Nothing can bring an entire family together instantly with more efficacy than an episode of their favorite TV game show. In that light, one must remember that but for the indispensable game show hosts, the magic in these shows wouldn’t even exist. Entertainism brings you a list of the most famous game show hosts of all time
Did You Know?
The popular culture of game shows for television audiences goes back to 1938, when the first ever game show, Spelling Bee, a spelling contest for children, was broadcast. On commercially-licensed television, the first game show to be aired was Truth or Consequences, originally hosted by Ralph Edwards, from 1950 to 1954, and in later years by the legendary Bob Barker, who is better known today as the host of The Price is Right.
However, a notable, yet lesser known fact, is that but for the immensely talented game show hosts, who draw in the audience with their charm, suavity, humor, or simply the attitude that they conduct the show with, viewers wouldn’t return to watch the show, and they wouldn’t wait for the clock to strike the hour, so they can leave behind the ups and downs of their lives and delve into a different world altogether. These hosts have their own quirks that we love them for; from Richard Dawson kissing all the female contestants on the show he used to host, Family Feud, to Anne Robinson’s curt, no-nonsense sign-off phrase in The Weakest Link. We have compiled a list of the ten most famous game show hosts of all time.
**Note: The order of the list in no way ranks the hosts; with each one being outstanding and dear to us in their own way.
1. Bob Barker
This illustrious former host of The Price is Right, the longest running daytime game show on network TV in the United States of America needs no introduction. With a colossal trove of accolades to his credit by the time he retired, from 14 Daytime Emmy Awards to his induction into prestigious Halls of Fame, he began his broadcasting career as the host of a radio show that ran for 6 years, called, The Bob Barker Show.
Following this, he began his stint as the host of the popular game show, Truth or Consequence, in 1956, which he took over from Jack Bailey.
In 1972, he was signed as the host of CBS’s iconic The Price is Right, and remained with that show for 35 years, until his retirement in 2007. Since he became an animal rights activist in 1979, he signed off every episode with a signature phrase, “Help control the pet population. Have your pets spayed or neutered.”, a statement that became such an integral part of the show, that Drew Carey, his successor as the host of TPiR, also continued that tradition. With a celebrated career as a TV game show host that spanned around 50 years, Bob Barker is undoubtedly the reason that a show as complex as TPiR earned the reputation of “greatest game show of all time”, as per TV Guide Magazine, and 6 Daytime Emmy Awards.
2. Alex Trebek
This Canadian-born TV icon, who is unmistakably recognized as the beloved host of Jeopardy!, was in fact far from a new face for the camera when he began his stint. A journalism major, his career started off with a newscasting job for the Canadian TV channel, CBC. He then went on to host a high-school quiz show, called Reach for the Top.
In 1973, Trebek migrated to the U.S. to host The Wizard of Odds, his first game show ever. Over the years, he hosted a number of game shows in both USA and Canada, including High Rollers, Double Dare, The $128,000 Question, and Pitfall.
In 1984, he began hosting the hugely popular trivia-based game show, Jeopardy!, which he took over from Art Fleming, and is still the host of the show today. Trebek made the show, which once used to be considered too intelligent for TV, what it is today; one of the longest running shows on television. He currently holds a Guinness World Record for the most game show episodes hosted by the same presenter (same program), and the show itself holds the record for the highest number of Daytime Emmy’s won (21). With his wit and charm, and that iconic mustache which, unfortunately, hasn’t been seen since 2001, Alex Trebek is one of our own favorites.
3. Regis Philbin
Any amount of praise will fall short in the case of this TV luminary. The proud owner of Guinness World Record for the most time spent in front of a TV camera, this game and talk show host is considered the ‘hardest working man in show business’.
Although he had a very humble start to his silver screen career, as Joey Bishop’s sidekick in the talk show he hosted, he later bagged the opportunity to host successful talk shows like A.M. Los Angeles, The Regis Philbin Show, for which he won a Daytime Emmy as well, and eventually the successful Live! With Regis & Kathie Lee from 1988.
Meanwhile, his career as a game show host also took off. Beginning with hosting lesser known game shows such as The Neighbors and Almost Anything Goes, his most memorable stint was that as the host of the phenomenally successful game show, Who Wants to be a Millionaire, from 1999 – 2002, before handing over the reins to Meredith Vieira. Regis contributed notably to the endearing charm of the game show, with his signature excitement, and of course the unforgettable catchphrase, “Is that your final answer?”. A personality who has struggled and worked his way to the top with sincerity, dedication, and hard work, coupled with his immense talent, Regis Philbin has been honored with a star at the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
4. Pat Sajak
Neither Pat Sajak nor the audiences ever imagined that when he was signed on to host the already-established, hugely popular TV game show, Wheel of Fortune, the whole identity of the show would become synonymous with him. This former substitute weatherman for newscasts had obviously made an impact on Merv Griffin, the show’s producer, as when the previous host, Chuck Woolery, left the show in 1981, he refused to tape any more episodes until Sajak was instated as the host.
Throughout the span of his career, he has also appeared as a guest on other game shows, and made a guest appearance in some sitcoms. He has also guest-hosted other popular talk shows like CNN’s Larry King Live, and Live with Regis and Kelly.
