Calum Henderson watched the first episodes of Family Feud and was transported back to the glory days of New Zealand reality television.
2015 will go down in history as TV3’s year of reality, when big franchises like The Bachelor and X Factor and The Block formed an imposing fleet of multi-night battleships, destined to sail the network to ratings success. Most of them sank.
But a new year brings not only a new shub, but a new strategy for TV3. They’re mixing it up a bit. We’ll still see plenty of reality, but it looks like 2016 could equally be the year locally-produced game shows made their triumphant return to our screens.
Game shows were the bread and butter of what, with the stunning clarity of hindsight, was New Zealand television’s golden age: the 1990s. The visual delight of Wheel of Fortune’s colourful spinning wheel, the lavish prizes on offer on Sale of the Century, the keyboard madness of Face the Music… You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.
Recent forays into New Zealand game shows have rarely stuck around for long. Instead we’ve grown accustomed to fancy overseas productions like Millionaire and Deal or No Deal. But there’s nothing quite like a good Kiwi game show, and in the decades-old Family Feud format, TV3 could be onto an unlikely winner.
It’s a simple, instantly familiar format – even if you’ve never seen an episode of the ageless American version, it doesn’t take long to get your head around. It’s the kind of show that lives or dies by its host, and in dapper, bow-tied Dai Henwood, Family Feud has perhaps the only New Zealander with the hyperactive charisma and energy levels to match Australia’s premiere game show host Andrew O’Keefe (Deal, The Chase).
Already we’ve seen what may be the show’s first classic episode, an almighty comeback by the Lewis family on Tuesday night. The first team to reach 300 points wins through to the show’s ‘Fast Money’ final round, but for a long time they looked like they wouldn’t even get one. Family Feud is a game in which the most obvious and mundane answer is almost always the best one, where the less you think the better. The Lewises were chronic overthinkers.
“Name something a dog might lick,” Henwood asked. Their job was to match their answers with the results of a survey of 100 ‘everyday New Zealanders’. “Umm…” said Doni of Team Lewis. “An eye! The other eye of a dog!” She seemed to be on some kind of acid trip. The survey questions were like existential riddles unfurling in the surreal, Daliesque landscape of her mind.
The correct answers were that a dog might lick a person, another dog, a bone. Duh! The Lewises were down 248-nil. The Van Der Heydens of Waimate were on their way to a second straight crack at Fast Money, in which $5000 stands to be won every night. They were another night closer to the show’s grand prize – if a family can stick around for five nights, they win a brand new Holden Barina.
But they blew it on the triple-point final round, and the survey question “Name something you might see while skydiving.” The answer they couldn’t get was, preposterously, “roofs”. Similarly, on Monday night one of the answers to the survey question “Name an accent that could be described as sexy” was “African”.
The Van Der Heyden’s tactical blunder gifted the Lewises 285 fully undeserved points – still not enough to play Fast Money. The game went to a sudden death tiebreaker. “Name a place where you might listen to the radio” asked Henwood. “Car!” answered Heather, mum and leader of the Lewis family.
They duly won the $5000 bucks in the Fast Money round, and got to come back for another crack the following night. The Van Der Heydens returned to Waimate with $1000 worth of Panasonic appliances – a better deal than the Ngan-Woo family, who they beat on Monday night, and who left with a consolation dinner hamper from the show’s sponsor Old El Paso.
Sadly, the Lewis family lost to the Ruri family on Wednesday. Seems like sticking around for five night to win the car is going to take some doing. On the old game shows winning the car was cause for confetti and balloons to rain down from the studio rafters, for the winner to be given a bouquet of flowers and a kiss from Lana Coc-Kroft. You could hardly have imagined a greater human achievement.
Do we have loftier ambitions now? Winning a car just doesn’t seem like that big a deal in 2016. But if any show can reintroduce us to that simple joy, it’ll be good old-fashioned Family Feud.
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