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Wednesday, March 15

Top Five Game Shows From My Youth: #4 “Family Feud”

The Premise

Two families who you can’t even imagine existing in reality square off in a contest to guess the 100 most popular answers to various survey-type questions, such as “Name a popular color for a car,” or “Tell me a species of animal that is smarter than the people on this show.”

To see who gets “control of the board,” a member of each family goes up to the podium, shakes the other’s hand and then hears the question read. They then press the red button as fast as they can and scream out an answer at the top of their lungs, or, if they think they have a really, really good one, they pause for a second and then whisper it thus highlighting the ensuing raucous screams from their family behind them. Whichever family representative guesses the more popular result on the board wins control of the board for their family. From there, each other family member takes a guess and if they reveal all the answers on the board (typically between three and eight per round) without using up their three big, intimidating red X’s, they win the round. This game is a lot more complicated than I remember.

The Host

Originally, the show was hosted by the inimitable Richard Dawson, who my mother likened to a B-grade porn star (ouch). Unfortunately the majority of his shows aired while I was still pooping in a diaper, so I have little to no recollection outside of any reruns I may have seen. Missing out on the Richard Dawson era is one of the more disappointing discoveries of my life. Apparently, not only was Dawson known to be visibly drunk on the show, slurring his speech and stumbling, but he was also renown for his sexual harassment and overt racism. Sounds like my kind of guy! recounts the following occurrences:

“. . . he almost always kissed the female players, and gave some of the women and their children lollipops from a special "lollipop tree" at the end of each family podium. . . . In one show an African American contestant picked a lollipop with a black stick meaning that the family won a bonus $100. Dawson held the lollipop up to the contestant's skin and asked the crowd if the contestant had a secret advantage. On another show, an Asian family was not ready to answer a question when Dawson asked, so he yelled gibberish Chinese at the family until they turned around and answered.”

This took place ON NATIONAL TELEVISION! I get nervous watching “Law and Order” episodes where a cop makes an off-hand remark like, “They’re all criminals in this neighborhood,” referring to, you know, people who aren’t white. OK, moving on . . .

For the most part, I got stuck with Dawson’s replacement, Ray Combs who, despite his tough sounding name, did not lick the women nor did he spew racial slurs like small talk, which is probably why the ratings went down to the point where Dawson was brought back in the early 90’s, prompting Combs to commit suicide. His children set up the website as a tribute to their father. You should check it out; their efforts at preserving his memory through time are really quite touching.

The Highlights

What wasn’t a highlight on this show? To name a few:

– When the family would want to get together in a huddle to discuss their final answer, but the head of the team would wave them off like a hero saying, “I got it, I got it!” and then blurt out this utterly inane answer.

– There invariably being one member of the family that wasn’t as bright as the others, and everyone knew it, so when it was their turn and the question was “Name something you might accidentally leave on all night” and they answered “Your shoes,” there would be a pause followed by hesitant clapping and mounting cheers of “Good answer! Good answer!”

– Every time a contestant gave an answer, despite how awful it was, it was Combs’ job to make pretend that it might be up on the board and go through the motions of saying, “Show me [answer]!” This invariably led to moments of high comedy when Combs would smile, restraining himself from laughing at their answer and, for suspense, lead into it with: “I asked you to name a dangerous, dangerous piece of playground equipment, you said "a tire." (pause, with family clapping in background) “Show me tire.”

Why I Liked It

It was a game that, even at an age where my mind had only reached a fraction of its developmental capacity, I could still outplay the majority of the competition. The beauty of the game was that you weren’t asked to name what actually were the most popular food items a person might choke on, you were asked what 100 other people thought the most popular food items a person might choke on were. And, even at a young age, I considered myself to be a good study of people.

I often wondered, though, how they actually went about surveying the 100 people. I imagined (I’m not even kidding) how I would respond if someone came to the front door saying they were from “Family Feud” and would I mind if they asked me a few questions. I told myself I would give intelligent, well-reasoned answers, not just so-called “popular answers.” This way, if there ever was an intelligent person on the show and for the question “Name a flower a woman might like to receive,” they answer “a Miltonia orchid!” their answer will be up there.

I was also addicted to the computer game for my Apple 2C.

What Was Wrong With It

I don’t know if it was the quality of the competition or the difficulty of the final Fast Money Round, but I rarely remember anyone actually winning. In the Fast Money Round, one family member was given 15 seconds to answer a series of five questions while another family member went to a mysterious “isolation booth” off stage. Once the first contestant was done, the second contestant came on stage and was given 20 seconds to answer the same five questions, no duplicates allowed. The players earned one point for each person that the "survey says" gave that answer, needing a total of over 200 to win. Routinely families cracked under the pressure giving answers devoid of reason or coherence. It was like watching two teams struggle through a competition on their multiplication tables and when one finally comes out victorious they found out they have to complete a quadratic equation before actually winning. An absolute bloodbath.


Good effort! You know what I liked? When the first contestant in the Fast Money Round would get all 200 points, so they already won, but then they wouldn't tell the second person they won. The host would then ask the second family member a series of made up, goofy questions.

I also liked when they had celebrities, like the male American Gladiators VS the female American Gladiators.

By Blogger Dr. Kenneth Noisewater, at 11:05 PM  

I hadn't the slightest idea that Combs had committed suicide.

The Game Show business isn't one for the faint-of-heart. I have never been able to sit through an entire game show. The drama and tension is just too much. I can't help but wonder how fellow family members treat that poor individual that screwed up their chance for a Carribean cruise or a Cadillac afterwards.

