Steve Harvey embraces Richard Dawson’s legacy as new host of ‘Family Feud’

KELLIE PICKLER, STEVE HARVEY, LANCE BASS

By RODNEY HO, originally filed Sept. 14, 2010

Atlanta radio and TV personality Steve Harvey wasn’t angling to be a game-show host. The producers called him out of the blue and said they had an opportunity but wouldn’t say what game show it was.

Intrigued, he flew out to Los Angeles. There, he found out it was “Family Feud.” He was in.

Richard Dawson is the best host ever,” Harvey said in an interview earlier this month, referencing the original host of “Family Feud” from 1976 to 1985 (plus an extra season in 1994.) “We’ll see how it goes with me. I”m chasing Richard Dawson in my mind. Hopefully, I can be as successful as he was.”

The wisecracking Dawson would kiss every woman on the lips, married or not, young or old. That was okay in the late 1970s.

It’s now 2010. Harvey won’t be doing that: “I’m a hug, shake-your-hand type of guy.”

He is the sixth host of the long-standing game show, taking over for John O’Hurley. Locally, it airs weekdays at noon on Peachtree TV, conveniently after sitcom “The Steve Harvey Show,” which aired originally from 1996 to 2002.

To accommodate Harvey’s penchant for comic relief, the producers cut the number of rounds.

“I love live audiences. I rely heavily on my stand-up skills and my quick wit,” he said. “And I can relate well with every-day people.”

Several clips on YouTube show Harvey riffing wise. For instance, after Harvey asked who they might be embarrassed to tell if they were using Viagra, one contestant said, “The President of the United States.”

Harvey gave him one of his signature stares of disbelief. “That was by far the suckiest answer since I’ve been the host,” he said. “The president’s got two wars, a bad economy, an oil spill. He ain’t worried about you using no Viagra!”

After another contestant utters what he thinks is a bad answer, he asks everybody: “Why are you clapping?” When it comes in as the second highest answer, he staggers across the stage, feigning a heart attack. “I’m so sorry,” he told the triumphant woman . “You’re older. You know more than I do. Forgive me please!”

The first episode will feature the Atlanta-based Belt family.

Leland Jones, Iva Wilkins, Yolanda McKee, host Steve Harvey, Cindaria Redmond and Valerie Belt-Jones.

Leland Jones, Iva Wilkins, Yolanda McKee, host Steve Harvey, Cindaria Redmond and Valerie Belt-Jones.

“He made me feel like the cameras weren’t even there,” said team captain Cindaria Redmond, who runs a day-care center, “like we were just in our living room, relaxed.”

Here’s a bit from the Belt family’s experience:

And here is a contestant rubbing Harvey’s bald head for good luck:

And here’s some classic “Family Feud” from the Richard Dawson days. (And by the way, from all reports, he’s still alive, though not seen in public recently.)”You don’t use narcotics, Bob?” Dawson asks someone after he answered “alligator” for an animal with three letters.

“Saturday Night Live” earlier this year anticipated his game-show skills here, with former Atlantan Kenan Thompson making fun of Steve’s pronunciation skills. (I didn’t know about this until after I interviewed Steve so I didn’t get a chance to ask him.)

Harvey, whose nationally syndicated morning show is heard locally on Majic 107.5/97.5, has seen his multi-media platform expand beyond radio and TV thanks to his surprisingly successful book “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man.” That relationship advice book has sold a whopping 2.6 million copies and landed him a sequel, set to come out in December.

Much of the new book’s advice was gleaned from talks with women across the country. The key from a man’s perspective? “If you can make your wife or girlfriend happy, you’ll be a lot happier,” he said. “You can be right. You can be happy. Which one do you want it to be?”

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