It started out in 1976 as something of a “little brother” to the ratings smash hit Match Game, the game show that had everyone filling in the blanks and laughing about it. But soon, the spinoff surpassed its parent program to become one of the most successful game shows in history. The show’s initial success is almost always attributed to one man, the original host and one that I’ve paid homage to myself, Richard Dawson. Thirty years later, and long after Dawson’s departure from the show, however, Family Feud is still hanging around. Why does this game show endure despite constant set changes and the fact that they apparently decide on their next host by picking names out of a hat?
Ray Combs, who replaced Dawson, seemed to be completely opposite from the affable, charming, witty host that fans had come to love in the early days of Family Feud. Combs did not kiss contestants, and his humor was a bit on the drier, more sarcastic, side of things. Still, the show continued to endure until the tragic death of Ray Combs.
Who was then replaced by Louie Anderson, in the grand tradition of “the show must go on!” And go on it did, even after Anderson was booted from the show because of reported scandals involving underage youths. Louie stated his opinion that the show would not last without him.
But let’s be serious. Louie Anderson wasn’t even everyone’s favorite host. So, FOX network (who has had rights of the show for years and years now) decided to cast a much-loved face from television’s past – and settled on none other than Richard Karn, best known for his role as Al on Home Improvement. Karn was decidedly different from other hosts, displaying a great deal of enthusiasm but not a lot of inclination to make jokes, dressing down when in the past hosts were often quite formal (especially Richard Dawson), but always personable and likable. After all, he’s Al – from Tool Time.
So it was a shock to most fans when FOX made the surprise announcement that, in order to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of the show, they would come back in the 2006 season with a new set…and a new host. Rumors have stated that FOX had to make a change, as the show’s ratings were in decline. In fact, ratings haven’t been so great since the Dawson days (when Family Feud truly was the best game show on TV). Still, the machine keeps chugging along, no matter how many different hosts Family Feud might spit out.
Why do this game show endure? First, you have to consider the network. FOX isn’t at all bothered by low ratings – FOX knows a thing or two, about low ratings, and has shouldered them for years and years in fact. Also, the game itself truly is fabulous and fun, if no longer new and unique. Despite set flopping and host switching, people still love Family Feud. Ratings are decent, if not spectacular.
So it was with a great amount of shock that I digested the information about who the new host was to be. He made his premiere to the Feud on September 11, and has been serving in his hosting capacity for about a month. A lot of the fans don’t seem to like him, and everyone is still asking the question, “what happened to Richard Karn?”
He was replaced. By Peterman. And if you don’t know who Peterman is, I don’t know how much more clear I can make it. Peterman – Elaine’s boss on Seinfeld. You remember the one! Since Seinfeld he had a brief-lived hosting gig on another game show and he’s done some clever endorsements for auto insurance. Brief television exposure and some slight recognizability would seem to make him perfect to host a game show.
Only, he’s not. John O’Hurley is his real name, by the way, but let’s tell the truth – we’re always going to think of him as Peterman. By the way, the Peterman persona doesn’t, ah, really seem to be an act. O’Hurley is stiff and uncomfortable on stage, clearly having wardrobe issues and sizing concerns, not very personable with guests…and not, at all, a funny man. When I watch the show, I keep waiting for him to launch into a Peterman-like story. At least that might make me laugh.
The set looks awful, too, and I’ve seen better graphics on my old Atari. I really don’t know what’s going on with Family Feud these days. Suffice it to say, anything can (and will) happen on the FOX network. John O’Hurley has now carved himself a place as the fifth (and hopefully not last) host of Family Feud.
If sinking ratings were a problem for the show in the first place, I’m not sure O’Hurley’s presence is the thing to fix it. He’s great as Peterman. But c’mon…can you really see Peterman as the host of a game show? If O’Hurley gets any more uncomfortable on that stage, it’ll be worthy of tears. Right now, all I can do is change the channel. If I didn’t know better (that FOX can hardly come up with enough shows to schedule their time as it is), I’d be convinced the network was trying to kill Family Feud off completely. If ratings were sinking before, surely they’re plummeting now.
Looking forward to finding out who the sixth host will be.