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A generic, digitally-drawn representation of the original Family Feud logo, seen in various color schemes from 1976-95.

Let's play the Feud!

Family Feud is a Game Show from Mark Goodson Productions in which two families compete to guess the most popular answers to survey questions. Richard Dawson was the original host when the show debuted on ABC. The original version began in 1976, with a concurrent syndication run starting up a year later; both ended in 1985 within a month of each other.

Ray Combs was the host of the first Family Feud Revival on CBS and in syndication starting in 1988. The CBS show was renamed Family Feud Challenge in 1992, with the syndicated version being renamed The New Family Feud later that year. While a ratings success, Combs never quite caught on with fans and critics like Dawson did, so when ratings dipped (and the show started bringing on B/C-List celebrities and professional wrestlers as contestants as a gimmick) Combs was fired and Dawson came back for one last season before the show was mercifully removed from the airwaves. It was revived again in 1999, and has had four hosts so far: Louie Anderson, Richard Karn, John O'Hurley and current host Steve Harvey. This version has managed to outlast the original.

The show spawned a popular British version as well, renamed Family Fortunes. Hosted by Bob Monkhouse (1980-83), Max Bygraves (1983-85), Les Dennis (1987-2002) Andy Collins (2002) and Vernon Kay (2006-present).

Combs and Dawson died 16 years apart to the day: Combs in 1996 from suicide, and Dawson from esophageal cancer.

Game Show Tropes in use:

