Game shows have graced prime-time TV screens since literally the beginning of time. But are you aware of the numerous tricks of the trade and secret fakery that goes on behind the scenes? A lot goes on in the making of those seemingly wholesome shows everybody loves to watch, it turns out. So, "Come on down" and read all about how the most popular game shows on TV have it all backwards in real life!
The Price Might Be Right, But Hands Off!
The Price is Right is one of the oldest game shows, but did you know that despite the host saying things like "You'll be going home with..." the players don't get their grubby little paws on their prizes until their episode actually airs? We've absolutely no idea why this happens, but does this mean if an episode never airs, then the contestant never wins their prizes? What an awful thought!
Imagine thinking you'd won a speedboat, getting all excited, and your episode is canned. How mad would you be? We're not saying this has ever happened to a contestant... it's just theoretical.
Can We Phone A Friend?
Who Wants To Be A Millionaire is famous for its lifelines. They differ worldwide, with some countries offering an Ask The Host lifeline while others provide an Ask One Of The Audience option. The Phone A Friend lifeline seems ubiquitous but did you know that these friends on the other end of the line aren't as random as they seem? They're all interviewed and vetted before appearing on the show.
In recent years, friends even have a production crew member with them in their home to check they are not utilizing the internet. If they can google the answer in 30 seconds, they'd probably be good at the Fastest Finger round!
American Ninja Warrior Ain't What You Think It Is
American Ninja Warrior has graced United States television screens since 2009, but it ain't what you think it is. Based on the Japanese television reality show Sasuke, the show has seen competitors brave a series of obstacle courses and try to conquer the almost unsurmountable Mount Midoriyama to win $1,000,000 for over a decade! But if you think that ANW is as fake as WWE, you're not the only one!
First, these unofficial Olympians have to be super fit and often train for over a year to get in shape for the show. Second, some of their interviewers seem to be scripted. But the most important thing is that the winners are not pre-determined.
Married At First Sight Is A Horrible Experience
This whistleblower revealed that their work colleague had a "horrible experience" on Married at First Sight. As well as needed counseling, she still receives an 'appearance fee' (i.e., hush money) five years after appearing. And that's not all... she also revealed that "Producers would extract personal info about the people being paired up prior to the coupling and then do the opposite for dramatic tension." But wait, it gets worse!
She also stated: “Producers would leak information to others to set up a stand-off. So perhaps one person might say something over drinks to another in confidence. The producers then take that and plant it with another person so that over dinner it comes out and drama ensues.”
Come On Down!
“Come on down! You’re the next contestant on The Price Is Right!” Crazed individuals treat being picked to appear like Saint Peter had just granted them access through the Pearly Gates... but with less grace. But would you believe the competitors aren't random? They've all already been hand-picked by the producers. But it gets worse! One person spilled the beans saying they lost because the producers let their opponent bid a second time.
The brave whistleblower revealed: “[The producers] let the other girl in the Showcase Showdown rebid after the audience booed her original bid ... When it aired, they cut her original bid and showed only her second, winning bid. I lost.”
Ever Noticed This Weird Wheel Of Fortune Coincidence?
Have you ever noticed how all Wheel Of Fortune competitors are pretty much the same height? How is this weird feat maintained over so many decades? Do they only draft in people who are between five feet nine and five feet ten inches tall? If so, that would be height discrimination. No, instead, the adversaries stand on a platform so they appear to be the same height. A bit like Tom Cruise does in his movies.
Additionally, ex-contestants report that the wheel is really heavy and really difficult to push. Or maybe it's rusty and just needs a lifetime's supply of WD40.
Most of HGTV's House Hunters is staged. First, most of the houses featured aren't for sale, and in many cases, the couple already owns the house! House hunter Elizabeth Newcamp and her husband even revealed that they had to fake living in a hotel in Florida! Elizabeth also revealed that their heated arguments were staged and admits they had to play up the drama for the sake of the cameras.
Other couples have admitted the same, making House Hunters more of an "acting-based" show than the reality TV show it pretends to be.
Florida Family Feud
Family Feud has seen its fair share of hosts since its 1976 inception but since 2010, Steve Harvey has become synonymous with the show. But the comedian almost never graced our screens because he was too busy filming his morning show in Atlanta. So, in 2011, the show packed up and moved from Sunset Bronson Studios in Los Angeles to Universal Studios in Florida just so Steve could commute to work!
Not overly enamored with the hop, skip and jump to the next state, Steve then convinced the production to move from Florida to his home town of Atlanta!
