Family Feud is still on TV. Somehow, among all modern high-stakes game shows that end in marriages or spleens shattered by moving platforms, this lumbering dinosaur has stubbornly persevered. The secret to its success is almost certainly attributable to some Nobel-Prize-deserving media genius at ABC who came up with the idea of Celebrity Family Feud and thereby unearthed the formula to transform an ancient relic into the most engrossing train wreck on network television. I've only seen one episode of season one -- Mario Lopez vs. Joey Lawrence -- and I'm already confident that there's more to unpack in these 22 minutes of prime time than in that entire pile of basic shit, Moby Dick.
Though both probably mention dick an equal number of times.
However, like any American classic, it's borderline impossible to appreciate on your own. You need a guide for a masterpiece this dense. So please, take my hand and try to keep up. I'm documenting this not just for you, but also for the Library of Congress. History will want to know what happened here.
Here's how the show works: Two families compete to answer questions for money. Every question has multiple "correct" answers, except all of those answers are determined by surveys of the general public, or, as I will refer to them from this point forward, THE WAD. Instead of relying on "facts" or "empirical evidence," you have to get inside the hive mind of THE WAD and determine how the lowest common denominator would answer. If the question is, "Name the bloodiest wars in U.S. history" and the majority of bejowled survey takers think that the War on Christmas belongs on that list, then change the goddamn history books, because for the purposes of this show, that's absolutely correct.
Like most kids, I always felt a special connection to Family Feud, likely because any game in which winning isn't about what's right or wrong, but what's most popular, was a conceit I could really grab hold of as an 11-year-old boy. But when you throw celebrities into the mix, suddenly the whole show really sings. Celebrities generally fall out of touch with the thought process of the average human being, so their answers reveal just as much about their own corrupted psyche as they do the idiocy of the THE WAD. Regardless of which way the embarrassment pendulum swings, someone ends up looking like a lunatic. It's beautiful, really.
Oh, and it's all tenuously held together by host Steve Harvey, who is the glue. His energy is enthusiastic within reason, but also appropriately apologetic for being complicit in this dumpster fire. Not an easy demeanor for a host to nail.
With a wave of the hand, he introduces both families, and we are off.
Round One Question: "Name A Reason To Call 911 While You're Making Love"
Joey vs. Mario
One thing I neglected to mention, but which seems to be prevalent in the modern version of the show: every question will leave you secondhand embarrassed for the writers. They are intended to drag even the dumbest person toward a sexual answer so the audience and Steve can have a good laugh about how we're all secretly thinking about hard fucking. Yet even with the path clearly marked, somehow people still manage to fail catastrophically.
Not even from this episode -- just some additional flavor.
Hot hands Mario Lopez knows the answer before Joey can even say "Whoa," which the audience will continue to quietly beg for the rest of the show.
To the question "Name a reason to call 911 while you're making love," Mario says, "You hurt something." Which, while technically correct, is less specific than a horse stamping out an answer in the dirt. Still, it's on the board, sort of. It shows up as "Injury / Broke Weenie." As soon as Joey Lawrence sees the answer, he astutely asks the question, "Does that say broke weenie?"
Steve assures him that it does.
Joey loses his will to play.
But Mario is on board, hard. In fact, he has more to add. He leans back smiling and tells no one, "Hey, it happens." This is the first of many times Mario will take great pride in his knowledge of horrifying sexual experiences. Also, this is the only answer he will get right in the entire show.
The Lopez family has earned the right to play this round, and Mario's wife Courtney is up next. But first, a little backstory for context:
Mario Lopez has been married once before his current wife -- for about two days. He and his first wife got an annulment because she found out that he had sex with a prostitute at his bachelor party days before their wedding. This is completely unrelated, but still feels like important context, given everything that is about to happen.
Steve Harvey asks Courtney for a reason to call 911 while making love, except Mario isn't done. He has some more quips he wants to squeeze in about his wife, like "She's got this on lock" and "She knows all about this" and "She's got  on speed dial," inadvertently assuring everyone that his wife is in tremendous danger any time the Lopez beast wants to mate. Mario, you will quickly realize, is hopelessly stupid.
Courtney says, "Because someone died." It is a good answer. It's on the board, and for a brief second, it looks like this might be just a boring game show after all. Then Mario crosses himself Catholicly and slaps his wife on the ass, because nightmares rarely let you forget they're nightmares for long.
The rest of the family is on point, clearing out the board despite every one of their answers being a euphemism for "Anal bead disappears in a butthole."
The actual answers were "lost sex toy" and "something gets stuck."
It looks like smooth sailing right up until it circles back to Mario, who has disregarded the "making love" portion of the question and is only hunting for legitimate reasons to call an ambulance. He ventures "You can't breathe," and his confidence is loud enough to drown out the awkward silence that follows, as even his team refuses to clap for that answer.
Surprise. His terrible fucking answer isn't up there. Mario is livid. He pleads with Steve Harvey that it should count because "It's a good answer" and because it's likely that Mario doesn't know how this game works.
The Lopezes are clearly shaken and can't root out the last answer before getting three Xs. The board changes hands to the Lawrences, and a single answer trickles down the line to Joey. "The room is on fire," he offers because apparently even people who aren't in movies light candles to have sex. It's correct, and the Lawrences have stolen the first round. Everyone in the family celebrates and points eagerly down the row toward the brains of this operation: the mysterious and unsteady 87-year-old-man at the end who fed Joey that answer. He is far too old to be the Lawrences' father. He is probably too old to have been standing this long. He shrugs casually, as if to say, "I don't know what my relationship is, either." Commercial break.