“Don’t Call It a Comeback!”: The TOP 5 Game Show Revivals

Hello everyone and Happy Friday! I’m back again with a brand new article that is sure to peak your interest. This week, I have decided to do some research and list the five game shows with the best revival/comeback to television. Now, my definition of a “revival”, when it comes to television, is a show that was previously cancelled, usually due to low ratings, brought back about three or four years later with some changes made to the show, whether it’s a change in the prize budget or in the set design. So, let’s get to it!

#5: Family Feud

We begin this week’s countdown with Family Feud as the fifth best game show revival. It was very difficult choosing between To Tell The Truth and Family Feud. The reason why Family Feud was chosen over To Tell The Truth was because this show is currently running with new episodes, while To Tell The Truth aired its last revival in 2000. Family Feud came onto the daytime game show scene in 1976 with the host who always kisses and tells (all pun intended), Richard Dawson. This show ran on ABC until 1985, when it switched to syndicated television. For nine years, this show managed to achieve 22 Emmy award nominations and won four Emmy awards. It was among one the most popular daytime game shows in its time. After the show ended in 1985, it made a comeback four different times under the Ray Combs/CBS era in 1988, the second Dawson era in 1994, the short-lived Al Roker/NBC era when he hosted Celebrity Family Feud in 2008, and the Louie Anderson (now Steve Harvey) era in 1999.  Personally, my favorite revival of the show was during the second Dawson era. 

The 1994 season is most memorable for Dawson’s return to television, keeping true to his roots with his quick wit, humorous monologues at the beginning of each show and impeccable sense of humor. The only changes made to this revival was that the total top prize changed to $21,000 (providing that the winning family played two perfect Bullseye rounds), the show switching to an hour format with the champion and challenger families playing in the first game and the winner of the first game playing against a challenger family. Also, each Bullseye round featured three questions, instead of five during the CBS revival, with the first question being worth $500, the second $1,500, and the third $2,500 in the first game; the dollar values doubled in the second game. Only one family member was allowed to participate in the Bullseye round, instead of all five family members as on the CBS revival. Each family started with $2,500 in the first game and $5,000 in the second game, which was the least amount played for in the Fast Money bonus game.

Since the 1999 revival, Family Feud has been hosted by four different hosts, including former soap opera star John O’ Hurley, and has experienced multiple changes including the varying top prizes, the reinstatement of the Bullseye round in the 2009-2010 season, creating the possible top prize of $30,000, and the “one strike” rule in the “Triple” round during the Anderson era.  In the 2010 season, comedian Steve Harvey took over as the host of Family Feud. Since Harvey became the new host of Feud, the national household ratings improved 40 percent from the same time a year ago (for more information, click here). It goes without saying that the nation approves of Harvey’s hosting duties and it’s a good thing that Mark Goodson Productions (now FremantleMedia) raised the Family Feud from the dead.

#4: The Password Series

Password, one of the longest running series of game shows airing a total of 4,819 episodes, made it to number four on this countdown. From its humble beginnings on CBS in 1961, this show was among the elite daytime game shows during those times with its challenging gameplay: a word association game with the catch being using a one-word clue to get your teammate to guess the “password”. This show is not only remembered for its interesting gameplay, but also for the famous game show couple Password host Allen Ludden and actress Betty White.

Long time host Allen Ludden hosted the show from its debut until 1980 when his hosting duties for Password Plus were interrupted due to his chemotherapy treatment for stomach cancer. At the time, Bill Cullen had temporarily hosted the show for a few weeks until Ludden returned. After Ludden passed away in 1981 due to stomach cancer, Tom Kennedy became the permanent host for the rest of the Password Plus series. Betty White is not only known for being married to Ludden, but she is also known as an excellent Password player and the only celebrity to appear on all of the Password series. On a side note, I do like the small marital jokes between Ludden and White, whenever White appeared on the show as one of the celebrity guests.

This show had three different revivals, airing in three different decades, with Password Plus from 1979 to 1982, Super Password from 1984 to 1989, and Million Dollar Password from 2008 to 2009. With every revival, the game gets more challenging and interesting with the addition of new elements to each new series, such as the “Cashword” on Super Password and the introduction of the Alphabetics bonus round on Password Plus. Every revival has also managed to recapture the audiences who loved the previous versions and introduces each newer generation to a new game that has been loved by millions. The only revival that has been unsuccessful in returning to television was Million Dollar Password, airing for only two seasons and 12 episodes. According to Betty White, when she appeared on The View as a special guest, the reason why the show met its untimely demise was because “the young people now can’t keep up with the game; they can’t think on their feet”. It’s sad that Million Dollar Password ended as soon as it did, but there is no doubt that Password had a great run on daytime television and the series’ success was followed its multiple, successful returns to television.

