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A Goofy History of Stunt-Based Game Shows


ABC’s Holey Moley just started its fourth summer season of mini golf hijinks. The show which takes the simple game of miniature golf and makes it into something almost unrecognizable, is an utterly silly concept. For some, this is a dumb show not worth watching, for others, it’s comedy gold. But for all its weirdness, Holey Moley isn’t the first goofy game show to air on TV and it certainly won’t be the last. Here is a baker’s dozen of some of the weirdest game shows ever shown on a TV.

Beat the Clock

Beat the Clock is one of the earliest kooky game shows that actually began as a radio show known as Time’s A-Wastin’ in 1948 by Mark Goodson-Bill Todman Productions. At that time, it was hosted by Bud Collyer. It changed its name to Beat the Clock in 1949 premiering on CBS TV on March 23, 1950 as an evening show. During each episode, contestants were given a series of tasks that they needed to finish within a minute highlighted by a giant countdown clock. The budget for the show was pretty low compared today’s standards. Props were everyday objects used in usual ways. Playwright Neil Simon was among the early stunt writers for the show. Proving popular, a daytime version of Beat the Clock was created 1957, but it only ran for a year before moving to ABC where it stayed until 1961. The show had a brief revival on CBS from September 1979 to February 1980 and a kid’s version aired on Universal Kids from February 2018 to July 2019. (Image: Wikimedia)

Supermarket Sweep

Another older game show is Supermarket Sweep which first aired on ABC from December 20, 1965 to July 1967. Hosted by Bill Malone, it was actually shot within real-life Food Fair supermarkets found around New York City. The show was revived for Lifetime and PAX TV with host David Ruprecht. It ran from April 1999 to 2003 with a set resembling a grocery store at Santa Clarita Studios and later NBC Studios. The show later returned for another revival in which ABC, NBC, Fox and Netflix were all interested. In the end, it was ABC who won the rights. The new show debuted on October 18, 2020 with a grocery store set at the Barker Hangar at Santa Monica Airport with host Leslie Jones. The show should return for a third season this summer. (Image: ABC)

Almost Anything Goes

Intervilles was a French comedy game show that pitted towns against each other with a series of silly games, some of which included interacting with live cows and bulls. It was first broadcast in 1962 and continued on and off until 2009. However, it spurred the British game show, It’s a Knockout! which aired from 1966 to 1982. And that show helped to create Almost Anything Goes which premiered here in America on ABC on July 31, 1975. For AAG, three teams representing home towns in the U.S. would compete against each other for money and prizes. The competitions included wacky obstacle courses, pie throwing contests, swing relays and other crazy hijinks. The second (and last) season ran from January 24 to May 2, 1976. Sports announcers Charlie Jones and Lynn Shackelford did the play-by-play. It was followed by the Junior Almost Anything Goes, hosted by Soupy Sales, (which ran on Saturday mornings from September 11, 1976 to September 4, 1977) and All Star Anything Goes from September 16, 1977 to September 1978. (Image: ABC)

Double Dare

Next to Ellen’s Game of Games, America’s next messiest game show has got to be Double Dare which aired for the first time on October 6, 1986. For years, Double Dare was a Nickelodeon staple. It was the network’s first game show and also the longest-running. Right after the show premiered, it had tripled its viewership and became the most-watched original daily program on cable TV. Hosted by Marc Summers, the original series continued through February 6, 1993. For a brief time, there was a Family Double Dare show that aired on FOX from April 3 to July 23, 1988. The show was revived as Double Dare 2000 and was hosted by Jason Harris from January 22 to November 10, 2000. Then in April of 2012, Nickelodeon Suites Resort in Orlando, Florida announced that the show would be revived again, but as a nightly stage show called Double Dare Live and ran at the hotel until it was re-branded as a Holiday Inn Resort in 2016. A Double Dare Reunion Special aired on Nick at Nite on November 23, 2016 and in July of this year Summers stated that yet another new version of the show could be brought back to the small screen once again. (Image: Nickleodeon)

Distraction

Debuting on January 18, 2005 on Comedy Central, the mean-spirited Distraction was based on a British game show of the same name. Hosted by Jimmy Carr, this short-lived spectacle would start with four players where one was eliminated after each round of trivia questions. The trick here was that the players were distracted by unusual events or unusual challenges. Most of these challenges required the players to some sort of task before answering the question including downing an icy beverage, slapping a raw egg on their forehead or throw a pie in their face (which could be filled with cream, mustard, honey etc.). Other games would shock the players every time that they blinked, would be hit by multiple ping pong balls or they might have to remove stickers off of a nudist’s body. During the bonus round, if an question was answered incorrectly, the prize was destroyed in creative ways. (Image: Comedy Central)

Wipeout

When it comes to this genre of TV shows, Wipeout has done particularly well for itself. Having premiered on June 24, 2008, it boasted of having the world’s largest obstacle course, and really, who’s gonna check? The show was hosted by John Henson and John Anderson with Jill Wagner serving as the on-the-ground reporter. (Vanessa Lachey took over for Wagner for one season as well.) The show consisted of outrageous stunts that were mostly impossible to achieve, and many involved the use of water. The show proved so popular in its first year that international versions of the show began popping up in the United Kingdom, Australia, Argentina and others. The American version ran until 2014. Wipeout was rebooted for TBS in 2021 with new hosts John Cena, Nicole Byer and Camille Kostek. That version is still airing. (Image: ABC)

