated/Edwards/1974-81… Syndicated/Frank/1984-85

The original musical identification game. In the ’50s, players ran across the stage to ring a bell before they could answer. Staring with the ’70s version, a variety of different games were played, including the cash-laden “Melody Roulette” and the signature “Bid-a-Note” round (“I can Name that Tune in three notes!”) The syndicated ’70s version, known as “The $100,000 Name That Tune,” offered a bonus-round-winnig player the chance to come back the next week and name one tune for $100,000 in cash. The ’80s version had monthly winner’s tournaments for $10,000 in cash and $90,000 in prizes. Host: Red Benson (to ’54), The Great Bill Cullen (to ’55), George DeWitt (to ’59), Dennis James (’74 NBC), Tom Kennedy (’74-’81), Jim Lange (last). Also adapted as “Name That Video,” a 2001 show on VH1, based on knowing music videos. Host: Karyn Bryant.


ABC/Barris/1966-74, 1984… Syndicated/Barris/1977-80, 1985-89… Syndicated/Columbia Tri-Star/1996-99

The classic game of marital strife. Four couples, each married less than two years, try to match each other’s answers on increasingly embarrassing questions, with the top scoring couple receiving “a special prize chosen just for you” — assuming they weren’t already planning their divorce after all the fighting that the show caused (and encouraged). Host: Bob Eubanks, except for Jim Lange (’84), Paul Rodriguez (’88-’89) and Gary Kroeger (’96-’97) — nobody else could pull it off like Bob. The Kroeger version employed a much different (and less confrontational) format that never caught on.


CBS/Goodson-Todman/1974-75… CBS/Goodson/1989

A word search game using a grid of 60 letters. Going into detail on the games used in the show’s four different formats would take forever. Rockin’ Theme Song: “Chump Change” by Quincy Jones. Host: Jack Narz (first), Chuck Henry (second).



Two couples competed in a game very similar to “Wheel of Fortune,” substituting a giant keyboard for the Wheel. Couples who won three days in a row played the bonus round for the largest prize in TV game show history (to that point) — $40,000 a year for 25 years. In the second year, It became $900,000 in cash payments and $100,000 in prizes. Known as “All Clued Up” in Britain. Host: Jim Lange.


ABC, CBS, NBC, DuMont/Stokey/1950-59… (“Stump the Stars”) CBS, Syndicated/Stokey/1962-64, 69-70

The original celebrity charades game. Bounced from one network to another, practically every year. Started as a local show in Los Angeles in 1948, when it won the first-ever Emmy award as “Most Popular Program on TV.” Host: Producer Mike Stokey, exceot for Pat Harrington during its first 13 weeks under the new title.


CBS/Goodson-Todman/1961-1967… ABC/Goodson-Todman/1971-1974, 1975… (“Password All-Stars”)ABC/Goodson-Todman/1974-75… (“Password Plus”)NBC/Goodson-Todman/1979-82… (“Super Password”)NBC/Goodson/1984-89

The classic word game, where one member of a celebrity-contestant team tries to get the other to say the password by giving a one-word clue. The winners played the “lightning round,” where they could win $250 by guessing five passwords in 60 seconds. Went to an all-celebrity format in 1974 that didn’t go over well. In 1979, the format changed so that the games were won by guessing a category that all the passwords in that round referred to. Also, the “alphabetics” bonus round, where $5000 could be won by guessing ten passwords in sixty seconds, was added at this time. By 1981, the jackpot went up by $5000 each day until it was won. Host: Allen Ludden (until 1980, when he suffered a stroke), Bill Cullen (filled in for Ludden in ’80), Tom Kennedy (’80-’82), Bert Convy (’84-’89). Ludden also hosted an obvious ripoff called “Stumpers!” in 1976, lending it credibility in the process. In addition, an NBC/Goodson-Todman show called “Snap Judgement,” when faced with low ratings, dropped its format in 1968 and just started playing Password for its final four months on the air. Ed McMahon was host.



Taped in Canada, this show is remembered for its huge bonus game set, where contestants tried to answer questions while jumping from one elevator to the next, hoping to avoid the ones that were pre-set to sink down to stage level. Host: Alex Trebek.


