Gerry Dee remembers watching “Family Feud” as a kid, wishing he could test his wits in the intense Fast Money bonus round, in which a contestant answers rapid-fire survey questions with the risk of blurting out something odd on national TV.
“We’ve all wondered what it would be like to be on it,” said the Toronto standup comedian and co-creator/star of the former CBC series “Mr. D.”
“And now Canadian families can be on it — and that’s something we’ve never been able to do.”
More than 40 years after the beloved American TV game show’s premiere comes the new homegrown version “Family Feud Canada,” debuting Monday on the CBC with Dee as host.
“It’s a pinch-me-type moment every time,” Dee said in a recent on-set interview at the downtown CBC Toronto building.
“I’m like, ‘Wow, who would’ve thought — at 13 watching Richard Dawson kiss everybody — that I’d be up here.’”
Dawson was the original host of the Emmy Award-winning U.S. version and was known to kiss the female contestants.
Dee jested he will not be doing that on the Canadian instalment. He plans to put his own spin on the hosting role, although he and the show can’t stray from the time-honoured, comical format.
“Family Feud Canada” looks and plays out like the American version, with a virtually identical structure and blue-hued, flashy set. There’s also the familiar big band-style theme song and soul-crushing buzzer that sounds when an answer is wrong.
Two groups of families compete to guess the most popular answers to survey questions from a sample of Canadians in front of a studio audience.
Dee has never hosted a game show before, but he has the standup and improv background needed for the spontaneous atmosphere, in which contestants sometimes give bizarre responses.
“That’s my favourite part,” Dee said. ”I want bad answers, I want funny answers I can play with it.”
American “Family Feud” host Steve Harvey is a master at playing with contestants’ off-the-wall responses, resulting in moments that sometimes go viral on social media.
Dee said Harvey’s brilliance on the U.S. version poses a challenge for him, as he’ll always be compared to his performance.
“I’ll never be Steve Harvey and that’s fine,” Dee said. ”I’ll just be Gerry Dee.
“This is new to me, too, so I’m learning as I go. But it is a lot of fun. I think people are going to really enjoy it, because it’s not really as much about the game as it is about the comedy and eventually the families I banter with.”
The families are vying for a $10,000 prize each night. Families can stay on for up to three episodes in a row if they win, for a chance at a total of $30,000.
“I don’t even know if (the prize money) is as huge a priority for them as being on the show and having fun,” Dee said.
“When they lose, they seem just as happy.”
“Family Feud Canada” airs Monday to Thursday. Next week’s premiere episodes will be at a special time of 8 p.m. (8:30 NT). The show will move to its regular time lot of 7:30 p.m. (8 NT) beginning Dec. 23.
The CBC auditioned families in 16 cities across the country. Contestants include “a high-energy Italian-Canadian family,” “a proud family of fifth-generation Yukoners from the Champagne and Aishihik First Nation,” and a “French-Canadian family,” says a news release.
A trailer for the show features Dee in a family’s home, interrupting their daily routine with questions including “Name something that Canadians do in bed?” and “What’s the most popular breakfast food in Canada?”
Jennifer Dettman, executive director of unscripted content at CBC, said the public broadcaster had been talking about the show “for so many years” and brought it on board now to fill a hole in the 7:30 p.m. weekday slot.
CBC executives also said it also fit their goal of airing “fun and entertaining” programming that will appeal to advertisers and sponsors.
Dee said he receives some information on the families prior to taping but doesn’t know the survey questions or answers beforehand.
“The rules are very strict and we abide by them very carefully.”
Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press