Wipeout Doesn't Only Look Painful
The producers of Wipeout aren't just looking for crazy contestants that will perform well, they have also been known to purposefully seek out people who are willing to clown about on TV. Of course, they don't just want these human guinea pigs to wipe out, they want them to fail spectacularly to make for the most hilarious footage. Generally, everything works out for the best; players get their 15 minutes of fame and the producers get their clowns.
But it doesn't always go according to plan. In 2020, one 38-year-old Wipeout contestant fell from the obstacle course and was knocked unconscious. Tragically, he died the next day. An autopsy revealed he died of a heart attack and he had suffered from undetected coronary artery disease.
Break Or No Break?
Just like soccer doesn't need cheerleaders flashing their pom-poms, the original European Deal or No Deal didn't need beautiful models to hold the suitcases for the entirety of the game. Across the pond, contestants opened their own 26 boxes to reveal amounts ranging from one penny up to one million dollars (or Pounds or Euros). The rivals opening their own boxes made the show much more tense than 26 smiling models.
But did you know that the models on the US version had to stand so long that sometimes they fainted? At one stage, they were dropping like flies.
Supermarket Sweep Was Legalised Shoplifting!
If you're too young to remember Supermarket Sweep, this 1960s game show basically featured legal shoplifting. First, lucky thieves would amass seconds by answering trivia questions; then, the winner would dash through a supermarket swiping hundreds of dollars worth of products into their shopping cart. The results were as frantic as they were hilarious... imagine The Purge but a horde of hungry Vikings pillaging your local Walmart and you're halfway there!
The original series was broadcast from New York Food Fair stores but later series were filmed in fake supermarkets which featured no refrigeration meaning many of the products were rotten!
Fear Factor Featured FDA Food
Fear Factor was NBC's answer to CBS's Survivor, and it was originally hosted by Joe Rogan. The show challenged competitors to many weird and wonderful stunts, including eating 100-year-old eggnog, horse rectum, maggot-covered cheese, African cave-dwelling spiders, scorpions, roadkill, live bees, and rats blended in a liquidizer all to try to win $50,000. One viewer from Ohio was so disgusted with that final entry, he sued NBC for $2.5 million.
You might be surprised to hear that the FDA approved every single food eaten in the show! That said, one 2012 episode featuring wannabees drinking donkey semen and urine was rejected by NBC for bad taste.
Nickelodeon's Fruity Flavored Slime
If you were a kid in America or Britain anywhere from the 1980s to the 2000s, there's a jolly green chance you wanted to be a loser. No, not a loser in life, but a loser on a Nickelodean kids' game show. If you came last, you would be head-to-toe in green slime, meaning a whole generation of kids purposefully became losers. This explains a lot about Generation X and Millennials!
But what flavor do you think that radioactive colored slime was? Lime? Kiwi? Key Lime Pie? Apple? Asparagus?? Well, believe it or not, Nick's green goop tasted of pineapple!
We Will Survive
One of the main reasons producers love making Reality TV is because it's so cheap. You get all of the drama without having to hire any actors. Instead, you can hire wannabes who are desperate to get on TV, or they did when they started around the Millennium. But as they evolved, many reality shows started featuring pre-planned storylines... so does that mean these desert island Robinson Crusoes are all actors?
One of the most successful reality TV shows, Survivor, employs such tactics. As a result, every castaway walks away with some money depending on how long they "survive" on the island.
Nickelodeon's Heroin Faux Pas
Nickelodeon's shows like Slime Time or Slime Fest UK might have created a generation who made it look like losing was the new winning, but the kids had the last laugh. The production, you see, would give every kid a set of clothes, so they didn't get their own clothes stained. So it seems these loser kids weren't as stupid as we thought. Instead, they ended up with a whole new pair of duds! Which is kinda genius.
But the funniest thing about the slime is that host Marc Summers nicknamed it gak, which is another name for heroin! Nickelodeon's marketing department missed the drug reference and gak was available for kids to buy in toy stores across the land.
Never Meet Your Heroes
Television talent shows have been around forever. The first was The Original Amateur Hour, which began life on the radio before jumping to new-fangled TV screens in 1947. After that, they had a resurgence in the 21st century with shows like American Idol, X-Factor, and America's Got Talent, all based on Simon Cowell's British shows. But did you know that the judges are not always present while the singers perform?
That's right, folks. Some early auditions are filmed, and later the judges film their faked reactions. As a result, some poor performers don't even get to meet their heroes!
What Is Double Jeopardy?