CBS/Carruthers/1983-86… (“Whammy!”) Game Show Net/Fremantle/2002-2004

Three contestants answered questions to earn “spins” on the show’s game board, which was loaded with cash, prizes, and “Whammies” — red cartoon bad guys who wiped out the player’s score when hit. Four Whammies took the player out of the game permanently. One early player memorized the pattern of the gameboard’s flashing lights and left with over $110,000. After that, the board became much more random. The show is remembered for the annoying “Whammy” cartoons and the contestants’ constant cries of “Big Bucks! No Whammies! STOP!” Based on a similar 1977 show called “Second Chance,” which used Devils rather than Whammies. Host: Jim Peck (’77), Peter Tomarken (CBS), Todd Newton (GSN).


NBC/Goodson-Todman/1956-63… ABC/Goodson-Todman/1963-65… CBS/Goodson-Todman/1972-present… Syndicated/Goodson-Todman/1972-1979… Syndicated/Goodson/1985-86… Syndicated/Pearson-Goodson/1994-95

The longest-running game show in history. On the original, four contestants gave a series of bids on a prize, with the one coming the closest without going over winning the prize. The biggest winner returned on the next show. In the ’70s, the format was altered to the four contestants (chosen from the audience with the cry of “Come On Down!”) bidding only once on a small prize; the winner then continued to play a solo game for more cash and prizes. Two contestants advancd at show’s end to the Showcase, where they could win lots more prizes. Starting in 1976, when the CBS version became an hour long, each half-hour’s three winning contestants spun a big wheel to determine who went to the showcase. Host: The Great Bill Cullen (’56-’65), Bob Barker (CBS plus ’76-’79 syn), Dennis James (’72-’76 syn), Tom Kennedy (’85-’86 syn), Doug Davidson (’94-’95). Among the show’s legendary announcers were Don Pardo (NBC), Johnny Olson (’72-’85), and Rod Roddy (since ’85). Janice Pennington was the show’s lead model from ’72 until ’00. Between “Price” and “Truth or Consequences!,” Bob Barker has been on TV virtually every weekday since 1957, has won nine Emmy Awards, and has had the studio “Price” tapes at named after him.

PYRAMID – see “The $10,000 PYRAMID”


MTV/MTV/1987-90, 1991… Syndicated/MTV/1989-90

An irreverent trivia game for 20-somethings, on a set designed to represent the host’s parents’ basement. Players selected various “TV channels” and answered questions about rock music, TV and movies. Losing contestants were pulled off-stage while still strapped into their recliners, while the winners tried to win trips by identifying nine music videos played simultaneously (on the syndicated version, they answered questions while strapped to a spinning wheel). Host: Ken Ober. Caustic Sidekick: Colin Quinn.


NBC/Jones-Howard/1969-74… Syndicated/Jones-Howard/1973-74… NBC/Grundy/1983-89… Syndicated/Grundy/1985-86

Three contestants (except for ’73-’74, when it was two couples) answered buzz-in trivia questions to earn money, which they could spend at various times on incredibly discounted prizes (a $900 gift for $6, for example). The highest-scorer got a chance to buy much more valuable prizes, or return the next day to try to win enough money to buy something much nicer (like a luxury car for under $600). Australian TV producer Reg Grundy bought the rights and premiered an Aussie version in 1980 aired for over two decades. Host: Jack Kelly (to ’73), Joe Garagiola (’73-’74), Jim Perry (’80s).


NBC/Grundy/1984-90, 1993

An adaptation of the popular crossword board game. Contestants competed to fill in letters and guess words without choosing the “stoppers” — unused letters. Winners got $2000 and could continue to a $40,000 jackpot by winning ten games; this was replaced by a chance at a daily bonus prize of at least $5000. The 1993 version seriously cut down the prize money and flopped. Host: Chuck Woolery.




Players who won a board game received one of seven keys that could unlock the door to a fabulous prize package. Host: Jack Narz.



Fondly-remembered Saturday morning game, with two kids progressing along a giant game board, answering questions and doing stunts to win prizes. Based on “Video Village.” Host: Stubby Kaye.



