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  • The best (and worst) celebrity game show hosts, from Peyton Manning to Rob Lowe – USA TODAY

 June 22

by Carolina


Who is the best celebrity to try their hand at game show hosting? Final answer?

As the summer TV season begins, game shows are taking over the broadcast airwaves, which means that you’ll be soon be seeing former Super Bowl champion Peyton Manning’s new job asking college kids trivia questions on NBC’s “College Bowl” (premiering Tuesday, 10 EDT/PDT).

Once upon a time, a young and hungry whippersnapper might have become famous by hosting a game show. But networks are increasingly luring A-list celebrities from Elizabeth Banks (“Press Your Luck”) to Dwyane Wade (“The Cube”) to emcee their series. Some of them are passable as hosts, although we probably don’t have anyone as talented as the legendary Alex Trebek or Regis Philbin in the mix. 

From the good to the bad to the just plain boring, we rank some of the most prominent celebrities who have tried their hand at helping everyday people compete for fabulous cash and prizes. 

More: The best and worst ‘Jeopardy!’ guest hosts, from Savannah Guthrie to Mayim Bialik

The best

1. Leslie Jones, “Supermarket Sweep”

ABC (Returns Fall 2021)

No current game-show host has more enthusiasm than “Saturday Night Live” alum Jones in this grocery store-set classic. But her loud, manic energy is exactly what you need for a competition in which contestants answer trivia questions and then race to stuff the most items possible into a shopping cart. Jones’ energy carries the series even when the “sweepers” are lackluster. 

2. Rob Lowe, “Mental Samurai”

Fox (Tuesdays, 9 EDT/PDT)  

Always a delight on screen, Lowe is hilariously judgmental about the intellectual capacity of the contestants on this quiz show that bounces competitors around in a large robot/amusement park ride as they answer trivia, pattern and memory questions. He’s charming, has good jokes and banter with the contestants, and tries his best to take a strange show seriously. Although even Lowe isn’t a miracle worker. 

3. Jane Lynch, “The Weakest Link,” “Hollywood Game Night”


Lynch is a seasoned comedian with an imposing presence, making her the ideal personality to dole out barbs and “goodbyes” on NBC’s new version of “Link,” famously hosted by the icy Anne Robinson in its original U.K. incarnation and on NBC when it first aired in 2001. “Link” is a quiz show in which contestants rack up money as a team in rounds, voting out the “weakest link” until the final two compete head to head for the cash. Lynch channels her “Glee” persona on the show, but her alter ego on the celebrity-friendly “Hollywood Game Night,” in which celebs compete for charity in party-style games, is far more welcoming. It’s a testament to her skills that Lynch can switch between them easily. 

4. Jimmy Kimmel, “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?”


He’s no Regis, but he isn’t half bad. Kimmel took over the most recent version of the millionaire-making game show in 2020, sitting in the chair that has been occupied by Philbin, Meredith Vieira, Chris Harrison, Cedric the Entertainer and Terry Crews . Kimmel brings more humor to the show, in which contestants answer progressively harder trivia questions for increasing amounts of money, and one wrong answer sends them home, than his predecessors, which makes sense given his credentials. He seems more of an ally to the contestants than an objective observer. In this version of the game, half the contestants are celebrities competing for charity, and during their turns the vibe feels more like a casual game of Trivial Pursuit than a high-stakes game show. 

5. Joel McHale, “Card Sharks”

ABC (Wednesdays, 10 EDT/PDT)

The “Community” and “The Soup” alum is no stranger to a cocky, snarky persona, which he brings to the revival of the game show based on guessing whether cards drawn from a deck will be higher or lower. As contestants answer “survey says” style questions and guess their cards, McHale is quippy, smarmy and fun, exactly the right tone for a show that could be boring in the wrong hands. 

6. Anthony Anderson, “To Tell the Truth”

ABC (Sundays, 10 EDT/PDT) 

A panel of celebrities tries to guess who’s telling the truth and who is lying among three people, all of whom claim to be the same person with a fabulous talent or job. Anderson, who also stars in ABC’s “Black-ish,” is the ideal, chummy host for the casual series. With the help of his opinionated mother, Doris Hancox, Anderson keeps the laughs going in each episode. 

