SHORT ANSWER: No, because game shows are either promotional vehicles for product placement or it’s encouragement that the only way to “win” is to have the most money. Plus, it’s programming is bought by networks on the cheap in-between commercials by corporations to sell you products for you to buy.
LONGER ANSWER: Game shows exist in socialized countries. Have you ever seen “The Crystal Maze” on Channel 4 in the UK? The whole concept of the show is 6 total strangers going through four different play zones and going into rooms that test them physically, mentally, skillfully or mystery-ally. If they succeed they get a crystal which is time inside a crystal dome where they catch pieces of foil in the hopes of having enough to win an acceptable prize for all six of them, while failure means they still win a replica crystal.
Pretty much “no shit” game shows are capitalist. “The Price is Right” is a wet-dream for anybody that believes in free enterprise or calls themselves a “consumer”. You have to guess the price of things you buy, in the hopes of winning it, and that’s the show. (Stay tuned to a 110-part series looking at every pricing game on “The Price is Right”) most game shows involve the rule of “Whoever has the most money wins and goes onto the bonus round (or returns next week)” That is Press Your Luck, that is Wheel of Fortune, That is Jeopardy.
Is it bad? No.
Why? Because the contestants on these shows are working-to-middle class individuals who could probably use the money, but would have to pay arm-and-a-leg for the taxes on the car and trip to st. lucia.
I am reminded of the game show “Paid Off” that debuted recently on TruTV, where it’s three contestants all in Student Loan Debt. Yes, the contestant “with the most money goes on” but the contestants all keep their money earned in-game. And the host is committed to trying to bring an end to Student Loan debt in this country asking viewers to talk to congressmen and senators “because this game show shouldn’t happen”.
How can a game show be socialist?
To me, I am going to say a “socialist” game show is one that relies on teamwork of everybody, from all walks of life, where the goal is NOT to “have the most money” to win (but will cave by saying “Cash Prize” is acceptable) with limited-to-no product placement or sponsorship.
That means a game show that’s not person vs person or team vs team, but rather a team vs house format.
I would make it tougher by saying “and no commercial breaks” but this is television, that is NEVER gonna happen. PBS once had “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego” and they tried to give away trips to Delaware on that show.
And a network like BBC, that is publicly owned because of licensing fees, is “owned by the people”, but it’s also a network that has “The Apprentice”, which is a Tory Wet Dream. So maybe just because a country with socialized healthcare has the last known “Supermarket Sweep” to still be on the air, it shouldn’t count.
ANYWAY, HERE ARE SOME EXAMPLES
As brought up Earlier, “The Crystal Maze” would be a fitting example, as it is six strangers working as a team and playing off each others strengths for a common goal - and the prize was pretty much like a day pass to some theme park somewhere, so it was all fun.
Knightmare would also work as a show, because it was a coordinated game that was pretty much D&D mixed with the visuals of the video game Dragon’s Lair. As you might have guessed, there isn’t that much group vs house formats out there where failure was still as fun as winning the prize.
Just to have something American on this list, MTV’s Fear comes to mind, as six players have to spend two nights in a Spoooooooky place and stand around while being startled by wind to win $5,000 each. Yes, money is the end goal, but at no point was contestants competing against each other. So in the event somebody was having a meltdown, you saw players try and care for each other.
as you can see, not much.
Game Shows could be “socialist” vehicles, but the truth is, something something consumption under capitalism. Venezuela, Smartphones, Poor People Should Not Get Benefits And Die So I Can Buy Their Subsidized Housing And Build A Casino, MAGA, and whatever the fuck Lou Dobbs says.
Game Shows, are entertainment programs. Survivor is cut-throat for $1,000,000, and people betray others to win it. Contestants with sob stories could win an all new 2019 Kia Sportage with 4 Speed Automatic Transmission and Floor Mats! People who are the smartest, make the most money, they are “winners” and the rest are just “runners up” and get the parting gifts.
Even a game show where it’s a contestant vs the house such as “Deal or No Deal” or “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” has the focus on money and financials. That was part of the appeal of “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?” It wasn’t so much “10 year olds know stuff I don’t” it’s that because you forgot most of this stuff, you have $175,000 and risking it to win $300,000 on a question of “George Washington was born in what U.S. State?”. Your hunch says “Virginia”, but are you willing to risk that money on such a hunch?. Money plays a huge role on these game shows, and in a society where almost everybody is living paycheck-to-paycheck or struggling to make ends meet, sometimes a show where somebody gives up $100,000 could be met with major blow back.
You wonder why so many game show hosts and fans are conservative or libertarian? It’s because game shows celebrate “individual liberty” where a player can make out with so much money off their own talents (and the taxes on those winnings are a pain in the ass as well). In that same mindset your Baby Boomer parents told you that “if you do something you love, it wouldn’t feel like work” or “find what you’re good at, and the money will come to you”.
But the industry is also getting progressive, hosts aren’t just white dudes anymore, they are people of color or somewhere on the LGBT scale. Which is a start, representation matters.
So sorry comrades, your favorite quiz shows and decision games might be about divide and conquer for the sake of “cash and prizes”, but with the direction of “feel good” reality-comps like “The Great British Bakeoff”, your time in the sun will come.
Until then, let’s live in this Neo-Lib Capitalist Dystopia where Taco Bell will give me money to ask you trivia questions about an actor who played a Marvel Comics super hero, in the hopes of winning a trip to Austin Texas where you fly American Airlines and stay at a Hyatt resort.
Because, at the end of the day, this industry is all about celebrating somebody winning a toaster.