Two celebrity-and-contestant teams are shown an odd phrase; each member of the team must re-state one half of the phrase to turn it into a common expression. Host: Geoff Edwards. Basic idea was revived as “Double Talk” in 1986 on ABC, hosted by Henry Polic II.


Lifetime/Stone-Stanley/1991-95… Family Channel/Stone-Stanley/1996-98… PAX/Stone-Stanley/2000-02

Two couples competed in silly stunts and answered questions based on shopping for the right to run through a two-story mall “exchanging” unknown gifts. If they totaled more than $2500 in gifts ($1000 in the earliest version) in 90 seconds, they also won a trip. Host: Pat Finn.


Family Channel/Wolpert/1996-98

Two teams of players, who have never met, compete. One member of the team tries to pick the prize from each of six “stores” their partner would like to have most. The team that does this faster plays a bonus round where they try to pick items off a large prop board that would make the best gifts for various famous people, with a grand prize of a trip and real-life shopping spree ($1000, possibly doubled if they win an audience game beforehand). Host: Ron Pearson.



Unfortunately popular dating game in which one contestant narrows down 50 unseen would-be suitors to one in the most superficial ways possible. Made former Playboy Playmate and co-host Jenny McCarthy something of a star. Host: Chris Hardwick.


CBS/Entertainment Prods./1955-58… (“The $64,000 Challenge”)CBS/Entertainment Prods./1956-58… (“The $128,000 Question”)Syndicated/Cinelar/1976-78

The original big-money quiz, where contestants answered questions in their field of expertise, starting at $1 and doubling all the way to the grand prize while reaching difficulty levels near impossibility. After the $4,000 level, contestants answered one question per week from an isolation booth. Wiped off the air because of the quiz show scandals. Among the $64,000 winners: Dr. Joyce Brothers. Engendered a spinoff, “Challenge,” with contestants facing big-money winners from “Question.” The ’70s revival, which gave its $64,000 winners a chance to return and double their winnings, was definitely not fixed, but also did not air live, losing a lot of its appeal in the process. Host: Hal March (“Question”); Sonny Fox, Ralph Story (“Challenge”); Mike Darrow, Alex Trebek (’70s).


ABC/Hatos-Hall/1972-75… Syndicated/Hatos-Hall/1986-87

Fondly remembered, fast-paced quizzer where the host revealed questions three at a time, and the contestants raced to buzz in the quickest, giving them first pick of which one to answer. The fewer players that got theirs correctly, the more money paid to the ones that did. Winners played a bonus round for a new car. Host: Tom Kennedy (first), producer Monty Hall (second).



Seminal sports quizzer with two three-member teams, comprised of famous athletes, answering questions about famous sporting events of the past. Prizes including sporting equipment to be donated to the teams’ favorite charities. Also on CBS in 1973. Host: Dick Enberg.


ESPN/S. Stewart/1994, 1995

Four contestants answer sports trivia questions for cash on a set that resembled a bar. Host: Tom Green (a Colorado sportscaster, not the gross-out actor.)



Two contestants compete against each other playing arcade video games, with the winner often playing for a game of their own. Host: Mark Richards (early), Geoff Edwards.



Contestants who were facing economical hardships answered trivia questions for cash; if they didn’t do well, they could ask viewers for donations. Really. Host: Warren Hull.


Syndicated/Kline & Friends/1986-87

Two couples attempted to advance along a row of TV screens, accumulating cash and prizes while avoiding “The Bandit”, which took everything away and ended their turn. First team to go all the way played a bonus game for a car. A long-running hit in the UK (originally known there as “Strike it Lucky”), but not in the US. Host: Joe Garagiola.



Terrible, but popular, dating game. Two men, and three women they the men had both dated, attempted to match answers to embarrassing questions about the men. The man with the most matches could win a second date with the girl of their choice — if she had also chosen him. Host: Mark DeCarlo.


ABC/Talent Associates/1965-67… Lifetime/Al Howard/1990-98… PAX/Al Howard/2000-2004

Three teams of two (strictly husbands-wives in the ABC version) answered questions about grocery items to earn time, which one member of each team would use tearing through the aisles of a supermarket trying to collect the most goods. In the ’60s, the winning team returned the next day; in the modern version, they played a bonus game for up to $5000 in cash. Played in actual supermarkets in the ’60s, on a TV studio designed as a market in the ’90s. Host: Bill Malone (ABC), David Ruprecht (’90s).