7. Elizabeth Banks, “Press Your Luck”

ABC (Wednesdays, 8 EDT/PDT)

This revival tweaks the formula of the corny original, but still involves contestants answering trivia questions and spinning for cash and prizes, while avoiding the “whammies” that cost them all their money. Banks isn’t a comedian cracking jokes at the contestants, but she has the authority, big cheesy voice and smile of an old-time host,  such as Gene Rayburn or Dick Clark. She is sympathetic and feels the contestants’ every painful “whammy” and joyful win. 

The worst

1. Peyton Manning, “College Bowl”

NBC (Tuesdays, 10 EDT/PDT)

Manning has quick moves on the football field, but he’s not quite fast enough to match the smarts of the college-student contestants on this revival of the classic series. Teams of college students representing their universities compete in the knowledge bowl answering tough academic questions, and are faster and wittier than the host at times. Manning is dull at best and distracting at worst, and unfortunately his older brother Cooper cracking lame jokes at his side doesn’t help.

2. Zooey Deschanel and Michael Bolton, “Celebrity Dating Game”

ABC (Mondays, 10 EDT/PDT) 

This retro-style revival of the classic 1970s “Dating Game” is probably better as the format for a good “Saturday Night Live” sketch than an actual game show. Three eligible bachelors or bachelorettes are vying for a mystery celebrity (such as “Bachelorette” alum Hannah Brown or comedian Nicole Byers), who asks them questions to try to pick their preferred mystery date. The lackluster series is not helped by Deschanel as the endlessly peppy, bland host, who offers little. She is slightly saved, however, by Bolton, whose clue-filled musical riffs are the most entertaining part of the series. 

3. Steve Harvey, “Celebrity Family Feud”

ABC (Sundays, 8 EDT/PDT)

Harvey is the kind of host/comedian whom viewers either love or hate, so fans of his talk show probably enjoy the energy he brings to “Feud,” in which famous contestants try to name the most popular response to survey questions to win money for charity. But for others, Harvey is grating, unfunny and a bit of a self-parody, and a distracting voice during a usually entertaining game. 

4. Jamie Foxx, “Beat Shazam”

Fox (Thursdays, 8 EDT/PDT)  

Foxx isn’t so much a bad host as he is just a little too famous for this show, in which contestants try to name that tune (not to be confused with Fox’s actual “Name that Tune” revival, hosted by Jane Krakowski) faster than other teams and eventually, song-naming app Shazam. Foxx and his daughter (and show D.J.) Corinne pull the focus away from the contestants and the music, both of which are already hard enough to notice amid the giant ad for the app. 

5. Craig Ferguson, “The Hustler”

(ABC (Thursdays, 10 EDT/PDT) 

This dull quiz show, in which contestants try to find out who among them is the lying “hustler” playing their own game, is a huge waste of Ferguson, a wonderful comedian underappreciated during his time on “The Late Late Show.” Although producers try to make the show self-referential and witty, the writing falls flat, and so does the actual competition, as Ferguson flits in the background in elaborate costumes. 

6. Alec Baldwin, “Match Game”


Baldwin was a genial, comfortable host when he started emceeing the revived “Match Game,” in which contestants try to match answers given by famous panelists to fill-in-the-blank questions, in 2016. But the longer the series is on the air the more the frequent “SNL” actor appears to be just phoning it in. 

7. Michael Strahan, “The $100,000 Pyramid”

ABC (Wednesdays, 9 EDT/PDT) 

Strahan is a usually likable, broad host on “Good Morning America” and brings that same generic energy to “Pyramid,” in which contestants paired with celebrities in a catchphrase-style game, guessing the answers to clues without using the forbidden words. But with funnier, more magnetic personalities often playing the game, Strahan falls a little flat next to the guests in many episodes. 

More: ‘Celebrity Dating Game’ hosts Zooey Deschanel, Michael Bolton dish on the revamped classic

Original posted at www.usatoday.com

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