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April 24, 2014

10 Greatest Game Show Hosts in History

by Leonard Jacobs, posted Dec 23rd 2009 10:00AM
Hosting a game show is something of an art. You've got to be amiable but authoritative, and you've got to make it look easy. You've got to look happy when a contestant walks away with thousands of dollars (or even millions, at this point) and you've got to look contrite when a contestant loses -- especially if due to a bad answer. You've got to project warmth, seem approachable and always appear ready for fun, even when enforcing the rules.

Since the first quiz shows of the late 1940s, through the infamous scandals of the 1950s, up until the present day of huge cash prizes, game-show hosting has been an amazing long-term gig for the people -- almost always men -- who get the job. Who, then, are the 10 greatest game-show hosts in history? Check out our after the jump.
Hosting a game show is something of an art. You've got to be amiable but authoritative, and you've got to make it look easy. You've got to look happy when a contestant walks away with thousands of dollars (or even millions, at this point) and you've got to look contrite when a contestant loses -- especially if due to a bad answer. You've got to project warmth, seem approachable and always appear ready for fun, even when enforcing the rules.

Since the first quiz shows of the late 1940s, through the infamous scandals of the 1950s, up until the present day of huge cash prizes, game-show hosting has been an amazing long-term gig for the people -- almost always men -- who get the job. Who, then, are the 10 greatest game-show hosts in history? See our list below.

10. Dick Clark
With a career stretching back to the 1950s, Clark would have icon status even if only 'American Bandstand' was affixed to his name. But the 'New Year's Rockin' Eve' and 'Bloopers and Practical Jokes' mogul hosted five versions of 'Pyramid' -- the exact title varied by the size of the top cash prize -- from 1973 to 1988. A word-association game played by the clock, Clark's flow-with-it persona helped 'Pyramid' win nine Emmys for Best Game Show, and Clark himself won three Emmys for Best Game Show Host.

9. Peter Marshall
Born Ralph Pierre LaCock, Marshall had been a nightclub singer, Broadway actor and veteran of TV variety shows before taking over as host of 'The Hollywood Squares' in 1966. Facing nine perennially goofy guest stars and having to read wacky, off-beat questions meant needing to be hilarious but sane, and Marshall fit that bill just about perfectly. He published his memoir, 'Backstage with the Original Hollywood Square,' in 2002.

8. Chuck Woolery
Although he had a top 100 single with the Avante-Garde's 'Naturally Stoned' in 1968, Chuck Woolery didn't become a household name until 1975, when the Merv Griffin-created 'Wheel of Fortune' debuted. Woolery hosted for six years, then lost the gig, thanks to a salary battle with Griffin. Still, he went on to long runs as host of 'Love Connection,' 'Scrabble' and 'Lingo,' among others. A Kentucky native, Woolery is a huge fishing enthusiast and sells a line of related products on his website.

7. Regis Philbin
The Guinness Book of Records has certified Regis Philbin as logging more time in front of the camera -- currently over 16,000 hours -- than any other figure in TV history. Some of that time was hosting game shows, including one, 'Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?,' that became a 1999 ratings juggernaut, kicking off a gargantuan resurgence of interest in the genre. For the already-successful co-host of 'Live With Regis and Kelly,' things climaxed with 'Millionaire' running four nights a week on ABC during prime time before Philbin departed in 2002. (He has occasionally returned since then.)

6. Monty Hall
Get out your chicken costume! I'll take what's behind door number three! Something about 'Let's Make a Deal,' which Hall produced and hosted in primetime, daytime and syndication from 1963 to 1986, brought out the most dopamine-deprived contestants imaginable. People simply went to obscene lengths to catch Hall's eye, fashioning elaborate costumes and often jumping up and down as if super-strength itching powder had fallen in a very strategic spot on their person. Hall was the amused but unflappable host, always eager to make a deal.

5. Richard Dawson
As host of 'Family Feud,' starting with its 1976 debut, Dawson was a recognizable face, as a panel favorite on 'Match Game' and even before that starring opposite Bob Crane on 'Hogan's Heroes.' The survey-question format spelled instant ratings gold, and Dawson's bit of kissing all the women contestants on the lips became his trademark. Dawson hosted 'Feud' through 1985 and again briefly during the 1990s. Rumors of his death aside, Dawson is very much alive and living in Beverly Hills.

4. Gene Rayburn
Rayburn was a game-show host and panelist for years. It was his longtime ties to producers Mark Goodson and Bill Todman that brought his hosting of 'Match Game' into American living rooms three times, from 1962 to 1969, in a legendary laugh-riot version from 1973 to 1982, and 1983 to 1984. His inspired, sometimes boozy lunacy (matched by swilling panelists Charles Nelson Reilly, Richard Dawson and Brett Somers) made 'Match Game' a hugely rated show in the '70s.

3. Pat Sajak
A radio broadcaster, then a TV weatherman, Sajak was offered the 'Wheel of Fortune' hosting gig by show creator Merv Griffin, who needed to replace the fired Chuck Woolery. Despite his resume, which included appearing on a local affiliate in L.A., NBC resisted, considering him relatively untested. In the end, though, Griffin prevailed and Sajak has been telling contestants to spin the wheel since 1983 on both daytime and syndicated versions of 'Wheel.' He remains synonymous with that ever-glamorous hostess and letter-turner, the beautiful Vanna White.

2. Alex Trebek
What is a question? It's the answer on 'Jeopardy!,' which the Ontario-born Trebek began to host in 1984. Yet his resume goes back well before that, as it includes two 'High Rollers' versions in the 1970s and '80s, various Canadian and American shows and an oddity on NBC called 'The Wizard of Odds.' Projecting erudition and sophistication -- his style of pronouncing foreign words is well-parodied -- Trebek is a TV institution, winning Emmys for Best Game Show Host in 1989, 1990 (tied with Bob Barker), 2003, 2006 and 2008.

1. Bob Barker
He has 19 Emmys, including a record 14 for Best Game Show Host. And that's not the only record that Bob Barker holds. When he retired as host of 'The Price Is Right' in 2007, he'd worked on TV continuously for 51 years, including the nearly 20 years --1956 to 1975 -- he hosted 'Truth or Consequences.' Having literally given away tens of millions in cash and prizes, it's hard to imagine anyone duplicating Barker's 35-year 'Price' run. Next to actress Betty White, Barker is also arguably one of the most outspoken animal-rights advocates in the celebrity world today.

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