'Family Feud': The Rules of the Game

Decades on, This Game Show Still Draws Viewers

Family Feud viewing party

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"Family Feud" has been around for decades and has become an icon of American television history, forever associated with dueling families and its catch-phrase, "Survey says!"

"Feud" debuted in 1976, one of many great game shows created by Goodson-Todman. The original host was Richard Dawson, an actor, and comedian who was at the time best known for his work on the TV series "Hogan's Heroes," as well as numerous appearances on the panel of "Match Game."

Since its beginnings with Dawson at the helm, "Feud" has seen several different hosts, cancellation, revivals and a move to syndication. The show is resilient with a loyal following of fans and continues to bring new fans on board with each season it's on the air.

Family Feud Format

One of the great things about "Family Feud" is that the game itself is almost the same as it was back in the 1970s, though there have been tweaks and game changes over the years. You could flip on the show today and recognize it instantly, even if it's been decades since the last time you watched.

Teams are made up of family members, related by blood, marriage or adoption. Two families play against each other in every game, with teams made up of five family members each.

While some parts of the game have changed over the years, this is the basic format.

The Questions

The answers to the questions are unique in that they aren't factual "answers" at all. They are based on the answers provided by a 100-person survey panel. Contestants are challenged to come up with the most popular answers to each question, which are placed on the game board and revealed as teams provide them. Since the answers are provided by surveys, this is where the line, "Survey says!" comes from.

Playing the Main Game

The main game starts off with one family member from each team coming to the podium and facing off on the first question. The contestant who buzzes in first gets to provide the first answer. If that answer is the No. 1 survey response, his or her family gets control of the question. If not, the opposing contestant gets to try and provide a higher-ranking response to earn control for his or her family.

The team who wins control of the question then provides more responses, one at a time. They are not permitted to consult with one another during this part of the game. If a given answer is not one of the most popular, the family gets a strike. If the team can guess all of the most popular answers on the board before getting three strikes, they win the round.

If a team ends up with three strikes, control of the round goes to the opposing family. That team then has one chance to come up with one of the remaining responses on the board to win the round — if they fail, the other team gets the points.

Generally speaking, four main rounds are played in each game. If there is time, two more rounds can be played, but these are sudden death "lightning rounds."

The Fast Money Round

The team with the most points at the end of the main game moves on to the Fast Money round. Two family members play this round. One family member stays with the host while the other disappears backstage. The first contestant is given 20 seconds to answer five survey questions, which are scored by how many people gave that same response in the survey.

After the first player's scores are revealed and tallied, they are covered up, and the second family member comes out to play. The questions are the same, but this time the player gets 25 seconds to complete the round, and if an answer is repeated the contestant hears a buzzer and is asked to give another response. If the combined scores of both team members are more than 200, the family wins the grand prize. 

Point Values

The point values assigned to each answer come from the number of people who responded with that answer in the survey. Only the most popular answers make it to the game board, so the points don't always add up to 100.

The current format of the game assigns single point values to the first two rounds, with points doubled in the third and tripled in the fourth round.

Family Feud Hosts

Each host of "Family Feud" has brought his own style to the show, though some have been better received than others. "Feud" hosts have included:

  • Richard Dawson: 1976 to 1985, 1994 to 1995
  • Ray Combs: 1988 to 1994
  • Louie Anderson: 1999 to 2002
  • Richard Karn: 2002 to 2006
  • John O'Hurley: 2006 to 2010
  • Steve Harvey: 2010 to present

Special Episodes and Guests

"Feud" lends itself well to special themed episodes and celebrity guests. There have been various celebrity tournaments throughout the years, including themed games in which the stars of television shows play against each other. There have also been competitions between sports teams and stars, students, divorced couples, musicians and game show hosts. Seasonal shows, such as the always-anticipated Halloween episode, are also popular.

In 2008, NBC aired a prime-time "Celebrity Family Feud" series hosted by Al Roker. All celebrity families appearing on the show donated their winnings to charity.

To learn more about "Family Feud," visit the official website at FamilyFeud.com.