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.
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!
Wikipedia.com 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 www.raycombsjr.com as a tribute to their father. You should check it out; their efforts at preserving his memory through time are really quite touching.
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.