Rivals on Jeopardy! must not only remember to answer the question backward, but they must also remember not to bet certain amounts of cash. Yes, boys and girls, there are five banned numbers that contestants are not allowed to bet. One of them is $666, it being the number of the beast. However, if you thought that $664 and $668 would be banned for being the neighbors of the beast, think again...
Former competitors confirmed that $1488, $14, and $88 are also banned because the number 1488 is a secret code used by white supremacists to identify themselves. Other numbers that don't go down well with Jeopardy! producers are 74 and 2,520,700 - Ken Jennings winning streak and winning amount!
You've Won A Lifetime's Supply Of...
Game show prizes can range from the ridiculous to the sublime. In the 70s, High Rollers gave away a $10,000 fishbowl. One lady who used a wheelchair won a treadmill on The Price is Right, while Let's Make A Deal once awarded a live goat as a prize. But the GOAT is Pakistani game show Aman Ramazan which gave real abandoned babies to childless couples! But sometimes, producers pull a fast one like awarding contestants with a lifetime's supply of a product.
For example, someone won a lifetime supply of Butterfinger candy bars which turned out to be two cases. A teacher on Australian Wheel of Fortune won a lifetime's supply of WD40. It turns out a lifetime's supply is four measly cans.
When Family Feud Made You A Fortune
When Family Feud first aired, there was a limit on how much each family could win. Rules dictated that families must retire if they reached $25,000. If that doesn't sound like a fortune, remember it was 1976 when the average income was $16,000 per annum and the average price of buying a house was $43,000. In 2021, the median annual US wage was $34,248 but the average cost of a house is $374,900.
Fun fact of the day. Family Feud is called Family Fortunes in the UK because Brits wouldn't dream of airing any dirty laundry in public.
Here Comes The Real Family Feud
Want to know why it's called Family Feud? It's not the reason you think! The real arguments come when it's time to split the prizes. Since Season 11, if a family won five games in a row, they won a car. The thing is, how on earth do you split a car five ways? One wheel each? If you think that cars have four wheels, you'd be wrong; they have a spare and a steering wheel!
One day, splitting a car or a dishwasher or a goat or a baby five ways will lead to murder. Which is the last thing TV producers would want, right?
Hailing The Cash Cab Is No Easy Feat On Easy Street
The original US version of Cash Cab ran from 2005 to 2012 before its 2017 revival. The show famously saw "random" citizens of New York and later Chicago hailing a cab and answering comedian Ben Bailey's trivia questions before they reached their destination. Three wrong answers, and they were unceremoniously kicked to the curb, quite literally! But since this is television, not everything is as simple as it may seem.
Ben and his cab didn't really pick up random citizens; there was a whole vetting process involving producers approaching New Yorkers and tourists in Union Square to be in an unnamed TV show.
Cash Cab Is Not The Cash Grab You Think
But don't take our word for it; one Cash Cab contestant revealed: "You can't just hail a cab in New York which turns out to be the Cash Cab. There is a vetting process, but you don't know you are going to be on the show, so the reaction is genuine. Also, there is a lot of awkward silence time while he is listening to the producer in his ear."
The whistleblower even revealed: "The money he gives is prop money for TV. They mail you a check after the show airs."
Beauty Is In The Eye Of Security Guards
One person revealed on Reddit that their friend worked as a security guard on the original British version of X-Factor. And would you believe that audience members are ranked by order of physical attractiveness? The pretty ones are invited to sit at the front behind the judges while less attractive visitors are sent to the back of the class as far away from the cameras and the spotlight as possible!
That said, good luck to anyone trying to get noticed behind these two beautiful babes. The gorgeous Australian judge on the left is Kylie Minogue's sister Dannii and the stunning one on the right is ex-Girls Aloud member Cheryl Cole.
Right Up Your Alley
Did you know that actress Kirstie Alley once appeared on the 1970s dating show Match Game? But she wasn't the only famous face to get in on the act. Other celebrities that appeared on shows before they were famous include Arnold Schwarzennegger, Tom Selleck, Sally Field, and Farrah Fawcett showing up on The Dating Game, Billy Crystal appearing on All-Star Secrets, and The $20,000 Pyramid. In 2005, 19-year-old Stefani Germanotta aka Lady Gaga appeared on Boiling Points!
But we have two favorites. First, before Breaking Bad's Jesse Pinkman was using "science, b*tch" to cook crystal meth in ABQ, Aaron Paul appeared on The Price is Right in 2000. But way back in 1987, yuppie Simon Cowell appeared on Sale of the Century which is on YouTube. Without that appearance, the world might have lost out on all his talent shows!
