Game Show Moments You Have to See to Believe

By: Sam Watanuki | Published: Mar 04, 2024

Game shows have long been a staple of television, offering viewers a mix of entertainment, suspense, and the occasional educational tidbit. Yet, it’s the moments of unexpected hilarity, shocking outcomes, and downright bizarre occurrences that have cemented certain episodes in the annals of TV history.

From the strategic blunders to the unforeseen victories, these instances remind us of the sheer unpredictability of live television.

Gene Rayburn's On-Camera Clash

In the spirited atmosphere of the 1970s “Match Game,” host Gene Rayburn was known for his charismatic presence and quick wit. However, one of the show’s most memorable moments came in 1977, when Rayburn unexpectedly clashed with a cameraman on-air.

Gene Rayburn of The Match Game

Source: NBC/Wikimedia Commons

This incident occurred when Rayburn passionately defended Charles Nelson Reilly’s right to prepare an off-color visual gag off-camera, showcasing the spontaneous nature of live TV.

Drew Carey's Unshakable Cool

A memorable blooper on “The Price Is Right” in 2013 highlighted not only the unpredictability of live television but also the grace with which such moments can be handled. During a game called “Five Price Tags,” a model accidentally revealed the correct price of a car before the contestant had made his final guess (via The Florida Times-Union).

Drew Carey on the set of Price is Right

Source: CBS

Drew Carey, stepping into the moment with commendable composure (aside from a bout of the giggles), decided to award the car to the contestant. This decision was met with applause and appreciation from the audience, turning a potential mishap into a heartwarming and viral moment.

The Infamous Coughing Scheme

One of the most audacious attempts at game show fraud occurred in September 2001 on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.” Major Charles Ingram, his wife, and a cohort devised a scheme where coughs would signal the correct answers.

Set of Who Wants to be a Millionaire

Source: Idea SV/Wikipedia

Ingram’s initial success and subsequent million-pound win were short-lived as the plot was uncovered, leading to public disgrace and legal consequences. This scandal remains one of the most talked-about moments in game show history, illustrating the lengths some will go for victory.

Leonard Cooper's Bold Jeopardy! Gamble

Leonard Cooper left an indelible mark on “Jeopardy!” fans everywhere with his memorable performance in the 2013 “Teen Tournament.” After trailing in the first finals game, Leonard made a spectacular comeback in the second game, securing the $75,000 grand prize with a response that not only won him the game but also captured the hearts of viewers and went viral.

Leonard Cooper smiling on Jeopardy!

Source: NBC

He answered, “Who is some guy in Normandy, but I just won $75,000!” (via YouTube). Fast forward to today, Leonard graduated from Brown University with a bachelor’s degree in biology, marking yet another milestone in his impressive journey.

An Unforgettable Family Feud Faux Pas

“Family Feud,” known for its lighthearted and often humorous questions, became the stage for an unforgettable moment in November 2013. When asked about zombies, one contestant’s response, “Black,” left host Steve Harvey and the audience in a mixture of shock and disbelief.

Steve Harvey

Source: Dideo/Wikipedia

Steve Harvey, with his knack for comedy, navigated the situation with a blend of surprise and humor, turning a potentially uncomfortable moment into a memorable one. The incident quickly went viral, showcasing the wide range of reactions and interactions that make “Family Feud” a staple of family entertainment.


Whoopi Goldberg's Raw Hollywood Squares Farewell

Whoopi Goldberg’s departure from “Hollywood Squares” in 2002 was marked by an episode filled with NSFW content, offering viewers a rare, unfiltered look at the show.

Whoopi Goldberg and two cups with The View logo

Source: THE VIEW/YouTube

This raw footage, which never aired on TV, provided a candid glimpse into the unpredictable and often risqué humor that can occur off-camera, reminding fans of the spontaneous and uncensored moments that live television can produce.


Jeopardy's Triple Zero Finish

A “Jeopardy!” episode in February 2024 ended in an unprecedented manner when all three contestants finished with $0 after wagering everything on Final Jeopardy.

Ken Jennings on the Jeopardy set

Source: NBC

This rare event showed the high-risk nature of the game, and the strategic gambles contestants are willing to take, showcasing the unpredictable drama that can unfold on a game show known for its intellectual prowess.


James Holzhauer's Strategy Falls Short

James Holzhauer’s remarkable winning streak on “Jeopardy!” in 2019 came to an unexpected end when he wagered an uncharacteristically low amount in his final appearance.

Game show contestant and champion, James Holzhauer, on The Chase in 2014

Source: Game Show Network/Wikipedia

Holzhauer’s strategy, influenced by the lead dynamics and a calculated risk to secure second place, resulted in a shocking loss that prevented him from surpassing Ken Jennings’ all-time winnings record. This moment captivated viewers.


Kellie Pickler's European Geography Mix-Up

In a 2007 episode of “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?” Kellie Pickler’s humorous confusion over the location of Budapest brought laughter and lightheartedness to the game show.

Pickler and members of her band Ryan Ochsner, left, and Joshua Henson perform for U.S. service members during the first stop of the 2008 USO Holiday Tour on Ramstein Air Base, Germany, December 16, 2008

Source: Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley, U.S. Navy/Wikipedia

Stating, “That’s a country?” in response to the answer of Hungary, Pickler’s misunderstanding became a viral sensation, demonstrating that game shows are not only about knowledge but also entertainment, especially when celebrities are involved.


A Wheel of Fortune Toss-up Failure

Toss-up failures happen from time to time on “Wheel of Fortune,” but one particular instance in February 2016 highlighted the pressure contestants face, as all three couple teams struggled to solve the puzzle before the buzzer.

Vanna White with Pat Sajak waving to a crowd

Source: Tom Sloan/Wikipedia

In a moment of levity, host Pat Sajak joked, “Goodnight, everyone,” as the contestants and audience laughed. The moment revealed the “thinking on your toes” nature of the game and how even seemingly simple tasks can be challenging under pressure.


The Unpredictable Charm of Game Shows

The moments we’ve explored highlight the enduring appeal and unpredictable charm of game shows. From the laughter evoked by unexpected answers to the tension of high-stakes gambles, these shows provide a unique blend of entertainment that continues to captivate audiences worldwide.

People watching TV in a living room

Source: Freepik

Whether it’s witnessing a contestant’s clever strategy or a host’s adept handling of the unexpected, game shows offer a reflection of human ingenuity, humor, and the spontaneous moments that make live television truly unforgettable.