Family Food

Screen Shot 2014-08-07 at 9.01.46 PM


The rules of the long-time TV game show Family Feud are pretty simple. There are two teams — families — of five people each. Each team sends one family member to the “face-off,” where the host — now Steve Harvey — tells the two active players about a survey the show’s producers conducted. The top five or so answers are on the board behind the host and the two players then, themselves, give answers to that same survey question. Whichever of the two players can match more of the survey’s respondents gains control for his or her family. That family then takes turns — one person at a time — hoping to guess the other “top answers” on the big board. If the person guesses correctly, the family earns points based on the number of respondents who also had that answer. If not, the family gets a strike. Three strikes and control switches to the other team, who has one shot to get one of the remaining answers. If they do, that family steals all the points earned in that round. If not, the points stay with the family that won the face-off.

But sometimes it gets complicated. Like, the below. (The video is very low quality, but does the trick.)

In case you didn’t catch it (or can’t watch the video where you are), here’s what happened. The question was “Which food do you think should be chosen as the national food of America?” and there were seven total answers to be guessed. The controlling family had three answers on the board — hamburgers, pizza, and hot dogs — with two strikes against them. The next guy to offer an answer said “french fries” but was rebuffed by the host, Steve Harvey, who told him that he couldn’t say “french fries” because the player’s teammate (and father, for what it’s worth) had previously said “steak and potatoes.” So the player went with “spaghetti and meatballs” instead — and was wrong. Strike three. Control went to the other side…

…which stole the points by offering a correct answer: french fries.

That seems, well, odd, to say the least. (The person who recorded the video above certainly thought so, given his very audible “what!” in reaction to the second “french fries” response.) The first team tried to answer “french fries” and couldn’t — but the second team could? Did the Family Feud judges just make a huge and obvious mistake?

Not quite. Here’s a longer clip of the same segment (of similar quality):

The dad, Ron, offers up the answer “steak” which turns out to be wrong. But in doing so, he adds “you gotta have steak and potatoes, right?”  (Here’s a transcript of the segment if you want to read through it.) The “potatoes” part wasn’t included as part of his answer. But it caused a problem under Family Feud’s rules (pdf here):

Contestants may not confer or say an answer aloud when it is not their turn to respond. [ . . . ] If a contestant gives two (2) answers (e.g., “Red I mean Blue”), the first answer is taken and no one on their family may use the second answer. The other family may use the second answer given if desired.

That’s what happened here. The dad’s “steak and potatoes” comment precluded his teammates from offering “potatoes” as an answer, and, as seen in the image at the top, “fries/potatoes” were considered the same category by those who tabulated the survey’s results. The other team wasn’t barred from giving this same answer, and therefore, used it to win the round.

And just because it’s probably bothering you: the #4 answer was “fried chicken,” the #6 answer was “ice cream,” and the #7 answer was “turkey.” (All, apparently, are more American than apple pie.)

Bonus Fact: In 1979, Family Feud hosted a week-long series of special episodes featuring the Hatfields versus the McCoys — descendants of the famously feuding (with guns, not buzzers) families from the late 1800s.The McCoys won three of the five days, but the Hatfields winnings were greater, $11,272 to $8,459. But because the McCoys won more games, Family Feud officials boosted their winnings to $11,273.

From the ArchivesJudging Jeopardy: What happens when Alex Trebek asks the judges for help.

RelatedFamily Feud, the board game.