Family Fortunes features two family teams, each with five members, who are asked to guess the results of surveys, in which 100 people would be asked open ended questions (e.g. “we asked 100 people to name something you’d find in a restaurant”). Although rarely acknowledged in the show, the 100 people surveyed would invariably be audience members who had volunteered prior to the show.
Each round begins with a member of each team (in rotation, meaning all players did this at least once) approaching the podium. As the question was read, the first of the two nominees to hit a buzzer gives an answer. If this is not the top answer, the other nominee is asked. The team with the higher answer then chooses whether to “play” the question, or “pass” control to the other team (in reality, the teams rarely chose to pass).
The host then passes down the line of the controlling team, asking for an answer from each. After each answer, the board reveals whether this answer featured. If not, a “life” is lost. If a family managed to come up with all the answers given by the “100 people surveyed” (most commonly six in the early part of the show, reduced in number after the commercial break), they win the pounds equivalent of the total number of people who had given the answers. Every time someone gave an answer that was not on the board, the family would lose a life, accompanied by a large “X” on the board with the infamous “uh-uhh” sound. If they lost all three lives, the other family was given the chance to come up with an answer that may be among the missing answers. If this answer was present, the other family won the round and was said to have “stolen” the money; if not, the family who had given the three incorrect answers win however much money their other answers had accumulated.
Following three rounds prior to the commercial break, “Double Money” is played. Gameplay is the same as the first rounds, but each answer is worth £2 for each person who said it, and there are generally fewer possible answers. The family who passes £300 (£200 in series 1) first go on to play “Big Money” for the jackpot.
In the revived 2006 version, there were three rounds of the main game and two rounds of double money and then the family who had the most money after this go on to play Big Money, regardless of whether they had £300 or more.
This involves two contestants out of the five in the family team, answering five questions that fitted with those given by the “100 people surveyed”, with the questions asked within a narrow time limit. The first contestant gives his/her answers to the five questions within 15 seconds; then the second contestant (who had been out of earshot of the first) give his or her answers within 20 seconds (the extra time was available for the contestant to give another answer if he/she duplicated an answer given by the previous contestant). If they get 200 points or more from the ten answers (i.e. at least 200 people had agreed with all ten answers combined), they win the top cash prize.
From 1994 onwards, a bonus star prize was available if all five top answers were found, in addition to reaching 200+ points. If the family could not earn 200 points, they won £2 per point, up to £398. In the revived 2006 version, a loss earns £10 times the points earned in both front and end games, up to £1,990+.
Family Fortunes was first hosted by comedian Bob Monkhouse (1980 – 1983) then by popular singer and entertainer Max Bygraves (1983-1985). After being rested for the whole of 1986 (during which time Max Bygraves offered to finance its production himself) it returned with Les Dennis on 27 June 1987, and had a consistently successful run for the next fifteen years. It was then moved out of peak time and became a daily daytime show, hosted by Andy Collins, but it only had a short run in this format before being axed. For 2006, the series was hosted by Vernon Kay, and was renamed All Star Family Fortunes, as each team consisted of a celebrity and four family members.