By: Jacob McCourt
I have a secret to share with you: I love game shows. When I was younger and my grandmother lived with us, there was always a television with Game Show Network playing (back when GSN actually played Game Shows). Since I just saw the Price is Right Live at Caesars Windsor this week (hence the picture with Todd Newton and the cast of the show), I started to look back at the “Golden Era of Game Shows” and what has changed. This is when I realized how much game shows have changed in the last 20 years, largely due to technology.
First and foremost, display technology has come a very long in the past twenty years. At the same time, game shows present a very particular problem. With studio lighting, most screens tended to get washed out and hard to see on cameras. Games like Wheel of Fortune, used illuminated trilons that were spun in order to make the letters easy to see.
Some game shows utilized different screens to display numbers on television. The Family Feud used Flip Disc Displays for their “Fast Money” Board. This technology utilized a series of small metal discs set on a black background. Using magnets, these disc will “flip” from off (or black) to on (or yellow/white). You might still see this type of display on some older buses.
Eggcrate screens, on the other hand, used a matrix of incandescent bulbs to make numbers and some characters appear. This type of screen was widely used on the Price is Right for many games including the Card Game and Contestant’s Row.
Nowadays, most televised game shows simply use screens that aren’t affected by light like Plasma or LED. Less hassle!
Terminator’s Skynet has arrived in the form of the Jeopardy-playing computer Watson. IBM’s Question Answering system houses 4 terabytes worth of data and uses thousands of algorithms to break down human speech to be able to answer the game show’s questions. The computer played a series of televised games featuring some of Jeopardy’s best contestants; namely Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter.
Watson truly shows the limitless, exciting possibilities that computers have. Watson’s next task? Making medical diagnoses.
Let’s Ask America
The final change in game show is actually to game shows themselves. Even though certain game shows do have quasi-interactive segments to them like phone-a-friend in Who Wants to Be a Millionaire and audience voting in shows like American Idol, newer game shows will be taking that interactivity to a whole other level. This fall, Kevin Pereira (who you might recognize from years at G4TV) will be hosting Let’s Ask America – a game show with virtual contestants. Said participants will participant in the quiz show from their own homes using Skype. The show has already been picked up in certain U.S. markets (namely Phoenix, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Baltimore, Tampa and Tulsa). Take a look at a :30 preview of the show:
However you shake it, technology has forever changed a beloved genre of television programming. I mean, even Drew Carey’s Superscope-style microphone is wireless since he took over for Bob Barker…