What is the Best Game Show? A Summer 2020 Analysis of Current Offerings

Elizabeth Banks hosts the reboot of Press Your Luck.

When 2020 started, I don’t think any of us envisioned this being the year we would experience. From impeachment, to the pandemic, to the profound resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, we’ve been bombarded with news and reasons to soul-search. So in an odd way, what did tv unknowingly plan for our late spring and summer? A time to be entertained by game shows on tv. Yes, game shows. And nothing else but the news… In honor of this summer’s obscene lineup of endless low-brow, low-commitment fun, my family decided to watch ten of the game shows most prominently featured on television right now or recently and answer critical questions about them. They included Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, To Tell the Truth, Celebrity Family Feud, Press Your Luck, Match Game, Holey Moley, The Wall, Don’t, Wheel of Fortune, and Jeopardy. Without further ado, here’s what you need to know to plan your summer on a couch or chair near you and rise slightly above the tide of boredom or alleviate your anger with an escape.

Which show seems like the most fun to be on?

Coral: Honestly, I can’t decide between Jeopardy and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. To me both seem fun because both are games that require brain power and common knowledge. I love both of these games dearly. I also like them because sometimes I know the answer but no one on TV knows it, and I feel powerful. But, if I had to decide, I would go on Jeopardy because you have the ability to continue to play until you lose, which means more money. And I like money.

Alicia: To Tell the Truth. I think it is lots of fun to be one of the participants and try to identify which of the characters is telling the truth! I like that most of the occupations are unique and the challengers are really good at pretending to be somebody else. I also would love to play one of the characters and will have lots of fun to see if they believe me! I particularly like how sassy the co-host is.

Levi: While it feels like there are a lot of ways you could go with this question, I’m going to say The Wall. Over an hour, if you are the person loading the balls that fall from the titular “Wall,” you have little to do other than hope they land in the slots that give you the most money. Even though you can lose your winnings this way too, from what I saw it seems like most contestants walk away with a significant amount of money. Some of the other shows might be more fun, but the amount of time you actually get to “play” on those shows seem like they might only last a few minutes total. So I will go with The Wall.

Which show has the best prizes?

Coral: Surprisingly, I have to choose Press Your Luck for this one. I think it’s rather unique and very cool how in their “Bonus Round” where there is only one contestant left, they have an assortment of personalized prizes she or he can win. This ranges from luxury cars to vintage popcorn machines. It also makes the show far more entertaining because you get to learn a lot more about the contestant.

Alicia: Press Your Luck. I think it is very clever and like that the show added “personalized” prizes! And that the prizes get “better” in each stage of the show. The personalized prizes add a feeling of uniquenesses. As a viewer it is nice to see what other people find important in their lives. The Whammy adds a lot to the adrenaline, and it is fun to chant that you do not want any whammies. The stage seems fun, with lights, and lots of color.  

Levi: Almost all of these ten shows are just giving out cold, hard cash to the contestants and / or to their selected charities. Press Your Luck, Wheel of Fortune, and Holey Moley might have a few bonus items. But perhaps a prize is also the ability to say you won? For that reason I am going to say Jeopardy. Few things probably seem more impressive than telling someone you won Jeopardy.

Which show has the most intriguing contestants?

Coral: I think it’s To Tell The Truth, hands down. I mean, they’re not going to let you on the show if you’re boring, that would murder the entire principle of the game! Like, they aren’t going to let a happy 52 year old man who loves his accounting job onto the show. Imagine how boring that would be! Their contestants range from physic detectives to professional sword swallowers, and that’s what I call cool (and also scary. Imagine swallowing a sword, that would be an awful experience).

Alicia: Don’t . Who on earth would like to be torched like this in this game! Don’t is my least favorite showgame. I really find it curious to find out which type of person or group will be participating and if they will succeed in completing the awful and torch-like games. 

Levi: Holey Moley has clearly tried its best to find people with interesting and quirky personalities to feature on this silly and creative miniature golf game show / competition show hybrid. I like that Don’t is also choosing families / friends to compete together and they have seemed very much like their authentic selves and that is kind of fun to see.

