We do love our game shows. Look no further than the brand-new reboot of the manic grocery store game show Supermarket Sweep, starring SNL alum Leslie Jones, joining the ABC lineup right after Sunday Night Football and leading into Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? and Card Sharks. It's Game Night in America again, which means it's time to ask that million-dollar question: What are the best game shows in TV history, in ranked order? Survey says...
14. The Gong Show (1976-78)
Emcee Chuck Barris tosses back his head, throws up his arms and invites “Gene, Gene, the Dancing Machine” to do his kooky, infectious shuffle. It was a mad, mad, mad end to a particularly racy 1978 episode of the show that invited contestants to do their best bits while avoiding the hook — rather, the gong. Why'd the censors gong the episode? Turns out that regular panelist Jaye P. Morgan flashed the daytime audience. How Gong Show is that?
Catch a classic episode here: The Gong Show, on YouTube
13. The Newlywed Game (1966-74)
Host Bob Eubanks did indeed ask on this Chuck Barris-created show, “Where is the weirdest place, girls, you've ever gotten the urge to make whoopie?” The bleeped blooper answer from the not-quite-blushing bride is not quite as funny as the urban legend version of her answer, but the sentiment's the same. And the zaniness mined from couple tension makes this show a classic.
Enjoy some classic exchanges, here: The Newlywed Game, on YouTube
12. The Dating Game (1965-74)
Launched in 1965, this show doesn't require a 23andMe kit to prove it's the ancestor of Bachelor Nation. Emceed most famously by Jim Lange and later Chuck Woolery, the show invited a hopeful to pose questions to three singletons on the other side of a wall and then choose which contestant to head off with on a chaperoned date. And you're right if you think Bachelor No. 2 on a 1968 episode, a banjo-playing writer for the Smothers Brothers, is Steve Martin. But one of the truly charming episodes features an aspiring art gallery owner from Corpus Christi, Texas, with a soft voice and a helluva smile. A handful of years later Farrah Fawcett would become Charlie's most famous Angel.
Catch a classic episode here: The Dating Game, on YouTube
11. To Tell the Truth (1956-78)
For years one of the indelible pleasures of this panel show was Kitty Carlisle. What a class act: a trustee of New York's Museum of Modern Art, a longtime arts advocate and a fixture on this show. Three challengers would claim to be the subject and then field the panel's queries as honestly as possible. It was up to the panelists to ferret out the real deal and the hoaxes.
Catch classic episodes here: To Tell the Truth, on YouTube
10. Match Game (1962-69, 1973-82)
Amused host Gene Rayburn would ask contestants and celebrity panelists to fill in a blank. Contestants made it to the next round when they got the most panelists to land on the same answer, but as in most great game shows of this variety, the hilarious (and often blue) answers from beloved vets like Charles Nelson Reilly, Richard Dawson, Brett Somers and the incomparable Betty White were what made the show zing. See if you don't recognize a young interior decorator with a husky voice from Wichita, Kansas, on this episode.
Catch classic episodes here: Match Game, on YouTube
9. What's My Line? (1950-67)
A savvy collection of panelists gently grills a guest, zeroing in on her or his line of work. The various folk who made up the long-running show's panel provide a study in the evolution — or its opposite — of the celebrity panel. Consider that publishing giant and Random House cofounder Bennett Cerf was a regular. And consider the celebrity mystery guests who appeared: Rosalind Russell, Hedy Lamarr, Louis Armstrong and former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt. It's yet another of the hits produced by the dynamic duo of Mark Goodson and Bill Todman.
Catch classic episodes here: What's My Line?, on YouTube
8. Pyramid (1973-80)
The prize money has gone up tenfold; the title changes accordingly; but the hook of this long-running show remains the same. Dick Clark presided most famously over the show, which pits two teams (pairing a civilian and a celeb) against each other — and the clock. COVID-19 waylaid production of the upcoming $100,000 Pyramid, hosted by Michael Strahan, but it's slated to join the ranks of “things that will not be denied."
