Family Feud is an American television game show created by Mark Goodson where two families compete to name the most popular responses to survey questions in order to win cash and prizes. It is considered a spin-off of Match Game, whose panel included original host Richard Dawson.
The program premiered on ABC on July 12, 1976, and ran as part of its daytime schedule until June 14, 1985. The program was re-launched by CBS on July 4, 1988, and ran until September 10, 1993. Three separate editions for syndication were also produced. The first aired from September 19, 1977 to September 6, 1985. The second aired from September 19, 1988 to September 8, 1995. The current syndicated series premiered on September 20, 1999.
The ABC network version of the show and the first syndicated series were hosted by Richard Dawson. Ray Combs hosted the CBS series and the first six seasons of the accompanying syndicated version, then was replaced by Dawson for the final season. The 1999 syndicated series has been hosted by Louie Anderson (1999–2002), Richard Karn (2002–06), John O'Hurley (2006–10), and Steve Harvey (2010–present). Announcers for the series have included Gene Wood (1976–85, 1988–95), Burton Richardson (1999–2010, syndication; 2015–present, ABC), Joey Fatone (2010–15), and Rubin Ervin (2015–present).
The program has spawned multiple regional adaptations in over 50 international markets outside the United States. Within a year of its debut, the original version became the number one game show in daytime television; however, as viewing habits changed, the ratings declined. Harvey's takeover in 2010 increased Nielsen ratings significantly and eventually placed the program among the top five most popular syndicated television shows in the country. In 2013, TV Guide ranked Family Feud third in its list of the 60 greatest game shows of all time.
Two family teams of five contestants each compete to win cash and prizes. The original version of the show began with the families being introduced, seated opposite each other as if posing for family portraits, after which the host interviewed them.
Unlike most game shows, there is no minimum age necessary to participate in "Family Feud." Each round begins with a "face-off" question that serves as a toss-up between two opposing contestants. The host asks a survey question that was previously posed to a group of 100 people (e.g., "Name the hour that you get up on Sunday mornings."). A certain number of answers are concealed on the board, ranked by popularity of the survey's responses. Only answers that receive two or more responses can appear on the board. The first contestant to buzz-in gives an answer; if it is the most popular, his/her family immediately wins the face-off. Otherwise, the opponent responds and the family member providing the higher-ranked answer wins. Ties are broken in favor of the contestant who buzzes-in first. If neither contestant's answer is on the board, the other eight contestants have a chance to respond, one at a time from alternating sides, until an answer is revealed. The family that wins the face-off may choose to play the question or pass control to their opponents (except on the Combs version, when the family who won the face-off automatically gained control of the question).
The family with control of the question then tries to win the round by guessing all of the remaining concealed answers, with each member giving one answer in sequence. Giving an answer not on the board, or failing to respond within the allotted time, earns one strike. If the family earns three strikes, their opponents are given one chance to "steal" the points for the round by guessing any remaining concealed answer; failing to do so awards the points back to the family that originally had control. Any answers on the board that have not been guessed are then revealed.
While a family has control of a question, the members are not allowed to discuss possible answers with one another; each person must respond individually. However, the opposing family may confer in preparation for an attempt to steal, and their captain must respond for them when such an attempt is made.
Answers are worth one point for every person in the 100-member survey who gave them. The winning family in each round scores the total points for all revealed answers to that question, including those given during the face-off but excluding the one used to steal (if applicable). The number of answers on the board decreases from round to round, and as the game progresses, certain rounds are played for double or triple point value. The first family to score 300 points wins the game and advances to the Fast Money bonus round for a chance to win a cash bonus. Until 1992, both teams received $1 per point scored.
Prior to 1999, the game continued as normal until one family reached the necessary total to win. Since then, if neither team reaches the goal after four rounds (or, from 1999 to 2002, if both teams were tied with the same score after the final round), one last question is played for triple value with only the #1 answer displayed.
