|Dawson hosted Family Feud from 1976-’85 and later in ’94-’95|
“His mind worked like a steel trap, but he wasn’t the happiest man in the world.”
That was Betty White’s assessment of Richard Dawson, who died Saturday at 79.
Popular with audiences and contestants for his almost uncanny ability to match words, the Family Feud host and Match Game panelist was not always a favourite with his peers.
“He was about as sexy as a snail,” Match Game panelist Brett Somers huffed in 2006, when the documentary The Real Match Game Story: Behind the Blank aired on GSN.
There were suggestions Dawson felt he was above that show when it started to take off in the early ’70s. Thanks to the free wheeling party atmosphere (host Gene Rayburn and the panel boozed it up between tapings) and clues that sounded dirty (“Mary liked to pour gravy on John’s blank”), it was the No. 1 show in all of daytime for three consecutive years (1973-76).
Dawson lobbied producer Mark Goodson for his own show and got it–Family Feud, a series spun off from Match Game‘s “Super Match” clue board. For a season or two, the former Hogan’s Heroes actor was starring twice a day on two different game shows.
By 1977, it was clear even to viewers that Dawson didn’t want to be on the Match Game panel any more. The producers came up with a spinning wheel to give the other celebs a shot at some face time during the big money guesses, something Dawson took as a personal affront. In protest, he began wearing tinted glasses and whispering his answers. The producers eventually gave him his release.
“I remember he left the show and everyone was thrilled,” said Somers.
Dawson, however, was vindicated when Feud soon took over as TV’s No. 1 daytime series. His “survey says” became an instant catch phrase. His habit of kissing every single female player on the show was also part of Feud‘s corny charm.
By the mid-’80s, however, hour-long soaps has squeezed most game shows off network schedules. Feud ended its original run in 1985. Dawson got a second shot at hosting a revival of the series in 1994, but he and the show were both gone in a year.
Besides his six-year run as Cockney POW Newkirk on Hogan’s Heroes, Dawson appeared in several other sitcoms. He guested on The Dick Van Dyke Show and was a regular in the ’70s on The New Dick Van Dyke Show.
Aside from his appearance as a nasty game show host in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s The Running Man (1987), the British born performer pretty much fell of the radar after that final Feud flicker. This led to rumours that he had died. No longer just a rumour; Richard Dawson is blank.