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20 Years of GSN: Top Five Originals

20 Years of GSN: Top Five Originals

Take a look back at our top five favorite GSN original shows from the past 20 years.


GSN launched 20 years ago today, December 1st, as the Game Show Network. The network launched primarily as an archive of classic game shows, with What’s My Line? being the first program ever featured on the network. They quickly began producing their own original programming, spanning from 1994’s Prime Games to 2014’s upcoming The Line.

While they have expanded beyond the traditional studio-based game show a bit, the network has always focused primarily on the genre and has given us some extremely great content. Congratulations to them and we hope to have many more decades of GSN to come. To celebrate 20 years, we wanted to showcase our five favorite originals from the history of Game Show Network.

Inquizition

Years before Anne Robinson became the queen of mean on The Weakest Link, the Inquizitor changed the definition of what a game show host could be. Game Show Network’s Inquizition launched in 1998, lasting three seasons. The concept was extremely simple: contestants silently lock in answers to multiple choice questions, with the lowest score at the end of each round being eliminated. What made the show is the extremely unique presentation. The contestants stood in an airplane hangar-looking set. Contestants were, essentially, “executed” after being eliminated. The never-seen Inquizitor, the host, spoke sarcastically and disparagingly to contestants. The entire production was dark, foreboding, and turned what could have been a fairly boring half hour into an innovative and original concept. Fun fact: the identity of the Inquizitor is still unknown to this day.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AYhL64lGixs&w=480&h=360]

Russian Roulette

The luxury of being (at the time) a smaller network like Game Show Network is that you can take chances on innovative ideas that more traditional broadcasters can’t. One of the best examples of this is Russian Roulette. Like Inquizition it was a simple concept with a twist. Answer questions correctly to stay alive, but miss a question and, after a random spin of lights on the floor, you may literally drop out of the game. Russian Roulette brought GSN to modern game show heights with a dramatic set and music package, fantastic host in Mark Walberg, a big money prize of $100,000 which wasn’t common for daily shows in 2001, and probably one of the most exciting and tense end games to ever be made. It’s one of those ideas that was way before its time and would be very welcomed back today.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xbnDCoVO4Kc&w=480&h=360]

Lingo

While Russian Roulette pushed the genre to its edges, Lingo went very retro and saw even more success. A revival of the 1987 game show, Chuck Woolery hosted the series from 2002 to 2007. Contestants had to guess five letter words while trying to successfully make a Lingo drawing numbers corresponding to their own board. The winners stood to win tens of thousands of dollars. Lingo succeeded by being a simple game that’s quite literally impossible to play along with. They also had an extremely likable duo in Chuck Woolery and Shandi Finnessey. All of it why it was so popular a decade ago and is still so popular and well-loved today.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sC0kie6dPjo&w=640&h=360]

Extreme Dodgeball

In 2004, Game Show Network transitioned to GSN and expanded the definition of a game show. The network began airing card shows like poker and blackjack, reality like The Mole, and dating like Fake-A-Date. However, easily the most fun was Extreme Dodgeball. Lasting three seasons, Extreme Dodgeball featured various teams competing in a much more competitive game of dodgeball to win tens of thousands of dollars in cash through the season. It was one of the network’s big success stories during the rebranding (though, to be fair, nearly all the network’s new programming was doing well) and was easily one of the most fun shows they’ve produced. It was also an ambitious and different show that only a smaller cable network like GSN could launch. Whenever they take big chances, they seem to work out.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FyWQ7tB0Kjc&w=480&h=360]

The Chase

In 2013 GSN did something we weren’t really sure was possible in America anymore: launch a successful traditional quiz. GSN took a chance an imported a big money version of ITV’s The Chase. It’s quickly shot up the ranks to be one of GSN’s most popular game shows ever, both in ratings and critical acclaim. Much like their other successes, it was a show which dared to be larger than a basic cable game show and stand in the leagues of primetime broadcast. It’s got the modern look, a great cast in Brooke Burns and Mark Labbett, and prizes which rival primetime television. It’s also, yet again, one of those simple concepts which works time and again with a twist: answer questions correctly to outrun a trivia genius. The game shows its full might in the Final Chase end game, a relentless two minute quiz onslaught, which stands up with any end game in genre history. We really can’t get enough of it.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8vZ6sX9T1Jk&w=640&h=360]

GSN has always given us a lot to talk about and created some genre-bending shows. Their best concepts always seem to be ones where they take extreme chances and turn a familiar concept on its head. You can see shades of that in their newest success stories Skin Wars and Idiotest today. It’s always exciting to see where they go next, and their current direction is one we’re eagerly watching. What are some of your favorite original GSN shows from the past 20 years?

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  • mylesnye

    I loved Grand Slam.

  • Kevin Solomon

    Our lists were pretty similar. In no particular order (aka I don’t think there’s any way I could order them):

    Lingo
    Russian Roulette
    The Chase
    Grand Slam
    Three-way tie between PlayMania, That’s the Question, & Without Prejudice? (As someone who lose sociology, I found it ridiculously interesting.) (Although the rest aren’t numbered, the last one[s] would be my #5)

  • Mike Klauss

    1. The Chase
    2. Grand Slam
    3. Russian Roulette
    4. Idiotest
    5/6. That’s the Question and Late Night Liars

  • Chris in England

    Club A.M. for life. *happy sigh*

  • bencalebrod .