The goal of 300 points has been in place in the rules of almost every version of the show. However, when the program premiered in 1976, the goal was 200 points. For the 1984–85 season of both the daytime and syndicated program, the goal was increased to 400 points. For several seasons after the 1999 return to syndication, there was no specific point goal. Instead, four rounds were played, with the last for triple points and only one strike. The family with the most points after the fourth round won the game.
Two members of the winning family play Fast Money for a chance to win a cash bonus. One contestant is onstage with the host, while the other is sequestered backstage so that he/she cannot hear the first portion of the round. The first contestant is asked five rapid-fire survey questions and has a set time limit in which to answer them (originally 15 seconds, extended to 20 in 1994). The clock begins to run only after the first question is asked, and the first contestant may pass on a question and return to it after all five have been asked, if time remains.
After the first contestant has either answered all five questions or run out of time, the host reveals how many people in the survey matched each of his/her answers. The board is then cleared except for the total score, and the second contestant is then brought out to answer the same five questions. The same rules are followed, but the time limit is extended by five seconds (originally 20, then extended to 25); in addition, if the second contestant duplicates an answer given by the first, a buzzer sounds and he/she must give another answer. If the two contestants reach a combined total of 200 points or more, the family wins the bonus. If not, they are given $5 per point scored as a consolation prize.
The grand prize for winning Fast Money has varied. When the program aired in daytime, families played for $5,000. The grand prize for syndicated episodes was $10,000 for much of its existence. In 2001, the prize was doubled to $20,000 at the request of then-host Louie Anderson.
When Family Feud premiered on ABC, network rules dictated how much a family could win. Once any family reached $25,000, they were retired as champions. The accompanying syndicated series that premiered in 1977 featured two new families each episode because of tape bicycling (a practice then common in syndicated television).
The CBS daytime and syndicated versions which began airing in 1988 also featured returning champions, who could appear for a maximum of five days. For a brief period in the 1994–95 season which aired in syndication, there were no returning champions. For these episodes, two new families competed in this first half of each episode. The second half featured former champion families who appeared on Family Feud between 1977 and 1985, with the winner of the first half of the show playing one of these families in the second half.
From 1999 to 2002, two new families appeared on each episode. The returning champions rule was reinstated with the same five-day limit starting with the 2002–03 season. Starting with the 2009–10 season, a family that wins five matches also wins a new car.
In June 1992, the CBS daytime edition of Feud expanded from thirty to sixty minutes and became known as Family Feud Challenge. As part of the change, a new round was added at the start of each game called "Bullseye". This round determined the potential Fast Money stake for each team. Each team was given a starting value for their bank and attempted to come up with the top answer to a survey question to add to it. The Bullseye round was added to the syndicated edition in September 1992.
The first two members of each family appeared at the face-off podium and were asked a question to which only the number-one answer was available. Giving the top answer added the value for that question to the family's bank. The process then repeated with the four remaining members from each family. On the first half of the daytime version, families were staked with $2,500. The first question was worth $500, with each succeeding question worth $500 more than the previous, with the final question worth $2,500. This allowed for a potential maximum bank of $10,000. For the second half of the daytime version, and also on the syndicated version, all values were doubled, making the maximum potential bank $20,000. The team that eventually won the game played for their bank in Fast Money.
When Richard Dawson returned as host of the program in 1994, the round's name was changed to the "Bankroll" round. Although the goal remained of giving only the number-one answer, the format was modified to three questions from five, with only one member of each family participating for all three questions. The initial stake for each family remained the same ($2,500 in the first half of the hour and $5,000 in the second). However, the value for each question was $500, $1,500 and $2,500 in the first half, with values doubling for the second half. This meant a potential maximum bank of $7,000 in the first half and $14,000 in the second.
The Bullseye round temporarily returned during the 2009–10 season. It was played similarly as the format used from 1992 to 1994 on the syndicated version, with five questions worth from $1,000 to $5,000. However, each family was given a $15,000 starting stake, which meant a potential maximum of a $30,000 bank.
