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Family Feud unites us by fulfilling a basic human need: low-stakes drama

Byron Cohen
ABC via Getty Images

My older sister has scrutinized every boyfriend I've ever brought home. But she isn't performing the standard quality control checks. She wants to know if they're good enough for ... our future Family Feud squad.

For years we've been trying to put together an A-list lineup, always looking for the best formula of family members to take on our imaginary rivals. The same way the Avengers can't all have the same superpower, we are building a balanced team of Feuders that could beat any enemies. What do they bring to the table? More importantly, what do they know that I don't?

<strong>Arielle Retting</strong> is a growth editor and the creator of <a href="" data-key="199">I'm Really Into</a>.
/ Mike Morgan/NPR
Mike Morgan/NPR
Arielle Retting is a growth editor and the creator of I'm Really Into.

If you're not familiar with the long-running game show, two families compete by guessing the most popular answers to survey questions. What makes it special is if you play it right, you aren't giving your own opinion — you're thinking of what average survey respondents said. The family with the most points gets to play fast money, where two people need to answer rapid-fire to get enough points to win the cash prize.

So why Family Feud? It's kitschy and a bit silly — the YouTube highlights never get old. It's a game show that's just challenging enough. And ultimately, it's the low-stakes drama we all need.

My journey started with casual viewing. I grew up in a house without cable, and there were only so many things to keep us entertained when babysitting our younger sisters. The game show hit that sweet spot when we weren't old enough to appreciate Jeopardy! but felt too old for cartoons (the "I'm Not A Girl, Not Yet A Woman" phase.) We started when Richard Karn of Home Improvement hosted, kept it up when Seinfeld's John O'Hurley took over, and we remain loyal viewers of the current Steve Harvey version. But truthfully, the host isn't even a selling point for us — we are laser-focused on the game.

The real obsession began when my big sister moved into her own apartment. She got cable, and I got to learn about the Game Show Network. Watching MULTIPLE episodes of Family Feud back to back is what got us dreaming about competing someday, and even practicing our own fast money questions. (She always goes first, and I am always second — big sister privileges.)

When the pandemic first hit, many took comfort in hobbies like learning a new language or creating art. I did a little of that, too, but I also got addicted to the Family Feud app, staying up late to compete with strangers and prove that I knew something — anything — during a time when so much felt unknown. That small sense of control brought me a little comfort and joy during the uncertainty. And some bragging rights.

And even celebrities like to Feud with the rest of us. Whether it's the original Queer Eye cast facing off against the new class, or Sherri Shepherd shrieking that a cop would cut her husband's penis off, there's something for every pop culture fanatic. An all-time high was when Kim Kardashian brought the passion and speed that you need for fast money, even if we can't relate to some of her answers (shockingly, zero people said their butt is the body part they most often knock into things!)

I love Family Feud because I see it as the great equalizer. It forces me to take a step back from my bubble and think about the larger human experience.

But ultimately, the reason I love Family Feud is because I see it as the great equalizer. It forces me to take a step back from my bubble and think about the larger human experience. I know what I would answer, but what would other people say? How am I different from them, but also how are we similar?

It took a few weeks, but she gave my (now-husband) her blessing to join our team. As we get older and our families continue to grow, so does our list of potential teammates. I see these new additions as opportunities to appreciate everyone for what they bring to the table in their unique way. And maybe we're finally ready to take our imaginary team and turn it into the real deal.

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Arielle Retting
Arielle Retting is a growth editor for digital content at NPR. In her current role, she helps the newsroom develop digital skills so NPR can expand our storytelling to meet our audiences where they are.