    Here’s my list:
    1. The Chase

    2. Russian Roulette
    3. Whammy
    4. Lingo
    5. Grand Slam

  • The Starkman

    Gotta go with 10 here, just too much better stuff

    10. The Money List – Yes it was remade from a disasterous FOX show and didn’t fare much better but I liked the idea and it was a decent attempt at a higher stakes game
    9. The Pyramid – Expected too much too soon and Michael Richards was an odd choice of host, but the execution was there, but after almost 10 years since the last attempt, too much was expected out of celebrities who were just learning the game. certainly the best Pyramid revival since the departure of Dick Clark but then again that’s not saying much (I also liked the progressive jackpot idea a LOT)
    8. Russian Roulette – I didn’t like it as much as some, as the endgame went from too easy to too hard and it relied too much on the drop and not enough on the quiz, but it was an elaborate and fun concept it deserves a mention.
    7. Inquizition – Agree a show before it’s time. A hidden gem.
    6. CRAM – A stunt show that was late 90s degrading schlock, but it had an air of knowledge and balanced the fun games with the silliness well…for a game played for laughs, it was an interesting blend of a game show and a reality show and 10 grand was NOT a prize to sneeze at
    5. Hollywood Showdown – I liked the more challenging spin on Jackpot, sadly cheap production brought it down. But I loved it.
    4. Friend or Foe – Yes the endgame was anticlimactic and repetitive but Kennedy was spot on, and the concept was intriguing
    3. Whammy – Yes it was a remake, and the first season was pretty chintzy, but that 2nd season and the big bank was genius, still should have gotten a 3rd season.
    2. Lingo – 7 seasons (tho the first season was more an extended pilot and we all try to forget Engvall’s season) Simple game, fun to guess, marred late in its run by idiot contestants and a bonus round that was meh…but it was a fun to follow word game where there weren’t that many.
    1. The Chase. I’d prefer the british format of having multiple trivia savants (Brad Rutter would be PERFECT) or even a rotation, and Labbett can be a bit hammy with his insults, but this is one of the best hard quizzes out there with a lot of depth and skill beyond of just beat the smart guy which has been done in a few formats with varying results. Head and shoulders above any GSN original
    Honorable Mention for their Minute to win It revival, which aside from the catchphrase idiocy…was well done and Apolo was better than Guy..for a beat the clock knock off, it did amazingly well…did not include it since it was essentially a continuation of a show on the air (Plus it was done with the production team of the successful American Spanish Language TV Version)

  • Kevin Solomon

    I know I didn’t, but I have to ask…. is anyone going to mention “Catch 21?” It’s one of the longest-running shows on the network (5 or 6 seasons?), so that says something, right? It would definitely be in my Top 10.

  • wkyken

    Now if only GSN would add “The Cube.” Nobody else seems to want to touch it.

  • The Starkman

    Catch 21 is interesting. 1 it’s a revival of Gambit (which was also revived as Top Card in the 80s on TNN) and a good one. 2 It was fun to watch and had some great drama to it. 3. Alonzo Ribiero was a great host and Mikki had great chemistry so it deserves discussion.
    My knocks are more it’s not a strong game and gets repetitive quick. While exciting…it gets old fast. Also toward the end of the run Alonzo got a little over the top with the audience chanting and whatnot. Especially in the bonus round (Which was a great concept but Alonzo could be a little presumptive on his help and seemed to use the over the topness to take some of the strategy out of the game.) and on WHEN to change a card (to be fair Lingo had the same problem with the bonus letters)
    I will give it its due for cast chemistry and excitement, but it’s one of those shows that you watch all the time then let it sink in and go “meh”
    That being said I’d expect a marathon of catch 21 at some point soon to cash in on Alonzo’s success on Dancing with the Stars
    Im more shocked that no one brought up American Bible Challenge, a big ratings winner at least….my issue isn’t the theme…tho it is highly specialized. But the questions are so easy…well I’m an Athiest I tuned in once for curiousity’s sake…I got more right answers off my knowledge of other subjects (like film and Art) than the team who finished 2nd and tied their responses in the bonus round…don’t think it was supposed to be that easy

  • James M. Fabiano

    Wow, Extreme Gong didn’t make it? I am SO shocked! 😉 😉 😉

  • Afi Keita James

    Here my top 5 GSN originals
    1. As Seen On
    2. Russian Roulette
    3. The Chase
    4. Lingo
    5. Catch 21

    Honorable mentions
    Inquizition, 1 vs 100, Mall Masters, Winution, Grand Slam, the pyramid, Hollywood showdown, Whammy, Friend or foe.

  • patrick_healy

    I loved Catch 21, Late Night Liars, Lingo (woolery), Pyramid, and Whammy. I also loved the fact that GSN hired Marc Summers for one of their shows, but never aired any old shows he hosted (wish they would)

  • Andrew Schroy

    My top 5:

    5.) Whammy! The All-New Press Your Luck
    4.) The American Bible Challenge
    3.) Hollywood Showdown
    2.) Lingo (Chuck Woolery version, Bill Engvall’s was meh)
    1.) Russian Roulette