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

4. Stumpers!


"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

7. Whew!


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.

Image: NBC

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Jon 29 months ago
I've seen all of these game shows either when presented on network tv or later on GSN or Buzzr or tape. I was one of the few who saw Alex Trebek's first US game show, though I don't remember many details about it since I just turned 8 years old then.
LeeWithers 29 months ago
Alan Thicke also did the music for Stumpers and "Whew!"
AnnaRentzVandenhazel 29 months ago
I only remember 2 of these programs. Fun Factory was a favorite during summer vacation from school, and I only saw Blankety Blanks a few times while staying with relatives for a week, we didn't get the right channel at home.

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.
Jon AnnaRentzVandenhazel 29 months ago
I loved MUSICAL CHAIRS also. I remember trying to watch it every day summer 1975.
idkwut2use 42 months ago
They must be in my game show encyclopedia...(:
Diz 52 months ago
A missing fave: "The Money Maze", which was hosted by Nick Clooney (Rosemary's brother and George's Dad).
Dario Diz 44 months ago
And future news anchorman for the L.A. NBC affiliate KNBC Ch. 4. 📺😁
JD1701 53 months ago
Magnificent Marble Machine seemed to last longer than months. But then again, in my mid-teens time seemed to drag on forever.
It was my favorite.
dth1971 53 months ago
For #4 - Sizzling/Canine - Hot/Dog is related to Shoot for the Stars, not Stumpers.
moax429 53 months ago
What? No "Split Second?"

*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.
moax429 moax429 53 months ago
Oops! My bad.

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"). )
Dario moax429 44 months ago
When The Brady Bunch was launched into syndication in '75, KTTV Ch. 11 here in L.A. was one of those that broadcast it, along with The Partridge Family, also syndicated that same year and also aired on KTTV. 📺😁
ckg1 moax429 42 months ago
They did another version of the show for syndication in the mid 1980s for one season or so; that version was filmed at not only CHCH-TV in Hamilton, Ont. but also at a studio in Toronto, Ont. (BTW, CHCH has a bit of MeTV in it; on weekdays from late morning to early evening they air classic TV shows). Unlike the ABC version, this one is intact; GameTV carries it in Canada and Buzzr has the honors in the U.S.
EricFuller 53 months ago
I remember those shows. Regarding "Shoot For The Stars" it was brought back in the 90's as "Double Take".
Brian 65 months ago
When is MeTV going to air "The Gong Show" reruns? That was stoopid funny!
moax429 Brian 53 months ago
*NEVER,* I hope!
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