British TV Show Kills Contestant
Back in 1986, popular eccentric British TV host, Noel Edmonds, and The Late Late Breakfast Show were known for allowing members of the public to perform insanely dangerous stunts like plucking someone from an exploding chimney by helicopter. Stunt driver Richard Smith was seriously injured trying to jump 230 feet in a car, and Barbara Sleeman broke her shoulder after being fired from a cannon, but it gets way worse.
Michael Lush took part in a stunt ironically called Hang 'em High, which involved the 24-year-old construction worker bungee jumping from an exploding box suspended from a 120-foot-high crane. But during rehearsal, tragedy struck. After hesitating for two full minutes, Michael eventually jumped. Unfortunately, a faulty clip had come loose, and, tragically, he plunged to his death. A verdict of misadventure was recorded, the BBC was fined and Noel Edmonds was so distraught that he took a 2-year hiatus from television.
You've Won A Date With A Serial Killer
Celebs aren't the only ones to appear on game shows. In 1978, serial killer Rodney Alcala appeared on The Dating Game at the height of his killing spree. He won a date with bachelorette Cheryl Bradshaw, but she refused to go out with him as she found him "creepy." And it's a good job she did; else she would probably have been his next victim. Alcala was arrested in '79 and eventually charged with seven murders, but police believe it could be a much higher number.
But why would a serial killer go on TV? You'd think that's the last place they want to be seen, right? Well, it turns out that all psychopaths are narcissists.
We'd Like To Solve The Puzzle
On June 20th, 1980, The Price Is Right announcer Johnny Olson boomed for one audience member to "Come on down!” An enthusiastic young woman in a t-shirt and jeans, with a pair of sunglasses on her head, ran down to take her place among the other contestants and the rest, as they say, was history. The good-looking 23-year-old was Vanna White and she went on to be the show's beautiful assistant for three decades!
Now 64 years old, Vanna has been turning the letters for 40 years. She's never worn the same dress twice and since 1997, she hasn't even needed to turn the letters as they've been automated.
This Game Show Host Won The Order Of Canada
The answer is, of course, Who is Alex Trebek? He won the Order Of Canada in 2017 when newly appointed Governor General Julie Payette awarded him the prestigious award and medal for his "continuing commitment to educational, environmental and humanitarian causes." Alex hosted Jeopardy! for 37 years from its 1984 revival until he sadly died in 2020. And they still don't have an answer for who's going to replace the beloved Canadian host with the most.
At the time of writing, Ken Jennings and Mayim Bialik will continue to guest host until a worthy successor is announced.
Would The Real Banker Please Stand Up?
Everybody knows Howie Mandel hosted the U.S. version of Deal Or No Deal, but few people know who played the shadowy banker. The mystery silhouette communicated only with Howie and did everything within their power to get the contestant to drop out of the game as quickly as possible. For the show's first run, between 2005 and 2010, the banker was played by actor Peter Abbay, who also appeared on House M.D. and Punk'd.
Then, when Deal Or No Deal came back for a short run between 2018 and 2019, the banker was played by actress Carrie Lauren.
Given The Cold Shoulder
In addition to reality shows, cooking shows featuring members of the public saw a resurgence this century. From Masterchef to Hell's Kitchen and even Kitchen Nightmares, audiences love nothing more than sitting down to unwind after a hard day at work by watching angry British chef Gordon Ramsey shouting at people. But did you know that after hours of effort, the food that the chefs tuck into is almost always stone cold?
Even if participants are only given an hour to cook, filming most TV shows takes far longer than it seems, so most food is freezing. Sometimes, producers even use the old photographers' trick of placing a microwaved tampon behind plates of food so it looks like it's steaming hot.
Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?
Well, Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader? This hilarious TV show pits adults against nine and ten-year-old boys and girls, and the adults often come across looking like dumbasses! There are two fun behind-the-scenes facts about this show. First, while you may expect some of that old TV smoke and mirrors (i.e., lying!) those boffin kids really are fifth graders. Our second fact also flies in the face of most other shows...
Unlike most other shows who get contenders to change their clothes regularly, the host and kids on Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader? always wear the same clothes.
Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego?
Hands up who remembers Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego? The popular 1990s game show saw kids answering geography-related trivia questions to answer the eponymous question, but while the 150-strong crew filmed three or four episodes a day, something weird also occurred. The show was split into two halves and the two halves were filmed six months apart. And this half-year hiatus caused the production more than a few problems.