Holey Moley.
Which game show has the best set?

Coral: It’s quite obviously Holey Moley, the extreme mini golf game. It’s the only one that actually relies on the set to play the game. Mechanical Bulls, Mariachi Bands, Groundhogs, what more could you ask for? However, the audience’s “seats” (they don’t even have seats, they’re forced to stand) are horrible.

Alicia: Wheel of Fortune. I think that since it is one of the oldest game shows it has its advantages. They have definitely kept trying to improve the show over 45 years. The show has a simple, but great set.  I like the ample space, the large puzzle board, and lighting of the show. It is also clean and bright, and who does not love to spin a wheel! 🙂

Levi: Holey Moley clears wins this one. It has the most fun things to look at. Of the traditional game shows, I like how Wheel of Fortune has evolved to use screens to show a variety of locales in its backgrounds. The color palette used throughout the show is also diverse and pleasant.

The Wheel of Fortune set.
Which show’s host is the most dead inside? Who is enjoying it the most?

Coral: The host of Match Game is the most dead inside. I don’t even know his name (Editor’s Note: It’s Alec Baldwin). He’s basically embraced the reality that his career is coming to a close. But, I do respect the fact that he realizes how terrible of a show Match Game is. I think Jimmy Kimmel from Who Wants to Be a Millionaire is enjoying it the most. He gets to hangout with his cool celebrity friends and laugh when they get a question wrong. Jimmy genuinely seems like he’s having a great time.

Alicia: Most dead inside (apathetic): CHRIS HARDWICK (The Wall). I watched the show a couple of times and Chris just not seem really in tune with the millions of dollars people could win on the show. I think he got the job because he is the executive producer, but the game would benefit from a host that can actually empathize and connect with the contestant. Enjoying the Most: Anthony Anderson (To Tell the Truth). Due to the nature of the show, the host has plenty of opportunities to “leave the script,” and make his role lots of fun, because he can interact with the contestants, participants (characters), and his MOM. It feels like a fresh and fun role. He definitely seems to enjoy his role in the show. I think being a comedian, an actor of comedy films, and having experience in short-lived sitcoms also helped him to use this experience in making us believe that he is enjoying it! 🙂  

Levi: I’m going with Steve Harvey. Family Feud consistently features some of the most dumb people in America, and the celebrity version of the show is no different. At times it seems like he realizes the stupidity of it all and is just going through the motions. I can see Elizabeth Banks getting there quickly with Press Your Luck. It’s a really inexplicable career choice for her to host a show that has so little strategy involved and is so intellectually dull. I think Alex Trebek still seems to get a lot of pleasure out of hosting Jeopardy. It’s kind of impressive to see how much he enjoys it, the flow of the game, and observing which contestants have a knack for clever ways to make their answers.

Alec Baldwin hosts Match Game.
Which show has the best sidekick?

Coral: I think it’s Anthony Anderson’s mom from To Tell the Truth. She’s funny and helps make the show what it is. It’s also one of the few game shows that has a sidekick, but that’s okay, because she’s a wonderful sidekick.

Alicia: To Tell the Truth. Anthony Anderson’s mom is great! I like how sassy she is and that she always has something to say, even though she is not a competitor. I think all of us can relate or know somebody like Anthony’s mom.

Levi: Still got to be Vanna White. Watching her host Wheel of Fortune recently when Pat Sajak had surgery revealed that she should probably be given the chance more often and that Pat Sajak should turn / touch the letters. Plus, who else has a classic Weird Al song featuring them?

To Tell the Truth.
You are stuck on a desert island and can only watch one gameshow for the rest of your life. Which one do you choose?

Coral: I would choose Jeopardy. I choose this because I love it but also for strategic reasons. It’s educational and perhaps a question would come up about how to get off a desert island. If so, then I could learn how to leave when they reveal the answer and return to society to a vast variety of game shows.

Alicia: To Tell the Truth. I find that To Tell the Truth is a fun and creative game. I love to learn the different and bizarre jobs characters usually have. As a viewer, you could feel like a spy and it is fun to guess the real character. The panelists, host, and co-host are usually very funny and it is nice to know that somebody actually gets some money! In some of the other games, contestants can earn lots of money, or they could take nothing home (when out of luck).

