In today’s article, TBIR is honoring the life of Alex Trebek by reminiscing and counting down the Top 5 game shows he has hosted throughout his historic career as an emcee. Although the shows listed here will look very familiar to game show aficionados, this should be a treat for those who are curious about the other game shows Trebek hosted prior to and during his Jeopardy! career.
#5: Double Dare (No, not that one…)
For American audiences who were not privy to his appearance on the Canadian academic quiz show Reach For The Top during the ‘60s, CBS’ Double Dare was their first chance to see how Trebek would fare in hosting this type of game show. Watching Trebek host the short-lived series Double Dare, one of the most cerebrally challcenging American game shows I’ve ever watched, in the same style and manner made me appreciate his work on Jeopardy! even more. This show could have easily passed as his audition tape for Jeopardy!.
Double Dare was a general knowledge quiz show where two contestants in their own soundproof booths (which closed like a camera shutter whenever an opponent would buzz-in to guess the answer) attempt to guess people, places and things from a series of up to 10 clues. Throughout the main game, contestants who makes correct guesses have a chance to parlay their money by “daring” or “double daring” their opponent that they won’t be able to guess the answer if they are shown up to two additional clues. The winner receives the chance to win $5,000 by outwitting and stumping three Ph.D.-certified geniuses known as “The Spoilers” in the bonus round.
Considering how mentally demanding Double Dare was – especially in a time when game shows like The Price Is Right and Wheel of Fortune were ruling the daytime airwaves during the 70s – it’s not shocking to see how this 1976 quizzer lasted for only 20 weeks. I honestly think Double Dare was too smart for the room at a time when game shows were transitioning to more glitz and glamour than intellectual appeal as it was during the ‘50s and ‘60s. However, I believe this show would have thrived more if it had aired in the ’50s or on U.K. television.
This weirdly whimsical early ‘80s game show that perhaps gained its inspiration from Star Wars was NBC’s attempt to reignite the popularity of its 14-year-old daytime hit Hollywood Squares. Similar to the tic-tac-toe game show but combined with the game of Dots and triangles for some inexplicable reason, Battlestars pits two contestants against each other in a race to connect dots and “capture” three of the six celebrity panelists by correctly predicting whether or not celebrities answered their questions correctly.
Although this was another short-lived game show that lasted 39 weeks this time, including its 13-weeklong revival The New Battlestars, Trebek was masterful in controlling the flow of the show while corralling the panoply of celebrity egos in each episode – especially the ones with Jim J. Bullock and Richard Simmons with their intensely loquacious and extroverted personalities.
#3: High Rollers
Out of all of the shows listed in this countdown, High Rollers is probably my favorite. Based on a dice game called Shut The Box, this 70s NBC game show had two contestants answer toss-up questions to win the right to roll a pair of dice and clear numbers off a randomly arranged board numbered 1-9. Throughout the game, contestants could also win an array of prizes if they successfully clear a column of numbers. The best two-out-of-three match winner moves on to attempt to clear all nine numbers in the daunting Big Numbers bonus round for a $10,000 prize package, including $5,000 in cash and a new car.
High Rollers had a competitive and engaging format, high stakes where it is not uncommon to see contestants vie for over $20,000 in prizes in the front game alone, unique prizes up for grabs like lithographs, a year’s worth of KFC Sunday dinners and a $10,000 crystal fish bowl, and an afroed Alex Trebek (whose photo weirdly wowed the Twitterverse earlier this year) at the helm putting his own special touch on the show like predicting which of the three main game columns would be the “Hot Column” (clearing an entire vertical row of numbers with one roll) as the numbers slowly filled the game board.
Unlike #5 and #4, High Rollers saw greater success on NBC daytime lasting for 559 episodes between its first run from 1974-1976 and its second run from 1978-1980. The series returned in syndication seven years later with Wink Martindale hosting the show with a noticeably lowered prize budget, but only lasted a year.
#2: Wheel of Fortune – April Fool’s 1997
What better way to honor the spring holiday laden with pranks and practical jokes than to have the two hosts from the two most popular syndicated game shows swap hosting duties for the day? This was an absolutely brilliant move by executive producer Harry Friedman to have Trebek transition from revealing clues to revealing letters on the puzzle board and to have Pat Sajak remind contestants to respond in the form of a question.
This special April Fool’s episode of Wheel of Fortune featured Trebek taking over as host, Sajak and co-host Vanna White playing as contestants for their respective charities and Sajak’s wife Maggie posing as the show’s temporary letter-turner. Trebek also revealed at the top of the program that this the first time he hosted Wheel since he hosted a week of shows 16 years prior when the show was originally on NBC with host Chuck Woolery.
#1: Classic Concentration
To round out the countdown, we have arrived to the final show of the list: Classic Concentration. To me, it seems like Classic Concentration is one of those under-the-radar game shows that probably doesn’t get the recognition it deserves as a memorable daytime game show considering it had a respectable run, airing over 1,000 episodes on NBC for four years from 1987-1991.
Along with its respectable run, it also had one key element that makes this show worth watching: a slightly different side to Alex Trebek.
Unlike his more serious, straightforward work on Jeopardy!, viewers had a chance to see a more relaxed and casual Alex Trebek, dressing down from his typical bespectacled suit-and-tie attire to his assorted sweaters and colorful buttoned shirts throughout most of the run. What’s even more fascinating about his 1987-1991 run on the second Concentration revival is that he was hosting the show concurrently with his daily duties on Jeopardy! Although he has expressed how much he has enjoyed being part of the quiz show he’s the most famous for decades, Trebek had a lot of fun with Classic Concentration as well quipping with show’s resident models and lightly conversing and joking around with the contestants during game play. Trebek hosting this show in the leisurely yet controlled manner he did felt as if he were hosting a game night at his home.