Sajak’s intelligence and refreshing sense of humor brought an all-new sparkle to the show, while his beautiful, and extremely talented co-host, Vanna White brought an appeal to the role of letter turner like no other hostess ever had, on any similar show. Spinning the wheel off to success, he was soon picked up to host his own talk show on the network channel, CBS in 1989. Although the network version of WoF was hosted by other anchors after Sajak left, until its ultimate cancellation, he is still an indispensable part of the syndicated version of this show, as its host.
5. Richard Dawson
A celebrity unlike any other, Richard Dawson was a TV star even before he began hosting game shows, having acted in minor, as well as major roles in TV shows and movies. His portrayal of Corporal Peter Newkirk in the television series, Hogan’s Heroes, is still remembered. He has been a panelist on The Match Game, and I’ve Got a Secret, two popular game shows, and frequently appeared on the talk show, Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, before he bagged an opportunity to host his own; ABC network’s Family Feud.
His stint on Family Feud was nothing short of spectacular. The show itself saw immense popularity, mainly because of the warmth and positivity, coupled with the witty wisecracks he brought to it. Meanwhile, thanks to his trademark tradition of kissing all the female contestants who came on the show, he earned himself the nickname, “The Kissing Bandit”. Dawson was the host of the show right until its cancellation, after almost 10 years, in 1985. He returned briefly to host the show for one season when it was revived, until his retirement in 1995.
Known for his jovial nature, Dawson parodied his own role, by playing the character of an evil game show host in the Arnold Schwarzenegger-starrer, The Running Man. He was also the narrator of TV’s Funniest Game Show Moments, a show by Fox network. He unfortunately succumbed to esophageal cancer in 2012, at the age of 79.
6. Monty Hall
Another priceless Canadian gem in the treasure chest of legendary game show hosts, this TV personality is best known as the former host of the very successful TV game show, Let’s Make a Deal, a show so popular that TV networks worldwide have made successful local-language remakes of it over the years. Beginning his career as a radio presenter, he also used to host a radio game show. Later, he co-envisioned (resulting in him co-producing) the famous show, Let’s Make a Deal, in 1963, along with his partner, Stefan Hatos, and found a lasting spot in the history of broadcast TV as its host.
Hall was also involved in co-producing another highly successful game show, called Split Second. While the show was originally hosted by Tom Kennedy when it premiered in 1972, from 1986 when it was revived for syndication, Monty Hall took over as the host this time, and brought to the show his signature zest.
Not only has Hall won awards, including a Daytime Emmy in 2013, and the induction into numerous prestigious Halls of Fame, both in the United States of America and Canada, he also has a mathematical probability-based problem associated with his name (The Monty Hall Problem), a puzzle modeled on the probability of winning a prize in a given scenario, on his game show. A multi-talented, highly accomplished personality, Monty Hall is one of our favorites.
7. Gene Rayburn
A personality whose career span was interspersed with a strong broadcast media presence since the very beginning, Gene Rayburn, who originally hoped to pursue an acting career, started off successfully as a radio show host on NBC radio, followed by relatively less success as a TV host on shows by NBC. However, his breakthrough came with being cast as the announcer of The Tonight Show, with Steve Allen, in 1953.
He was offered an opportunity to host NBC’s new panel-based game show, The Match Game, in 1962, and it is in this role that he is most fondly remembered. When the show was canceled, with fans utterly disappointed, all was not lost because it was revived on CBS, and Rayburn was retained as the host.
His wit and amazing sense of humor, coupled with the creative freedom he was allowed in the revived version, brought in die-hard fans, who watched the show quite keenly, and for four years, it was rated first among network game shows. During his memorable stint as game show host of The Match Game, he also appeared as a panel guest on What’s My Line? and To Tell the Truth, two other immensely popular game shows of the same era. This beloved TV game show host, who was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, passed away in 1999.
8. Bob Eubanks
Most popularly remembered as the host of the TV game show, The Newlywed Game, right from 1966, at the age of 28, Bob Eubanks is a whole genre apart. From his not-so-discreet comments, to his outrageous sense of humor, Eubanks brought a whole new racy dimension to the profession of game show hosting. He is credited with coining his catchphrase on the show, “makin’ whoopee”. An unforgettable part of silver screen history, Eubanks has also had stints hosting other popular TV game shows, including Card Sharks, Rhyme and Reason, Trivia Trap, and Dream House.
Not surprisingly, before taking to hosting game shows, Eubanks used to be a radio DJ, and in fact, a very popular one. He has also tried his hand at acting, with minor roles in the TV series, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and the Hollywood movie, Home Alone 2.
9. Drew Carey
When a friend’s epiphany prompted him to take to stand-up comedy in the beginning of his TV and media career, Drew Carey appeared on the Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carsonin 1991. There was turning back for him after that, with appearances on Late Night with David Letterman, supporting roles in popular TV series, and eventually the conception of his own sitcom, The Drew Carey Show.
