Sunday, January 09, 2005

In my last post I began the story of the time I was on Family Feud. Today, the dramatic conclusion.

The College Week tournament featured five games. All five episodes would get taped in one day, but would televise over the course of a very exciting week. The first four matchups were:

Stanford vs Berkeley
UCLA vs Stanford
USC vs Berkeley

The final match would pit the two biggest winners from the previous four games against each other. IT WAS THE VERY DEFINITION OF HIGH DRAMA!

At this point I must urge all readers to stop and go pee. I would hate to be responsible for any accidents that would occur from over-excited bladders or blog entries that just don't know when to quit. Go ahead. I'll wait here...


Whatever. Anyway.

Game 1 was UCLA vs USC. It should be noted that although I previously described the UCLA contestants as tall and beautiful, I just rewatched my tape of the show for the first time in a decade and they were neither tall nor beautiful. However, in the interest of propping up LA stereotypes, I will stand by my original description.

The show starts out with an introduction to each of the collegiate "families". In traditional Family Feud style, each team is introduced while they pose as though they were in some sort of corny, country-style painting. The College Week twist on this is that the teams then spring into a collegiate cheer. I shudder just thinking about it. The UCLA and USC teams did a nearly-professional calibre job of the cheer.

The host of the show, Ray Combs, then briefly meets each of the teams, giving himself just enough time to make a smarmy comment. The UCLA team, he notes, is very good looking. The USC team, he wittily remarks, resembles a cheerleading squad. In fact, the head of the USC team, a Ken-like man named Michael, dwarfs Ray in nearly comical fashion.

(Note that Ray Combs was not the original host of Family Feud. That honor belongs to Richard Dawson, whose main claim to fame was that he kissed every female contestant, regardless of physical beauty or potential cooties. Ray Combs did no kissing. Perhaps he should have. Ray Combs committed suicide a few years later.)

Soon, the game begins. One member from each team approaches the main podium and is asked to, "Name a famous college." USC rings in first, naming "Harvard." It's the #1 answer and they get the opportunity to guess the rest of the list. Wisely, no one on their team guesses "USC". They guess incorrectly with "Oxford" and "Princeton" but get three more valid answers with "Stanford", "Yale", and "Notre Dame". The next USC contestant cements their reputation as idiots by following up the Notre Dame guess by saying, "Well, staying in England, I guess Cambridge." Cambridge was not correct and Ray Combs, either by ignorance or politeness, does not point out that Notre Dame is not in England

UCLA steals the pot by brilliantly guessing their own name. "UCLA" is the final answer. 74 points for UCLA.

The next question is "Name a modern convenience that is very convenient". USC, desperate to look good in this battle of wits, gets the #1 answer with "Microwave". They eventually win this question, demonstrating that stupid rich kids can indeed name most of the appliances in their summer homes. 80 points for USC.

The third question, worth double points, asks them to "Name a martial art". UCLA leads off by guessing the #1 answer, "Karate". Mostly the teams don't embarrass themselves here except when one of the USC students guesses "Yoga". USC wins this question, rocketing to 242 points, a little shy of the 300 needed to win the game.

The final question, worth triple points, asks "Name something that parents forbid teenagers from doing unless their grades improve". USC, obviously having great experience in this area, wins this question too, bringing their total to 524, thus easily winning the game.

During the final "speed" round of the episode, USC wins another $5000 for themselves, ultimately by guessing an alternate name for a hot dog. One "wiener" later, they're celebrating their intellectual dominance as well as a $5000 prize. As though they need it.

Game 2 pits Stanford (booo) against my team, Berkeley (yay!). As always, the episode begins with each team doing their "pose" and their cheer. As you'd expect from a geeky engineer, I totally sucked at the cheer. Not only do I appear to be saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, but I'm about a beat behind the rest of the team. To this day I cannot watch the tape of this without simultaneously cringing and laughing. Note that I am laughing AT me and not with me. Also to this day, I cannot understand what the cheer was supposed to say. It contained some sort of growl though.

Our team leader introduces us to Ray Combs and I'm labeled as "our computer whiz". That's my introduction to America. Unsurprisingly, no casting agents have contacted me.

