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July 22, 2014

Is Game Show Hostdom Dead?

by Danny Gallagher, posted Mar 26th 2010 3:10PM
Game show hosts Drew Carey, Wayne Brady and Guy Fieri
Game shows used to flood the dial of my TV back in the 1980s and '90s. And that was when my TV could only pick up eight channels, three depending on the weather.

Back then, almost everything from daytime fare to the occasional prime time bit of airtime starred game show hosts. Their purpose on television was solely to wear smart suits, make sure their teeth reached the optimum level of whiteness and keep the game moving but entertaining.

Now that game shows are making a slow but steady return to television, it seems the traditional role of "host" has turned away from the traditional "game" emcee like Chuck Woolery, Wink Martindale, Bob Barker and Art Fleming and more towards lively hosting personalities from other walks of entertainment life like Drew Carey, Wayne Brady, Howie Mandel and Guy Fieri. Does this mean that the role of the traditional TV game show has gone to that great big "Curtain No. 2" in the sky?

This isn't a critique or chance to slam the new flock of game show elite. Professional game show grinners like Carey and company have actually grown into their new television roles quite nicely. It just seems the concept, or really the art, of hosting a game show has been erased in the new television landscape. The art of entertaining an audience has morphed into the art of hosting a game show and something small but noticeable has been left out of the metamorphosis.

Firstly, the medium itself has changed. Back in television's infancy, most, if not all, of the hosts got their starts on radio as deejays, spinning records and trying to act excited about the few rock songs they were allowed to play. Radio was the main breeding ground for the hosts of the day since the markets were wide and varied and the formats ranged from introducing bands and songs to interviewing and interacting with people in and outside of the studio.

Now, radio has all but eradicated the presence of the local deejay with pre-recorded mixers of professional voice artists and the few remaining talk shows running to the warm, loving embrace of satellite radio. Game shows' "proving ground" has been lost to the ether of time.

Of course, there are exceptions to the "radio rule." Peter Marshall and John Davidson both started out as actors before they landed their respective gigs on 'Hollywood Squares.' Art Fleming, the original host of 'Jeopardy,' got his start in television as a stunt double for Ralph Bellamy. The great Johnny Carson (Fact: all TV writers are required by law to refer to the great Johnny Carson as "the great Johnny Carson") first hooked up with Ed McMahon on a game show. Even David Letterman hosted a few game show pilots in his time before 'Late Night.'

However, ever since 'Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?' made primetime hot for game shows again, producers have tried to recapture that same love with more famous hosts to compensate for the lack of drama in the game, such as William Shatner's short run in 'Show Me the Money' and Jimmy Kimmel -- the late night host who got his TV start as a smart-ass sidekick on Comedy Central's 'Win Ben Stein's Money' -- in the even shorter-lived 'Set for Life.'

Even cable networks, who used to have at least one token game show to fit their network's theme, have cut back on game shows since they realized that abandoning their core formats is better for ratings. Even GSN, which still offers a ton of old and new classics, has twisted their original offerings to meet the new trend, like pushing aside Bob Eubanks to give their revamped 'Newlywed Game' to Carnie Wilson.

And the new breed still does a pretty good job for the most part. Carey got off to a rocky start when he took over for the epic and retiring Bob Barker, but he's become comfortable behind the extending mic. Brady's improv comic charm and wit serves him well as the host of 'Let's Make a Deal,' as he goads housewives dressed as steak into choosing what's in the box or what's behind Curtain No. 2. Even Fieri, who I wasn't as kind to in a recent podcast, has started to grow into his role on 'Minute to Win It'.

The only major difference between the hosts of old and new is their star level. Celebrity seems to be more of a motivating factor for game show host hires now more than ever. The host still has to be affable, energetic and succinct, but a little star power also seemed to be that extra safety net that pushed some candidates ahead of the talent line.

Something still feels different, almost distant and missing. The show hosts of yesteryear possessed a certain attitude, almost a swagger, if you will, that the stage they took was their own. Everything they had been working for in broadcasting and television led up to this moment, not away from it. Maybe that game shows are making a comeback as networks start clipping soap operas for more fabulous chances to win cash and/or prizes, the art of hostdom will make a comeback.

I'm sure the teeth bleaching industry is banking on it.

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WendyL

why would you want to make some idiot on a reality show a millionair to show disrespect to their parents. put their small kids thru that, or watch some idiot bounty hunter chase people down? REALITY SHOWS ARE NO FUN.

