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Eight Years of Mediocrity - October 25

In its original run, Family Feud ran for nine years, and after the first two years was at the top of the heap for most of the ride. The current run of the show, now with a third host and third set is now closing in on eight years as a syndicated property. With the most recent contract renewal, the third run of The Feud is set to match the longevity mark set by the original. It's not hard to figure out why this is so, but what puzzles me is why the show gets relatively little promotion.          

The bottom line is, as it always has been in this business: money. Money, money, money. The show pulls in a profit for Fremantle, however razor thin it might be, so the show stays on the air. After all, the prize budget isn't going to break the bank, and the host/announcer salaries are going to be lower when compared to other established hosts in the genre. Everyone is happy as long as the show remains profitable, and the fact that it has done precisely that in a crowded syndication market is remarkable.

Through all of that, the show has managed to squeak by on little promotion other than various same-network ads reminding viewers when they can see the show. Last year's Tournament of Champions was not mentioned in advertisements for the program, and got no better ratings than the regular episodes. Jeopardy! rolls out a series of special advertisements every May for their special championship shows; Family Feud is content to chug along with its 2 and 3 point shares.

I'm not sure why the producers are content to stay in the cellar like this. The show is a proven winner and it has all of the elements of a classic format of the ages. Given the question, the viewer cannot help but try and guess what answers are on the board, or to pronounce judgments on the answers already given. With better air times (in Seattle, the show has aired at 2:35 in the morning, and most recently from 11 am to noon) it may not make a dent in the ratings of Wheel of Fortune or Jeopardy!, or maybe not even Millionaire, but it is certainly a good enough show to compete. Perhaps that's the real answer: the show doesn't want to compete, but merely to toil at the bottom of the ranks, churning out money for everyone involved, but not drawing attention to the show for one reason or another.

That's too bad, because I think the show has finally gotten everything right. From getting rid of the silly four-round format that put all of the emphasis on the fourth round, to the miscasting of Louie Anderson and Richard Karn, to the colorful set that actually looks like the set of a game show, Family Feud is finally firing on all cylinders. If you get a chance, try to watch the show at least once this season, just so you can see the smooth hosting of the show by John O'Hurley, a man who looks like he has been hosting the show for years and years, even though he's only a few months into the job. It will be well worth your time.

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