Television's 11 Longest-running Game Shows

To Tell the Truth has enjoyed several reincarnations since its original run from 1956 to 1968.

Quiz shows first became popular in the age of radio, but when television was introduced, TV game shows became inextricably woven into American pop culture. Hundreds of game shows have come and gone since the first TV game show, Truth or Consequences, hit the airwaves in 1950, but some, like those that follow, had the magic formula and ran for years.

 

1. The Price Is Right

"Come on down!" Why does this relic from the 1970s still grab high daytime ratings more than 35 years after it debuted? With an agreeable host, contestants plucked from the audience, 80 different games like Plinko and Hi-Lo, and big prizes (motor homes, cars, trips, and furniture), there's something for everyone. The show, which debuted in 1972 and made Bob Barker a TV legend during his 35 years as host, is actually a revival of an earlier incarnation of the show, which aired from 1956 to 1965.

 

    2. Wheel of Fortune

    Since 1975, contestants have been spinning the wheel and risking bankruptcy to guess letters and complete the puzzle on the board. Contestants can buy a vowel and vie to be the first to solve the puzzle. The bonus round allows winners to add cars, trips, and up to $100,000 in cash to their winnings. Before Pat Sajak and Vanna White took the reins in the early 1980s, Chuck Woolery and Susan Stafford hosted the show. Dubbed "America's game," Wheel frequently goes on tour across the country and features celebrity and charity versions of the show as well.

     

    3. Jeopardy!

    Answer: This game show was ranked first in the Nielsen ratings for quiz shows for more than 1,000 weeks. Question: What is Jeopardy!? With 27 Daytime Emmy Awards and 37 million viewers weekly, Jeopardy! has dug its heels into television history. Current host Alex Trebek gives the answers to three contestants who buzz in to provide the questions. In 2004, contestant Ken Jennings racked up an unprecedented 74-game winning streak, earning more than $2.5 million on the show before he stumbled, making him the winningest contestant in game show history. The current show has been on the air since 1984 and is a revival of the original, which ran from 1964 to 1975.

     

    4. Truth or Consequences

    This show originally aired as a radio quiz show starting in 1940, then crossed over to television in 1950. The show asked contestants to answer obscure, often trick, questions, then, if they couldn't answer, made them suffer the "consequences" -- often embarrassing or silly stunts. Bob Barker hosted the show from 1956 to 1975, but the show never quite recovered after his departure. The show ran off and on for about 20 seasons from 1950 to 1978 and had a short-lived revival in the late '80s.

     

      5. What's My Line?

      In What's My Line?, four celebrity panelists tried to guess the occupation (or "line" of work) of a fifth, secret contestant by asking only "yes" or "no" questions. During the third round, panelists were blindfolded and challenged to guess the identity of a "Mystery Guest." The original run of the show (which paid players for appearances, since prize money never exceeded $50) ran from 1950 to 1967, but since then several revivals have been launched. Celebrity guests have included author Gore Vidal, actor Jane Fonda, and singer Bobby Darin.

       

      6. I've Got a Secret

      The old parlor game "Secret, Secret, Who's Got the Secret?" was the inspiration for this classic quiz show that originally aired from 1952 to 1967. The host introduced the contestant and asked them to whisper their "secret" into his ear. The secret was shown on-screen for at-home viewers, but celebrity panelists had to try to guess the secret by asking questions. Each time the panelist guessed incorrectly, the player was paid $20 with a whopping $80 maximum payout. In recent years, the show was revived on the Game Show Network with secrets that are much racier than they were in the 1950s.

       

      7. Hollywood Squares

      Mere mortals got a chance to play with celebrities in this game show based on tic-tac-toe. Nine Hollywood stars sit in separate, open-faced cubes that make up the board. The stars are asked questions by the host, and contestants judge whether or not their answers are true or false in order to put an X or O in the square. Prize winnings got larger and larger over the years, with one jackpot reaching $100,000. But the game was really a vehicle for the comedic banter between the host and the celebrities.

      Between the original version, which aired from 1966 to 1981, and its many reincarnations, Squares has featured celebrities such as Vincent Price, Joan Rivers, Whoopi Goldberg, Paul Lynde, Martin Mull, and Alf.

       

        8. Concentration

        The game show genre took a beating during the 1950s when it was revealed that several shows were rigged and contestants were given the answers in advance. Though they were later implicated in the quiz show scandals, producers Jack Barry and Dan Enright created a solid game with Concentration. The hit show survived the tumult of the scandals, airing from 1958 to 1973. The game was based on two concepts: a children's game known as "Memory," and a word puzzle that was revealed when matching cards were removed from the board. The show survived in syndication for some time and enjoyed a revival in 1987 that lasted approximately five years.

         

        9. Let's Make a Deal

        Monty Hall was the archetypal game show host in this long-running favorite that required contestants to have a little intuition and a lot of luck. The show involved contestants making a "deal" with Hall and selecting prizes that could be real or bogus. But what really made the show stand apart was the costumes that contestants wore. In the first days of the show, contestants wore everyday clothes until someone came to the show wearing a crazy costume to get the attention of producers -- immediately, a tradition was born. From then on, contestants on Let's Make a Deal wore nutty outfits in order to be singled out to participate. Several revivals have been attempted, but fans of the show seem to prefer reruns of the original, which ran from 1963 to 1977.

         

        10. To Tell the Truth

        On this show, a team of celebrity panelists heard a story and then had to determine which of three contestants was associated with the story. Payoffs were based on the contestants' ability to fool the panel and weren't large by today's standards: Each incorrect guess from the panel paid the challengers $250 for a possible $1,000. But if the entire panel was correct, the challengers split $150. The show's original run lasted from 1956 to 1968, and the game that asked, "Will the real John Doe please stand up?" has enjoyed several reincarnations.

         

          11. You Bet Your Life

          This unique program was modeled after Groucho Marx's radio series of the same name, in which contestants answered questions for prize money. The audience was clued into the "secret word," but the contestant was not. If the contestant could answer the questions and come up with the secret word, a duck (a nod to Groucho's classic film Duck Soup) would descend from the ceiling and deliver $100 in prize money. Marx hosted the show during its original run from 1950 to 1961. Later versions hosted by Buddy Hackett and Bill Cosby were unable to match the success of the original.

          CONTRIBUTING WRITERS:

          Helen Davies, Marjorie Dorfman, Mary Fons, Deborah Hawkins, Martin Hintz, Linnea Lundgren, David Priess, Julia Clark Robinson, Paul Seaburn, Heidi Stevens, and Steve Theunissen

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