Game shows have been around almost as long as TV itself. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the first game show ever was Spelling Bee, which aired all the way back in 1938. On the show, host Freddie Grisewood tasked people with, wait for it, spelling words. Riveting stuff! And it paved the way for the literally thousands of game shows that have existed since then.


There are all kinds of styles and formats of game shows, everything from tests of physical endurance to games of chance to intellectual endeavors. For all the variety of potential games, there is one tried and true constant — the host. The game show host is usually friendly, upbeat and excels at innocuous banter while explaining the rules and bringing the contestant along for the ride. It’s worth remembering that the host you see on TV is just a persona, however, a character these people are playing. In real life, some of these game show hosts can be just awful. They are, after all, just like the rest of us, even if they wear terrible suits and tell jokes that are cornier than your dad’s. Some of them are awesome people and some are, well, you’ll see.


bob eubanks

Way back in 1966, Bob Eubanks started hosting The Newlywed Game. He hosted it off and on for years after that, including stints in the ’70s, ’80s, ’90s, and even the 2000s. The format of the show is pretty simple — a group of newlywed couples are quizzed on how much they know about each other with questions ranging from the mundane to the PG-level risque. It’s been an enduring concept for decades and Eubanks was the face of it, playfully digging at the contestants and feigning shock at some of the more saucy answers.

Back in 1989, Eubanks appeared in the Michael Moore documentary Roger and Me, about the downsizing of the General Motors plant in Flint, Michigan. Eubanks was interviewed because he’s a Flint native, and took the opportunity to randomly toss out a joke that was both homophobic and anti-Semitic. In 2012, while hosting a stage parody of the Newlywed Game, Eubanks again made a homophobic joke on tape, according to The Advocate.

The reputation from these jokes and his history of off-color remarks on The Newlywed Game has dogged him since. Good thing his show isn’t still taping, or there would probably be petitions for him to be fired.


bob barker and gena lee nolin

For a long time, you couldn’t discuss game shows on TV without bringing up Bob Barker. The unofficial king of daytime game shows, Barker hosted The Price is Right from 1972 to 2007. He’d actually started hosting games way back in 1956, so he had an incredible run of more than half a century. And while he’s long been associated with the high energy and good times of The Price Is Right, there was more going on behind the scenes than most of us realized.

The Price Is Right has a history of using models to showcase the fabulous prizes. Known as “Barker’s Beauties,” they didn’t really say much on the show, just there to look pretty. In 1994, model Dian Parkinson filed a lawsuit against Barker alleging sexual harassment. That suit was dropped later when Parkinson said it was taking a toll on her health. However, this suit was followed by more from model Holly Hallstrom and others.

As Time noted, Barker admitted to having a relationship with Parkinson but claimed it was consensual. Hallstrom’s suit was settled and, though Barker called it frivolous, a court agreed she had been unfairly fired for gaining weight and for refusing to spread lies about Parkinson in the media. The details of the settlement weren’t made public, but it’s safe to assume the price was right.


Dick Clark

Dick Clark is a pop culture icon and an American original. Clark did a lot of things — he ran a successful production company that gave the world Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve special every New Year’s, and he was the host of The $25,000 Pyramid (later The $100,000 Pyramid, to account for inflation). But that long career nearly ended a bit earlier than it needed to.

Clark’s big break was as the host and producer of American Bandstand, a pop music showcase that ran from the ’50s until the late ’80s. It was in that capacity where Dick Clark got up to some shady business dealings … and got caught. In 1960, the House Committee on Legislative Oversight investigated Clark during the “payola” scandal, an especially skeevy moment in the recording industry’s history that revealed an elaborate system of illegal and quasi-legal kickbacks and ownership stakes. Findings showed that Clark, who hosted all kinds of up-and-coming acts on American Bandstand, also had a financial stake in many of those artists’ record labels — 33 different music companies, in fact. So, when a Bandstand appearance propelled record sales for certain acts, Clark profited. “I think the crime I have committed, if any, is that I made a great deal of money in a short time on little investment,” Clark actually told Congress. By the time Clark testified, he had, at the behest of Bandstand’s network, ABC, sold off his ownership stakes in those record labels, and so he walked away without punishment.


