“Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek just turned 80. The iconic game-show host has a legion of fans, as evidenced by the outpouring of concern over his public battle with pancreatic cancer.
In honor of his birthday, 24/7 Tempo has compiled a list of famous game show hosts by reviewing various media sources and websites, such as the Internet Movie Database. We considered Wikipedia page views to gauge a game show host’s popularity, factored in their longevity and place in television history, and exercised editorial discretion to create our list.
Besides the entertainment value of the format, a game show’s success depends on the personality, charisma, and quick-wittedness of the host who is able to convey the possibility, albeit remote, of getting rich quickly by luck or intelligence. Many hosts have become celebrities in their own right.
Some of television’s earliest game shows projected an erudite and sophisticated image, such as “I’ve Got a Secret,” “What’s My Line” and “To Tell the Truth.” Others, including “The $64,000 Question,” could be intellectually challenging. Dr. Joyce Brothers, who later gained fame as a psychologist, television personality, and columnist, became the only woman to win the top prize on “The $64,000 Question.” In the 1950s, a scandal involving rigged game shows tainted the format and hosts such as Jack Barry were effectively blacklisted from television until the late 1960s. The scandal was depicted in the 1994 movie “Quiz Show,” directed by Robert Redford.
Game show hosts have been comedians (Groucho Marx on “You Bet Your Life”), playwrights (Moss Hart on “Answer Yes or No”), former athletes (Michael Strahan on “The $100,000 Pyramid”), British imports (Richard Dawson on “Family Feud”), even newsmen (Mike Wallace on a slew of game shows in the 1950s). Nearly all of the hosts of the early game shows were white males. Since then, television has diversified to include women and minority quizmasters, such as Meredith Viera (“Who Wants to Be a Millionaire”), Mario Lopez (“Masters of the Maze”), and Steve Harvey (“Family Feud”), who is one of America’s most loved TV personalities..
For the luckier game show hosts, a gig on a quiz program can lead to a long career on TV. Trebek has hosted “Jeopardy!” since 1984. Pat Sajak might have the greatest longevity of any host ever; he’s hosted “Wheel of Fortune” since 1983.
Bob Barker, who helmed “The Price is Right” from 1972 to 2007, won 15 Emmys, 12 of them for Outstanding Game Show Host, which has been awarded since 1974. These are the most popular Emmy winning actors.