Hosts and announcers
The ABC and first syndicated versions of Family Feud were hosted by Richard Dawson. As writer David Marc put it, Dawson's on-air personality "fell somewhere between the brainless sincerity of Wink Martindale and the raunchy cynicism of Chuck Barris". Dawson showed himself to have insistent affections for all of the female members of each family that competed on the show, regardless of age. Writers Tim Brooks, Jon Ellowitz, and Earle F. Marsh owed Family Feud's popularity to Dawson's "glib familiarity" (he had previously played Newkirk on Hogan's Heroes) and "ready wit" (from his tenure as a panelist on Match Game). The show's original announcer was Gene Wood, with Johnny Gilbert and Rod Roddy serving as occasional substitutes.
In 1988, Ray Combs took over Dawson's role as host on CBS and in syndication with Wood returning as announcer and Roddy, Art James, and Charlie O'Donnell serving in that role when Wood was not available. Combs hosted the program until the daytime version's cancellation in 1993 and the syndicated version until the end of the 1993–94 season. Dawson returned to the show at the request of Mark Goodson Productions for the 1994–95 season.
When Feud returned to syndication in 1999, it was initially hosted by Louie Anderson, with Burton Richardson as the new announcer. Richard Karn was selected to take over for Anderson when season four premiered in 2002, and when season eight premiered in 2006, Karn was replaced by John O'Hurley. In 2010, both O'Hurley and Richardson departed from the show; comedian Steve Harvey was named the new host for season twelve, and a pre-recorded track of former 'N Sync member Joey Fatone's voice was used until 2015, when Rubin Ervin, who has been a member of the production staff as the warmup man for the audience since Harvey took over, became the announcer. (Richardson still announces for Celebrity Family Feud.)
The first four versions of the show were directed by Paul Alter and produced by Howard Felsher and Cathy Dawson. For the 1988 versions, Gary Dawson worked with the show as a third producer, and Alter was joined by two other directors, Marc Breslow and Andy Felsher. The 1999 version's main staff include executive producer Gabrielle Johnston, supervising producers Kristin Bjorklund and Brian Hawley, and director Ken Fuchs; Johnston and Bjorklund previously worked as associate producers of the 1980s version. The show's classic theme tune was written by an uncredited Walt Levinsky for Score Productions. The themes used from 1999 to 2008 were written by John Lewis Parker. The production rights to the show were originally owned by the production company Goodson shared with his partner Bill Todman, but were sold to their current holder, FremantleMedia, when it acquired all of Goodson and Todman's works in 2002.
Mark Goodson created Family Feud during the increasing popularity of his earlier game show Match Game, which set daytime ratings records in 1976, and on which Dawson had previously appeared as one of its most popular panelists. Match Game aired on CBS, and by 1976, CBS vice president Fred Silverman (who had originally commissioned Match Game) had moved to a new position as President of ABC. The show premiered on ABC's daytime lineup on July 12, 1976, and although it was not an immediate hit, before long it became a ratings winner and eventually surpassed Match Game to become the No. 1 game show in daytime. It remained the most popular daytime game show until Merv Griffin's game show Wheel of Fortune surpassed it in 1984. From 1978 until 1984, ABC periodically broadcast hour-long primetime "All-Star Specials", in which celebrity casts from various primetime lineup TV series competed instead of ordinary families. The popularity of the program inspired Goodson to consider producing a nighttime edition, which launched in syndication on September 18, 1977. Like many other game shows at the time, the nighttime Feud aired once a week; it expanded to twice a week in January 1979, and finally to five nights a week (Monday through Friday) in the fall of 1980. However, the viewing habits of both daytime and syndicated audiences were changing. When Griffin launched Wheel's syndicated version, starring Pat Sajak and Vanna White, in 1983, that show climbed the ratings to the point where it unseated Feud as the highest-rated syndicated show; the syndicated premiere of Wheel's sister show Jeopardy! with Alex Trebek as host also siphoned ratings from Feud with its early success.
