Family Fortunes – 1980 – Present

Long running game show Family Fortunes was originally played with real people, before a revived version launched with the now popular trend of using celebrities.

The show first aired in 1980, presented by comedian and gameshow legend Bob Monkhouse. In it’s non celebrity version it notched up 22 series.  Monkhouse presented between 1980 and 1983.  He was followed by  singer and entertainer Max Bygraves between 1983 and 1985.  In 1986 the show took a rest, during this period presenter Max Bygraves was so keen to see it return he offered to finance it’s production himself.

It did indeed return in 1987, but with a new host in the form of Les Dennis.  He presented for 15 years until 2002, when a new presenter, Andy Collons took it to daytime TV.  After just one series in it’s daytime slot the axe finally fell.

During it’s original run there was a Christmas Special most years with prize money going to charity, and contestants being either celebrity families, or a group of actors famous for playing a fictional family.

In 2005 it made a brief re-appearance as part of Ant and Dec’s Gameshow Marathon, with Celebrity contestants Vernon Kay and Carol Vorderman’s families competing.

In 2006 Family Fortunes would return to our screens as All Star Family Fortunes, presented by Vernon Kay the series is still running today.


Two family teams, each with five members, would be asked to guess the results of surveys.  There were three rounds like this, with a member from each each team  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 answers along with the number of people out of 100 surveyed who gave it appeared on a large computer screen, a wrong answer gets a large cross and the famous uh-uhh! sound.

After three rounds contestants play for Double Money.  The family who passes the £300 mark (£200 in series 1) first go on to play for the jackpot known as the Big Money round.

In the Big Money round  two contestants (out of the five in the family team, in the 2006 revival including the celebrity as the second) 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. In the 1998 series one contestant of the Hollands family scored 193 points after finding all five top answers leaving the other member to get only 7 points from his/her five answers. 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.

All Star Family Fortunes, 2006 onwards

In the revived version there were a number of small changes to the format of the game.  The length changed from 30 minutes to 45 minutes and , 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.

The Prizes

The top cash prize in “Big Money” in the first series (1980) was £1,000. From the second series (1981), the prize started at £1,000 then rose by £500 weekly if no one won, to a limit of £2,500 (£3,000 from 1982, which it could stay at for more than one week if it still was not won). Once won, it reverted back to £1,000 for the next edition. In the 1987 series, it started at £1,000, and if not won rose by £1,000 per week to a maximum of £3,000. From the 1988 series, the prize was stabilised at £3,000. After the abolition of the IBA’s prize limits, the top prize rose to £5,000 from 1996.

Between 1994 and 1998 there was a bonus star prize of a car.  From 1998, contestants had the choice of either a car or a holiday.

From the second series in 1981 onwards, spot prizes were available in the main game, turning up seemingly at random when certain answers were found. Typically, these were music centres, televisions or video recorders (or in the later years, DVD players). Some were more unorthodox, such as a year’s supply of beer, while the same short breaks away – an Agatha Christie Murder Weekend, a stay at a health spa or a canal holiday – were won on the show for many years.
The 2006 series features a top prize of £30,000. (The now celebrity) Contestants can win £10,000 for getting over 200 points in “Big Money”, increased to £30,000 for getting all five top answers. The spot prizes remained but were won rarely and were now more action-based such as paragliding lessons. These are won by other members of the family, instead of the celebrity.

Comedy Connections

In common with many game shows, the host has usually been a comedian, Bob Monkhouse was a legendary stand up comedian, Max Bygraves started his career as a comedian and Les Dennis first came to prominence in the later series of ITV’s The Comedians.



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One Response

  1. Nasreen Rajabali

    Family Fortune was really enjoyable when real families came and played. it is time these family programs are present again. it helps build family watching and shows how much fun a family can have.

    hope you guys think the way many of us are feeling.


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