A game show is a radio or television program involving members of the public or celebrities, sometimes as part of a team, playing a game, perhaps involving answering quiz questions, for points or prizes. In some shows contestants compete against other players or another team whilst other shows involve contestants striving alone for a good outcome or high score. Early television game shows descended from similar programs on broadcast radio.
There are several basic genres of game shows with a great deal of crossover between the different types.
- The simplest form of game show is a quiz show whereby people compete against each other by answering quiz questions. Quiz shows usually involves members of the public, but sometimes special shows are aired in which celebrities take part and the prizes are given to charity.
- A panel game usually involves a celebrity panel answering questions about a specialist field such as sport or music and is often played for laughs as much as points.
- The third kind of game show involves contestants completing stunts or playing a game that involves an element of chance or strategy in addition to, or instead of, a test of general knowledge.
Reality game shows have become popular in recent years. In a reality show the competition usually lasts several days or even weeks and a competitor's progress through the game is based on some form of popularity contest, usually a kind of disapproval voting by their fellow competitors or members of the public. Game shows often reward players with prizes such as cash, or holidays and goods and services provided by the show's sponsors.
Dating game shows, the original reality games, in which the prize is typically a well-funded dating opportunity that one can only pursue with the individual one has 'won' on the show. They are also a type of date auction where competitors compete for dates not with money but with seductive powers or attractiveness or the promise of an enjoyable date or even ultimately marriage.
In the US, television game shows fell out of favor in the 1950s after it was revealed that favored contestants on The $64,000 Question and other shows had been given answers and coached by the producers. They came back into favor in the 1960s by adopting merchandise prizes of far less value and by emphasizing larger numbers of simple questions, or physical contests without an advantage.
In the middle of the 1960s, Chuck Barris conceived a new genre in which the competitor's personal life became part of the show. They were the forerunners of today's reality game show. The prize was typically romantic opportunity (The Dating Game - the first dating game show) or fame (The Gong Show) rather than cash. One of his famous shows, The Newlywed Game, actually led to some divorces.
This genre disappeared from US screens in the 1980s. Blind Date, the British version of The Dating Game, remained popular in the UK. In Japan a number of shows emerged that defy classification by most standards. For instance, in one infamous show, failing to answer a question correctly led to one's own mother being buried in tons of rotting fish. In another, those who failed to answer questions correctly were dumped at locations remote from transport or assistance, e.g. in the Arctic, and had to perform such feats as drinking beer while sitting on blocks of ice - first one to run to the outhouse was left behind.
The reality game shows concept really took off in the 2000s with shows like Survivor, Big Brother and their clones. Planet 24 television (owned by Bob Geldof) devised the concept of Survivor but were unable to sell it to a British or American broadcaster. It was eventually taken up in 1997 by Sweden as Expedition Robinson. The format was an immediate hit in other Scandinavian countries and it soon caught on around the world. These shows combine elements of reality show and older reality game shows with traditional game-show elements of physical competitions by contestants.
Some shows (e.g. The Weakest Link, Greed) exploit a disapproval voting system similar to the reality game show, and play up the realistic confrontation between contestants, but are in fact just conventional game shows, where no bodily torture or emotionally stressful situation is created, other than the failure to answer some question or impress hosts. Dog Eat Dog was even publicised as a reality show despite being basically a revamp of The Krypton Factor with a variant of disapproval voting added.
Card games, especially poker and to a lesser extent blackjack, have recently become the basis for a number of popular shows on various U.S. broadcast and cable/satellite networks. Although these shows appear to meet the third definition above ("a game that involves an element of chance or strategy in addition to, or instead of, a test of general knowledge") an interesting controversy has erupted over whether these "casino games" should be considered game shows.
Gameshows around the world
US quiz/game shows
US reality shows
US dating shows
UK panel games
In these, celebrities compete, usually in two teams.
UK quiz shows
UK reality game shows
UK activity-oriented shows
UK other shows
- Maailman ympäri
- Retsi ja Jykke (followed by spin-off shows by the same team, until the death of Jyrki Otila (Jykke))
- Haluatko miljonääriksi? (Finnish version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?)
- Heikoin lenkki (Finnish version of The weakest link)
- Mitä Maksaa (Finnish version of The Price is Right)
- Suuri kupla (children's quiz show)
- Napakymppi (Finnish version of The Dating Game)
- Uutisvuoto (Finnish version of Have I Got News for You)