Despite the ratings decline, there was some interest in keeping the show in production. In a 2011 interview, Dawson recalled a meeting with executives from Viacom Enterprises about keeping the show for one more season. Dawson was growing tired of the grueling taping schedule and initially wanted to stop altogether. After discussing the situation with ABC and Viacom, Dawson said that he would return for a final syndicated season of thirty-nine weeks of episodes but would not continue doing the daytime series. After this, Dawson did not hear from Viacom for approximately a week and once they contacted him again, Dawson was told that Viacom was no longer interested in continuing the syndicated Feud beyond the 1984–85 season. Viacom made this official in January 1985 ahead of that year's NATPE convention, and within a few weeks, ABC decided that it too would not renew Feud for the 1985–86 season. The daytime version came to an end on June 14, 1985. The syndicated version aired its last new episode on May 17, 1985, and continued to air in reruns after that until September 6, 1985.
Family Feud moved to CBS with Combs hosting on July 4, 1988, replacing The $25,000 Pyramid. Like its predecessor, this version also had an accompanying syndicated edition which launched in September of that year. In June 1992, the network version expanded from its original half-hour format to a full hour, and was retitled The Family Feud Challenge; this new format featured three families per episode, which included two new families competing in the first half-hour for the right to play the returning champions in the second half. The Family Feud Challenge aired its final new episode on March 26, 1993, with reruns airing until September 10. The syndicated Feud, meanwhile, remained in production and entered its sixth season in the fall of 1993.
However, the ratings picture was not particularly good for the syndicated edition. For much of its run to this point, the syndicated Feud had to deal with stations dropping the series or moving it to undesirable time slots such as overnights. By 1992, the ratings had hit a low point and by the time the sixth season premiered, distributor All American Television was threatening to cancel the series unless ratings improved and changes were made. The responsibility for this fell on Jonathan Goodson, who had taken over his father's company when Mark Goodson died in 1992. One of the options considered was a host change.
When the revival launched in 1988, Mark Goodson had not even considered former host Richard Dawson to return due to lingering bad feelings between Dawson and the production team. After hiring Ray Combs, Goodson threw his loyalties behind him and refused to consider changing hosts despite the slipping ratings. However, the younger Goodson did not have the ties to Combs that his father did and felt that a change would at least require consideration. After meeting with his staff, Goodson offered Dawson a contract to return as host of the syndicated Feud and the semi-retired Dawson agreed to return. Combs finished out the remainder of the season but, upset by the decision to replace him, he departed from the studio as soon as he signed off on the final episode of his tenure.
A revamped Family Feud returned for a seventh season in September 1994 with Dawson in his role as host. The show expanded from thirty to sixty minutes, reinstated the Family Feud Challenge format, and did various other things to try to improve the ratings of the show such as build a more modern-looking set, feature families that had previously been champions on the original Feud, and have more themed weeks. Although Dawson did bring a brief ratings surge when he came back, the show could not sustain it long term and Feud came to a conclusion at the end of the 1994–95 season.
Family Feud returned in syndication on September 20, 1999, with comedian Louie Anderson as host. After Richard Karn took over the show, the format was changed to reintroduce returning champions, allowing them to appear for up to five days. However, even after Karn's takeover, Anderson-hosted episodes continued in reruns that aired on PAX Network. In John O'Hurley's later days, the show's Nielsen ratings were at 1.5 (putting it in danger of cancellation), but when comedian Steve Harvey took over, ratings increased by as much as 40%, and within two short years, the show was rated at 4.0, and had become the fifth most popular syndicated program. Fox News' Paulette Cohn argued that Harvey's "relatability," or "understanding of what the people at home want to know," is what saved the show from cancellation; Harvey himself argued, "If someone said an answer that was so ridiculous, I knew that the people at home behind the camera had to be going, 'What did they just say?' … They gave this answer that doesn't have a shot in hell of being up there. The fact that I recognize that, that's comedic genius to me. I think that's [made] the difference."