Minute to Win It

Similar to Beat the Clock, Minute to Win It also created 60-second challenges using everyday objects. The first version of the show aired from March 14, 2010 to 2011 on NBC with Guy Fieri serving as the show’s host. It was a show that was hugely popular as families and youth groups could easily replicate the games in their own homes, but the show faded out quickly as well. In 2013, the show was revived on Game Show Network (GSN) running for two seasons with Apolo Ohno as host. However, the show has done better internationally having appeared in over 50 international versions. (Image: NBC)

Holey Moley

As mentioned above, Holey Moley is a sports reality competition series where the term “sports” is loosely termed. It is often pitched that the series was created by Stephen Curry, but outside of his occasional appearances on the show, he is just one of the eight or so executive producers. Wearing the famed gold Wide World of Sports jackets of yesteryear, the show is hosted by sports commentator Joe Tessitore and comedian Rob Riggle with Jeannie Mai as a sideline reporter. They really make this wacky show worth watching. The show premiered on June 20, 2019 with 10 episodes and each season that has followed has increased the number each summer. Holey Moley is currently shot at Sable Ranch in Santa Clarita, California – the same place where Wipeout was filmed years earlier and the obstacles have been built by the ATS Team who have done work on other shows like American Ninja Warrior, The Titan Games and Big Brother. With holes that feature contestants running through “burning” windmills, avoiding giant rubber duckies and playing giant pinball machines, it is show that won’t be forgotten any time soon. (Image: ABC)

Cannonball

Thought of as a weaker version of Wipeout (and less chaotic), Cannonball first previewed on NBC on June 29, 2020 before airing on USA Network from July 9 to September 3, 2020. It was based on the British game show of the same name. Each week, 16 contestants would perform various water-based stunts in hopes of getting the highest score and moving on to the next round eventually winning $10,000. The show was hosted by The Miz, Rocsi Diaz and Simon Gibson and was filmed at the Hansen Dam Recreation Park in Los Angeles, California. (Image: USA Network)

Ellen’s Game of Games

Featuring games shown on Ellen DeGeneres’ talk show, Ellen’s Game of Games premiered on NBC on December 18, 2017. The show starred DeGeneres of course along with Stephen “tWitch” Boss who served as a sidekick announcer. The primetime show ran for four seasons with one of TV’s loudest audiences ever. Games that were featured on the show included “Aw Snap” where two contestants were strapped with a bungee cord attached to each other’s backs; “Blindfolded Musical Chairs” and “Buckin’ Blasters” where contestants would mount giant cannons and shoot portraits of their opponents to win. (Image: NBC)

Don’t

Don’t was a cleverly named game show airing on ABC from June 11 to August 13, 2020. In each episode, a team of four people, usually a family, would compete through a series of tasks with names like “Don’t Blink”, “Don’t Be Shocked” and “Don’t Beat Yourself Up”. It was hosted by Adam Scott with commentary by Ryan Reynolds who also served as an executive producer. Each team could have won up to $100,000 but often won a lot less since playing a perfect game was nearly impossible. (Image: ABC)

Frogger

Billed as the classic game show reimagined as a real-life obstacle course, Frogger aired on the NBC streaming service, Peacock on September 9, 2021. Hosted by Kyle Brandt and Damon Wayans Jr., the course did resemble the arcade game but here, the frog (human contestants) had to do more than just get across a busy highway in hopes of winning $100,000. This game show was odd in that despite that large usage of water, the show took place indoors and there was no audience cheering anyone on. Each contestant has three “lives”, like in the game. If they fall in the water, they lose a life. No word yet if the show will return for a second season. (Image: Peacock)

Family Game Fight

Following in the steps of Ellen’s Game of Games, Family Game Fight starred real-life married couple, Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard who not only hosted the show, but participated in it as well. Here, two families of four would compete against each other with the help of the hosts in a battle to win $100,000. A preview of the show appeared on August 8, 2021 while the actual series began airing on August 11. The show not only seems similar to Ellen’s show, it was also executively produced by Ellen DeGeneres. The games included in the series included “Air Heads” where contestants were blasted in the face with air due to a wrong answer; “Between the Sheets” where the hosts lying in a bed wearing blindfolds had to find hidden objects under their sheets and describe them to each other; and “Brain Freeze” where wrong answer led to all team members getting ice water pour down their backs. (Image: NBC)

That’s My Jam

Previewing on November 29, 2021 before its January 3, 2022 start date, That’s My Jam is based on some of the games played on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. Fallon is currently hosting this music-related game show only featuring celebrities instead of everyday people. The game features music-themed challenges such as “Mixtape Medley Showdown”, “Slay It, Don’t Spray It”, and “Wheel of Musical Impressions”. The show will return for a second season 2022. (Image: NBC)

Main Image: Holey Moley (ABC)

Jeffrey Totey View All

I write about pop culture, arts and entertainment in the greater Seattle area.

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