Family Fortunes



Bob Monkhouse (1980-83)

Max Bygraves (1983-5)

Les Dennis (1987-2002)

Andy Collins (2002)

Ant & Dec (2005 special)

Vernon Kay (2006- )



Stephen Rhodes (1987-99)

Peter Dickson (2000-1, 2005 one-off special, 2007 -)

Roger Tilling (2002)

Lisa I'Anson (2006)


ATV for ITV, 6 January 1980-81

Central for ITV, 1981-98

Carlton for ITV, 1999-2002

Carlton for ITV, 2001 (All-Star Family Fortunes)

TalkbackThames for ITV1, 2005 (one-off), 2006-


Take two families, a large game board which looked like it was brought from a dodgy salesman at a bargain price, a host who could do an impression of Mavis from Coronation Street and questions supplied by the public in specially commissioned surveys.

Then sit back and watch the 'fun' in the peak years of what was one of television's highest rated and longest running game shows, Family Fortunes.

Max Bygraves, host of the second incarnation.

As Paul Merton said in Have I Got News for You - "they'll get asked to name something with a motor in it and they'll say something like... 'a cat' " and it was so true!

Third host Les Dennis.

100 people were polled on a innocuous question such as Name something you do in bed, and a person from each family hit a buzzer and guessed as to what the public might have said.

The buzz-off for control of the board

If it wasn't the top answer then the opposing team were allowed to guess. Whoever had the most popular answer got to take the question for their team (they could pass it if they wanted, but that was a rare occurrence). The rest of the family then took it in turns to guess answers until they got three incorrect guesses (as represented by a cross and a UH-UHHHHH! sound).

The game board

If the opposing team then guessed an answer not yet found they won the money (a pound for every person that replied to that answer). If not, any found money went to the first team.

After the break they played for Double Money. You're probably intelligent enough to guess what happened there.

The set as seen in 1999

The family who first made £300 went through to the final round where the excitement peaked (apparently) when the family with the most points selected two members of the family to play a fast money game against the clock- yes, it was time for Biiiig Money! (At least, Max Bygraves enjoyed whipping it up in that way, but the other hosts didn't tend to make such a big deal of it, except for reminding the contestants of the money - and possibly car or holiday - they could win).

A contestant plays the end game

It was a nice gentle show with a lot of humour in it, and there was some evolution of the format near the end - particularly the chance to win a car (and later a holiday) if you found all five top answers in the end game. But as the millennium approached we thought couldn't ITV be a bit braver and try something new for a change instead of cranking out yet another series? Come in number 5, your time is up.

Then, in 2002, the show moved to daytime. Les Dennis left, knowing that this was going to be the final nail in the coffin for the show, and the oh-so-famous Andy Collins became the new host. Ratings were unspectacular, and one of ITV's longest running institutions disappeared with a whimper at the end of the year.

All Star Family Fortunes

After a successful run out as part of Antandec's Gameshow Marathon, 2006 saw celebrity editions with stars playing with their real-life less glamourous relatives. The changes to the game were subtle but noticeable: Mr Babbage had been given a large shot of Technicolor Botox; the new title sequence is as camp as you like; there's a special reveal for announcing the top answer in Big Money; the game now ends after five rounds regardless of the scores. Vernon Kay is affable if too shouty as a host. There's a lot to commend this fresh remake but some polishing would not go amiss either.

Key moments

The famous UK Game Show Page cockups list! A fairly comprehensive list of the hilarious wrong answers produced by some contestants over the years can be found here! Many were featured on two programmes entitled 'Family Misfortunes', in which Les Dennis showed footage of these answers and spoke to some of the families involved, who were in the audience.

Bob Monkhouse and the rather aptly named 'Thicke Family' in 1980:
Bob: "Name something blue..."
Family Member 1 (Liam): "Sky"
Bob: "Top answer!, play or pass?"
Family Member 2 (Liam's Mother): We'll play!
Bob: "Name something blue..."
Family Member 2: "We've already answered that one!"
(PAUSE) Bob explains the rules of the game.
Bob: "Name something blue..."
Family Member 2: "My cardigan"
Bob: (looking gobsmacked) "Let's see if it's up there!"