Levi: Jeopardy. Probably the most interesting and diverse content to learn from and think about.

Alex Trebek of Jeopardy.
Which host would you want to be stuck on a desert island with?

Coral: This is a hard question. Alex Trebek is probably really smart, but he’s super old and would unfortunately slow me down. I’d probably choose Adam Scott or Elizabeth Banks. They both acted in TV Shows / Movies I like and I could use that to my advantage. For example, I could force Elizabeth to reenact all of The Hunger Games or I could force Adam Scott to recite all of Parks and Recreation (which is literally my favorite show).

Alicia: Elizabeth Banks. Besides loving her game show and sometimes sarcastic style as a host, I think she is one of the most intriguing and fun people I would love to be stuck on an island with (I am unsure if she would like to be stuck with me). It would be really interesting to learn about her experience as an actress, director, executive producer, and a host! Based on her success in an industry that is mainly dominated by men, I think we can make  a great team to find a way to escape the island or to get some business there! I would love to ask her about her role in The Hunger Games as Effie Trinket and ask about what happened behind the scenes of the saga.

Levi: There’s a lot we don’t know about some of these hosts. Some might make you laugh including Alec Baldwin, Adam Scott, Elizabeth Banks, or Anthony Anderson, but I could quickly see that turning sour or have them turn too critical. I’m going with Alex Trebek again. He seems to have the most knowledge and be the most resourceful to help you get off the island. He might get salty and give you some tough love as he teaches you survival strategies, but you would ultimately survive.

Which show would you feel least embarrassed about gushing over at a party?

Coral: Jeopardy! Who doesn’t love that heart-warming classic? It makes you seem like an intelligent person and not a couch potato. Even though I am a proud couch potato, at a party you want to be seen very posh and smart. Also more people have seen it, so you won’t have to awkwardly try to explain the concept and rules.

Alicia: Jeopardy. I think there is nothing wrong about gushing over a fun, intellectual, and prestigious game! I actually know a few people who participated in the game and several wannabes :). I think the game provides such a wide focus of themes that you will always find an episode or theme to talk about and gush over at any gathering. 

Levi: It would probably be Holey Moley because of its cool concept, but they produce the show with an audience of 4th graders in mind. I would have LOVED this show as a kid. As an adult it’s a little hard to spread the gospel about it, but people with kids probably won’t mind having something silly they can watch with them. Don’t is clearly trying to be the adult version of the clever and funny quirky game show, and even though we aren’t officially including it in our review, Ellen’s Game of Games really achieves the best bang for your buck on fun, stupid, silly stuff. That would have been the clear winner otherwise.

Which show would you feel most embarrassed about being paid to gush about at a party?

Coral: Match Game. It’s awful. I have no idea how it even got on TV. I literally don’t know any of the celebrities on there. They’re all like C-list celebrities or lower. It’s a boring show and the set burns my eyes. It’s too vibrant. Not to mention the audience that laughs at everything even though it’s not even the slightest bit funny. It’s sad but it’s true.

Alicia: Don’t. I definitely dislike this game. I would feel embarrassed to mention that I watch this torching-like game where it seems contestants need to compromise their safety and health to earn some money! Like the first episode when a contestant needed to eat different “degrees” of spicy hot chilies without any water to get some money. In the same episode people needed to stay on a path to be rolled-over by big tires! Jeez! I do not think there is anything to gush about in this game show. There is nothing constructive!

Levi: Celebrity Family Feud.

A game from the show Don’t.
Which show is most likely to draw the ire of fellow household members?

Coral: Don’t. I personally like the show and my dad thinks that it’s okay. However, with my mom it’s a whole different situation. She probably says the show is dangerous and awful about 13 times per show. I always tell her she can leave if she wants to, but she always ends up staying. Secretly, I think my mom enjoys the show, but refuses to show it.

Alicia: Don’t. Some people might feel excited to see people accepting “games” where they could get injured or endure stubbornness. I think people who participate in this violent show must be desperate for the money or to appear on TV. That is definitely not something other people would value as “fun”. Puffi!