CBS/Burnett-Cast Away/2000-present

The reality show mega-blockbuster. Sixteen to twenty contestants are dropped in a remote part of the world and divided into two tribes, and must create a new society. Along the way, the tribes compete in various challenges; the losing tribes must vote one member out of the game. Near the halfway point, the tribes merge into one, and the voting continues until only 2 remain; a jury of some of the ousted then vote on who receives the $1 million grand prize. Host: Jeff Probst.


CBS/Goodson-Todman/1974-78, 82-84… Syndicated/Goodson-Todman/1977-78

Three celebrity couples look to match answers to personal questions; the money they win is split among the third of the studio audience that is assigned to them. The couple that wins the most money also gets a $1000 bonus. Host: Bert Convy. Based on “He Said, She Said.”

THE $10/20/25/50/100,000 PYRAMID

$10,000: CBS/Bob Stewart/1973-74, ABC/Bob Stewart/1974-76… $20,000: ABC/Bob Stewart/1976-80… $25,000: Syndicated/Bob Stewart/1974-79, CBS/Bob Stewart/1982-87, 88… $50,000: Syndicated/Bob Stewart/1981… $100,000:Syndicated/Bob Stewart/1985-88, 91-92… “Pyramid”:Syndicated/Sony Pictures/2002-2004

Two celebrity-and-contestant teams compete. In the main game, one member gives clues to their partner to convey a list of words that fit one of six categories. The team in the lead after all the categories have been played, the highest-scoring team moves to the “winner’s circle” round, where one member gives a list of clues to try to convey the category to the partner. Completing six categories in 60 seconds wins a big cash prize. Two games were played per show; starting in 1982, the two contestants stayed for the full half-hour, with the one scoring higher in the Winner’s Circle returning the next day. The $50,000 and $100,000 versions instituted tournaments for big winners to come back and play for the grand prize. The 2002 version cut the front game’s rounds to 6 words in 20 seconds, and eliminated returning champions – except that those that won the Winner’s Circle twice in their episode could return for the $100,000 tournament. Host: Dick Clark (all network versions and first $100,000 version), Bill Cullen (syn. $25,000), John Davidson (’91-’92), Donny Osmond (’02).


Syn/Barris/1979-80… Game Show Network/Gurin-Columbia-TriStar/1999-2002

The original was a tacky variation of The Newlywed Game, bringing in three men with their wives and secretaries. Whichever set of women matched more answers with the men split $1000. The revival usually brought in young women with their boyfriends and their exes, with the $1000 going to the single player who matched their team’s anchor most often. Host: Jim Peck (Syn), Alan Thicke (GSN).


NBC/Bob Stewart/1971-74

Three players were shown three categories and bid on the number of questions they wanted to answer in one of them. The highest bidder not involved in a tie got to choose the category and try to complete their bid. Doing so earned them $10 multiplied by the total of all three players’ bids. After completing a bid, the player could buy squares of the game board (consisting of four rows of three spaces, valued at $20, $30 and $40) in an attempt to match the prizes hidden behind those spaces. The first to find the same prize in each of the three columns was the game winner; doing it in the minimum three choices also won them a car. Host: The Great Bill Cullen.


NBC/Barry-Enright/1956-59… CBS/Barry-Enright/1978… Syn/Barry-Enright/1978-86, 90-91

Two contestants play tic-tac-toe, gaining their X’s and O’s by correctly answering questions from the categories represented on the squares of the gameboard. Every correct answer adds money to the pot, and the first to get three in a row won the pot and the right to play again. The ’70s version added a bonus round , where the winner chose from the nine spaces to find $1000 in cash (and win a prize package) before uncovering the game-losing “dragon.” (A different, inferior bonus was used on the CBS and ’90 versions). One contestant on the ’70s version, Lt. Thom McKee, became a virtual celebrity during a 45-episode winning streak in which he amassed over $312,000 in cash and prizes. Host: Jack Barry (NBC), Wink Martindale (’78-’85), Jim Caldwell (’85-’86), Patrick Wayne (’90-’91; The son of The Duke clearly was not put on this Earth to host game shows.)



