#161 - Family Feud's Bull's-eye Game
Making Feud more pressed for time than your average edition of WCW Monday Nitro

 

CBS: (September 1992 - September 1993)
Syndication (September 1992 - September 1994 & September 2009 - September 2010)
Syndication [as Bankroll] (September 1994 - September 1995)
Text by: Robert Seidelman

Family Feud underwent one of their biggest format changes in the shows entire 38 year history in America.  The daytime version on CBS would expand to a full hour as Family Feud Challenge and the Nighttime Syndicated version would be renamed "The New Family Feud".  In the Daytime version with the expansion to a full hour, two new families would play in the first half hour and the winner would play the returning champions in the second half of the show.  For both versions, playing for the box standard $5,000 in daytime and $10,000 in nighttime would be scuttled and in its place would be a new game that could increase the amount of money that families would play for in Fast Money.  What the new round would do to the game would instead of giving it a much needed boost, make it drag down faster into the depths of the ratings barrel before even more drastic changes would happen.

 So, pull back your bow and arrows and fire at the target.  It's time to play the Bull's-eye Game.

Oddly enough, when the show intros with the new format, it has a nice graphic of an archery target with the #3 answer and #2 answer read and shown, then a cliffhanger much like the ones on Make The Grade and Top Card.  Then Gene announces the teams, Ray and Ray gives us the answer to the survey.  It's nicely done, and helped people get eased into the shows new Hour Long format ala The Price Is Right.  However, if I have to knock something, the new intro took longer than the old intro, which only took about 30 seconds, when this took about a full minute to 1:15.  Which for a 42 minute show in which you have to do the same thing again at the bottom of the hour, that does eat up time.

The setup for Bull's-eye was cool enough and made it stand out more.  It completely covers up the entire board, giving people the feeling of a brand new set, even though we know it's not so.  Right above Ray looked like a monitor so they could display the amount being played for and the correct answer, should nobody get it right.  So, we get a good intro, a good look for the new game, even the podiums that now flash Family Feud and the banked money look good.  What could go wrong?

Well, the execution of it all.  Let's get started with the game.  Ray brings up the first two members of each of the families and asks a question worth $500/$1000 for their bank.  In order to get the money, the contestant must come up with the #1 Answer.  If successful, that money gets added to their bank, if not their opponent gets a chance.  Then the next two people from the families come up and play for $1000/$2000 and so on and so forth until the last one, which is worth $2500/$5000.  It sounds like a good idea.  But the problems lie in this.  Before Bull's-eye, the format would have used a $5000 Fast Money for the first half and $10,000 for the Second Half.  Instead, we're now playing for cheaper stakes in an hour long format, and the only way to get back to even par is to win either the last one or two or sometimes three of the first four.  The maximum in this format is $10,000/$20,000 and only a few people did it for $20,000, and only one team won the $20,000 and that was on a Roseanne Vs. Jackie Thomas Show episode where Tom Arnold won the $20,000 for his charity.

This makes the program seem cheaper than it was just last season in a half-hour long format.  More often than not, the contestants would play for less than the grand prize on last season.   But that's not my biggest issue with Bull's-eye.  My biggest problem with Bull's-eye was that it took so long to play.  More often than not, Bull's-eye, along with the longer open would go for about 6 minutes, around a minute or so longer than it did the season prior.  Thus making the rest of the show seem compressed to get in three, sometimes four rounds in a new Single/Double/Triple/Triple format and a sped up Fast Money where the proceedings can take less than 2 minutes and taking out any drama. 

Remember when I talked about the 400 Point format in the last year of Richard Dawson's run as host?  Well, this was their idea of it to add more to the show.  Instead of adding too much game, they added more money, and a broken mechanic to reach that money plateau.  The show would be cancelled in 1993 on CBS, so all that was left was the Half-Hour long syndication run of the show in 1994 when the ratings and everything else was corpsing.

Family Feud is Corpsing?

And that they did.

Richard would come back in September of 1994 with the old Opryland set used to kick off the 93-94 season, but redesigned with blue glass rather than the clear ones used in the special.  It felt jazzed up, and I liked it.  The music got reworked as well, and it felt like a new show.  What was also brought back was the Family Feud Challenge format where two new families would play against either a Champion family or a family from Dawson's old version of Feud.  One of the things that Richard didn't like was Bull's-eye, so they worked out a compromise:  The Bankroll Round.

The two teams in the first half were still staked $2500 to start, but to speed it up, only one member of each family would play the three Bankroll questions.  The first being $500, the second $1,500 and the last one $2,500 for a maximum of $7,000 for the first half and $14,000 for the second half since all were doubled.  I liked this faster pace for this format, which also worked with Dawson's hosting style that made the contestants more the star and gave him time to properly razz a truly terrible answer.  Unfortunately, the elephant in the room was still the cheapened payouts. 

I could also talk about the new use of CGI being the new board instead of an actual board, but to be fair, the graphics looked great.  It was kind of disappointing to not have the flip-cards again on Feud '94, but the new graphics used for that looked good too and that style of board and graphics are used today with only a maximum of 8 answers instead of the usual 12 and the big circle and number in the middle.

Unfortunately, that did little to help out the cause. Because of sagging ratings, and competition from the 20,000 talk shows and court shows covering the massive OJ Simpson Trial that were on at the time, Family Feud would see it's 2nd cancellation in syndication in 1995. 

But the story doesn't end there.  In 2009, to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the current run of Family Feud, the producers announced that they brought back Bull's-eye for a potential $30,000 jackpot.

They went back to the Ray Combs style of Bull's-eye, but with Modern Technology being what it is, used a different program for the Bull's-eye round and to be honest, it looked more mediocre than the stylish graphics of Feud 94 or the impressive looking board of Ray Combs's Bull's-eye.  The families were staked $15,000 each, and the $1k/$2k/$3k/$4k/$5k format was used for a maximum of $30,000.  The best part about O'Hurley's Bull's-eye was the rapid pace it was using.  They fit in Bull's-eye and the pre-taped family intros in the same amount of time it would have taken them to do one question in the previous season, so they didn't suffer from being too pressed for time, like the Combs version did.  The elephant in the room is still there though in that the minimum was still less than the previous seasons flat grand prize of $20,000.  However, to counter that, this was also the season that started the rule that if a team won 5 games, they won a brand new car.  I guess the $20,000+ car would have been the tradeoff for the lost money via Bull's-eye. 

Unfortunately, ratings were also starting to sag, with brought up hints that we'd be seeing the last of Family Feud.  We all saw that the show itself was Corpsing with the announcement that John O'Hurley, the host that breathed a little life into an aging show, would be leaving to focus more on other ventures.

The show is corpsing again?

And boy did they ever.

Enter Steve Harvey.  I think no more introduction needs to be said about him and how he's helped bring the show into ratings heaven, not seen since Richard Dawson and his run over 30 years ago.  When Steve did take the job they dumped Bull's-eye, kept the 5 Wins for a Car rule, and allowed him to yuk it up with the contestants more.  Those moments that made it onto YouTube have truly shown that the show was still viable, it just needed a host that made others funny and none of the additional gimmicks that plagued O'Hurley's last season.

Bull's-eye was a great idea for the show, but it was just horribly executed.  I think Bankroll was the better executed version, but the cheapened payouts didn't help matters for a struggling show that would continue to struggle.  If I had to have the Bull's-eye Round today, I'd take Bankroll, starting banks of $20,000, and questions worth $2k/$3k/$5k for a max of $30,000.  The show would still be worthwhile and the additional money is more incentivized, rather than reclaiming an old flat jackpot.



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