Game and quiz shows first started appearing on radio broadcasts in the 1930s, led by the CBS network’s Professor Quiz, hosted by a man who was neither a professor nor even a college graduate, the first of several frauds that seemed to be endemic to the genre. Professor Quiz was followed by other such game shows as Uncle Jim’s Question Bee and Ask It Basket, which in turn spawned successful box games for at-home play. The show Truth or Consequences made the transition from radio to television in the late 1940s and was so popular that a town in New Mexico was named for the show. Television proved to be the perfect platform for game shows since they were very popular and cheap to produce.
Even in reruns today, the older shows still draw huge audiences. This book describes the evolution of the game show, its larger-than-life producers and hosts, as well as the scandals that have rocked it from time to time, including bloopers from such “adult” oriented shows as The Dating Game, The Newlywed Game, and Hollywood Squares. This is an entertaining and lively look at an American phenomenon whose popularity doesn’t seem to be going away.
Game Show Confidential: The Story of An American Obsession, written by Jeopardy winner Boze Hadleigh, comes out May 1, 2023. Lyons Press, a subsidiary of Rowman and Littlefield Publishing, provided an early galley for review.
As a kid of the 70's, I grew up on game shows. Whether they were morning fare for days off and summer vacation or early evening offerings, I enjoyed these so much. It was a special time often spent with my grandmother. It is for this reason that this book attracted me so.
Hadleigh takes the reader through the history of game shows by presenting them via different topics (by game-themes, by similar production companies, etc.). As he does, he also drops interesting trivial tidbits and historical markers as well. Though the topics bounce around chapter to chapter, the grouped shows within each chapter are typically presented in a chronological manner.
I was especially pleased by the back-to-back chapters that focused on Match Game and its host Gene Rayburn. This is by far my all-time favorite game show, so seeing it given extra attention here was icing on the cake for me.