While still involved with The Drew Carey Show, he got the opportunity to host a brand new, panel-based, improvisational comedy game show, called Whose Line Is It Anyway?, in 1998, a role he effortlessly slipped into, and upheld, until the series ended in 2007. He also hosted other improvisational comedy shows on the same premise, such as Drew Carey’s Green Screen Show, and Drew Carey’s Improv-A-Ganza, during this period.
Later, after 2007, he diversified into hosting popular TV game shows, first with hosting CBS’s popular game show, Power of 10, and afterwards, stepping into the legendary Bob Barker’s shoes as the host of The Price is Right, a role that he still plays. It is not easy to match oneself to a standard set by a true icon for over 3 decades, but Carey has carried out that task with amazing humility, and grace, and has brought his own much-adored touch into the already-epic show.
10. Jeff Foxworthy
A relatively recent addition to the famed list of legendary TV game show hosts, Jeff Foxworthy is a master of more than one trade; apart from being a broadcast media personality, he is also a stand-up comedian, a voice artist, a published author, and an actor. Although stand-up comedy is his forte, having released a number of albums, he is fondly remembered as the host of the popular quiz show, Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader?, and more recently he is being recognized for his ongoing work, as the host of the widely watched new game show on GSN, The American Bible Challenge, since 2012.
With Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader running for five seasons, in different versions, including one for celebrities, and the show being nominated in the Outstanding Game/Audience Participation Show category for a Daytime Emmy, and The American Bible Challenge getting nominated for, and barely losing out on a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Game Show Host, it is evident that Foxworthy’s incredible talent will be recognized, and his name will be included in the list of legends in future.
Although the profession of game show hosting seems to be dominated by men, as is evident, there are a few notable female game show hosts who have completely blown our minds and made a deep impact on us. In fact, when some of these incredible ladies were called on to take over the reins of our favorite game shows, it only made us love that show all the more. Here is a list of unforgettable, and incredible, female game show hosts.
1. Anne Robinson
She is best known as the intimidating host of The Weakest Link, a TV game show that was first aired in the UK, but was later adapted to a U.S. version, retaining her as a host. Her signature dismissing phrase “You are the weakest link. Goodbye”, was iconic to the show, and has earned her the nickname, ‘Queen of Mean’.
2. Vanna White
This beautiful, and extremely talented game show co-host, who is although recognized for her role in Wheel of Fortune, has such an overwhelming on-screen presence that she has held a Guinness World Record for being Television’s Most Frequent Clapper. Only she could turn around the minor role of letter-turner in a popular game show in such a way that she is indispensable to the show today, so much that once, the makers of Wheel of Fortuneheld a competition allowing people to step into Vanna’s shoes for a day.
Apart from on WoF, she has been seen in cameo roles or special appearances in a number of popular movies and TV shows, and has even been a guest timekeeper on WrestleMania IV. We love Vanna White for her unsurpassed energy and sheer awesomeness.
3. Nancy Pimental
A popular film and TV show writer, and actress, Nancy Pimental caught the world’s attention when she stepped into the shoes of Jimmy Kimmel, and co-hosted the unconventional game show, Win Ben Stein’s Money, a very popular game show. Although her stint was both short-lived, as well as underrated, we, and all her fans, feel that she was the best co-host the show could have, and made the show more exciting with her innuendos, timing, and overall energy.
Apart from being a game show host, Pimental has a lot of impressive titles to her credit, having been the writer of 25 episodes of the popular series, South Park, and successful comedy movies like Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry met Lloyd, and The Sweetest Thing.
4. Meredith Vieira
It is not easy to take over as the host of a sensational TV game show like Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, and expect to get fan support. But Meredith Vieira stepped into Regis Philbin’s shoes with such grace, and portrayed the role with such poise and talent, that she proudly holds two Daytime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Game Show Host for it.
Hosting was not a new domain for Vieira, who has been a moderator on ABC’s The View, a TV news reporter on more than one network, a role she still plays, and is now also the host of her own talk show, The Meredith Vieira Show. A shining persona, she commands our adoration and respect.
5. Betty White
Holding a Guinness World Record for having the longest television career for a female entertainer, Betty White is an evergreen, legendary TV personality, who is an actress, comedian, producer, and briefly, a TV game show host. While one can go on extolling her brilliance in all the roles she has played on TV, and in movies, like the show, Golden Girls, and more recently the sitcom, Hot in Cleveland, her stint as a game show host for Just Men! was so brilliant that she was the first woman to win an Emmy Award for game show hosting.
Although the show was short lived, airing for hardly 4 months in 1983, she brought to it her awesomeness, and had an extensive fan base. Meanwhile, she made common appearances on a number of other popular game shows, including To Tell The Truth, What’s My Line, Password, The Match Game, and The $10,000 Pyramid, as a celebrity guest, a guest host, or as a panel member, over the years, and for this she earned herself the nickname, ‘The First Lady of Game Shows’.
So this was our take on unforgettable, outstanding TV game show hosts. We simply cannot imagine our favorite shows without them, and they are truly stars in their own right. We are sure you do not disagree, but if you feel you can add another name to this list of legends, do leave a comment.
“If you were happy every day of your life you wouldn’t be a human being, you’d be a game show host”
– Gabriel Heatters