May 15 2010 at 7:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
WendyL

PEOPLE, PEOPLE, PEOPLE GET A LIFE, i THINK IF ANYONE WANTS TO RETIRE THEY SHOULD STAY HOME AND WATCH DAY TIME TV FOR ONE WEEK, I BET THEY WILL CHANGE THEIR MINDS REAL FAST, THOSE SOPES ARE SO STUPID,AND SO ARE THE PEOPLE WHO WASTE THEIR LIVES WATCHING THEM FOR 30 YEARS, WHAT IS THE MATTER WITH YOU PEOPLE? YOU REALLY HAVE NO LIFE, NO WONDER, AND I BET ALL YOUR FRIENDS, OR THE 2 OR 3 YOU HAVE, WATCH THEM RIGHT ALONG WITH YOU, THEN I BET YOU SIT ON THE PHONE FOR AN HOUR TALKING ABOUT IT, WHAT A LIFE, GOOD THING THE PHONE HAS THREE WAY NOW, YOU DON'T HAVE TO REPETE IT SO MUCH, jUST WHAT DO YOUR HUSBANDS THINK? AND WHAT DO YOU GUYS EVEN HAVE TO TALK ABOUT? IT'S NOT LIKE YOU HAVE A LIFE.

May 15 2010 at 7:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
WendyL

Hi there I just have to put in my two cents worth and tell you Wayne Brady isn't bad, he's funny fast and a good singer the way he makes up a song right on the spot is great, so he's cool, it's the game show that sucks, it's not that it's bad, it's just it's been on too long, everything gets burned out after awhile, and that has burned itself out years ago, half the actors don't even want to do it for long they want out Monty Hall was something else and so was whats his face from the Price Is Right, staying on that long,I give them credit, but it was the BIG pay checks they got that kept them on so long.

May 15 2010 at 7:07 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
WendyL

this is to Nikita tymmons, as for aol thinking they know everything, they don't, we party at our friends house and 50 different people use this computer, so they don't know anything about anyone, and some times we don't even use it for months at a time, they have no idea who we are, and the owner said she doesn't care what they know of her or have a profile on her for what everyone says, she says she loves it,we all say good things and the truth,so let them think its all her, ha ha ha, all they can see is the kind of friends she has, and they don't even know it.

May 15 2010 at 6:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Preston

I wasn't too crazy about Drew Carey the first year he hosted Price Is Right, but he has grown comfortable with his hosting the 2nd and 3rd seasons. And Wayne Brady is very good hosting Let's Make A Deal, bringing his own style to the show and respecting the show's persona. His sidekick Jonathan is so silly; can be so wacky and silly on some shows. I think the game show hostdom is still alive, only that the times are different in a social media age. A lot of them are comedians just thrust into game shows and some take a year to gel into the new shows. We put aside their comedian persona and accept their game show persona more.

April 27 2010 at 1:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
JEREMY

Someone mentioned wanting more women hosting game shows.There are two have done it;both are relatively well-known,and BOTH HOSTED THE SAME SHOW. JENNY MCCARTHY hosted a game show called"Singled Out"(on MTV ,I believe it was),and was later replaced by CARMEN ELECTRA. Just thought I'd throw that out there.

March 30 2010 at 3:58 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to JEREMY's comment
tingrin87

there's also the woman who hosts Millionaire, and the woman who hosts Weakest Link (not sure if either are still on)

March 30 2010 at 4:02 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
PAM

I WOULD RATHER WATCH GAME SHOWS THEN SOME OF THE OTHER CRAP THAT IS ON

March 29 2010 at 12:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to PAM's comment
tingrin87

WHY ARE YOU YELLING?

March 30 2010 at 4:01 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Tammy

Game shows USE to be fun to watch...that is until the "stars" and "entertainers" got onto the shows, like they need anymore money. Who wants to watch rich people get richer???? I sure don't. I would like to see people who actually need the money, get on a game show and win some money for their family. Game shows are not want they use to be. It's like reality shows shows now, who wants to see already rich/famous people get richer??? They need to get normal everyday people on these shows.

March 29 2010 at 7:31 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Linda A.

When I was growing up, back in the '60s and '70s, weekday morning TV was wall-to-wall game shows; they even spilled over into the afternoons. For me, the only game show worth watching these days is "Jeopardy!" because it elevates your intelligence, it doesn't insult it (although Alex Trebek sometimes talks a little TOO much, which I find annoying). I've been watching "Jeopardy!" since Art Fleming was the host.

I'd like to see more women game-show hosts. For a very, very, VERY long time, the only female game-show host there'd ever been was Betty White when she hosted that '70s game show, "Just Men." (Ironic, isn't it, that a show called "Just Men" was hosted by a woman. Hmmm. Maybe that was the idea.) Anyway, now we have Meredith Vieira hosting "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" but game show hosting is still primarily a man's world.

March 27 2010 at 11:35 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Linda A.'s comment
Todd Schuster

Linda, Betty's "Just Men" was on NBC for 13 weeks from January 3rd thru April 1st 1983. She did a good job as hostess, despite the short run.

May 15 2010 at 3:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Professor Zed

Drew Carey has gotten really good at hosting "Price Is Right". It's hysterical when he's just as shocked at the price of something as I am. I'd like to see him go even looser on the show. Wayne Brady has been doing pretty good on "Lets Make A Deal". He still needs more time to really get comfortable with it, but that's how it's always been regardless of the show or the host.

March 27 2010 at 2:23 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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