10 obscure, forgotten game shows of the 1970s
We'd fake being sick to stay home and watch these.
Top image: The Everett Collection
Was there a better time to stay home sick from school than the 1970s? After Captain Kangaroo, you could park it on the couch and spend the day watching Happy Days reruns, The Gong Show, The Edge of Night — and so, so many game shows.
This was the golden era of the game show, as hosts with tinted eyeglasses and bushy sideburns held oddly thin microphones on twinkling stages. Everyday guests mingled with celebrities, both wearing fly collars.
Each network stuffed its daytime lineup with game shows. Some, such as Jeopardy!, The Hollywood Squares, Let's Make a Deal, Password and The $10,000 Pyramid, became classics. Others, like those that follow, lasted mere months.
Do you remember any of these shows?
1. The Wizard of Odds
The face is certainly familiar. Alex Trebek broke into the American hosting biz with this statistically minded game. There were familiar names behind the scenes, too. Alan Thicke crooned the groovy theme song.
Image: TV Time Machine / Twitter
2. Winning Streak
Bill Cullen, dubbed the "Dean of Game Show Hosts," found work in a handful of series on this list. This 1974 word game replaced the host's Three on a Match, and announcer Don Pardo carried over, as well. On August 9, 1974, the show was preempted as the network switched to coverage of Nixon leaving office.
Image: NBC / YouTube
3. The Fun Factory
Smooth singer Bobby Van gave this rather zany series a bit of a Vegas air. The audience played to win prizes in a series of games punctuated with comedy skits. Fans of Let's Make a Deal, variety shows and Broadway would eat it up. Perhaps that crossover is not as big as the network hoped, as it only lasted about four months.
Image: NBC / YouTube
"If your partner and you can follow the clues and say the name, you'll win the game and a chance to win $20,000!" Celebrities paired with commoners to decode synonym word puzzles. For example, "Sizzling / Canine" would be "Hot / Dog."
Image: Lin Bolen Productions / NBC
5. Hot Seat
Imagine a cross of The Newlywed Game and an interrogation with a lie detector. Spouses were hooked up to an electrical device that read emotions, measuring veracity of their statement with a glowing meter above their head.
Image: Heatter-Quigley Productions / ABC
6. The Magnificent Marble Machine
Sounding like a psychedelic album or a Sid and Marty Krofft production, The Magnificent Marble Machine featured a massive pinball machine as its centerpiece. What we would give to play that!
Image: The Everett Collection
After correcting errors in a series of statements, contestants would then in the bonus round pass through "The Gauntlet of Villains," a series of cartoon characters including Count Nibbleneck the Vampire and Bruno the Headsman. Uh, okay.
Image: Jay Wolpert Productions / Burt Sugarman Inc. / CBS
8. Blankety Blanks
Bill Cullen again. Contestants would pair with celebs to play a game of fill-in-the-blanks with puns. Despite the slightly dangerous allure that came with a title that suggested censored curse words, the show did not last.
Image: The Everett Collection
9. The Better Sex
This could only exist in the 1970s. "It's men versus women in a battle of the sexes. Women or men, which is... THE BETTER SEX?" Six men faced off against six women as the two teams tried to bluff their way through trivia. Running for about half a year starting in 1977, this proved that "Sex" doesn't always sell.
Image: Mark Goodson-Bill Todman Productions / ABC
10. Shoot for the Stars
Airing from January to September of 1977, this show again paired celebs and regular folk. However, lest the title mislead you, the contestants were not shooting at the stars. Bill Cullen did not host, but he did turn up as a celebrity player. He certainly earned the status.
Another game show that didn't last long that we enjoyed, "Musical Chairs" hosted by Adam Wade. Someone would sing part of a song, then contestants had 3 choices to guess what the next line was. Hosted by Adam Wade, who was the first black game show host.
It was my favorite.
*That* was my all-time favorite 70's game show. I especially hoped that if a contestant picked the Chevy Corvette, Camaro, or Monte Carlo, or the Pontiac Firebird or Grand Prix, that the engine would turn over and the contestant would win the car. I couldn't wait to watch "Split Second" (I always liked to call it "The Car Show") whenever I was home from school (sick) or during summer vacation.
I read recently that the original videotapes of "Split Second" are *lost* - i.e. ABC erased said tapes to use for other shows - except for a small handful of episodes on YouTube, which I've already seen. Sad.
I didn't know this article was referring to game shows that had *limited* runs; "Split Second" was on ABC for three years, 1972-1975. But of all these mentioned, I do remember "Wizard of Odds," "Magnificent Marble Machine," "Blankety Blanks," and "Shoot for the Stars." ("Blankety Blanks" debuted the week after ABC dropped the "Brady Bunch" reruns, as Paramount Television was about to launch it in syndication in September 1975. Also, "Shoot for the Stars," which originally aired on NBC in the 70's, was revived as "Double Talk" on ABC in the summer of 1986. That revival was hosted by (the late) Henry Polic II (of "Webster"). )