Chuck Woolery
Back in the ’70s and ’80s, Chuck Woolery was the quintessential game show host. He had perfectly coiffed hair, excelled at witty banter, and had a smooth, talk-radio kind of voice that made it seem like he knew what was going on. From a stint as the original host of Wheel of Fortune to his famous run on Love Connection and Scrabble, he really came across as a good and reliable guy.

Fast-forward to the age of social media, and Woolery began sharing his political opinions online. While there’s nothing wrong with being conservative, he took things too far with some of his more outlandish and aggressive beliefs. As Huffington Post detailed, on a radio show once with former Representative Michelle Bachmann, Woolery explained his belief that minorities don’t need civil rights. The idea of gay rights or civil rights are unnecessary, Woolery believes, because all people have inalienable rights. He went on to say everyone gets discriminated against and he knows what it’s like too because he’s old.

Woolery’s comments on Twitter have garnered him accusations of anti-Semitism and prejudice against Islam as well. Woolery has defended himself against claims of racism and even claimed ignorance on any knowledge of past racism in politics, inviting many people to set him straight according to Huffington Post.


steve harvey

Family Feud seems to have really taken off in popularity under the hosting of Steve Harvey. With Harvey at the helm the show has even had a number of primetime celebrity specials including big name stars like Shaquille O’Neal and Kanye West. But as charming and fun as Steve Harvey can be on camera, he’s no stranger to controversy behind the scenes.

A staff email Harvey sent to the crew of his daytime talk show was leaked to the press, and it demonstrated the level of control Harvey expects to have over his employees. Variety reprinted the message, and it includes instructions like “do not come to my dressing room unless invited” and “my security team will stop everyone from standing at my door who have the intent to see me or speak to me.” In total, about a dozen points all essentially make the same point — do not go near Steve Harvey unless you have permission ahead of time.

The Hollywood Reporter points out how Harvey joked on his show about how women would never want to date Asian men. Other highlights of Harvey’s least respectable views range from blatant sexism to homophobia. Survey says: Steve Harvey isn’t as nice as he plays on TV.


richard dawson

Few game show hosts are as memorable as the Family Feud’s Richard Dawson if for no other reason than Dawson would occasionally make fun of contestants, which is still a staple on Family Feud over 40 years later. He even once acknowledged himself as “smarmy” in a People interview. Dawson also had a penchant for locking lips with almost every single woman who appeared on the show. Not in a face-eating way necessarily, but the man made it his mission to kiss every woman he could, which likely wouldn’t fly these days. But despite all that, Dawson was charming and funny and he seemed like a likeable enough guy. But that was on camera.

Behind the scenes, rumors of Dawson’s behavior were a little less than complimentary. In the book Television Game Show Hosts, author David Baber details how Dawson’s ego began to grow as the show blew up. He would clash with producers over whether contestant answers qualified, and he’d tell long stories that ate up screen time and jokes that needed to be edited out. He’d get angry when lightbulbs were burned out. At one point he even forbade a show producer from coming on set and hired his own daughter-in-law to fill the role. In a number of ways, he became the parody of a game show host he ended up playing in the movie The Running Man.


Anne Robinson

For a hot minute in 2001, the game show Weakest Link was the hottest thing on American television. Part of the charm was host Anne Robinson, the antithesis of the usual friendly game show host in that she was a stern, stone-faced British person who mocked failed contestants and dismissed them with a curt, “You are the Weakest Link, goodbye!” At the end of the show, Robinson bid farewell to viewers with a wry smile, implying the whole mean thing was just an act. 

But maybe it wasn’t. In October 2017, Robinson weighed in on the then-young #MeToo movement, which aims to call out and eradicate sexual harassment and other awful behavior, particularly in the workplace. Back in her day, four decades ago, they “had a much more robust attitude to men behaving badly,” she told BBC Radio 4. “In my day we gave them a slap and told them to grow up.” She also called out “the fragility of the women who are unable to deal with the treachery of the workplace.” In June 2018, she doubled down on her comments, saying she “certainly didn’t run crying to the loo” if a man “tried to pat my bum,” according to the Independent. She added: “I was also really shocked that women further up the pole weren’t doing more to curtail it.” So yeah, Robinson thinks its women’s fault that women get harassed (or worse). That’s, as they say, problematic.