Just like the reason Walt actor Malcolm David Kelley left Lost, the kids grew exponentially during those six months. Worse than that, some of them completely lost interest and didn't want to return!
Double Dare Product Placement
Ever wonder why Nickelodeon's Double Dare was so damned messy with slime and pies flying everywhere? Well, it turns out that snack company Nabisco noticed that 1980s kids' shows like Masters of the Universe and Transformers all had their own action figures. So they approached Nickelodeon president Gerry Laybourne to design a show with one thing in mind: something that would allow them to advertise their products to children.
Nabisco dropped out before the show (which was nearly called Truth or Dare) premiered in 1986. Yet without them, the show would never have been dreamt up.
What Is The Definition Of Cleanliness?
While some shows like Legends of the Hidden Temple take entire days to tape, multiple rounds of Jeopardy! and many other game shows are filmed in one day. This means the Jeopardists must bring several changes of clothes with them. Between rounds, they change to make it look like different episodes have been filmed on different days. In fact, five episodes are taped each day, with two days of filming every other week.
Taping so many episodes in advance means shows like Jeopardy! can often be up to three months ahead. Try keeping that a secret if you win big!
Legend of the Non-Existent Audience
Legends of the Hidden Temple was every kid's fave show in the 1990s. Mixing mythologies, kids raced around climbing ropes and swimming moats at the behest of an ancient stone head named Olmec. Teams of Red Jaguars, Blue Barracudas, Green Monkeys, Orange Iguanas, Purple Parrots, and Silver Snakes competed to retrieve one of the historical artifacts in the hidden temple by performing physical stunts and answering history, mythology, and geography questions.
The most exciting part was the roar of hundreds of baying fans in the audience as the kids navigated the hidden temple. The on y thing was, there was no audience! As the old quote proves... "There's lies, damned lies and video editing."
Wayne's World, Wayne's World, Party Time, Excellent!
Dana Carvey was famous for Saturday Night Live, but the gifted comedian almost never made it to 30 Rockefeller Plaza's studio 8H because he was offered another gig. Instead, he nearly hosted Nickelodeon's game show Double Dare! Can you imagine it? Yes, the kids of the day would have had a hilarious host, but the world would have been robbed of his characters like Church Lady and––most famously––Wayne's World sidekick, Garth Algar.
While Double Dare! was a great show, no one in their right mind is gonna pass up becoming a Saturday Night Live cast member... especially during its 90s heyday.
Who Wants To Be A Mountaineer?
Did you know Who Wants To Be A Millionaire was originally going to be known by the altogether unimaginative name of Cash Mountain? Luckily, the British creators of the show saw sense and named it after a Cole Porter song. The new title was an inspired choice, Millionaire went global and still airs after more than two decades. Without the namechange wed have had to sit through a film called Slumdog Mountaineer.
Millionaire is not without its controversy. In 2001, British Army Major Charles Ingram won a million pounds ($1,450,000) as his friend in the audience coughed when host Chris Tarrant read out the multiple-choice options. The story is told in the equally imaginatively titled miniseries, Quiz.
There's No Such Thing As A Free Ride
What's the best thing about Cash Cab? Well, apart from the prospect of winning oodles of money, the actual cab ride across the Big Apple is free! No matter how far they travel, Cash Cab competitors never pay a fare. However, since the bright yellow vehicle is an authentic New York taxi cab, all rides must be logged in line with NYC Taxi Commission requirements before the fares are written off.
It's easier for the production company to lose the money than to argue with New Yorkers who've just incorrectly answered a bunch of trivia questions!
A Special Kind Of Hell
While tourists wait in line for hours to see The Late Show being filmed at Broadway's Ed Sullivan Theater, Los Angeles is where you want to be. For in Tinseltown, dreams really come true. If you live in the City of Angels, you can actually be paid real money by becoming a bone fide game show audience member. But one whistleblower reveals it isn't as glamorous as you might think!
She was paid California's minimum wage to clap "so much that my hands were in pain, numb, and aching. At some point, I forgot how to clap.” Before adding: "Being a paid audience member is a special kind of hell. It’s subtle torture, clever in how misleading it is."
What Is Not Half As Many As You Might Think?
Ever since Merv Griffin dreamt up Jeopardy! in 1964, there must have been a million questions. So you might expect a huge team with dozens upon dozens of eager boffins working round the clock to come up with all those riddles. So you might be surprised to hear that there are only fourteen people coming up with all the questions - nine question writers and five researchers working on the show.
Starved of light, warmth, and subsisting on a diet of sandwiches, the question writers and researchers live in cramped, dark cages... where they belong.