WASHINGTON (CNS) — The first writing assignment at Catholic News Service for occasional columnist Elizabeth Rackover Clancy — a wife, mother and sometimes catechist who had once been a Los Angeles-based publicist for the Fox network's prime-time slate — was to explain the success of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?"

Little did she — or the rest of the country — know at the time that "Millionaire" was the harbinger of a new golden era in TV game shows.

The daytime game show nearly seemed marked for extinction not that long ago. But CBS has revived the format, installing Drew Carey as host of "The Price Is Right" following the 2007 retirement of Bob Barker, and more recently recruited Wayne Brady to host the venerable "Let's Make a Deal."

Many shows with their origins in the baby-boom era kept reinventing themselves to solidify their appeal with new audiences.

"The Match Game," with Gene Rayburn hosting, had its original run on NBC in the 1960s. Then, there were two celebrities who captained three-member teams, with two members of the studio audience filling out each squad to match their teammates' answers.

It had its run, but was reincarnated as "Match Game '73" (and '74, and so on) with a six-celebrity panel supplying answers to loaded fill-in-the-"blank" answers to jokes narrated by Rayburn, with two members of the studio audience playing against each other. It was such a hit, "Match Game" spawned its own prime-time edition. It did my young heart good to see that one of the writers was Dick DeBartolo, who was one of "the usual gang of idiots" writing comedy in the Mad magazine of my young teenage years.

"Match Game" also spawned a star of its own in Richard Dawson. Originally one of "Hogan's Heroes" from the 1960s CBS sitcom, he had a deft touch and was snagged by ABC to host its new game show, "Family Feud." That format was so successful it has persevered through the hosting tenures of Dawson, Louie Anderson, Richard Karn, John O'Hurley and others, with Steve Harvey currently hosting a more ribald prime-time version on ABC.

And, truth, be told, to this day I can still get a chuckle out of a supermarket cashier when the checkout is complete, or my doctor's medical assistant at blood-pressure-taking time, when I say, "Survey says ...!"

The original "The Price Is Right," in black-and-white, featured four studio audience members seated — probably due to the clunky camera equipment of its time — as visions of consumer products and services danced before their eyes. It wasn't until the 1970s when backstage announcer Johnny Olson would tell lucky audience members to "come on down!"

"Jeopardy!" may be the stuffiest game show on TV today, but the 1960s and '70s version was downright staid. Was that due to Art Fleming being the host? Or the fact that an encyclopedia company got a promotional pitch with each episode? One thing's for sure: It was so square that NBC transferred its offscreen announcer, Don Pardo, to its silliest program, "Saturday Night Live," where he was a fish-out-of-water fixture for 38 seasons until his death in 2014.

The syndicated version of "Jeopardy!" hosted by the late Alex Trebek dating back to 1984 marks a milestone in keeping viewers engaged on a five-nights-a-week basis. "Wheel of Fortune," with which it is frequently paired, seems like a junior partner, even though it debuted a year earlier, in 1983. But Vanna White was the subject of far more supermarket tabloid gossip than Trebek ever was.

Look at the network prime-time schedules, and you'll see it dotted with game shows. ABC features some combination of "Card Sharks," "Match Game," "Supermarket Sweep," "Family Feud," "Wheel of Fortune," a new version of "Millionaire," and yet another oldie but goodie, "To Tell the Truth." CBS has shown a prime-time version of "The Price Is Right." NBC revived "The Weakest Link," a decidedly meaner quiz show than "Millionaire," and just gave the green light to a second season of 13 episodes.

A few years ago, Fox rolled out a game show called "Can You Beat Shazam?", the song-identifying app. When it debuted, I thought to myself, "This is just a tricked-up version of 'Name That Tune,'" whose lineage dates back to 1953 — 1952, if you include radio. Sure enough, the summertime success of "Shazam" has wrought a revival on Fox of "Name That Tune."

Why the surfeit of game shows? Everybody knows how the games are played. They are easy and cheap to produce, even with the big payouts for top winners. A production crew can knock off a week's worth of half-hour episodes in one day. And, in the current coronavirus climate, the stage interactions can be largely tailored to maintain social distancing a lot more easily than action-packed dramas.

But if you miss the originals of these and other game shows, look up the Buzzr channel, either as an over-the-air subchannel or a high-up channel number on your satellite system.