In the Bygraves years, one man (the late Bob Johnson) managed to answer "turkey" for the first three answers in the end game, running out of time before he answered the last two. Certainly, eyebrows were raised when he answered "turkey" to the question "Name something people take with them to the beach." Then he said the same thing for "The first thing you buy in a supermarket" and "A food often stuffed". Thinking of an answer for "A famous snooker player" he eventually ran out of time, scoring a grand total of 21 for his contributions, all of which came from correctly answering question 3. The story goes that he overheard 'chicken' as the answer to the third question, and he got it into his head that if 'chicken' had worked, then surely 'turkey' must be one of the answers as well! (Give him his due, though: "turkey" and "chicken" actually were two good answers to the same question - the only problem was that he failed to spot which question it was.) This is the most widely-accepted explanation - and the one given by his family in the documentary Our Survey Said - but another version goes that Johnson had meant to say 'Turkish towel' as his first answer, but got stuck on his nerves and ending up coming out with 'turkey' for those first three answers. Other people have assumed that he just went blank and he said "turkey" as the first thing that came into his head because that was the destination of the (obviously unwon) prize holiday. In any case, it's certainly become one of the show's, and television in general's, most famous (or should we say notorious?) bloopers.

Bob Johnson's Big Money round

According to the excellent 'Gameshow Handbook' by David N Mason, there was a further twist to this episode. Mrs Johnson went up to Max after the recording and asked him how much money he'd take not to broadcast the show. Max duly consulted William G. Stewart, the producer, who asked her how much she had in mind. She said, "£100" and Stewart then had to explain that a single edition of the show cost £38,000 to mount. She wisely decided not to pursue the matter further!

The man who talked turkey, literally

Les having great fun with 'the Dicks' in 1998. "So you're the head of the family, that makes you, the, er..."


(Monkhouse era) "The question will appear at the bottom of the screen for viewers who are hard of hearing"

"Top [six] answers on the board"

"Let's see if it's up there!"

"Rejoin your family - no conferring - but the (whichever) family, think of some answers in case you get a chance to steal..."

(Max Bygraves): "Biiiig Moooney!"

(Les Dennis): "If that answer's there, I'll give you the money meself"

"The top answer was..."

"You said (whatever), our survey said...."

"We asked 100 people to name...."

(Before the endgame): (Max): "Join me front and centre, please" and (Les): "Join me at the mike".

"Right - (whoever) - you're going to play first - and (whoever), go and put the headset on and we'll call you back when we're ready for you..."

"Rejoin your family - we'll clear the board and bring back (whoever)".

"...And if you duplicate any of the answers, you'll hear this sound ('oomp') and I'll ask you for another answer..."

"Can we remind the viewers at home of the answers that we had from (whoever), and can I have 20 seconds on the clock, please?"


Based on the US Mark Goodson-Bill Todman format Family Feud.

Theme Music

Original Family Fortunes opening sequence

Jack Parnell and David Lindup composed the music used between 1980 and 1985. Later versions were remixed and/or composed by Trevor Oerton, Mike Alexander and Colin Campbell.


Veteran light entertainment producer William G. Stewart (now best known as the host of Fifteen-to-One) wasn't happy that "only" 10,000 families applied for his series.

The computer which runs the electronic board is called Mr. Babbage named after Charles Babbage, the inventor of the first programmable computer.

When the show returned in 1987 (with Les Dennis), after a 2-year break, the original Mr. Babbage computer was replaced with a coloured scoreboard for a few episodes. The new scoreboard didn't last long and they quickly reverted to the original.

The American version of the show was entitled 'Family Feud', but Bob Monkhouse didn't want the British version to be called that, on the grounds that it sounded too aggressive.

Most series offered a family photograph of the contestants, posing with the host, as a consolation prize. The winning team received a colour photograph, but - possibly the most mean-spirited gesture imaginable - the losers received theirs in black and white!

In an interview some years after he'd finished hosting the show, Les Dennis said that he used to fear for his life when a family won the Big Money game, because they'd be going so wild with delight that they'd almost strangle him when trying to hug him - and the fact that he was often doing his final piece to camera at the time can't have helped much. One would imagine that one of Les's former fellow-gameshow hosts, namely the late Leslie Crowther, would have sympathised, because some of the latter's contestants on The Price is Right tended to do the same.


Family Fortunes interactive DVD game 2005

Family Fortunes Board game

Family Fortunes Computer Game for Windows

Image:Familyfortunes_originalgame.jpg An original Family Fortunes board game


Opening titles, circa 1995
2001 opening titles
The most recent opening sequence


Picture 1 - Host Max Bygraves quizzes the contestants.
Picture 2 - Mr. Babbage gives an answer a lovely big kiss.


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