Short-lived but memorable game involving two teams, each with two celebrities and a contestant. With two members of each team offstage, the remaining players were shown a sentence and alternated removing one word from a given sentence. At any time, a player could challenge the other team’s offstage members to come back and try to guess what the semtence referred to. Host: Tom Kennedy.


CBS/Goodson-Todman/1956-68… Syn/Goodson-Todman/1969-78, ’80-81… NBC/Goodson/1990-91… Syn/Pearson/2000-02

Four celebrity panelists question a three-member team – all of whom claim to be the same person – then cast their votes as to who is telling the truth. The team splits a cash prize for each incorrect vote. One of Goodson-Todman’s best formats, devised by then-employee Bob Stewart. Host: Bud Collyer (CBS), Garry Moore (’69-’77), Joe Garagiola (’77-’78), Robin Ward (’80-81), Gordon Elliott, Lynn Swann, Alex Trebek (NBC – Elliott was forced off the show by another production company who held his contract, while Swann just didn’t work out); John O’Hurley (’00-’02). The most frequent panelists through the first 22 years were Kitty Carlisle, Tom Poston, Peggy Cass, Orson Bean, Joe Garagiola and Bill Cullen.


Nashville Network/Reid-Land/1989-93

Blackjack-based game with three players answering questions from a variety of pop-culture categories to earn the cards hidden behind them, or the “top card” on the deck controlled by the hostess. When the show changed hosts, all the questions started focusing on country music. Hosts: Jim Caldwell, Dan Miller. Produced in Nashville, Tennessee’s Opryland USA.


ABC/Jantone/1956-57… NBC/Jantone/1957-59… Syn/Barris/1973-77, 1981-82

On the original, two contestants competed in a short quiz to determine which would get the right to select one of the thirty on-stage treasure chests, which could contain anything from a huge cash jackpot down to a worthless nothing. The Chuck Barris version eliminated the quiz, choosing the lucky player at random. That player chose from 30 gift boxes (66 of ’em in 1981), with the same range of prizes available. The host and cast often acted out tortuosly long skits during the revealing of the box’s contents. Host: Jan Murray (original), Geoff Edwards (both syn versions).


Family Channel/Martindale-Hillier/1993-95

Decent TV adaptation of the popular board game, with three in-studio contestants looking to answer two questions from each of the game’s six categories to complete their pie. The winner played a bonus speed round for a vacation. For a while, the show was preceeded by “Trivial Pursuit: The Interactive Game,” where 9 players tried to be fastest to type in the right answers in a game that the home viewers could also play: the three top-scoring in-studio players moved on to the regular show. The home viewers could win some stuff. Host/co-producer: Wink Martindale.


CBS radio/Edwards/1940-57… CBS/Edwards/1950-51… NBC/Edwards/1954-65… Syn/Edwards/1966-75, 77-78, 87-88

Wacky stunt show, with unsuspecting contestants pulled from the audience. Generally, the host would read them a riddle, with the buzzer going off only a fraction of a second later. Since they didn’t tell the truth (answer), then they had to pay the consequences (the stunt) to win a prize. Most stunts were silly (involving huge messes), some were fixed so that the player couldn’t possibly win (but they got the prize anyway), and others turned into touching reunions with long-lost friends and relatives. Host: creator Ralph Edwards (radio and CBS-TV), Bob Barker (1954-75), Bob Hilton (’77-78), Larry Anderson (’87-88).


NBC/Barry-Enright/1956-58… NBC/Gurin Co./2000

Two contestants in seperate isolation booths were given categories and chose a 1-to-11 point question. Neither player knew the other’s score; the first to reach 21 points won cash and faced another challenger. The game could be ended early by either player after every two rounds; if that happened, the one with the higher score won. After early episodes proved to be overwhelmingly boring, the producers decided to start pre-determining outcomes, which caused the ratings to skyrocket. It also caused the Great Quiz Show Scandal that rocked the nation. NBC brought back a completely legit version in 2000 to compete against Millionaire, with multiple-choice questions and huge cash payouts. Host: Jack Barry (original), Maury Povich (2000). See the movie “Quiz Show” for a somewhat-realistic (but not 100% factual) portrayal of the scandal.


