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5 Classic Game Shows That Used To Be Different

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From Jeopardy! to The Price is Right, the game shows we know and love have changed throughout television history. Here are five game shows that used to be much different.


While Wheel of Fortune is one of the most recognizable game shows on television, it didn't always look like the show we know today. Although it featured familiar elements, it also included a "shopping" spree between rounds when it was introduced on NBC in 1975.

(Cut to the 7:31 mark to see what we mean.)

The winner of each round had the opportunity to spend his or her earnings on household prizes, such as refrigerators and dining room sets, before the start of the next round. If there was any money left over, the contestant could either receive the remaining amount as a gift certificate or put it in a "bank" for the next round. The shopping bit was eliminated in 1987 in order to speed up the game for syndication.

Wheel of Fortune also featured a weekly tournament, after which champions were invited back the following day for a chance to win more prizes. Winners could return for up to five days in a row until 1982, when it was changed to three days. The top three contestants during the week would also return for "Friday Finals" to win bigger jackpots. Wheel of Fortune's producers eliminated the tournament and returning champion element altogether in 1998.


Art Fleming hosted the original Jeopardy! on NBC from 1964 to 1975. The game was canceled, but experienced a very brief resurgence in 1978 before it was canceled again. In 1984, CBS picked up Jeopardy! with host Alex Trebek, with a few notable changes to the game show's format.

Contestants could buzz in to answer a question at any time, giving the fastest reader an advantage over the competition and making it more difficult for viewers to follow at home. This rule changed in 1985, requiring contestants to wait for the host to finish reading the question before ringing in with an answer. Though the rule change might seem small, it actually made Jeopardy! more about general knowledge than speed reading. Of course, you still had to buzz in first to answer the question.

Jeopardy! also changed how many days a champion could return to play for more money. Before 2003, winners could only return for five consecutive days; today, champions can come back as many times as they can win. Arthur Chu, Julia Collins, and Ken Jennings are the show's highest earners ever. Jennings appeared on the game show a whopping 74 times, taking in over $2.5 million in 2004.

The original Jeopardy! also featured different "think music" during its final round. Julann Griffin wrote that tune, titled "Take Ten," which is more laid-back than the iconic music we know today written by TV producer (and Julann's ex-husband) Merv Griffin.


Truth or Consequences began its run in 1940 as a radio game show, where contestants only had a few seconds to answer a trivia question before "Beulah the Buzzer" sounded. If the contestant couldn't properly guess the "Truth," he or she had to deal with the "Consequences," which involved a wacky or embarrassing stunt or practical joke.

In 1941, the show did a special one-off episode on TV, making it the first game show on commercial television. Nine years later it reappeared on the small screen. For its TV broadcast, the game show had to take on a visual element and a three-camera setup. Truth or Consequences was one of the few radio shows that made the transition successfully, alongside You Bet Your Life, which also made its television debut in 1950.

Fun fact: The town of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico is named after the game show. In 1950, host Ralph Edwards said it would broadcast from the first town that changed its name to the game show's, and Hot Springs, N.M. jumped at the opportunity.


Supermarket Sweep began its original run in 1965 on ABC. Its original format was similar to The Price Is Right, with an auction-style setup in which three teams of husbands and wives competed against each other in a two-part game. The first half featured the wives guessing the actual retail price of grocery store items, such as soap, detergent, and salt. The contestant who guessed the closest amount got an additional 15 seconds added to their 1:30 bank for the second part of the game show, which featured the husbands racing up and down grocery store aisles filling their carts with as many products as possible during their allotted time.

The team with the highest value accumulated won the game and received the opportunity to return the next day; all of the couples got to keep the items they picked up during the second part. Supermarket Sweep aired for only two seasons before ABC canceled it in 1967.

But Supermarket Sweep's run was far from over. In 1990, Lifetime picked up the rights and began producing new episodes with an updated format and new rules. The original Supermarket Sweep took place in actual Food Fair supermarkets throughout the state of New York, while the revamped version took place on a Hollywood soundstage made to look like a supermarket.

Instead of husbands and wives, teams could be made up of any two people. The new version also ditched the auction, replacing it with general grocery store trivia. Once again, contestants accrued time based on correct answers for the second half of the game show, which still featured a race to fill a grocery store cart with as many items as possible. The team with the highest value in their cart won the game.

Mini-games between rounds were also introduced in the new version of Supermarket Sweep. After correctly answering a trivia question, a contestant had 30 seconds to search for the brand associated with the question in the supermarket. A supermarket scavenger hunt was also added, where players had to solve a word problem and then try to find the product related to the answer inside the store.

The new Supermarket Sweep ran until 1995 on Lifetime then started up again on PAX from 2000 to 2003.


