• Image about wipeout-abc-alex-trebek-chuck-barris-seuss-americanway

Though the weather’s hot, the TV programming usually isn’t. But if thrills, spills, and quiz shows are your thing, you’ll have plenty to tune in to.


PICTURE TWO BARE-CHESTED GROWN MEN in diapers and baby bonnets dizzily riding tricycles across narrow ramps in a race to swan dive into a giant tub of milk. It isn’t an image sheared from the hidden journals of Dr. Seuss. Instead, it’s a scene from ABC’s 2008 summer game-show hit I Survived a Japanese Game Show, which is returning in July for an eight-week run.

While the centuries have been kind to high-stakes, warm-weather competitions, thanks largely to the Greeks and their Olympics, today’s game shows are, by and large, reaching for a different kind of brass ring. For that matter, most of the contemporary game-show offerings are of a different color -- specifically, black and blue -- than the more conservative classics such as Jeopardy!

Alex Trebek, the legendary host and producer of Jeopardy!, says that the sensational and grotesque have long been an aspect of the game-show genre. “Today’s game shows, where people have to do absurd physical competitions and eat disgusting things, are in the spirit of Chuck Barris’s [The Gong Show], and there’s obviously a market for that. People will slow down to look at car crashes,” Trebek says. “Jeopardy! has never been a part of that. We’re on the other side of that coin, in that we appeal to people’s higher principles -- their aspirations and goals and desires to be more than they are.”

Whether you prefer high-IQ brainteasers (like Jeopardy!, now in its 25th season) or high-flying physical challenges (like Wipeout, in its second), this summer’s TV lineup has plenty of game-show action for you. Here’s a sampling of what’s to come.

Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?

Fox; premieres Friday, June 26, at eight p.m. (EDT)
In this quiz show, ably fronted by redneck comedian Jeff Foxworthy, adult contestants -- abetted by an intellectually nimble panel of elementary school students -- tackle grade school questions on their way to a million dollars. As it turns out, most of us should pack an extra apple for the teacher, because we sure can’t win this thing on smarts alone.

Catch 21

Game Show Network, weeknights at 6:30 p.m. (EDT)
This homage to classic contests like Gambit and Top Card mixes blackjack with trivia for a perfect summer chiller. It’s hosted by Alfonso Ribeiro -- yes, Carlton from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air -- and airs on the Game Show Network. Tired of watching other people have all the fun? The show’s website lets viewers compete at home for a chance to win prizes.

I Survived a Japanese Game Show

ABC; premieres Wednesday, July 8, at nine p.m. (EDT)
Set in Japan, this game show about making a game show is peppered with humiliating competitions, Survivor-style evictions, and a giant cash prize. The combination of fish-out-of-water pratfalls, Rube Goldberg–style games, and exotic locales makes this one a good guilty pleasure.

The Newlywed Game

Game Show Network, weeknights at six p.m. (EDT)
This evergreen from game-show guru Chuck Barris has been given a Game Show Network face-lift. New host Carnie Wilson puts the unsuspecting hubbies and wives through the requisite wringer, dishing out questions boiling over with double entendre, sexual innuendo, and Divorce Court potential.


Wipeout

ABC, Wednesdays at eight p.m. (EDT)
An Americanized version of a hit Japanese extreme game show, Wipeout, as its title implies, is all about the pratfall, the slapstick, and the comic carnage. Contestants compete in a variety of gonzo physical tests, often defying gravity, logic, and good sense all at once. The result is hour upon hour of outtakes in the style of America’s Funniest Home Videos.