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Five Game Shows No One Talks About Anymore

Once upon a time television stations gave game shows that were aimed for kids. Those were the days of “Double Dare,” and “GUTS,” “Wild and Crazy Kids,” and “NICK Arcade,” and these days the television form has all but become extinct. Back in the eighties and nineties there was just no shortage of kids game and variety shows, and these are five of the shows of that kind that I vividly remember watching almost all of the time that no one ever really talks about. It’s sad since they are unusual relics of a time that seems so long ago. Here are five I remember with confusion and fondness.

Xuxa (1993)
If you’re forgetting this show, it was a variety series that usually began with a large audience of kids chanting the hosts name like a cult. Pronounced “Shoo-sha,” she was a Brazilian pop star who was popular enough to warrant a kids show that eventually made its way to America for a short while. She danced, and sang, and had interviews and activities. She also hosted alongside two men dressed as a giant panda and a giant cheetah who spoke in English; and she did a good job pretending to understand them. It was random, and kind of silly, but heck, my brother and I watched “Xuxa” because frankly, she was very, very good looking. Xuxa came and went like a bolt of lightning in the nineties. One minute she premiered her own syndicated TV show for kids filled with music and dancing. The next minute she’s gone and that’s all she wrote. But she did have enough of a pop influence to bring on the then juggernaut stars The Olsen Twins for an interview as well as the American Gladiators. She was even spoofed in “The Simpsons” episode “Marge Be Not Proud.”

Steampipe Alley (1987)
Comedian and actor Mario Cantone once hosted a wacky and weird kids game show on WWOR TV here in New York, that was a mix of Monty Python and Double Dare. The writers for the show created some the most unusual obstacles of all time, including making kids find Sammy Davis Jr.’s fake eye in various foods. Cantone had a great rapport with the kids in his audience, despite insisting on staging some great comedy skits and references probably only about two percent of his audience understood. There was even a long segment called “Nerdfellas” where he plays a kid trying to become a mobster in his grade school. I fondly remember the show being so surreal and funny, and it always ended on an obstacle course a la “Double Dare” that oddly enough every contestant won without fail. According to Cantone, the show was aimed at 8-15 year old kids, but 52% of the show's audience was adult. Weird, wild stuff.

Brains & Brawn (1993)
One of the many teen oriented shows that ran on NBC, “Brains & Brawn” was kind of a fun mess of a game show that inspired education and physical activities. Mark Paul Gosselaar co hosted with Danielle Harris (then Tatyana Ali) in sets that were mostly outside and brought on young celebrities from various shows (mostly NBC shows) to compete with a trivia contest and then engage in a ton of physical courses including free throwing and hockey. The show was never too good, and even then I remember finding it incredibly cringe inducing to sit through. But at least it’s the closest we got to seeing California Dreams cross over with Zack Morris! “Wild & Crazy Kids” was just a better summertime game show all around. The show was mainly a mid-season place holder and never took off beyond the fall season.

Gladiators 2000 (1994)
Having no cable in the early nineties wasn’t always a huge deal as every now and then in early morning Saturdays, Nickelodeon would syndicate some of their programs for kids. One of the many shows was “Gladiators 2000,” a preteen version of the popular nineties sports competition hosted by a very young Ryan Seacrest. This version was centered on athletic performance and education, with some of the gladiators coming on to help the contestants. There were even asides where the gladiators would lecture kids about the benefits of a proper diet, and learning how to properly prepare for physical activities. One thing that always bugged me is if this was as staged as the actual “American Gladiators” was. It was a very good idea to spin off a very successful show, but “NICK Guts” always had a lot more going for it.

Masters of the Maze (1994)
Before Freeform, there was ABC Family, which was FOX Family, which was just the Family Channel. And in the nineties the Family Channel would air some fun programs that included the delightfully clumsy kids game show “Masters of the Maze.” Hosted by JD Roth and then Mario Lopez, the show was an elaborate maze like game show based around creating the illusion of immersing viewers in to a video game and some kind of virtual reality. Think “Nick Arcade” meets “Legends of the Hidden Temple” and you have what was a pretty okay kids show, overall.

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Hoju Koolander Posted on Jun 28, 2017 at 12:57 AM

Oh Xuxa, so bizarre. Like NLogan I spent some time in Brazil where she is a Megastar and saw her face everywhere. But I knew her first from this show in the 6 am timeslots pikachulover mentioned.

I had forgotten Masters of the Maze, but actually watched it daily after school. JD Roth was the ultimate kid's show host for me. I've been enjoying your article contributions, keep it up!

pikachulover Posted on Jun 27, 2017 at 12:21 AM

My prepubescent neighbor liked to watch Xuxa. His older sister and I thought her show was boring. At first her show was on at a good time like at 9AM then when the ratings dropped they moved it to like 6AM. When I was a teenager I got some jelly shoes and wore them to school circa 1998. All the girls kept calling them Xuxa shoes. I had never heard them called that before. Apparently that's what they call jelly shoes in other parts of the world.

I had never heard of Steampipe Alley until about 2 years ago when I saw somebody mention it in a comment on youtube, and I searched for some clips.

My dad and I used to watch Gladiators 2000 on Sunday mornings. One of Ryan's co-hosts was Valerie Rae Miller who later went onto One Saturday Morning and Dark Angel. My dad had a crush on her. In the fall of 1995 my class went to a taping of Wild Animal Games. Another little known game show. Seacrest was the host. The only reason I knew who he was because I watched Gladiators 2000. None of the other people on that field trip had seen his other show. Anyway Seacrest was a jerk when my friends and I tried to meet him.

OldSchool80s Posted on Jun 22, 2017 at 12:49 PM

Surprisingly, I never even heard of any of these game shows.

NLogan Posted on Jun 21, 2017 at 06:41 PM

I never saw any of these game shows, but I did see Xuxa on Brazilian TV and I have been to the town she was from in Rio Grande do Sul.

Vaporman87 Posted on Jun 21, 2017 at 09:38 AM

I saw exactly NONE of these game shows, but a few of them may have been interesting to me had I actually had the opportunity to watch them. Even as an adult, I've only ever heard of Xuxu and Masters of the Maze from this list. Perhaps this is why nobody speaks of them anymore. Because they were so easily missed and faded quickly into obscurity. At least you've given them some present day love.

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