July 3, 2018

2018 Is The Summer Of Ripping Off Family Feud

GSN and TruTV both have different spins on Family Feud this summer.

I’m sure when market research groups pile game show viewers into their weird behind-a-weird-salon-in-a-mall conference room, the first thing the group doesn’t tell them is “We want even more Family Feud than we currently get!” But alas, even though no one wants more Family Feud (personally, I could do with a bit less day to day), we’re getting more and more.

GSN’s America Says is, on its surface, a weird Saturday Night Live-looking pastiche of Family Feud made to give Kenan Thompson a really great reaction joke. But there is no Kenan and there are no jokes. In fact, the show is actually real—with like, rules and everything!—which, if I were to explain it to you, sounds pretty much like Family Feud: A survey question was presented to a selection of Americans. The top answers are on the board. Each answer guessed by a team gives them points. Unrevealed answers give the opposing team a chance to answer for points. Answers left unguessed at the end of the round are revealed and chanted out by the audience. The team with the most points goes on to the fast-paced bonus round for the big cash prize. I mean, the damn show even looks like Family Feud:

How is this legal?

Now, America Says does have some differences: the questions are all Fill in the Blank, and the first letter or letters of each answer are given to each team. And teams are on the clock, having to shout out answers, with incorrect answers moving who has to guess down the line of players. And the teams aren’t families; they all have something in common, like being coworkers or sharing a love of a hobby. You know those movies that show up On Demand that look like blockbusters hits but really are cheap knockoffs (like Paranormal Entity)? This is that. America Says is the game show equivalent of a mockbuster. John Michael Higgins is a competent host, especially when he makes amusing quips about bad answers teams give on the clock, but sometimes it feels like he’s playing the part of a game show host in a parody sketch.

On the one hand, props to GSN for continuing to commission traditional or “shiny-floor” game shows, and if this is one of the first new shows that’s hitting production after the regime change in GSN’s leadership to Mark Feldman and Fran Shea, then it’s at least a competent start. There’s certainly a game here, and it’s decently put together. I just pine for a better show, something less blatantly derivative.

But you know, I pine for a lot of things and never get them. I’d like Portugal to win a World Cup. I’d like the Philippines to not fight Australians during basketball. I’d like Casey Abell to understand who writes what on the Internet. I’d like less games based on surveys. So, TruTV, have you decided to make a fresh game show that doesn’t need a crutch of guessing the top survey answers?

God damnit.

Paid Off is TruTV’s latest foray into game shows, and honestly, it’s not THAT Family Feud-y. Three student-loan-debt-laden contestants compete in three rounds of questions: a Debt-style trivia round, a Family Feud-ish survey round, and a Mastermind-type specialist subject round based on the contestant’s major. The winning player goes to a bonus round where answering enough questions will win them enough money to wipe out their Debt. (Fun thing to note: 20 years ago, when this idea was implemented as Debt on Lifetime with Wink Martindale, rarely did anyone have over $10,000 in debt to play for. Here, the baseline seems to be $40,000. There’s a political commentary somewhere there but I’ll leave its discovery as an exercise to the reader.) Host and co-creator Michael Torpey, better known as shellshocked PO Humphreys from the 3rd and 4th seasons of Orange is the New Black on Netflix, looks like he moves the game along, but the show doesn’t premiere for another week, so we’ll see.

Game shows are back on television with a fervor we haven’t seen in a long while, but hopefully some fresh new ideas will take hold soon. America Says airs every day at 5 on GSN, and Paid Off premieres July 10th at 9 PM ET.