#3: Jeopardy!

Holding the record for the most Emmy awards for “outstanding game show”, (with 11) Jeopardy! makes its way to number three on today’s list of five.  This famous “answer-question” game was first discussed by Merv Griffin and his wife Julann on a plane trip. Julann mentioned that “there had not been a successful ‘question and answer’ game on the air since the show scandals [back in the 1950s]. Why not do a switch and give the answer to the contestants and let them come up with the question?”(1) This idea quickly took flight as Merv Griffin went to NBC with it, and the NBC was sold by the new concept and turned it into a game show. The show premiered on NBC on March 30, 1964, hosted by Art Fleming. The show was originally titled What’s the Question?, but Griffin decided to change the title to Jeopardy! because the network executive thought the show needed more “jeopardies”, such as the Daily Doubles and only the contestant with the highest score at the end of the game will keep their winnings.

This version of Jeopardy! ended in 1975, but came back for only two years starting in 1978 with the same host, but slightly different gameplay. The only changes made to the 1978 version were the following:

–      The contestant with the lowest total at the end of the first round was eliminated
–      Only two contestants played in the second round, or Double Jeopardy! round
–      The winner played in a bonus round called “Super Jeopardy!” (not to be confused with the short lived 1990 ABC game show under the same title) played for a jackpot which started at $5,000 and increased $2,500 for everyday it wasn’t won
–      No “Final Jeopardy” was played; the Super Jeopardy bonus round (shown below) took its place

The final revival of Jeopardy! premiered during the fall of 1984 with host Alex Trebek (previously known for hosting High Rollers, Classic Concentration, among many more  game shows), with boosted dollar values and the adaptation of the original 1964 format. Since then, Jeopardy! has managed to achieve 59 Emmy nominations and won 28 Emmy awards since 1984. It has been listed #2 on TV Guide’s List of 50 best game shows and #2 on GSN’s 50 best game shows of all time. This show has also produced a lot of celebrity tournaments, kids’ weeks, college tournaments, tournament of former champions, and even an international tournament in 1997. The ratings for Jeopardy! soared during and after Ken Jennings’ 74-game winning streak. Jeopardy! has taken the world by storm with its quick, competitive, and often rewarding gameplay, and interesting “answer-question” concept. That is why Jeopardy! takes third place for “best game show revival”.

#2: Match Game

This zany classic “fill-in-the-blank” game show is listed as #2 on this countdown for its original success during the 1960s and its increased success from the 1970s revival.  The Match Game premiered on NBC on December 5, 1962 hosted by Gene Rayburn. The 1960s version featured two teams of three, made up of two civilian contestants and one celebrity guest. A question will be asked to the two teams containing multiple possible answers (ex. “Describe Nikita Khrushchev in one word”) and each contestant and celebrity will be asked to write down their answer. If the two contestants “match” each other’s answer, their team will receive $25, and if either contestant matches the celebrity’s answer, their team will receive $25. The first team to receive $100 or more will win the game. The winning team will play the Audience Match bonus game. The contestants will now say their answers aloud this time trying to match the audience’s most popular response to each question. There are a total of three questions in this round and for each person who matched the audience’s most popular answer won $50 for their team. A maximum payoff of $450 could be accomplished in this bonus round. During this era, The Match Game consistently pulled the most viewers in their time slot from 1963 until the summer of 1968. Unfortunately, this series came to an end on September 26, 1969, producing a total of 1,760 episodes.

But in 1973, this Mark Goodson & Bill Todman show was revived with the title Match Game 73 (the number represented the year the show was filmed and it was updated every year until 1980).  Gene Rayburn once again took control of this Match Game revival. With the new Match Game came several changes to the game including:

–      The questions were more comedic and humorous (ex. “Skinny Minnie is so skinny, she could hula-hoop with a _______.”)
–       Two contestants competed against each other, trying to match as many of the six celebrity panelists as possible
–      The player with the highest score won $100,  became the champion, and played in the Super Match bonus round for $5,000 (later increased to $10,000 and $20,000 on Match Game PM)
–      The show now featured regular appearing panelists such as future Family Feud host Richard Dawson, Brett Somers, and Charles Nelson Reilly

With the antics and constant tomfoolery between Rayburn, the panelists, contestants, and even the stage hands, combined with comedic questions and the often humorous responses to those questions, made this one of the funniest game show to watch in households all across America at the time. This revival quickly reclaimed its prime slot in the daytime ratings from 1974 until 1977. Their ratings peaked during the 1975-1976 season, with a staggering 11 million viewers. Because of its daytime success, Goodson and Todman decided to create a weekly nighttime syndicated series called Match Game PM. The only changes made to this edition were that only three rounds were played and the maximum payoff in the Super Match was $10,000 ($20,000 with the addition of the Star Wheel (shown in the video below), which selected a celebrity at random for the ‘Head-to-Head Match’ in the Super Match round). Match Game PM lasted from 1975 until 1981.