The game finally begins with this question, "Name something a girl hopes for on a first date." Stanford (booo) gets the #1 answer with "A kiss", and follows that up with valid answers of "Dinner" and "Asked out again" but ultimately gives Berkeley (yay!) a chance to steal. The whole team is polled for their opinion and I offer up, "Getting walked to her door." Although you cannot actually hear America fall in love with me, I'm certain it happened at that exact moment. Damn, I am a gentleman. Regardless, Albert, our team leader goes with "Have a good time" and we win the round and 72 points.

The second question is, "Name a woman whose face is recognized around the world." Berkeley (yay) rings in first with...Jacqueline Bisset, which is not on the board, but Stanford follows up with another answer that is also not on the board, Marilyn Monroe. Finally, Ray Combs makes his way to me. I offer "Queen Elizabeth" and you can see my teammate, Brett, who had just offered the lame Bisset answer, whip around towards me with a What-the-hell expression on his face. The answer, however, appears on the board in last place, in the 6th spot. Stanford (boo), however, follows up with "Lady Diana" and gets a chance to fill in the rest of the spots. They add "Nancy Reagan" and "Margaret Thatcher" before giving Berkeley (yay) a chance to steal. We all agree on Jackie Onassis and we win another 46 points.

Finally, on the 3rd question, which is worth double points, I'm given a chance to step to the podium for a head-to-head matchup against a Stanford (boo) student. The question is, "Name a place that is filled with young people." Stanford rings in first with "A Disco" and gets the #4 answer. I suggest "School" which turns out to be the #1 answer. America goes crazy! Berkeley (yay) continues by getting "Concert" and "Arcade" before we give Stanford (boo) a chance to steal the pot. They guess "Amusement park", which is not correct and Berkeley (yay) wins the 3rd pot in a row, giving us 266 points.

300 points are needed to win, however, so we go to a 4th question, worth triple points. The question is, "Name a fictional crime fighter." After Berkeley (yes, yay) gets the #3 answer with "Superman", Stanford ends up running the table with "Batman", "Dick Tracy" (recall that this took place in 1990), and "Sherlock Holmes"

Stanford: 266
Berkeley: 261.

The fifth and final question is "Name something you brush off your clothes." Berkeley gets the #1 answer with "Lint" and follows up with "Pet hair". It's then my turn, and I've noticed that when the answers on the board are very specific, it's because there's another similar answer to be had. So, I offer up "Human hair". Once again, you can see Brett's outraged reaction to my answer. His eyes bug out, and his head sinks down onto the podium, as though weighed down by the tremendous stupidity of my ansewr. "Human hair" is the #2 answer, but after a few other wrong answers, Stanford steals the pot with "Food".

They get another 238 points, bringing them to 504, thus winning the game. In our defense, all I can do is mock the Stanford leader for literally SCREAMING each of her answers. If volume equalled points, they would have won after the first question.

(I should note at this point that although Stanford and Berkeley are rival schools, I never really paid attention to that. My reasons for hating Stanford are personal, and thus will be discussed in another blog entry. I also hate USC, but only because they're rich and stupid. No offense. UCLA I'm ambivalent about. UC = good, but LA = bad.)

Stanford went on to the speed round, and despite a barrage of stupid answers (e.g. "Name something rich people never have to do?" Answer: "Buy a house". "Name something with a built-in light. Answer: "Lamp". Lamp??? Christ.), they do amass enough points to win $5000 dollars for themselves.

Game 3 pitted Family Feud powerhouse Stanford against loser UCLA. Absolutely nothing of consequence, interest, or humor happened in this game, but UCLA ended up winning the game and the subsequent speed round.

At this point USC has won a game. Stanford has won a game and UCLA has won a game. Basically, everyone has won at least one game...except Berkeley.

Game 4! Berkeley vs USC. Berkeley's final chance to prove themselves the equal of these other expert teams in this esteemed contest of intellectual prowess.

Once again, like poorly trained trick ponies, we do our Family Feud pose and collegiate cheer. Once again, I appear to be doing a different cheer from everyone else. Although I do marginally better this time, it's really astonishing how poorly I execute this simple task. USC, as usual, executes their cheer with robotic precision.

The first question of the game was, "Name something people lie about on their resumes." Berkeley guesses first with "Experience", which is the #2 answer. USC nails the #1 answer with "Age". Age??? Whatever. Anyway, USC follows up with answers of "Reason for leaving last job", "Previous salary", and "Arrest record". Obviously they are well-versed in the art of lying on resumes. Berkeley, however is given the chance to take the pot and we all agree on the answer, "Education", which is good, giving us 89 points. Once again, Berkeley strikes first. Zing!

