A game show is a type of radio or television program in which members of the public or celebrities, sometimes as part of a team, play a game which involves answering questions or solving problems usually for money and/or prizes. On some shows contestants compete against other players or another team while other shows involve contestants playing alone for a good outcome or a high score. Game shows often reward players with prizes such as cash, trips and goods and services provided by the show's prize suppliers.
Many television game shows descended from similar programs on radio. The very first television game show, Spelling Bee, was broadcast in 1938. Truth or Consequences was the first game show to air on commercially-licensed television, airing its first episode in 1941 as an experimental broadcast.
Over the course of the 1950s, as television began to pervade the popular culture, game shows quickly became a fixture. Daytime game shows would be played for lower stakes to target stay-at-home housewives, while higher-stakes programs would air in prime time. During the late 1950s, high-stakes games such as Twenty One and The $64,000 Question began a rapid rise in popularity; however, this was short-lived. In 1959, over the course of the quiz show scandals, many of the higher stakes game shows were discovered to be rigged, and ratings declines led to most of the prime time games being canceled. The daytime games survived during this period and remained a fixture of daytime television through the 1960s along soap operas and reruns. Popular game shows such as Jeopardy! (1964), the original The Match Game (1962), Let's Make a Deal (1961), The Hollywood Squares (1966), and Chuck Barris's prototypical reality series The Dating Game and The Newlywed Game all debuted in the 1960s.
Though CBS gave up on daytime game shows in 1968, none of the other networks did. Color television was introduced to the game show genre in the late 1960s on all three networks. The 1970s saw a renaissance of the game show, as new games and massive upgrades to existing games made debuts on the major networks: The New Price Is Right marked CBS's return to the game show in 1972, "big money" Match Game 73 and Pyramid debuted in 1973, Wheel of Fortune in 1975, and Family Feud (another "The Match Game" derivative) in 1976. With the debut of the Prime Time Access Rule in 1971, game shows had another outlet in prime time as most American television stations picked up syndicated game shows to fill the newly created "access period." These game shows originally aired once a week, but by the late 1970s and early 1980s most of the games had transitioned to five days a week.
Game shows were the lowest priority of television networks and frequently were rotated out every thirteen weeks if they were unsuccessful. Most tapes were destroyed until the early 1980s. Over the course of the late 1980s and early 1990s as fewer new hits were produced, game shows lost their permanent place in the daytime lineup. ABC gave up on game shows in 1986. NBC lasted until 1991, but attempted to bring them back in 1993 before cancelling its game show block again in 1994. To the benefit of the genre, the move of Wheel of Fortune to syndication in 1983 and the modernized revival of Jeopardy! in 1984 was highly successful, leading to the two games becoming fixtures in the prime time "access period" and several failed attempts at imitation. Cable television also allowed for the debut of game shows such as Supermarket Sweep (Lifetime), Trivial Pursuit and Family Challenge (Family Channel), and Double Dare (Nickelodeon). It also opened up a previously underdeveloped market for game show reruns; Game Show Network debuted in 1994.
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