Who wants to be a game show host? These days, you already have to be famous

by Ryan Lee
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game show hosting

In today’s world, being a game show host requires fame. This week, when Ryan Seacrest, the ubiquitous figure in entertainment television, was announced as the next host of “Wheel of Fortune,” it didn’t come as a surprise to anyone.

Gone are the days when relatively unknown individuals could become the face of valuable game show properties. Previously, game shows like “Jeopardy!” with the late Alex Trebek, “The Price is Right” with Bob Barker, and the current “Wheel of Fortune” with Pat Sajak, created celebrities out of their hosts.

With Sajak’s upcoming retirement after the next season, an era comes to an end. Game shows are now reserved for those who are already famous.

Looking back to 1984, a young Sajak appeared on the cover of TV Guide alongside Wink Martindale, Monty Hall, Bill Cullen, Jack Barry, and Barker, all known primarily as game show hosts. Now, Sajak himself is recognized as such. While he has other experiences on his resume, such as being a disc jockey and a television weatherman, he started hosting “Wheel of Fortune” at the age of 35 and will leave the show at the age of 77. He will forever be associated with standing at the wheel alongside Vanna White.

Adam Nedeff, an author and researcher for the National Archive of Game Show History, describes Sajak as “the last of the old school.” In the past, game shows were often shown live or with minimal interruptions, so experienced broadcasters who could handle those conditions were highly valued. Dick Clark, for example, taped 10 episodes of “The $10,000 Pyramid” in a single day.

Similarly, Trebek had a strong background in television hosting, particularly in Canada, before becoming the host of “Jeopardy!”

So, what does the future hold for game show hosts? Game shows used to be a staple of daytime television, but they are now less common. Cable networks like the Game Show Network and Buzzr cater to game show enthusiasts but mainly rely on reruns of classic shows.

To generate interest in game shows today, producers seek out well-known personalities. Actors, comedians, and other celebrities are often chosen to host these shows, despite some of them being canceled. Examples include Drew Carey (“The Price is Right”), Howie Mandel (“Deal or No Deal”), Meredith Vieira (“Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?”), Wayne Brady (“Let’s Make a Deal”), Steve Harvey (“Family Feud”), Alec Baldwin (“Match Game”), Michael Strahan (“The $100,000 Pyramid”), and Mayim Bialik (“Jeopardy!”). Ken Jennings, although not an actor, became well-known among “Jeopardy!” fans.

“We have a generation of stars who grew up watching game shows,” Nedeff explains. “We have just reached a point where nobody sees any shame in hosting a game show.”

Hosting a game show is no longer considered a low-status job. The likes of Trebek and Carey have demonstrated how lucrative and relatively easy it can be. For instance, Trebek would tape two weeks’ worth of shows in just two days, earning a salary that most of us could only dream of.

Carey took over Barker’s role on “The Price is Right” in 2007. Soon, he will be primarily known as a game show host rather than an actor and comedian.

Why would anyone leave such a job? The allure of an easy paycheck is why coveted shows like “Wheel of Fortune” attract interest. Even Whoopi Goldberg openly campaigned for the job. This is also why Jamie Foxx surprised his management team with a request for a game show in the 2010s, leading to the creation of “Beat Shazam.”

Prime-time game shows have become more common, and even if networks offer a substantial paycheck to stars like Foxx, it pales in comparison to the costs associated with producing scripted series.

Interestingly, Seacrest’s career trajectory shares similarities with some of the old-time hosts. Merv Griffin, the legendary game show producer, even offered Seacrest a hosting job for a quiz game show aimed at kids when he was only 23. Seacrest’s background includes experience as a disc jockey, talk show host, New Year’s Eve concert master, and the longtime host of “American Idol.”

Unlike many hosts of the past, Seacrest is already a celebrity in his own right. “Wheel of Fortune” is an empire that Sony must protect. It is not just a television show but also includes video games, a casino game, a live show, and an online merchandise store. Seacrest is unlikely to jeopardize that empire.

At the age of 48, Seacrest has secured a job that he can rely on for as long as he desires.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about game show hosting

Who is the new host of “Wheel of Fortune”?

The new host of “Wheel of Fortune” is Ryan Seacrest, a well-known figure in entertainment television.

Why are game shows now reserved for the famous?

Game shows have become more focused on attracting viewers by featuring well-known hosts, actors, and celebrities, which helps generate interest and maintain audience engagement.

Are there any other famous game show hosts?

Yes, there have been several famous game show hosts throughout history, including Alex Trebek (“Jeopardy!”), Bob Barker (“The Price is Right”), and Pat Sajak (“Wheel of Fortune”).

What is the trend in game show hosting?

The trend in game show hosting is to select hosts who already have celebrity status or a significant following, as this adds appeal and draws in viewers.

Why are game shows considered lucrative for hosts?

Game shows offer hosts relatively easy work schedules and substantial paychecks, making them attractive career opportunities.

How has the perception of game show hosting changed over time?

Game show hosting used to be viewed as a low-status job, but now it is widely accepted and respected, with many famous personalities willingly taking on hosting roles.

Are game shows still popular?

While game shows are not as prevalent in daytime broadcast television as they once were, they still have a dedicated fan base and continue to air in prime time slots on networks. Additionally, cable channels like the Game Show Network cater to game show enthusiasts.

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