After each one of these correct answers, the camera always pans to me and the rest of the team making our obligatory demonstration of enthusiasm. I recall that at each "commercial break", the producers would rush over to our team and say, "More energy, guys! We need to to be more energetic!". Thus, we have now captured on VHS, my very first arm-raised "Wooo!". I probably did more high-fives that day than I had in my previous 22 years of life. As it turns out, forced spontaneous exuberance is not my forte.

Question #2 was, "Name something operated by remote control". USC led off with the #1 answer of "TV" and continued on with "VCR", "Car alarm" and "Model car". However, their multiple guesses of "Stereo" resulted in Berkeley's opportunity to grab the pot. We were all polled and we couldn't agree on an answer. Other teammates guessed, "Lights", and "Answering machine", but I went with "Model plane", noting that the producers had been very specific about their vehicle choice in the previous "Model car" answer.

Sadly, Albert, our team leader, went with "Answering machine" and we lost the pot. When Ray revealed the final remaining answer on the board, and it was "Model plane", the camera panned back to me, showing my Hey-That's-What-I-Said outrage. America saw that I had been scorned and they silently wept for me.

Question #3 was worth double points and was my turn at the podium. I stood proudly, hand on the buzzer, eagerly awaiting my chance to again demonstrate my Family Feud dominance. The question was, "Name something that someone can get kicked out of." I immediately rang in and answered, "School!", which was the #2 answer. USC's answer was "Job", which was not on the board, giving Berkeley the opportunity to rack up some answers.

Astute readers will note that both my trips to the podium, across both episodes, resulted in me answering "School" and giving Berkeley the opportunity to win that question. School! On College Week! Genius.

Sadly, however, the Berkeley team was unable to come up with a valid additional answer to the question. Bunch of freakin goody-two-shoes! USC, given the opportunity to steal, answered "Bar" and took the pot. Apparently they were more experienced at being kicked out of places.

Question #4, worth triple points, was "Something people do after graduation." Although Berkeley led off with "Party", it was only the #3 answer, allowing USC to parry with "Take a trip". They followed up with "Get a job" before giving Berkeley an opportunity to steal the pot. Once again we were polled and we offered a variety of different answers. My teammates suggested "Travel", "Go to graduate school" and I guessed, "Buy a car."

By now our team leader, Albert, must have recognized my innate Family Feud skills. He must have seen that I, among all the Berkeley contestants, was most in touch with Joe/Jane America. I am everyman. Consequently, Albert went with my "Buy a car answer".

Well, it wasn't up there, USC took the pot and rocketed past 300 points, winning the episode. The final answer was, apparently, "Get married." Gack.

That was Berkeley's last chance to win a game. The final episode of College Week, featured the two best champions of the week, Stanford and USC. It was truly an epic battle, featuring these titans of game-show-osity.

Stanford won the questions that were vaguely scholastic in nature (name things associated with the Old South, name a dictator), whereas USC cleaned up on the question about naming things near a Lifeguard stand. Comically, USC totally sucked at the question regarding naming items in a college student's room.

Stanford won the championship, cementing my hatred for them.

So, I didn't win big bucks. I didn't win any glory and I didn't get kissed by Richard Dawson. What did I get? Consolation prizes!

I got the following:
- A huge box full of Life Savers style candy. Not actual Life Savers, but a rip-off brand
- Several containers of Hershey's syrup
- High humidity hair spray. How handy!
- A crapload of spray starch. This is, apparently, something one uses when performing a task known as i-r-o-n-i-n-g. I gave away these useless canisters. My ex-girlfriend still has one.
- A cylindrical cooler embossed with the Kentucky Fried Chicken logo. I happily used this as a garbage can for about a year.

What did I not receive that I expected to? Turtle Wax! Rice-a-Roni! The home version of the game! It was my impression, after decades of game-show watching, that these items were the staples of the consolation prize industry. Times change, my friends.

What did I learn? Life isn't fair. Also, there such a thing as a too long blog entry.

Thank you, good night, and please, tip your wait staff.


amy said...

sorry you lost. still made for a great blog story though. no home version of the game? crap. hold on tight to that vhs tape though... your daughter can take it one day to "show-n-tell" ...

Mike said...


I'm not sure what the educational value of my Family Feud experience would be for my daughter's show-and-tell, but it would fit nicely into the theme of her letting the world see me make an ass of myself.