Thursday, April 7, 2011

Family Feud

Have you ever had your kids come in while something rather embarrassing was on the screen? I don’t know what you were watching, but my TV was tuned to the “Family Feud”.

Yes, the insipid game show that left the networks and has been in syndication since the invention of the cathode tube (actually thirty years since it began with Richard Dawson on ABC and syndication).

I know what you’re thinking: “Family Feud” makes even “Deal or No Deal” look like the good stuff squeezed between pledge breaks. But I have my reasons. They may not be good reasons, but what excuse do you have for watching “ER” past its prime? So at the very least, after reading this, you may feel a little better about your mindless viewing.

1) “It can hurt your chances as a contestant if you are smart.” I find this fascinating. Since the answers are culled from a survey of random Americans, it is best to be of average intelligence. Any brilliant singular answer has been tossed, since at least two people must respond in the same way to make the survey. And in the initial showdown, you need the most popular answer. Which means “Homer Simpson” beats “Homer’s Iliad” every time, just as “Pamela Anderson” beats “Marion Anderson” in the category of female entertainer. Even more amazing, your answer may need to be factually incorrect to win, such as “whale” in the category “big fish”.

2) “The changing hosts say something about our time.” I’m not sure what it says, but it sure is interesting. Can you imagine Richard Dawson trying to lip kiss every contestant today? (He must have hung out with Bob Crane far too long.) Ray Combs sadly took his own life after his 1988 to 1994 run on the show, so that might not speak well of those years. Louie Anderson was hired in the midst of the whole Clinton-Lewinski thing, which seemed appropriate somehow. Surely the switch from Richard Karn (“Home Improvement”’s Al Borland from 2002 – 2006) to John O’Hurley (“Seinfeld”’s Mr. Peterman) foreshadowed the Democratic House and Senate in some weird red/blue state way. I haven’t given this a whole lot of thought, but surely some thesis papers are in order.

3) “The really dumb rituals.” The audience reading along with the revealed answers, “TWENTY THOUSAND DOLLARS”, and the handshake that starts the round. Something reassuring about a feud that starts with a handshake.

4) “You can watch it in Spanish.” And if you are willing to travel, you can see it in a number of other languages. This can be helpful in your language studies. But here in the good old U.S. or A. you can see it in Espanola as well as English. But the dollar amounts played for are less, and if they’re talking pesos, it’s really pathetic.

5) “ ‘Family Feud’ has provided the best ‘Saturday Night Live’ fodder of any game show outside of ‘Jeopardy’ with Will Farrell’s Alex Trebeck.” I forget, did John Belushi get an Emmy for the skit where he was a contestant that answered ‘chicken necks’ for everything? If he did not, a grave injustice was done. I believe Steve Martin was his father, whose only answer was the Romaine lettuce heads he farmed.

6) “Occasionally there are very attractive contestants that jump up and down in excitement.” ‘Nuff said.

7) “It has a home game.” Sure, they have the computer and DVD versions. But you want one of the classic old editions with the plastic sliders and the card with the red ink so the answers can’t be seen through the red plastic. It’s an investment that will pay off on “Antiques Roadshow” someday.

8) “Wouldn’t you rather a pollster called to ask your favorite red food or who’s the sexiest movie star rather than ask who you plan to support for Lieutenant Governor in the next election?”

9) “Really dumb answers.” For instance when someone is asked for something in an operating room, and then answers, ‘an operator,’ any previous tedium is worthwhile. Or when people answer ‘Nixon’ or ‘Adolf’ for one of Santa’s reindeer. Or when asked for an animal with three letters in the name they say ‘frog’ or ‘alligator’. (Though I guess, technically, they do have three letters in their names, and then some.) Or ‘Spring cleaning’ in response to a household chore done in the Fall. (These are, of course, all actual answers that may be found at the Family Feud Dumb Answers website [].)

10) “A more personal reason for watching ‘Family Feud’.” About twenty-five years ago, my dad had a stroke. He was in the hospital and most of the time was not very responsive. But for some reason, when ‘Family Feud’ came on, he perked up. I hadn’t remembered the show being a particular favorite of his before the stroke (he had preferred viewing any sports activities, up to and including televised bowling). But during those long days and evenings in the hospital, it was a joy to see him liven up and try to answer what America’s favorite breed of dog is according to 100 people surveyed. My dad recovered, and enjoyed many active years before passing away in 2003. Maybe this is the only real reason I stop at “Family Feud” when flipping the channels and have difficulty shutting it off till after the fast money round.

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