Family Fortunes (ITV, 1980-2002)
This isn’t a show that needs much explanation as to why it’s been so successful really, it’s one of the classics. It is of course based on an American show called Family Feud. It seems that someone thought that the format could become a success in this country and they weren’t wrong, it was popular enough to appear on ITV in a weekend primetime slot for over two decades and always attracted good ratings.
Families from all over the country wanted to take part. Not just because they wanted to win some of the prizes on offer it seemed, but to give daft answers to the surveys which would make everyone laugh. The first host of the show was Bob Monkhouse. Although I am a fan of his, I’m too young to remember when he hosted Family Fortunes so it was fascinating seeing him do so when a repeat run started on Challenge.
He was very good of course, but after a while he decided to leave the show and go to the BBC where he went on to host an even better game show which is one of my all-time favourites and I’ll be writing about that one soon. He was replaced by Max Bygraves who did a couple of series but the show seemed to have come to an end in 1985.
After a couple of years away, Family Fortunes returned with a new look in 1987 and Les Dennis became the host. This is the era that I and many other viewers remember the most. Of course all the answers to the questions appeared on the computerised board which was innovative technology in the early-80s, but it looked rather old-fashioned by the end of the run.
Les always kept things moving along well, and he went on to host the show for almost 15 years. There were a few changes to the format over the years. One of them was if in the final the contestant found all of the top five answers they won a car as a bonus as well as the money, which kept the excitement up in the later series. There were also all the famous sound effects that seemed to be played all the time.
Les had lots of memorable catchphrases and dealt with the silly answers and overexcited contestants well, and there were even a few spin-off shows looking back at the funniest moments, but by the early-2000s the likes of the new era of game shows including Who Wants To Be A Millionaire was making the amount of money that the show gave away seem rather small, and in 2002 the decision was made to relegate the show to a daytime slot.
Because of this, Les left the show, and the daytime version which was clearly made on a smaller budget only ran for one series. It was a disappointing end to the show. However, after another break, it did return to primetime again with bigger and better prizes, but no regular contestants, just celebrity teams which isn’t as great really.