The 5 Most Ridiculously Unfair Kids Game Shows

Who doesn't like to watch children fail at things? It builds character in them and it makes adults laugh, which is why it inspired a whole era of kid-based game shows in the late '80s and early '90s.

But some of these shows seemed less about fun and more about introducing children to the dark, cruel world they were about to grow up in.

#5. Fun House (1988-1991)

Every good kids' game show challenge involves some type of skill, whether it's knowing the difference between Corey Haim and Corey Feldman, using hand-eye coordination to shoot an arrow plunger at an apple dangling over your mother's head or having the leg strength to push a giant plastic bacteroid on wheels across a finish line.

In the late '80s, the show Fun House said fuck all that and introduced the Slop Machine, a big machine with four booths for the kids to sit in. The host, J.D. Roth, pulled a lever and the giant slot machine spun wheels over each booth until they landed on candy or slop. The three losers got a bunch of sticky shit dumped in their hair while the one lucky winner had packages of hard sugar rain down on their head.

That's right--in order to win this game, you had to do NOTHING. It was like the Wheel of Fortune, if you took away the contestants' ability to solve a puzzle. Or even spin the fucking wheel. It was all luck and you didn't even get to press a buzzer. Your fate was entirely in the hands of pretty boy host J.D. Roth, who was a little too enthusiastic about luring children with the promise of candy and then covering them in goo.

In order to affect whether or not you win this game, you either had to have control over time and space, a special chip you could cash in with God, or a MILF willing to bone the producer to throw the game in your favor.

The Lesson:

You have utterly no control over your own success or failure.

The Only Way It Could Be Worse:

You would have to risk your college savings and all of your parents' future mortgage payments every time J.D. pulls the lever.

#4. Nick Arcade (1992-1993)

While other Nickelodeon game shows like Double Dare encouraged kids to have fun by staying active, Nick Arcade told kids they could achieve the same thing by sitting on their ever-expanding asses and playing video games.

The show combined a mix of trivia, luck and skill challenges along with a healthy dose of gaming. The whole thing was capped off by an ultra fake looking bonus round where the kids would get to do the one thing all gamers hoped technology would let them do (other than bang Lara Croft): star in their own game.

As you can see, the bonus round turned the winning contestants into the stars of a fictional video game consisting of three levels in which they have to retrieve (wave their hands awkwardly in the general direction of) three objects without running out of power or dignity by the time the clock runs out.

The flaw here was that the "video game" up there was just a giant green screen with monitors on either side, so the contestant ended up looking less like Mario, and more like a really inexperienced weatherman trying to point to a tiny, fast moving storm.

Thus, the kid was forced to flail around as if suffering from several crippling disabilities. Hell, they didn't even get any virtual weapons to defend themselves. Even Pac-Man had weapons to fight off the ghosts and he's just a damn head.

The Lesson:

You will be awkward and incompetent in any universe, real or imaginary.

The Only Way It Could Be Worse:

The contestants could have been asked to complete in the bonus round in "Hot Coffee" mode.

#3. GUTS (1992-1995)

Let's face it, watching kids play sports is so boring that even the kids who play them wouldn't watch it. GUTS decided to remedy this problem by incorporating bungee cords into just about every competition known to modern man.

The "elastic" challenges let kids dunk a basketball, spike a volleyball and complete a Marion Jones-esque long jump without having to inject a human growth hormone in their legs. However they quickly ran out of good challenges and invented things like this retarded bungee archery contest.


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Now attaching kids to cords and letting them jump from high distances seemed like a perfect recipe for a lawsuit against MTV Networks, so it appears they shortened up the cords so the contestants' feet barely touched the ground during their approach. Unfortunately, this gave the contestant little control over where they actually would ended up and robbed them of the torque they needed to make it back up the padded stairs, often leaving them to dangle sadly just out of reach.

It must have been frustrating for the contestants as it was hilarious for the audience. If the producers could have kept moving the stairs back every time they reached for it (like a painful game of "Almost Got It" bullies used to play on kids with their lunch money), it would have been a ratings bonanza.

The Lesson:

Skill and practice mean nothing when adults just want to laugh at your failure.

The Only Way It Could Be Worse:

Put the kids' drunk, failed high school athlete fathers on the sidelines screaming "Pussy!" at them every time they fail to fire a foam arrow at a target.

#2. Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? (1991-1996)

Picture this: You're a grade-A student who one day hopes to become a geography grand master. You spend every waking minute studying bizarre continental trivia like obscure countries' capitals, the highest regional mountain ranges and countries that produce the most whiskey per capita. You compete in geography bees from the local to the state to the national level winning everything from t-shirts to scholarships for colleges that your future DeVry friends can't even spell.

Finally,it's about to pay off with a trip to anywhere in the continental United States, thanks to the Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? game show on PBS. All you have to do is ace the final map round, by identifying the countries of South America. And then it all goes to shit.

Yes, the entire challenge depends on the child being able to carry around idiotic light poles that are approximately as big as their entire body. The majority of the time limit ticks off while the girl in the above video tries to line up the wobbly things on the exact spot on the floor, knowing that if she knocks one over and breaks it, PBS can use their government sway to get the IRS to take it out of your parents next tax refund.

Thus Angelique up there loses the bonus round, even though she clearly knows her geography and misses out on a trip, possibly to Oregon to see her grandmother one more time before the cancer takes her away.

The Lesson:

Not even superior knowledge can overcome life's completely arbitrary obstacles.

The Only Way It Could Be Worse:

If the light poles were designed with heating elements to quickly heat up to 300 degrees while the child was carrying them.

#1. I’m Telling! (1987-1988)

If you thought that lie detector show The Moment of Truth crossed the boundaries of good taste by forcing people to air their dirty laundry for large amounts of cash, NBC once stooped even lower by offering the same opportunity to kids in exchange for lesser spoils such as a collection of Hardy Boys novels and a remote controlled robot.

The Saturday morning game show, I'm Telling!, took the concept of The Newlywed Game and made the astonishingly creepy decision to apply it to young siblings by asking them probing questions. Just like The Newlywed Game, the two would have to match their answers for points.

If you're not clear about what's so wrong with it, take a look at this clip of host Laurie Faso asking these girls, who can't be more than 10-years-old, how their parents dish out punishments when their brothers misbehave:

That's right, in order to win this game, you not only have to humiliate your brother or sister on national Saturday morning television, you also had to incriminate your parents and provide Child Protective Services the evidence they need to rip you from your family and stick you in a foster home. Even Laurie Faso seems uncomfortable when the adorable little freckle faced girl specifies that her parents spank her brother "with a belt."

The Lesson:

Your trauma and adults' comedy are one and the same.

The Only Way It Could Be Worse:

Their parents would have to come on stage and reenact the beatings before a panel of judges including Ike Turner, Joshua Jackson and Joan Crawford who would award points based on style, originality and poise.



For more corporation condoned child abuse, check out Danny's look at The 5 Least Surprising Toy Recalls of All-Time or if you're a child yourself, find out how to blow yourself up.

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