The existence of game shows almost spans the lifetime of the television itself with Spelling Bee appearing in 1938, around a decade after the arrival of television. For most of us, it’s a chance to experience a fleeting fifteen minutes of fame, with the stage frequently taking the form of a quiz show round or an obstacle course. Here are three of the most mentally and physically challenging shows of all times:
The Chase is a relatively new game show, but it quickly gained a cult following since it first aired on ITV on 29 June 2009. In a modern twist on the traditional question-and-answer show, The Chase requires teamwork from the competitors who are ultimately working together to defeat the omniscient ‘Chaser’. There are five different chasers that the opponents could be facing, but with Chaser Jenny having the lowest win percentage at 63.6% and Chaser Anne the highest at 79% the odds are certainly not in the player’s favour. Whilst the questions are not University Challenge level, this game show requires both intelligence and teamwork. It took a year and a half before a solo player defeated the Chaser.
Only Connect was first aired on 15 September 2008 and remains notorious in its difficulty because the rounds are so obscure. Not simply a difficult question-and-answer show, the central concept of Only Connect is deciphering concealed links between collections of objects. A simple enough premise, yet this show is anything but simple. The four rounds are entitled Connections, Sequence, Connecting Wall and Missing Vowels and require a kaleidoscopic knowledge. Anything from Madonna lyrics to oceans that no longer exist could pop up. The face of the show, Victoria Coren Mitchell, made her name as a poker player – she was the first woman to win an event on the European Poker Tour. The skills required to be a successful player include tactical thinking, mathematical skills and a mastery of psychology, so it’s no wonder that Victoria could transfer her expertise in poker to a general-knowledge show like Only Connect. She also boasts a first-class degree from Oxford University and 888poker reports that she first wrote for The Telegraph when she was just 14. She foreshadows the ability of the contestants on the show as although anyone can apply, the teams seem to be made of semi-geniuses. Mark Labbett was part of the champion team in Series Two – he is now a public figure and a Chaser on The Chase.
Takeshi’s Castle was the pioneer of all physically challenging game shows and has been an inspiration to television since it first aired in 1986. Although Takeshi closed his castle doors forever in 1990, it is still consistently ranked as one of the most intense physical tests that has ever been on TV. The obstacle ‘High Rollers’ is a stolen poker term that was given a literal meaning and consisted of seven large, elevated, spinning drums that contestants have to negotiate their way across. It was recently ranked in the top 15 most difficult obstacles ever aired on TV. Throughout the course of the show, only 9 players won the $8,000 prize for completing the course.
The world of TV game shows is wide, varied and wonderful. Shows like Ninja Warrior and Total Wipeout are physically demanding and take inspiration from Takeshi’s Castle, whereas the less sporty amongst us may prefer to stretch our brains with shows like Mastermind and The Weakest Link. No matter where your strengths lie, there will be a TV game show out there to challenge you.