NBC, ABC, DuMont/Mutual/1949-55

Celebrities played the game with topics submitted by viewers, who won prizes if they stumped the stars. Hosts: Bill Slater, Jay Jackson


NBC/Goodson-Todman/1952-53… CBS/Goodson-Todman/1953-57

Couples received $5 for every correct answer given to a first question, then got the chance to win the prior round’s total for each answer on a second question, and repeat the process on a third question. Host: Herb Shriner.



Three (later two) contestants answered sports trivia questions, with the high scorer after two rounds getting a shot at a bonus question for double the money. Winners also advanced in a season-long tournament, from a $10,000 opening round to a potential $100,000 payoff in the Finals. Successful contestants also earned sports fantasy prizes along the way. Host: Kenny Mayne.



Two contestants advanced along a life-size game board, with the first to get through to the ifnish line being the day’s winner. Several mini-games and other chances for extra winnings wer played along the way. A Saturday morning kids’ version (“Video Village Junior”) premiered in 1961, and was later revived as “Shenanigans” (see also that title). Host: Jack Narz (first), Red Rowe (second nighttime), Monty Hall (second daytime).


NBC/Laurelwood-Gurin-BBC-NBC/2001-2002… Syn/Laurelwood-Gurin-BBC-NBC/2002-2004

Imported British format with a team of eight players (six on the syndicated show) competing to answer enough consecutive questions correctly to reach a target cash amount. Players could bank money along the way, guaranteeing its addition to the day’s grand prize; however, the team would have to restart the chain. After each round, the host insults and taunts the players, who then vote out one of their own. The final two players then compete for the full jackpot. The top possible prize: $1,000,000 on NBC, $100,000 (originally $75,000) on the syndicated show. Host: original UK host Anne Robinson (NBC), George Gray (Syn).


CBS/Goodson-Todman/1950-67… Syn/Goodson-Todman/1968-75

Classic panel show. Four panelists took turns asking yes-or-no questions of the contetsant in order to determine the odd job they held. The contestant got $5 for each ‘no’ answer, up to a top prize of $50 for stumping the panel. Once per episode, the panel donned blindfolds while trying to guess the name of the show’s celebrity mystery guest, who did their best to throw the panel off by disguising their voice. Host: John Daly (CBS), Wally Bruner (’68-’72), Larry Blyden (to ’75). The longest-running panelists: Arlene Francis (all 25 years!), Bennett Cerf (’51-67, then occasionally through ’71), Dorothy Kilgallen (’50-’65).


NBC/Griffin/1975-1989, 1991… Syndicated/Griffin, Columbia-TriStar/1983-present… CBS/Griffin/1989-91

Three contestants played an elaborate version of “hangman”, spinning a wheel to determine how much they could score for… oh, forget it, you know good and well how to play this game! Contestants started playing for cash (instead of “shopping” for prizes) in 1987. Host: Chuck Woolery (1975-81), Pat Sajak (Syndicated and 1981-89 NBC), Rolf Benirschke (1989 NBC), Bob Goen (1989-91 CBS and NBC). Hostess: Susan Stafford (1975-82), Vanna White (1982-present).



Three kids played a game based on the popular computer software. Their knowledge of geography helped them in a chase of the titular supervillain and her various henchpeople. The highest-scorer tried to locate eight countries (or, occasionally, US states) on a giant map to win a trip anywhere in the USA. Host: Greg Lee. “The Chief”: Lynne Thigpen. Singers: Rockapella. Spawned a sequel show, “Where In Time is…”, based on history and hosted by Kevin Schinick. “The Chief” was still there barking orders.



Fast-paced game with two contestants facing a game board of six rows of hidden humorously mis-worded statements, all under the same general category. Each round saw one player “charge” (attempt to correct one clue per row in 60 seconds) and one “block” (placing six hidden five-second penalty squares on the board). Each clue had a cash value which went to the charger for a correct answer, or to the blocker if their block was on that spot. The first player to win two rounds faced the “Gauntlet of Villains” bonus, attempting to solve ten more “bloopers” in 60 seconds (plus 1 second for every $100 won in the main game) for $25,000. Host: Tom Kennedy.