After Match Game was cancelled on September 10, 1982, each revival thereafter has been unsuccessful with attempting to recreate the same magic used to make the 1970s revival of Match Game an instant success. But it seems that all good things must come to an end.

There have also been several proposals made and pilots taped for a new Match Game series in 1985, 1987, 1996, 2004, and 2008. But once again, each proposal and pilot was scrapped. The only incarnation of Match Game we will ever see again was when the game was brought back to be played on Gameshow Marathon in 2006 as a part of a celebrity tournament event featuring classic game shows, such as Beat the Clock, The Price is Right, and Press Your Luck. On this 2006 version, Ricki Lake was the host, with Kathy Najimy and Lance Bass featured as the contestants. The panel for this version consisted of Betty White, George Foreman, Kathy Griffin, Bruce Vilanch, Adam Carolla, and Adrianne Curry. On a quick side note, I think it’s kind of insulting that the producers placed Betty White with “D-list” celebrities, but that’s just me. If it weren’t for a certain 39-year old show (spoiler!), Match Game would be my pick for the best game show revival.

#1: The Price Is Right

Airing for almost 40 years, I think it goes without saying that The Price Is Right is the game show with the best revival. But the exciting show you have all come to know and love, filled with glitz, glamour, and oodles of cash, cars and exotic trips, started as a simpler game show during the 1950s.

It all began on NBC in 1956. Soon to be game show legend Bill Cullen took the helm as the host of this version of The Price Is Right. This version lasted for only a half hour and the game was played similar to the current version , with the exception of the pricing games, Showcase Showdown, and Showcase (although a “home viewer Showcase” game was played where the home viewer who bid the closest to the showcase of prizes (via postcard) featured for that week, won those prizes). Four contestants also played on this version, with one returning champion playing with three other contestants chosen from the studio audience. The game was played in several rounds with each contestant attempting to bid the closest to the actual retail price of the prize at stake without going over. The player who bid the closest won that prize and the contestant who had the highest total prizes became the champion and came back to defend their championship on the next show.

Occasionally, contestants won bonus prizes if they won the first prize or they had a chance to play a “bonus game” for an additional prize. There was even an episode where a contestant won a brand new house as a bonus prize! This version had a daytime and primetime version, both hosted by Cullen. During the primetime version, there were more expensive prizes up for grabs, as opposed to the daytime version; so, it was not uncommon to see contestants winning over $9,000 in prizes (which is equivalent to winning about $75,150 in prizes today). This was one of the more successful game shows since the various game show scandals throughout the 1950s. Sadly, this version ended on September 3, 1965.

However, on September 4, 1972, the show was revived under the new title The New Price Is Right with Bob Barker taking over as the host. At the beginning of the premiere episode, Barker assured the fans of the old Price Is Right “that this is [their] favorite game still based on the pricing of merchandise worth wonderful awards for smart shoppers; we call it The New Price Is Right because we have some new [pricing] games that you will enjoy right there at home with our studio audience”. For the first three years, the show ran under a 30-minute format with only three pricing games being played, no Showcase Showdown and the top two winners advancing to the Showcase, until the show switched to the better known hour-long format on November 3, 1975. This would also be the first time that the “Big Wheel” would be introduced, as well as the Showcase Showdown.

Over the past 39 years since its return to television, The Price Is Right has been…
–      Announced “the longest continuously-running daytime network game show in television history” on March 27, 1987
–      The most popular and well-known game show of all time, loved by people of all ages
–      Hosted by Bob Barker for 35 years straight, making him the longest-running game show host of all time, after being on television for 50 years
–      Giving away over $250,000,000 in cash and prizes as of November 2009
–      Running three other half-hour syndicated shows, with the 1975 daytime version hosted by Dennis James, the 1985 primetime version hosted by Tom Kennedy, and the 1994 version hosted by Doug Davidson
–    Nominated for 67 Emmy Awards and won 32 Emmy Awards

After Barker retired from the show, Drew Carey became the new host on October 15, 2007. The next season marks the 40th anniversary of the long-running series, and hopefully we will see a 40th anniversary primetime special to mark the occasion. The last time The Price is Right had an anniversary primetime special was during its 30th year on television. Needless to say, there is no question that The Price Is Right can’t be given the title “The best game show revival of all time”!

If you have your own list of “Top 5 Game Show Revivals”, just leave it in the comments area or e-mail it to pyltigger@gmail.com. Who knows? I might even mention some of those lists in my next article.

(1)- Cynthia Lowry (1964-03-29). “Merv Griffin: Question and Answer Man”. Associated Press. Independent Star-News

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