Game shows are the awkward, middle child of television. They are wedged precariously between the older, more sophisticated sibling, the news, and the younger, wildly popular sibling, reality TV. As well as being berated by that footy-obsessed Uncle, sports, and overlooked by the theatrical, trendy cousin, TV drama.
It’s not surprising that game shows are overlooked by a generation that is overwhelmed with options. Additionally, television viewing among younger generations is no longer scheduled on a TV set. It’s on-demand, and right now – in demand; with Covid-19 boosting Netflix’s shares by 14% and YouTube’s viewership by 15%.
But there is something that makes game shows stand out from the rest. They have to work for your attentiveness – and once they’ve got it, it’s hard to look away. This is where the beauty of the game show lies. You cannot just simply watch a game show, you must participate.
Even though we are consuming more, how much do we actually take away from what we watch? We exist in an ‘economy of attention’. Bedevilled by distraction; we struggle to stream Love is Blind without scrolling through Instagram, can’t watch Bon Appetite without Snapchatting our friends at the same time. Deloitte’s Australian consumer survey found that in 2019 91% of respondents multi-tasked while watching TV.
Game shows offer a well-needed respite from the persistency of our phones. You really can’t watch Mastermind, a high-intensity, quiz programme where contestants demonstrate how well they know their specialised subjects – from Aztec Mythology to honey bees’ life cycles – without devoting to it your utmost attention.
This brings me to the second benefit of game shows – you learn without even realising. How else but watching Hard Quiz would you acquire the important fact that male Siamese Fighting Fish are raised by their fathers? Quiz shows are the tricksters of television – they teach you an array of skills under the guise of entertainment.
Game shows like Hard Quiz and The Chase Australia may continue to trail behind in the 16-39-year-old market to competitors such as Home & Away and The Project. Yet, the composition of a game show represents something so quintessentially Australian, even more Aussie than Home and Away (which has shockingly been running for 31 years) – that of diversity.
They bring together a cross-section of society, a smorgasbord of different interests, knowledge and backgrounds. In one episode of Hard Quiz alone, contestant’s topics included Lady Gaga, Yeats, Xanadu and typewriters.
Even more importantly, they connect you with other viewers through the thrill of competition, all at the leisure of your own couch. Some of my fondest memories with my Grandmother include watching Deal or No Deal in her lounge room. From that young age, I became seduced by the flashing lights and admittedly cheesy music of game shows… I also became a lifetime fan of Andrew O’Keefe.
From there I began to expand my viewing repertoire with Spicks and Specks. I didn’t really recognise any of the musicians they mentioned – in 2007 we were yet to know for a little while more who Gotye really was -but by god, you can be sure that I loved guessing whether a rough-looking rockabilly was a serial killer or a musician.
This familiarity and nostalgia that game shows offer is something a lot of us are searching for right now. We may not be able to hang out with our friends in person, nevertheless, I can guarantee that the comforting Chase Australia family, from ‘the Supernerd’ to ‘the Shark’, are there for you, every weekday at 5.30pm.
So, all I can say is consider switching off the costly Netflix and trade it for Letters and Numbers on the costless SBS On Demand. It might just be the answer you’ve been searching for.