Since Harvey became host, Family Feud has regularly ranked among the top 10 highest-rated programs in all of daytime television programming and third among game shows (behind Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy!); in February 2014, the show achieved a 6.0 share in the Nielsen ratings, with approximately 8.8 million viewers. In June 2015, Family Feud eclipsed Wheel of Fortune as the most-watched syndicated game show on television.
Reruns of the Dawson and Combs hosted episodes have been included among Buzzr's acquisitions since its launch on June 1, 2015. On June 13, 2016, American episodes hosted by Harvey began airing on the UK digital terrestrial and satellite channel Challenge.
Production of Family Feud was shifted from Universal Orlando to Harvey's hometown of Atlanta in 2011, primarily at the Atlanta Civic Center. Harvey was also originating a syndicated radio show from Atlanta, and the state of Georgia also issued tax credits for the production. In 2017, production moved to Los Angeles Center Studios in Los Angeles to accommodate Harvey's new syndicated talk show Steve.
Family Feud won the Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Game/Audience Participation Show in 1977, and the show has twice won the Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Game Show Host, once with Dawson (1978) and again with Harvey (2014) and (2017). Feud ranked number 3 on Game Show Network (GSN)'s 2006 list of the 50 Greatest Game Shows of All Time, and also on TV Guide's 2013 list of the 60 greatest game shows ever.
Tara Ariano and Sarah D. Bunting, founders of the website Television Without Pity, wrote that they hated the 1999 syndicated version, saying "Give us classic Feud every time", citing both Dawson and Combs as hosts. Additionally, they called Anderson an "alleged sexual harasser and full-time sphere".
It was reported that the public responded negatively to several videos posted on the official Family Feud web site in September 2015 in which contestants on the current version gave sexually explicit answers to survey questions. Dan Gainor of the Media Research Center suggested that the responses are in line with sexual content becoming more commonplace on television.
The popularity of Family Feud in the United States has led it to become a worldwide franchise, with over 50 adaptations outside the United States. Countries that have aired their own versions of the show include Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Philippines, Poland, Russia, Thailand, the United Kingdom, and Vietnam, among others.
Since the show's premiere in 1976, many home versions of Family Feud have been released in various formats. Milton Bradley, Pressman Games, and Endless Games have all released traditional board games based on the show, while Imagination Entertainment released the program in a DVD game format.
The game has been released in other formats by multiple companies; Coleco Adam released the first computer version of the show in 1983, and Sharedata followed in 1987 with versions for MS-DOS, Commodore 64, and Apple II computers. GameTek released versions for Nintendo Entertainment System, Super NES, Genesis, 3DO, and PC (on CD-ROM) between 1990 and 1995. Hasbro Interactive released a version in 2000 for the PC and PlayStation. In 2006, versions were released for PlayStation 2, Game Boy Advance, and PC. Seattle-based Mobliss Inc. also released a mobile version of Family Feud that was available on Sprint, Verizon, and Cingular. Glu Mobile later released a newer mobile version of Family Feud for other carriers.
Most recently, in conjunction with Ludia, Ubisoft has video games for multiple platforms. The first of these was entitled Family Feud: 2010 Edition and was released for the Wii, Nintendo DS, and PC in September 2009. Ubisoft then released Family Feud Decades the next year, which featured sets and survey questions from television versions of all four decades the show has been on air. A third game, entitled Family Feud: 2012 Edition was released for the Wii and Xbox 360 in 2011.
In addition to the home games, a DVD set titled All-Star Family Feud was released on January 8, 2008 and featured a total of 15 celebrity episodes from the original ABC/syndicated versions on its four discs. It was re-issued as The Best of All-Star Family Feud on February 2, 2010.