Where Have All the Good Game Shows Gone?

We heard from a lot of baby boomers in the early days of the pandemic and a common theme was, “I had great plans for spending my time productively during the lockdown but I just can’t concentrate.” Sound familiar? It surely is to publishing consultant Carol Hoenig on Long Island, New York. Although eager for something else, all she could concentrate on TV.

Like most people during this pandemic, I had to adjust my lifestyle, although not as dramatically as so many others. As a freelance writer and publishing consultant, I’ve worked from my home office for close to 15 years now, so there was no modification necessary in that respect. I did have some clients who wanted their publicity campaigns put on hold with good reason, so my days weren’t as busy as they would normally be, but that just gave me more time to read or work on my fourth novel… or should have.

Carol Hoenig

But I was too distracted with the unknown, so distracted that focusing was difficult. Therefore, I found myself turning on the television more often than I had in the past, even in the daytime. I also found myself going from channel to channel, trying to find something entertaining to distract me from all the horrors that 2020 was bringing.

In the beginning of the lockdown, I pulled a card table from my garage and started doing 1000-piece puzzles while having the news on. Eventually, I’d turn off the news and just work on the puzzle. But then I came across the Game Show Network and within days, in Pavlovian fashion, I’d routinely pour myself a cup of coffee at two in the afternoon and watch Password.

Remember Password with Allen Ludden, husband of Betty White? I allowed Allen to bring me back to a time, 1961, and watch how simple life seemed then. At 2:30, Password Plus, which first aired in 1979, came on, so the TV stayed on for another half hour. After dinner, I was eager to watch Jeopardy, which recently aired shows from its first season, shows that seem awkward now because Alex Trebek was still trying to get a handle on how to host it, something he eventually aced. However, these aforementioned game shows have something over the contemporary game shows that are now on TV.

Carol in her downtime, surfing TV for a good game show.

For me, game shows like The Wall, Don’t, or Ellen’s Game of Games miss the mark of entertainment. The Wall is all about chance while Don’t and Ellen’s Game of Games are silly, noisy, and often mean, even though the contestants have agreed to participate. They also don’t demand much from the viewer. With Password, I offer clues to the contestants from my living room, and I try to shout questions to the Jeopardy answers before the contenders do. In other words, I prefer games that challenge me.

My point is, I take comfort in the yesterdays when life seemed less complicated. In reality, it wasn’t, but for the hour or so I spend watching Allen and Alex, I forget about viruses, angry people, and an unsettling future.


  1. Nicely stated Carol. Most of the game shows of the past engaged us, and for that half hour we were a part of the show. Today, as you said, the shows are “silly, noisy, and often mean.” And they really aren’t conducive to joining in or playing along. In some ways I guess the current shows are more reflective of the world we find ourselves in today . Thank you.

  2. Carol, in 1980 I was a contestant on Password, and I’m still a fan of classic game shows. Many years later, my niece followed my lead and appeared on Jeopardy! I agree with you that the newer shows don’t hold as much appeal. Weakest Link is at least based on knowledge rather than luck, but there’s still that “mean” factor going on. If you’re interested in reading about the game show industry, look up books by Adam Nedeff, with whom I became friends during my search for tapes of my Password episodes.

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