The first iteration of The Price Is Right aired on NBC in 1956. Bill Cullen hosted the original black-and-white version, which featured four contestants bidding on new merchandise for the home in an auction-style format. But instead of giving one bid for the item, contestants had to keep bidding until the round was over. While the bids might increase with each turn, a contestant could freeze his or her bid, so as not to risk going over the actual retail price. The contestant with the closest bid, without going over, won the item and the round. Whoever had the highest accumulated value in cash and prizes won the game and would return the following day to win more prizes. The Price Is Right moved from NBC to ABC in 1963, but was canceled two years later.

In 1972, TV producers Mark Goodson and Bill Todman revamped The Price Is Right for CBS with host Bob Barker. Although The New Price Is Right remained an auction-style game show, it changed its format to feature mini-games after an opening auction round which included only one bid from "Contestants' Row." The winner of the initial round would then join the host on stage to play a mini-game (and hopefully win bigger prizes). Once a mini-game was played, a new contestant would be randomly selected from the audience. The top two winners would return on stage for a final auction round.

The format of The Price Is Right changed again in 1975 when the game show expanded from 30-minute episodes to a full hour of television. The last segment of the game show now included the "Showcase Showdown," which featured the top two contestants from the first half of the episode in one final auction round. Instead of picking the top three contestants based on highest accumulated value of prizes, participants were chosen via spins on The Big Wheel.

The Price Is Right's format has remained practically the same since 1975. Bob Barker finally retired in 2007, and Drew Carey now hosts the beloved game show.

Kena Betancur, AFP/Getty Images
Want to Live as Long as an Olympian? Become a Chess Grandmaster
Kena Betancur, AFP/Getty Images
Kena Betancur, AFP/Getty Images

It’s well known that physical fitness can help prolong your life, so it’s not surprising that elite athletes, like Olympians, tend to have longer lifespans than your average couch potato. But it seems that “mind sports” can help keep you alive longer, too. According to BPS Research Digest, a recent study suggests that international chess grandmasters have lifespans comparable to Olympic athletes.

The study, published in PLOS ONE, examined the survival rates of 1208 mostly male chess grandmasters and 15,157 Olympic medalists from 28 countries, and analyzed their life expectancy at 30 years and 60 years after they attained their grandmaster titles. They found that both grandmasters and Olympic medalists exhibited significant lifespan advantages over the general population. In fact, there was no statistical difference between the relative survival rates of chess champions and athletic champions.

There are several variables that the study couldn’t take into account that may be linked to chess players’ long lifespans, though. Grandmasters often employ nutritionists and physical trainers to keep them at their best, according to the researchers, and exercise regularly. Economic and social status can also influence lifespans, and becoming a world-champion chess player likely results in a boost in both areas.

Some research has shown that keeping your mind sharp can help you in old age. Certain kinds of brain training might lower the risk of developing dementia, and one study found that board game players in particular have slightly lower rates of dementia.

If keeping the mind sharp with chess really does extend lifespans, the same effect might apply as well to elite players of other “mind sports,” like Go, poker, or competitive video games. We’ll need more research to find out.

[h/t BPS Research Digest]

David Franzen, Library of Congress
You Can Thank 1950s Suburban Architecture for ‘The Floor Is Lava’
David Franzen, Library of Congress
David Franzen, Library of Congress

No one knows who, exactly, was the first kid to play "The Floor Is Lava," the simple childhood game that has only one rule: You can’t touch the floor. But as Quartz reports, a new paper contends that the game wouldn't have come about if it weren’t for the rise of American suburbs.

Published in the Social Science Research Network, the analysis by Tim Hwang of the MIT Media Laboratory argues that architecture was a vital factor in the spread of the folk game.

In the new suburban housing developments of postwar America, builders began to market the relatively new idea of the family room, an informal room designed for the social needs of the whole family. This room was separate from the formal living room and dining room, both of which were more likely to contain the inhabitants’ good furniture and fancy china. In building plans popular in the 1950s and 1960s, they were also set apart from the kitchen. One 1965 poll found that seven of 10 new houses built that year contained a family room.

And these factors, Hwang argues, are integral to playing The Floor is Lava. Family rooms provide big couches, coffee tables, and other furniture that kids can move around, climb on, and use as props for the game. Bedrooms would be too small, and formal living and dining rooms too full of potentially fragile items that Mom and Dad would be livid to find disturbed. And kitchens were seen as a mother’s domain, meaning that she would likely be there to put a stop to any shenanigans.

"What is unique about the family room space is both the quantity of space and permission that it affords to the play of The Floor is Lava,” Hwang writes.

However, this is just a hypothesis, and no one can really identify who started playing the game first. Kids in urban apartments can also theoretically jump all over their parents’ living room furniture, if allowed. During my childhood, the game typically took place on a playground rather than inside, requiring players to avoid the ground rather than the family room floor. There are games that originated elsewhere in the world that also revolve around avoiding the floor—Hwang notes examples from Kenya and the UK. But given how the spread of suburbs in the U.S. during the postwar period affected home design, it makes sense that a game might arise from the new spaces children lived in. We may never truly know how The Floor Is Lava was invented, but architecture seems like a good clue.

[h/t Quartz]


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