  • Bonus Round: Fast Money, present in all versions. Two contestants from the winning family are brought out and, one at a time, asked five survey questions, with their totals added up for their answers (answers cannot be repeated; if the second contestant gives a duplicate answer, he or she is asked to give another). If the total is at least 200, the family wins a cash jackpot, and if below the family receives $5 a point. Over time, the only changes have been in the time limit and amount of cash offered for a win (yes, even after all these years, losses are still $5 a point).
  • Bonus Space: A variant. From 1983-85, wooden "trees" with Tootsie Roll Pops were placed at the end of each family's table. When the fifth contestant on each team was introduced, they would draw a lollipop from the "tree". If it had a black stem, that family received a $100 bonus (counted toward their final winnings, not their in-game score). This gimmick evolved from Dawson's love of lollipops, which he would often give to winning teams, and a lollipop tree that one family gave him as a gift.
  • Complacent Gaming Syndrome: On the Dawson version, the contestant who gave the higher answer at the podium could choose to have his or her family play the question, or pass it to the opposing family; passes were extremely rare. The Combs/Dawson '94 versions did not have the play/pass option, but it returned with the Anderson version.
    • Lampshaded in the Mad Magazine parody Family Fools when one family asks Dawson what happens if they decide to pass and he admits he has no idea since no one ever does it.
  • Confetti Drop: Starting with the Combs version, balloons would generally be released upon tournament wins.
  • Consolation Prize: In addition to the aforementioned Bonus Round consolation of $5 per point, during the syndicated Dawson era (starting somewhere around 1978 and continuing to the end of the run), he would often give the losing family $250 as a consolation just for playing.
    • Initially, main game values were in dollars, not points, so whatever the losing family had accumulated over the course of the game was theirs to keep. This was thrown out when the Bullseye round was introduced.
  • Double the Dollars, or triple 'em even.
  • Game Show Winnings Cap: Originally five wins. The last year of the CBS version and the syndicated run from 1992-95 had no limit. The original syndicated version and Anderson's episodes threw out returning champions entirely, but the limit returned when Karn began hosting. Beginning in the 2009-10 season, families who win 5 games in a row also win a new car. Feud remains the only game to use returning champions with an appearance limit.
  • Golden Snitch: The points in the final survey are so ridiculously overvalued, you wonder why they bother playing the first few rounds at all.
    • Even worse with the one-Strike rule from 1999-2003 where one family could sweep the first three rounds, then lose because of one bad answer in the Triple round.
  • Let's Just See What Would Have Happened: Done on occassion, particularly if a family didn't do well in Fast Money, or if Fast Money was won (with a score of exactly or just over 200) at a point where the remaining answers would not have produced a win.
    • On at least one show (from 1978), where a team got only 63 points (and $315) in Fast Money, Dawson brought the answer list onstage and consulted with the family, saying in essence that if they had given the top answers, they would have scored much higher.
    • In several Combs-era shows, if the winning points came before the fifth question, and the last answers would have scored zero or not enough to reach 200 points, he would sometimes point this out.
  • Personnel:
    • The Announcer: Gene Wood (1976-95), Burton Richardson (1999-2010), Joey Fatone (in the loosest sense of the word, from 2010-present).
    • Game Show Host: Richard Dawson (1976-85, 1994-95), Ray Combs (1988-94), Louie Anderson (1999-2002), Richard Karn (2002-2006), John O'Hurley (2006-2010), Steve Harvey (2010-present).
  • Retired Game Show Element: During the last seasons of the Combs era and the 1994-95 Dawson era, the game began with a "Bullseye" (later "Bankroll") round to determine how much the families would play for if they reached Fast Money. This round was removed when the Anderson version started.
    • It was revived for O'Hurley's final season, then removed once again when Steve Harvey took over.
  • Sound Proof Booth: During Fast Money, the second contestant was originally placed in one while the first contestant gave his or her answers. Now, the second contestant is given sound-blocking headphones instead.
  • Sudden Death: Present since the return to Single-Single-Double-Triple. If neither team has reached 300 after four rounds, a Sudden Death round is played with Triple point values and a question for which the #1 answer is typically in the 70s or higher. Whoever is first to ring in with the right answer wins the game.
Tropes used in Family Feud include:
  • Affectionate Parody:
    • Barbara Mandrell's variety show for NBC (Barbara Mandrell and the Mandrell Sisters) had a Feud parody with the three Mandrell sisters as one family and three of The Statler Brothers as the other. The Statlers' bass singer, Harold Reid, played a hilariously Flanderized parody of Richard Dawson ("Richie Kissy") who hit on the Mandrell sisters excessively, kissed them at every turn and tilted the game ridiculously in their favor while treating the other three Statlers as Butt Monkeys.
      • Became Hilarious in Hindsight when the Mandrells and Statlers actually appeared on the show during a special week at Opryland in 1993. The Mandrell Sisters played with their parents, and the Statlers featured Brenda Lee and Jimmy Fortune (who replaced original member Lew DeWitt, who had retired in 1982 and died in 1990) in their lineup.
    • Old Navy, of all things. In late 2002, the company aired a series of commercials called "Family Fleece" — a parody of Combs-era Feud with a remarkably-accurate set, including actual parts used in the Combs era.
  • Catch Phrase: "(Our) survey said!" and "Let's play the Feud!", present in all versions.
    • Ray Combs had his own spin on the phrase with "What did our survey say?", sometimes substituting "the" for "our" and "(random verb)" for "say".
    • "Good answer!", used even on obviously bad answers. Mostly used to either make the contestant feel better after their goof up or if the family really believes the answer was a good one.
    • Sometimes when a contestant gave a particularly silly/stupid answer, Dawson would say "The dreaded (contestant's answer)".
  • Crossover: Just about every late-1970s/early-1980s Top-20 ABC show made an appearance on primetime Feud specials during the Dawson era. The Price Is Right and CBS soap operas appeared for charity during the Combs run.
  • Corpsing: Richard Dawson completely lost it more than once on the show, most notably during the "September" round.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Richard Dawson had his moments, as did Ray Combs. Steve Harvey also seems to love being one, which is refreshing to see.
  • Deconstructive Parody: In addition to the above Sopranos sketch, MADtv also featured a Feud sketch with a deadpan Will Sasso as Louie Anderson, mocking his bored expressions and disinterest in the program:

 Louie: (looks heavenward) Dear Lord...if you have any mercy on me please just kill me right now. Come on, do it! Strike me down, please! ...ah, I guess He's busy. Play the Feud, yeah...