Levi: Match Game. Wow, this show is bad and dull. I can’t believe Alec Baldwin agreed to host this dud. At least you can get some “hate-watch” pleasure out of watching the stupidity shown on Celebrity Family Feud.

Celebrity Family Feud.
When you look back on the summer of 2020, which game show is most likely to stay in your memory?

Coral: Probably Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, because I learned so much. Not only about pop culture or science but about celebrities too! Like, Dr. Phil isn’t that smart (sorry, but it’s the truth). I also liked it because I learned about so many interesting charities and worldwide problems that I wouldn’t have realized if it weren’t for that show.

Alicia: I am going to say Press Your Luck. The majority of games offer similar prizes: money! While there is nothing wrong about giving money, I usually don’t remember these specific prizes. However, I do remember the accessible van a lady wanted to get around with her relative, or the big fence a guy wanted to earn for his dog! I think those personalized prizes make the show very memorable 🙂

Levi: To Tell the Truth. There’s something revealing about how easy it is for other people to fake being another person and fool people. While the show shares little relevance to our political moment, it’s hard not to ponder what this says about how good we are at using small amounts of information and determining what’s real and what’s a lie. In my estimation, it’s easy for us to be fooled!

Dr. Phil ponders his guesses with Jimmy Kimmel on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.
Do game shows tell us anything about society in 2020?

Coral: People have nothing better than to sit on a couch and laugh at people losing or winning money. Also, it shows us that the bar has been set fairly low for quality television *cough cough Match Game cough cough*.

Alicia: TV shows like Don’t where contestants put their health and self esteem in peril for a good amount of cash ($100,000). It premiered with a 0.9 rating among adults 18-49 and more than 4.2 million of total viewers, indicating that Americans are lowering their standards for entertainment. It seems that people are eager to see how hard people are punched or torched… It is very bizarre. Unfortunately these types of games are not only happening in America. Maybe people are getting desensitized with the pain inflicted on others, and want to see something “new” or “extravagant.” Maybe as a society we want to be immersed in a different reality.  Thank God more intellectual games like Jeopardy are viewed by a larger majority.

Levi: I’m really intrigued by this question. I think they tell us several things. First among them is that these shows are kind of like the empty calorie of television. You can watch them, find them mildly amusing and pleasurable, and then never think much about them or the outcome again. People probably want and need these kind of low-stakes commitments more and more, which probably shows why game shows are such a consistent fixture on TV and why ABC in particular has invested in them so heavily now for their “Summer of Fun and Games.” 9 of the 10 shows we watched are on ABC. Finally, even though we have made remarkable technological advances in society, none of these modern game shows really utilize technology in any novel ways. The closest is The Wall. To me it indicates that there is something primeval about how people enjoy games and connectedness through guessing games and trivia. When boiled down, all of these shows function in really simplistic ways. In other words, there are basic and universal human intellectual and emotional components they tap into, and that’s where most of the shows’ appeal seems to come from.

So what is the best game show?

Coral: This may be the hardest question. Let me narrow it down to some front runners: To Tell The Truth, Jeopardy, and Don’t. Okay, maybe not Don’t. Sure it’s entertaining, but I’m being kind of biased because one of my favorite actors is the host. So that leaves To Tell the Truth and Jeopardy. I’ll have to go with Jeopardy because it’s a classic and literally always on TV. It’s educational as well and if I do say so myself, I’m rather pretty good at it. As soon as I turn 18, I’m rushing straight to the Jeopardy studio.

Alicia: Intellectually: Jeopardy . Keeping you on the edge: Press Your Luck. Engaging: To Tell the Truth.

Levi: Of these ten, I think the best overall is Wheel of Fortune, followed by Jeopardy. There are clear reasons why these shows have thrived for decades: the consistency and quality of hosting and content, the pre-prime time slot of 7pm, some subtle modernization over the years of each show, the upbeat aspirational nature of each show, the music, the quick pacing, and probably most of all, the ability to seamlessly play along from home much more pleasurably than a lot of the other shows allow.

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