The UK has been a television pioneer in many ways. Aside from the BBC being the oldest continually broadcasted service in history, British producers have created and popularised various forms of television for decades.
The first-ever game show, Spelling Bee, was broadcast on British televisions all the way back in 1938, and since then many of the most well-known game shows on the planet have originated in Blighty. There’s plenty of competition, but these are the very best British game shows in history.
1. University Challenge
After the first episode aired back in 1962 (which was won by the University of Leicester), University Challenge has gone on to produce a staggering 913 episodes spanning 47 series, making it one of the longest-running game shows ever. The show brings together teams from different UK universities to answer incredibly difficult quiz topics on everything from classical composers to quantum physics. The British version is currently broadcast in dozens of countries and has become something of a cult hit in other parts of the world, while countries such as Australia, New Zealand, and India now produce their own version.
2. Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?
This might be one of the most successful British television exports ever. Hundreds of millions of people around the world have viewed it, with different versions being produced and broadcast in 160 countries. The British version remains one of the most popular game shows ever over 20 years since it first aired, with new host Jeremy Clarkson pulling in strong viewing figures. In total, UK Who Wants to Be a Millionaire has awarded over £58 million in prize money, with five people bagging the top prize. These days, people continue to enjoy the show via video game spin-offs, including branded jackpot slots from Leo Vegas, which is also an official sponsor of the show.
Countdown is one of the longest-running game shows in history, one that currently holds the Guinness World Record for the most series of a TV game show broadcast, with a whopping 80 series under its belt. The iconic countdown theme is recognised worldwide, with the UK version alone being broadcast in dozens of countries. Spin-off versions have been produced in over 20 countries, including the US, Australia, Israel, Turkey, and The Netherlands. Meanwhile, merchandise such as the Countdown Board Game and the official app have sold millions of units.
4. The Chase
The final entrant to this list is also the most recent one. Despite first airing barely ten years ago, The Chase has proven to be a global success on the same scale as just about every other game show referenced here. The original UK version is broadcast regularly as far afield as New Zealand, whilst countries such as China, Germany, the US, Finland, and Russia now produced their own licensed versions. There are already 1403 episodes of the UK Chase, all of which have managed to maintain a steady viewership of between 3-5 million, something most other shows would kill for.
Television is one of the UK’s most successful and powerful cultural exports. There will doubtless be many other shows from these isles that will find global success in the future.