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One of the first game shows for kids, Shenanigans was an updated version of the primetime/daytime hit Video Village.
The premise was simple enough: Kids competed on a three-dimensional board, rolling dice in order to move to different spaces. After reaching a space, the contestants would have to answer a question or perform a stunt successfully in order to continue.
Basically, this was a giant board game in which the players were their own game pieces – a truly novel idea for the time. Kids loved the programme, not just for the fun, but because it was one of the first game shows with questions they could answer themselves.
Shenanigans began as a local show in New York and was eventually picked up by ABC, with Milton Bradley as a sponsor (The game manufacturer also produced a home version available in stores).
Stubby Kaye, who was well known for his many character roles in films like Guys and Dolls (1955) and Cat Ballou (1965), hosted the programme. His announcer, Kenny Williams, would often pop up as a cop, standing as an obstacle to the kids’ adventure.
And the fabulous prizes themselves – toys, bikes, TV’s – were all suspended from the set’s ceiling, constantly teasing players with the hope of loot to come.
Shenanigans was an idea well ahead of its time. Game shows for kids were hard to find until the children’s network Nickelodeon reincarnated the concept in the 1980’s.
Even then, the Shenanigans influence was evident, with many Nick game shows borrowing the concepts and techniques the earlier show had pioneered.