Mainly a comedy game for the host, the show involved married couples, who competed one at a time, answering trivia questions for cash. The husband always elected to answer the question himself, or let his wife answer (hence the show’s original title, “Do You Trust Your Wife?”) Host: Johnny Carson (to ’62, when he and announcer Ed McMahon left for “Tonight”), Woody Woodbury.


ABC/Celador-Buena Vista-Valley Crest/1999-2002… Syn/Celador-Buena Vista-Valley Crest/2002-present… “Super Millionaire” ABC/Celador-BV-VC/2004

The format that conquered the world, with solo contestants cometing to answer 15 multiple-choice questions correctly for $1 million in cash. The ever-famous “lifelines” await to make things easier. A short-lived progressive jackpot led to Dr. Kevin Olmstead winning $2.18 million, at the time an American game show record. Host: Regis Philbin (ABC), Meredith Vieira (Syn). The “Super” version, aired in two one-week cycles, upped the potential prize to $10 million.



Three contestants were given an initial stake of $125 and shown a category, plus “odds” applied to “Who,” “What” or “Where” questions in that category. The highest bidder for each question got to answer, with their bet multiplied by the odds whenever applicable. The top bid was usually $50, but in case of a tie, the bids could go higher. One final question and bid determined the day’s winner. Host: Art James.


Comedy Central/Valley Crest/1997-2002

Three contestants answered trivia questions from outrageously-titled categories, with their winnings deducted from the $5000 pot of the former lawyer/political speechwriter/deadpan actor/intellectual host. In Round Two, Ben replaces the lowest-scorer and competes against the remaining two contestants in an attempt to keep his money. (The announcer takes over as host at this point). The top scorer moves on to the final round, where he and Ben (i seperate isolation booths) answer the same 10 questions. The contestant got all $5000 for answering more right than Ben did, or $1000 plus their front-game winnings for a tie. Host: I forget. Anyone? Anyone? Announcer: Jimmy Kimmel (’97-’01), Nancy Pimenthal (’01-’02), Sal Iacono.


NBC/Burt and Bert-Kline & Friends/1987-89… Syn/Burt and Bert-Kline & Friends/1987-90

Two teams, each with two clebrities and one contestant, competed in a sketch-pad charades game for cash. The game was suppsoedly based on one stars often played in co-producer Burt Reynolds’ living room; the original set, in fact, was a carbon-copy of Burt’s house. It also bore massive similarities to the board game “Pictionary,” which itself was made into a game show twice. Host: Vicki Lawrence-Schultz (NBC), co-producer Bert Convy (Syn ’87-’89), Robb Weller (Syn ’89-’90).


NBC/Scotti Bros.-Vinnedge/1986-87

Two contestants alternated picking obscure words from the game board, then won money by choosing which of three celebrities gave the correct definition. The day’s winner tried to connect a line from left to right on a 24-square game board in 45 seconds; each square hid two definitions to the same word. Top prize: $5000 plus $2500 each day it wasn’t won. Host: Tom Kennedy.


NBC (radio)/Guedel/1947-50… NBC/Guedel/1950-61… Syn/Hill-Eubanks/1980… Syn/Carsey-Werner/1992-93

Teams of two contestants answered questions for cash, and could earn an extra $100 if they said the day’s “secret word” at any time. The highlight of the show was the host’s lengthy, hilarious conversations with the players; the game was pretty much an afterthought. For a time, the day’s winning team could elect to answer a final question for as much as $10,000. Host: Groucho Marx (1947-’61), Buddy Hackett (’80), Bill Cosby (’92-’93).


NBC/Andrews-Yagemann/1963-69… ABC/Andrews/1975… Syn/Andrews/1978-79

Unusual word game, where two celebrity-contestant teams competed to identify people, places and things by giving their partner sentences with the final word missing. The word left out was expected to sound like a portion of the word that the teams were trying to solve. The ’70s versions replaced the teams with two solo players and a panel of four celebrities. Host: Tom Kennedy, Jim Peck (’78 version).