As Steve Harvey’s “Family Feud” reboot makes good, a look back at the show’s origins

After reading about how well the Steve Harvey reboot of “Family Feud” has been doing in syndication, ranking third last week among women 25-54 (the key audience for daytime programming), I became curious about how the original came into being.

FamilyFeud - Richard DawsonOf course, Richard Dawson first came to prominence in the U.S. as Corp. Newkirk on CBS’s “Hogan’s Heroes,” which ran from 1965 to 1971. After that, he familiar on “I’ve Got a Secret,” and then as one of several seemingly besotted panelists on “Match Game ’73 (to ’79).”

His charisma and quick wit on “Match Game” made it inevitable that he would get a game show of his own. Dawson had a deal with “Match Game” producers Mark Goodson and Bill Todman that would give him the first crack at any game show pilot they came up with.

During a lengthy interview for the Archive of American Television project in 2010, Dawson explained that Mark Goodson mentioned during a plane flight that he had seen the strange answers given by people who responded to a survey in Time or Newsweek, and how these answers gave him an interesting idea for a game show.

“He [Goodson] said, ‘There would be no right or wrong answers; the only answer is what the poll says. They can be [factually] wrong, but if that’s what the poll said, it would be correct.’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ ”

0Goodson-Todman Productions sold the pilot to ABC, which announced in May 1976 that it would cancel the Bob Eubanks game show “Rhyme and Reason” and replace it in the 1:30 Eastern weekday slot with “Family Feud” on July 12.  A syndicated version soon debuted as well, and both versions ran until 1985, both hosted by Dawson.

Dawson talks about how he was approached with the idea; how William Shatner could have been the show’s host; how he treated the contestants, and expected them to be treated by “Family Feud” crew members; his sarcastic “Good answer” when a response made no sense; why he kissed female contestants (even after ABC executives told him to stop); and much more.

Dawson died of esophageal cancer in June 2012.

— David B. Wilkerson

Daily Variety, May 26, 1976 (Subscription required.)


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