By Blogger Janet, at 11:06 PM  

wow! you did that too?!?! yes, i totally imagined what i would say if family feud wanted to survey me.

...uh really weren't kidding, right?

p.s. you get extra funfetti funny points for the random reference to quadratic equations. nice.

By Blogger Jill, at 11:32 PM  

it is so sad, my Mum was on the Australian version when she was a teenager - and she actually won a set of knives - she still has them, they are like 25 years old.

They have also just started a really sucky version of 'Bert Newton's Family feud' and it is utter CRAP. Noone watches it. Trash go on it.

sigh... so sad.

By Blogger Bunnzy, at 12:39 AM  

i can't be positive, but i believe that the Family Feud bell was recycled for the Charles Bronson Death Wish Body Count on GoogleVideo:

come on. tell me i'm wrong.

By Blogger ducklet, at 1:36 AM  

Oh, loved this show when I was a kid, too!

By Blogger missy, at 2:39 AM  

And most recently there was yet a third host.....that fat comedian with a space between his front teeth. Louie Anderson.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:23 AM  

One of my favourite jokes is one depicting a Jamaican family on Family Feud.

It's down to the last family member, they have two strikes against them, and he has to come up with "fruit starting with the lettter 'A'." His family is yelling things like Apricot! Apples! ... The genius looks at them all, waves them off and says [in a very thick Jamaican accent] "I'm gonna go'on me own wit dis one, and say Aaaaaaarange!"


By Blogger Kelly, at 9:35 AM  

We actually had the board game of family feud as a child. I'm telling you it just went downhill from there!

By Blogger Amy, at 10:57 AM  

When I was growing up, my sister was involved with the local Morman Church. Ray Combs was a missionary, and at one time I got the honor of meeting him. This was way before Family Feud. It is a tradgedy that he died so young.

By Blogger Hunny, at 11:07 AM  

Now the guy who played Al on Home Improvement is hosting it. A few weeks ago I was flipping channels and found male figure skaters versus female figure skaters. It ties in two of your recent post topics: game shows and the Olympics. They had Kurt Browning, Sarah Hughes, and Kristy Yamaguchi on there. Good stuff. I always loved Family Fued.

By Blogger Hope, at 11:12 AM  

Please say Bob Barker is number one...the man is a mummified legend.

"I can name that tune in 3 strokes of a keyboard..." that might be a close second.

By Blogger DC Cookie, at 3:57 PM  

I always liked the very beginning of the show too, when the families were introduced. The camera would zoom in on a big wide door which would suddenly open to reveal the family members poised very still in funny poses. The lighting was dramatic too: when the door first opened you couldn't make out their features, you just saw their dark silhouettes against a colored background, then the bright spotlight would come on lighting them up and the audience would clap and whistle. I especially liked the poses that made it look like the family members had been caught by a snapshot fighting with each other.

By Blogger sadielady, at 6:57 PM  

I'm old enough to remember only watching Richard Dawson. Even in grade seven I thought he was a perv. I didn't know that story about Ray Combs. How sad.

By Blogger Snooze, at 7:01 PM  

This was one of my favorite game shows, before Jeopardy took the airwaves. I used to play along during the fast money round, and pat myself on the back that i could get 150 points on my own. The challenge, though, is if the #1 answers are already taken, you're pretty much screwed.

I used to like it when Ray Combs would try on the women contestent's shoes because his feet were so small. Weird.

By Blogger Carolyn, at 1:49 AM  

Can I get a "hell's yeah" for Classic Concentration?

By Blogger [Disgrundled], at 10:28 AM  

This series is genius, and I eagerly anticipate the next entry.

By Blogger Analyst Catalyst, at 10:40 AM  

Family Fued rules! Even the new version with Al from Home Improvement!
Every once in awhile, I catch the Richard Dawson episodes on the Gameshow Network, and yes, he's a total perv. It's hilarious though.

By Anonymous abigail-road, at 2:34 AM  

My understanding is that the survey of 100 people came at malls in Orange County and the Valley.

My favorite memory was during the speed round, when Dawson was going for a "Bird that flies," and the woman blurted, "Squirrel."

By Anonymous seamus, at 4:33 PM  

Who knows where to download XRumer 5.0 Palladium?
Help, please. All recommend this program to effectively advertise on the Internet, this is the best program!

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:14 PM  

I know this post is old but is so ridiculous and incorrect that I have to say something.

Sorry but Richard Dawson was not known for his sexual harassment or his racism. Kissing women (who were asked if it was alright beforehand, yes that's right) is hardly sexual harassment. The women that appeared on the show didn't mind, so why should you act like it was a crime 20+ years after the fact?

As for racism you are obviously taken what he said out of context. You compared what he said to someone on Law & Order saying "all blacks are criminals" But isn't that a little ridiculous? What exactly did he say that was so offensive? Btw Richard Dawson actually marched with Martin Luther King during the Civil Rights Movement in the 60's, hardly someone I would call a racist.

As for a porn star: no just a game show panelist, host, comedian, and most importantly to him a father. And a single father at that, he raised his two sons on his own since they were toddlers.

He could be a bit arrogant and he had a big head but hardly the devil incarnate you make him out to be.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:53 PM  

And after four years of John O'Hurley, Feud will start next season (September 13) with Steve Harvey as host.

By Blogger Bobby, at 7:57 AM  

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