  • Dutch Angle: Used to ridiculous extremes on the Karn era: the camera would tilt and spin going into and out of every commercial break. In later seasons, the spins were fast enough to give viewers whiplash.
  • Feuding Families: One week of episodes during the Dawson era pitted decendents of the Hatfields going against decendents of the McCoys, complete with shotguns, "Triple X" moonshine jugs and a decendent of the pig that started the original conflict awarded to the winning family.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Humorously averted by Combs; occasionally the first contestant in Fast Money will get 200 points on their own. He would then prank the other contestant by telling them the first contestant did poorly and then proceeding to ask them gag questions before revealing that they had already won. This is one example.
  • Foreign Remake / Market-Based Title: As above, Family Fortunes. In Latin America, it's "100 [nationality] Said". In parts of Europe it's "5 vs. 5". In France it's "Une famille en or" ("A golden family") Japan, who usually keeps the native titles of foreign TV shows, changed it to "Quiz: We Asked 100 People", possibly because family teams were not used on that version.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Many examples:
    • On a The Price Is Right vs. The Young and The Restless special during the Ray Combs era, a Fast Money Question was "Name a animal whose leg you eat". Price's Holly stumbled and said "I don't eat legs, I'm a vegetarian." After she got a laugh from that, Ray said "Gee, now I wish I were a vegetable..."
    • One game show fan book from the late 1970s noted that some questions could possibly be answered with replies referring to penis (such as "Name something that you put in your mouth that isn't swallowed" ... and the male privates wasn't one of the answers.) Neither was it when asked on the Harvey vesion, although one contestant responded (while trying to stifle her giggle) "sperm."
    • Especially prevalent with the Steve Harvey-hosted version from 2010, such as "We asked 100 men — Name a part of your body that was larger than it was when you were 16," to which a female contestant said "penis." Many of the front game answers implying or referring to sex, private parts, "the bird" and masturbation are replaced with obvious euphemisms.
      • At least one question was replaced due to a concern about what an answer referred to, although it has been seen on YouTube. The question asked what James Bond does in a sexy way, to which the contestant replied, "Shoots his weapon" (perhaps meaning, uses a gun or similar automatic weapon); the audience began laughing uproariously as Harvey shook his head in mock disgust, figuring the contestant meant "ejaculates from his weapon (i.e., "penis") when having sex with a woman."
    • Parodied in the Mad spoof of the show (Family Fools), where the contestant answers "Make love" to everything in Fast Money and wins. (Amusingly, the parody was written by Dick DeBartolo, who was also a Goodson-Todman writer at the time.)
  • Grand Finale:
    • The last ABC episode featured the aforementioned speech.
    • Ray Combs' last show (May 27, 1994) was less than grand, with the second Fast Money contestant scoring zero points. Ray not only ribbed the guy on it, but his response after the fourth zero showed that yes, he knew this was his last day.

 Ray: You know, I've done this show for six years and this could be the first time that I had a person that actually got no points and... I think it's a damn fine way to go out. Thought I was a loser 'til you walked up here; you made me feel like a man.

