This week, in the penultimate instalment of my chat with Russell Fletcher, we discuss the vagaries of ‘Sudden Death’, the often untapped power of the Family Feud audience, and the various versions of Family Feud around the world….
Now read on!
RF: So we’ve had a couple of visits from Pam Usdan from America – I don’t know if Pam Barnes has talked about her?
RF: Pam is one of the keepers from the flame from America. So I don’t know her exact role in producing the very first season of Family Feud in America… but I think she lives in New York, and she’s been just wonderful with her tips. She has come out here and she’s been very nice to me and she loves Grant. She travels the world looking after Family Feud. That’s her gig.
RF: 31 countries it’s in, currently. I asked her in front of the audience the other day, “what’s the most exotic countries?” And she went “Russia and Vietnam”. And it has different names in different countries. Like in England, it’s called Family Fortunes. And watching the American one on YouTube is really good because they get away with absolute murder.
SH: You mean in terms of the kind of questions? Double entendres and stuff? It’s Steve Harvey, isn’t it?
RF: Yeah, yeah, and he’s so great. So funny. But Grant couldn’t ask those questions because he is a different type. He is a different archetype. Even though I would venture that Grant is now a comedian. I think he’s become really good. He does really funny physical stuff, it’s quick. He’s really trusting his instinct. He has really flourished on the show, I think. So, yes – I’d hate to think what some of the other versions… “If you get questions wrong in Russia, they take you out and shoot you! It’s in the rules…”
SH: “You signed the waiver…”
RF: “Tonight on Family Feud Kazakhstan, you could win goat!”
SH: If you are lucky.
RF: “You could win goat for family!”
SH: Well thank you very much, Russell! Fantastic answers, and lots of really helpful information, I think, for people interested in having a crack.
RF: Yes, I think the other thing I would say is that people practice, they play the board games.
SH: Yeah, play along at home and –
RF: They practice with the buzzer and the ‘Sudden Death’ thing. We had a family in last week, and you know lot of families fall over at the fourth episode. You go “this family is going to win the car” and then they don’t because you know for whatever reason the brain goes out of the moment, and they start thinking about the prize, etcetera, etcetera… Other families come in who are fresh and eager and hungry. This family had 4 ‘Sudden Death’s in their 5 episodes. It goes to ‘Sudden Death’ if no family has reached 300 points and this guy was on fire in ‘Sudden Death’, and you’ve got to be first to buzz in on ‘Sudden Death’. And he was playing for the car and he came second on ‘Sudden Death’, playing for the car. Now, the ‘Sudden Death’ questions are generally fairly simple… but he lost to a dancer. She had lightning reflexes. Very interesting. It’s really good, but really bad for the losing team. It’s so hard to win ten thousand dollars, let alone go through 5 episodes. So in this particular ‘Sudden Death’ game, he was playing for the car, and he buzzed in second. The question was “name Australia’s greatest trading partner”. The challenger, who buzzed in first, said “Taiwan” and the whole audience went “Nooo!” It was China and so he actually won the car, by coming second in a ‘Sudden Death’ moment.
SH: Purely because the person who buzzed in first got it wrong?
RF: So it can all turn on that. The other thing is when the audiences respond to the answers that the contestants give in the show, when we’re recording the show. The audiences are pretty spot on whether it’s a good answer or a bad answer.
SH: So if someone answers the audience will…
RF: I conduct them, and I just go “is that good?” and they go “Yeah!” Or they go “No”. And we have fun with that; we have fun with the kind of… brutality of that. It’s a 6 o’clock show, and I try to keep the audience light and buoyant and energetic… but of course they’re Australians; they’re all gonna go “nup”. They’re brutal! American audiences go over the top with positivity but we are much more cynical, realistic, pragmatic people and most people go “Hmm” or “No”. But we have fun because it’s mischievous, and Grant has fun with that interaction with the live audience, too. And so do some of our contestants who learn to use the audience. Especially in the ‘Steal’ situation, because contestants 4,3,2 and then finally the captain decides on what their team’s answer is going to be. The good captains will always listen to how the audience is responding as well.
SH: Their opinion is often…
RF: Often a pretty good guide. Not always. But often.
So there you have it, folks. If ever you find yourself being Captain of your Family Feud team in a ‘Steal’ situation, treat the audience as your “bonus group adviser”. I remember Michael Pope saying a similar thing when I interviewed him about producing The Price is Right. In game shows with an unofficial “Ask The Audience” feature, use it! It’s a good bet that the people in the audience know this information – whether it’s prices of items on The Price Is Right or popular / likely answers to Family Feud questions. They’ve all come to see the show for a reason – they love it! They’re fans! They know this stuff!
So ignore them at your peril….