Even if you're not a fan of game shows, you probably know all about Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune. They've been on the air for over twenty years, share an hour block of time every weekday evening, and have had the same hosts for the majority of their runs. Both shows have consistently occupied the number one and number two spots in syndication ratings for years. What makes them so successful?
Both Wheel and Jeopardy are run by Sony Pictures and King World Entertainment. They're "sister shows," which translates into cross-promotions, back-to-back scheduling, and increased publicity for both shows. They also have equal footing for things like board games, books, and other promotional products that help to bring in a steady stream of new viewers each and every season.
There's something to be said for a game show format that doesn't get tinkered with too much over the years. Fans have grown to know and love both Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune because the format is dependable and viewers can count on the basic game staying the same from season to season.
The dependability factor extends from the format to the sets and the hosts as well. Wheel viewers enjoy the rapport between Pat Sajak and Vanna White. Jeopardy aficionados know what to expect from Alex Trebek, from his tailored suits to his professionalism. The sets are subtly updated sometimes, but it's never a complete overhaul. Important visual elements tend to remain constant.
If you take a look at some of the failed game shows over the years, most of their basic concepts run from the confusing to the outrageous. Jeopardy is simple in design – it's a straight-up quizzer that requires clever and quick contestants to play the game successfully. Wheel of Fortune has a basic premise, and each round of the game is played in a similar fashion. There are no ridiculous gimmicks, no over-the-top elements that are designed to shock the viewers, and no stunts or challenges to push contestants into uncomfortable territory.
What it Comes Down To
Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy are familiar standbys that viewers can understand, play along with at home, and digest easily. While they may lack some of the flash and glamour that you see on more recent game shows, they have cultivated and maintained a fiercely loyal fan base. Both shows are like your favorite old sweater; there when you expect them to be, and comfortable to slip in to.