  • I'm Going to Hell For This: Some of the more absurd answers (that are actually on the board!) elicit this kind of response from Steve Harvey.
  • Inflation Negation: On the daytime show, the top prize was $5,000 from the show's beginning in 1976 to when the Bullseye round was introduced in 1992 [1]. The current syndicated version used a $10,000 top prize until 2001, same as the 1977-85 syndicated run. Cumulative inflation during those years was 188%, meaning the top prize had about a third of its former buying power before they upped the stakes.
    • Fast Money losses are $5 a point to this day; this has remained unchanged since the very beginning.
  • Jerkass: Dawson could be downright mean both on- and off-set. He barred producer Howard Felsher from appearing on-camera; he would often insult particularly stupid contestants (although he usually did not mean to come off as mean); he would throw tantrums over something as simple a burnt-out light bulb; and his ego was uncontrollable. (As a prime example of his ego, he declined an interview with TV Guide for a game show article, saying he wouldn't be interviewed unless they put him, and only him, on the cover. Keep in mind that said article interviewed several other hosts, all of whom appeared together on the cover together. All of the other hosts interviewed had rather unkind words to say about Dawson's mannerisms; Monty Hall in particular criticized Dawson's show-opening monologues.) By the time that Dawson was re-hired for the final season of the Feud revival in 1994, he had mellowed considerably.
    • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: However, he did have moments of sweetness, including a very heartfelt speech on the final episode. He also tried to put the contestant and the game first whenever possible — debating with the judge to rule over "close" answers, allowing more time if they didn't hear the final question in Fast Money, rewarding contestants with lollipops, etc. His deriding of obviously bad answers were meant to be taken in jest. During the original syndicated series, Dawson gave losing families $250 in consolation just for playing (if they failed to reach that amount). Finally, countless families gave him gifts over the years, so he couldn't have been that bad a guy.
  • Large Ham: Richard Karn. He was fond of shouting "I'M DOUBLING/TRIPLING THE POINTS!" before the Double and Triple rounds, and "TWENTY THOUSAND DOLLARS!" (followed by studio applause) before the Fast Money.
  • Leave the Camera Running: A common trait in the Harvey era — stuff that would normally get edited out, such as discussing an answer with the judge, gets left in because of Harvey's reaction.
  • Long Runners: Although it's on its fourth host, the current revival has lasted 12 consecutive years, putting it three years ahead of the original Dawson era.
  • Mythology Gag: Many over the show's history, more often than not involving competing families who had been on the show in the past. Also former Feud hosts' names have often been used as answers to survey questions; asked at least once on the show was "Name a host of Family Feud."

 Contestant: My family was on this show once before, and I kissed the host. Have you ever kissed Richard Dawson?

Ray Combs: No, I can't say that I have.

    • One GSN ad featured a clip of a woman after being told that Combs doesn't kiss the female contestants 'like the other guy' saying "Oh, you're gonna kiss me, Honey!" and forcing a kiss on the bemused Combs.
  • Nepotism: Dawson's son worked on the show for a while. Goodson-Todman once gave him a Take That by changing everyone's surname to Dawson in the credits, perhaps the first Credits Gag in game show history.
    • That culminated in a rather blatant example of egotism:

 Dawson: Name a man in show business who also has a son in show business.

Contestant (after ringing in): Richard Dawson.

Dawson: (turns to board) Me!

(buzzer sounds)

Dawson: Where did you take this survey?!

