2017 was probably the best year for game shows in recent history. $100,000 Pyramid and Match Game were revived, along with a few other favorites like The Joker's Wild and Hip Hop Squares (don't tell me you forgot about that?) but this is the WORLD WIDE WEB, and that means I have to look at International Formats.
Unfortunately, I haven't gotten around to watch "Countdown" this year, but I could only assume they still have letters, still have numbers, and that one segment in dictionary corner where somebody gives an anecdote, only for Nick to go "oh that's interesting, now here's a teatime teaser"
Jeopardy is the gold standard for game show. The rules are straight-forward - pick a category and dollar amount, correct "questions" earn money, incorrect answers lose money, there are surprise wagers that some contestants use to extend their lead or play it safe. What makes Jeopardy work is that it never needs to do a "gimmick" week like other shows, College Tournaments, Celebrity Jeopardy, and Tournament of Champions excluded. Rather it's a pop culture category, or questions all about Spanish Recipes, it's always something fascinating, and you learn a lot about other things in the process of the 22 minutes.
Taskmaster is without a doubt, one of my all-time favorite panel game shows in the UK, and it is coming soon to Comedy Central with Reggie Watts (although this ranked list only sees Greg Davies as the Judge, Jury, and in some cases, Executioner of the fate of comedians.
If you haven't seen the show, five celebrities are the contestants all season (no 'eliminations') and are placed inside a nice cottage, where they are given unusual or creative tasks to complete "Create the Biggest Mess and then Clean it Up." for instance, with a time-limit and the ruling being based on a subjective "biggest mess", it causes many people, who have lifetime of improv experience to lose their wit, but those that can think laterally (or in the case of Catherine Ryan, try and ruin her entire family by calling them up and saying lies about each other behind their backs) it could be big risks for major points.
The show works because of these tasks/challenges, they are open to many interpretations, where sometimes the straight-forward path might not be the exact "correct" answer. And with Davies as the tyrant of tasks, his ruling is final, even if it seems "unfair".
3. Armchair Detectives
It showed up recently on BBC, but Armchair Detectives is probably the most daring genre-bending show on television. It is part game show, part crime drama, as DI Knight, DC Slater and SOCO Simmons solve a murder in a fictional town of Mortcliff, interviewing suspects and discovering evidence that can be used to figure out the only question that matters - whodunnit?
But while the tv show scripted crime proceedings are taking place, in-studio is a game show, hosted by comedian and jolly huggable host Susan Calman. Where she invites 3 contestants to play the game in lounge chairs and try and solve the same "whodunnit" as our crime show detective, they are given evidence (forensics, cctv, documents) that could rule out suspects, or trace their steps at the scene of the crime, with winners going home with golden handcuffs.
What makes the show work is it is playalong, the scenes in the show are written in a way, where every piece of dialogue is a clue, where the actors on the show are hinting when they are lying instead of just "acting", and when in the background or props during the "flashbacks" are also pieces of evidence that wasn't brought up in the main game. You can play along with this show, and you could get invested in Simmons and Slater and Simmons as they gather their evidence as use their charm to figure out the murders.
4. The Crystal Maze
In the 1990s, The Crystal Maze was a cult-like show because of it's host, Richard O'Brien, in 2017, they got IT Crowd's Richard Ayoade to be the new "Maze Master", and the show has been upgraded for the modern age.
In each episode, 5 friends will be guided by the maze master into 4 unique play areas - The sunny Aztec, the cold and sterile Futuristic, the dusty candlelit Medieval or the sign of a bygone era - the Industrial Zone. In each of these zones are rooms filled with various games of physical, skill, mental or mystery between 2 to 3 minutes, completing the game, wins them a crystal, but if they take too long, they could be locked-into the room. The debate becomes when should the contestant just abort their game when the seconds are ticking away?
In the new version, Richard tries to create his own terms such as "A-LIS" "Two Mins" and "That's Called Editing", but rather it catches on remains to be seen. But he does have a nice wooden hand-cane thing, what a nice mannequin hand cane thing it truly is.
5. The Price is Right
Nothing screams America quite like Capitalism, and in this consumer-driven economy we've created, The Price is Right still rules all. Drew Carey has continued making the show as funny and energetic as it was with Bob Barker (He's been doing this for a decade, you can stop calling him Bob) and with new games being created, there is always something new.
In addition, the prizes have continued being amazing - from Audis and Mercedes to First-Class tickets to places all over the world, The Price is Right knows what people want, and they are trying their hardest to get it for you to win.
6. The Wall (NBC)
Last year was the debut of "Lebron James' Is This Plinko?" but it wasn't until this year, that the show finally hit their stride. Yes, the contestants are still people who did good things for their community, to deserve the millions of possible dollars, but they've done away with the padding with the sob stories, and just gave the audiences what they wanted - the balls dropping into slots and the trivia questions.
The contract signing still remains a close-call moment with the show, as players who have wound up losing everything, could still wind up with hundreds of thousands of dollars making it an uplifting ending after all.
Now if only they could do something about the dark, drab, set.
7. $100,000 Pyramid
Michael Strahan has made the show his own, and somehow has become the fitting host that has always been associated with Dick Clark. Celebrities and Contestants take turns trying to give clues to get their partners to say words or things, in the hopes of making it in the winners circle, but the tech involved in the old-school trilons to it's modern day categories "things you post on Instagram" make it all about the fun, and still about giving away serious money.
Now if only people stopped complaining about the Tie Breaker.
Impossible is a really good quiz show, that could be made faster, but what makes it good is the multiple choice question structure. Contestants must choose from 3 possible answers, but 1 is never a correct answer. "What Marvel Superhero is played by Robert Downey Jr.?" A: Iron Man B: Captain America C: Batman, saying "Iron Man" would give you the point, "Captain America" is incorrect and scores no points, but picking "Batman" (The DC Comics character) is impossible, and knocks you out of the game.
9. House of Games
Richard Osman invites 4 celebrities to play multiple play-along games for the chance to win a small kitschy prize. From figuring out "Where is Kazakhstan?" to building a question based on two categories. Every episode is like a mini game-show marathon, taking the main hooks of shows like Blockbusters, Whew! and It Takes Two and turning them into a fun fast-paced hour.
10. Hard Quiz
This is the only one that comes from NOT the US or UK, but rather Australia, Hosted by Tom Gleeson (who is famous for his "Hard Chat" segment) invites 4 contestants from Australia who each have an area of expertise - rather it's Trains, The Wives of Henry the VIIIth or Nintendo Video Games, everybody is welcome, but only if you can handle the heat.
Tom uses his roasting ability to poke fun at the expert subjects, and the performances of the contestants with witty come-backs and excellent humor that makes it feel like a show that would have been on Comedy Central in the US for a good 3 years already.
The questions start out easy enough, so others could steal for double points, but when it comes down to the head-to-head final round over who knows their expert subjects most. Be prepared to answer the most obscure of obscure questions.
The winners take home a big brass mug with the shows emblem in it, no word on if they use it as a place to dispose urine, but it has been brought up before.