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Top 5 Game Shows From The 1980s

By Edited Nov 15, 2013 0 0

Watching These Game Shows Helped Pass The Time As A Kid

To put this list in perspective you need to know two things.  First, I was alive for every second of the 1980s.  Second, I wasn't yet a teenager when 1990 rolled in.  So my list of top 5 game shows from the 1980s is based on the memories of my youth. 

I lived in Texas, so much of the summer was spent inside.  It was just too hot to do anything fun outside before evening arrived.  And back when satellite dishes were only owned by oil sheiks, and we felt lucky just to have cable, our viewing options were limited to soap operas, court shows, reruns of Gomer Pyle, and game shows.  Needless to say I spent much of that time watching daily game show marathons.  This list represents my favorite game shows, and while some of these shows were broadcast in decades other than the '80s, I'll highlight the version that was broadcast when I was a dedicated viewer.

1. Press Your Luck

Classic TV Shows - Whammies
Quite frankly, I don't know how Press Your Luck isn't in the Television Hall of Fame.  It had everything a kid would need to be mesmerized by a television set.  Bright lights, a hypnotic doot-doot-doot tune, a giant board, a crazy catch phrase, and of course, The Whammy. 

Explaining the rules of Press Your Luck gets complicated, but it basically boiled down to three contestants answering trivia questions to get turns at the big board where they could win cash and prizes.  Whoever had the most money in cash and prizes at the end of the game was the big winner. 

Contestants would stop the big board by yelling, "No Whammies, big buck, and stop!"  If a Whammy showed up the contestant would lose all their money and a cartoon Whammy would make its way across the tv screen and make fun of the contestant.  I thought it was high comedy.

Peter Tomarken was the host, and Rod Roddy was the announcer.  As a fan of The Price Is Right it was cool to watch Roddy moonlight on another show.  Like watching Bono sing with Train.  Or not.

2. Card Sharks

Card Sharks - Top 5 Games Shows from the 1980s
Card Sharks featured the great Bob Eubanks as its host.  Eubanks also hosted another game show, The Newlywed Game, that made honorable mention on this list.  But Card Sharks was the game of his that I liked the most.

Card Sharks was a game between two players who would answer survey-type questions and then guess if a series of playing cards would be higher or lower than the previous card.  If a player got 5 cards correct they would win the round.  The first contestant to win two rounds would move on to the bonus round.

The bonus round consisted of 3 rows of cards, 8 cards in total.  The contestant was given $200 to start and would bet a certain amount on if each subsequent card would be higher or lower than the previous card. 

Another thing that made Card Sharks fun was that it was so easy to play at home.  Just get some cards and you could create your own game.

3. The $25,000 Pyramid

$25,000 Pyramid - The Top 5 Game Shows of the 1980s
The $25,000 Pyramid was a game show hosted by Dick Clark.  That should really be enough, but the game was a lot of fun to watch.

There were four contestants in the game with 2 of the contestants being celebrities.  There were two rounds of play and after the first round, the non-celebrities would switch pairs and play with the other celebrity.

Six categories were available and teams would alternate selecting the categories.  A team would then play a Password-type game with one player giving clues to the other.  If the clue was guessed correctly the team would get a point.  After the six categories were played the team with the most points would play the Pyramid.

The Pyramid consisted of six topics, such as "Things that start with the letter B" or "What a [insert something here] would say."  The celebrity would face the Pyramid, see these topics and give clues to the other player, who, sitting with their back to the Pyramid would have to guess the topic.

Each topic was worth a dollar amount, but if all six topics were guessed correctly then the contestant won $25,000.  Watching the contestant win was fun, but it was more fun when they would not win and Dick Clark would proceed to talk with his off-camera staff about clues that might have worked. 

4. Win, Lose or Draw

Win, Lose or Draw - Top 5 Game Shows of the 1980s
Win, Lose or Draw was a very simple game show in concept.  It was also easy to follow along.  If you have ever played any type of board game, such as Pictionary or Cranium that requires you to draw pictures and have teammates guess what you are drawing, then you could have played Win, Lose or Draw.

There were two teams, men vs. women.  Each team consisted of one non-celebrity, with the rest of the team being celebrities.  When it was a team's turn, one player would draw a picture and the teammates would try to guess what the picture was.  If the team did not correctly guess the drawing, the other team would have a chance to guess the picture and steal the point.

Win, Lose or Draw was not on for long, just from 1987-1990.  Bert Convy was the original host of the syndicated version, but Vicki Lawrence and Robb Weller also hosted.

5. Name That Tune

Name That Tune - The Top Game Shows of the 1980s
Name That Tune actually began in the 1950s as a radio game show and had several iterations on tv.  There was only one season produced in the 1980s.

Name That Tune consisted of two players who were given a clue about a song.  The contestants would then alternately bid how many notes would be required for them to identify the song.  The famous line was, "I can name that song in ___ notes."  If a player didn't think they could guess the song in less notes, they would reply, "Name that tune."  The player who won the bidding would then have the requested number of notes to guess the song.  If the correct song was guessed, they would get a point.  If not, they other player would get a point.  Whichever player got the most points out of five would move on to the Golden Medley round.

In the Golden Medley round a player would have 30 seconds to try to guess 7 songs.

Honorable Mention Top Game Shows from the 1980s

There were many game shows from the '80s that were considered for this list.  I was a big fan of The Joker's Wild, Love Connection, Scrabble and the above-mentioned Newlywed GameThe Price is Right and Family Feud were also favorites, but new episodes of these shows are in wide circulation.

Game shows today are still fun to watch, but they don't measure up to these 5 game shows.  It's probably just nostalgia from my youth, but I still enjoy watching them when I can find them.


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