  • No Indoor Voice: Karn, as noted above. Same with Burton Richardson.
  • Obvious Beta: The 1976 pilot for NBC used a different set, different sound effects, and different Strike graphics. Further, all rounds were Single-value with first to $200 winning.
  • Once an Episode: During the original series, Dawson kissed every single female contestant. Including Gretchen Johnson, who later became his wife. The kissing wasn't there when Richard returned in 1994, because Dawson pledged to his daughter that he wouldn't kiss "anyone but mommy".
  • Opening Narration: "It's time for the Family Feud![2] Introducing [3] the [name] family: [name], [name], [name], [name], and [name], ready for action! And [4] the [name] family: [name], [name], [name], [name], and [name]. On your marks... let's start... the Family Feud! With the star of Family Feud, Richard Dawson!" The first part was abbreviated to "Introducing the [name] family, ready for action! And the [name] family!" near the end of Dawson's run. Rinse and repeat for the Combs version, with any changes marked with asterisks above, then reverted with the 1994-95 Dawson run.
    • The introduction of the Bullseye round saw Gene Wood asking a survey question at the top of the show, then depending on what version you were watching either he would give the #1 answer himself or Combs would come onstage and do so after he was introduced.
    • With the 1999 Retool: "You're about to see these two teams battle it out, for a chance to win $10,000/$20,000 in cash! 'Cause it's time to plaaaaaay...the Family FEUUUUUD!"
  • Rearrange the Song: The show's iconic theme song is a remix of a music cue from The Price Is Right with a banjo line added. The Combs version remixed the theme in stereo, removed the banjo and added a synth drum line. Upon Dawson's return in 1994, the show used a markedly different jazz orchestration. Louie's version used its own generic "party" theme. Both Karn's and O'Hurley's runs alternated between a different "party" theme and an edit of the Combs theme. And once Harvey took over, the Combs theme became official again.
  • Recycled Soundtrack:
    • The last bar of the theme was used as a victory cue on the short-lived game show Trivia Trap.
    • The Australian version used a remix of the theme from the American game show Second Chance, which itself was recycled from the 1976 revival of I've Got a Secret.
  • Recursive Import: As mentioned above, the original theme was a remix of a new-car cue on The Price Is Right. Price has since recursively used the last few bars as an introductory sting for the Grand Game.
  • Retool: When the show was revived into its current run in 1999, producers did away with everything familiar about the show except the gameplay — the "Whitman's Sampler" set, the theme song, and even the logo was thrown out in favor of a new, "hipper" one. (Fast-forward a decade and you'll find that many of these elements have {in some form or another} returned.)
  • Retraux: The Dawson-era set was intentionally designed with an old-fashioned, "homey" atmosphere in mind with its beige carpet, wood-grain podiums, and sampler-style name boards.
  • Running Gag: Dawson kissing all the women as mentioned above, a hot-button issue at the time (old-timer Dawson scrapped this for his 1994 return, at his daughter's request).
  • Shout-Out: After both families failed to reveal all the answers on the question "Name a phrase with the word 'home' in it", Karn turned to the audience and shouted "I know! What about Home Improvement?!"
  • The Show Must Go On: Dawson said in an interview that he absolutely hated stopdowns, and would demand that the staff work around anything that they possibly could so that the studio audience wouldn't lose interest. This led to such oddities as the Fast Money round being played on cue cards because the electronic board went on the fritz.
  • Spin-Off: Celebrity Family Feud, patterned after the 1976-85 version's frequent nighttime celebrity specials, aired in Summer 2008 with Al Roker as host. The show had to censor an answer within several minutes of the Premiere (a testament to how Roker was as a host: he nicknamed the offending answer "Captain Winky"). This, coupled with the fact that the visiting cast of My Name Is Earl seemed to be intentionally-stupid with their answers and not care about the $50,000 jackpot, equaled a definite Cancellation.
    • Bizarrely, the My Name Is Earl team was the characters, who were appearing on the show against the cast of other shows. Huh?
  • Strange Minds Think Alike: The bane of Steve Harvey's existence. Especially so after he rails against a really stupid answer a contestant gives and yells at the family for applauding it, only for said stupid answer to be on the board. He's been visibly stunned at times.
    • For example, when the survey was "Name something that gets passed around". The guy immediately buzzes in with "a joint". What follows is possibly the most hilarious moment in the show's history. It must be seen to be believed.
  • This Is Gonna Suck: Inverted with "Name a part of a woman's body that's usually bigger than a man's.", when Harvey was really looking forward to the answers.
  • Unusual Euphemism: Seen regularly on the board since the beginning of the 2011-2012 season. To wit: We've seen "A 'man sausage'," "Man berries," and "Meat missile" (all of which should be fairly self-explanatory), but the one that could possibly take the cake is "Blow the butt bugle."
  • What the Hell, Player?: If a contestant gives a very stupid answer, some hosts (read: everyone except Richard Karn) have been known to either call them out for it, or give them a "prize". Before Steve Harvey took over, Richard Dawson was the undisputed king of this.
    • When Anderson hosted the show, if a contestant gave a very stupid answer, they would receive a dunce cap for the stupidest answer of the day.
    • Harvey will call the contestant(s) out if they give a very stupid answer. For example:

 Steve: this bad economy, what might Santa have to do to one of his reindeer?

Michael: Eat one.

(audience laughs)

Steve: ...

(family applauds Michael)


    • Of course, the family gets the last laugh when it's on the board.

"Love ya, see you here on the Feud, buh-bye."

  1. (inflation in the US during that span was 147%)
  2. this part was stricken for the Combs version
  3. ("Let's meet" in the Combs era)
  4. ("Playing against" in the Combs era)