Catch a classic episode here: Pyramid, on YouTube
7. Let's Make a Deal (1966-78)
What a big-deal trio they became: Monty Hall wading into the jazzed studio audience teasing them with offers; game show “model” Carol Merrill always ready to pull back this curtain, lift that box, or push a door aside to reveal a car, a trip, a cardboard check or a dud of a toaster; and announcer Jay Stewart offering his dulcet tones. The CBS show once again began wheeling and dealing in 2009, with the current edition featuring Wayne Brady.
Catch a classic episode here: Let's Make a Deal, on YouTube
6. Hollywood Squares (1966-81)
The power of the celebrity panel grew as nine stars took their seats on the vertical tic-tac-toe grid and helped — or upended — contestant hopes with answers to host Peter Marshall's clues. Arguably the most famous of center squares, Paul Lynde zinged. In a latter incarnation, Whoopi Goldberg held her own at that coveted spot, with Tom Bergeron hosting. Among the comedians offering quips before taking a more serious stab at a question: Joan Rivers, Rose Marie, Foster Brooks, Wayland Flowers and his saucy puppet Madame, Charo, and Gilbert Gottfried.
Catch classic episodes here: Hollywood Squares, on YouTube
5. Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? (1998-present)
Now hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, this season's debut ended with a tribute to one of the great game show hosts of all time, Regis Philbin, who died in late July. Sometimes, we can measure a show's enduring appeal by the way it enters the popular culture lexicon (Slumdog Millionaire, anyone?). The multiple-choice Q's get progressively harder as the pot grows toward $1 million. “Phone a friend” — one of the options when the contestant is stumped — has developed its own cultural resonance. One of the most memorable episodes? When John Carpenter called a friend — his dad — not to ask him for help but to let him know he was about to win the big prize. Priceless.
Catch episodes here: Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, on ABC.com
4. Wheel of Fortune (1975-present)
Could a game be more elementary -— or satisfying? This hangman spelling game variant is among the longest-running game shows in TV history. And Pat Sajak is the host with the mostest consecutive years. Period. Onetime beauty pageant contestant Vanna White went from lovely turner of tiles to superstar in her own right. For so many years a daytime talk mainstay, creator Merv Griffin knew a lot about daytime audiences as well as those tuning in during the jackpot hour between nightly news and prime time.
Catch classic episodes here: Wheel of Fortune, on YouTube
Walt Disney Television via Getty Images Photo Archives/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images; Byron Cohen/ABC
3. Family Feud (1976-85, 1988-95, 1999-present)
Today's survey question: Hosts this exuberant show could not do without? Survey says Richard Dawson and Steve Harvey. The former was known for, among other things, the smooch he bestowed on female contestants. To this day, the latter keeps audiences tickled as a contestant's occasionally random answers keep even the dapper Harvey guessing. “Words that might follow ‘pork'"? he prompted during one now famous episode. The answer led to one of Harvey's most hilarious reactions.
Catch classic episodes here: Family Feud, on YouTube
2. The Price Is Right (1972-present)
"Many people have the idea that game shows are easy to come up with,” Bob Barker once said, adding “nothing could be further from the truth.” For years a go-to beauty pageant emcee, Barker greeted the shrieking and hysterical, the revved and the ready to underbid with improvisational aplomb. No wonder CBS later found an appealing host in Drew Carey. The ringmaster of the ridiculously satisfying improv hit “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” proved just how nimble he could be when, in 2007, he followed the retiring Barker.
Catch classic episodes here: The Price Is Right, on YouTube
1. Jeopardy! (1964-75, 1984-present)
Really!? What did you expect to find at the No. 1 spot, other than this highbrow quiz show and indomitable host Alex Trebek? Remember when we said you can tell a game show's lasting oomph by its pop-culture shout-outs? Well, beyond countless TV spoofs, Rosie Perez played an aspiring contestant (and Woody Harrelson's girlfriend) in White Men Can't Jump; late literary light David Foster Wallace created a short story character who uses her winnings to care for a brother with autism; and who can forget the too-early-gone Chadwick Boseman competing ever so sweetly as King T'Challa on SNL's Black Jeopardy! And 39 Emmys and counting can't hurt either.
Catch classic episodes here: Jeopardy!, on YouTube