Lately we’re on high alert for signs of civilizational collapse. If you’re halfway intelligent, you may fret about nuclear brinkmanship, climate change, and mass shootings. If you’re a dimwitted op-ed columnist, the end times are heralded by people being mean on Twitter. It doesn’t matter. We’re all nervous. We’re sitting on the same powder keg.
Do I think the filming and future release of a Celebrity Family Feud episode featuring Kanye and Kim Kardashian West’s family vs. an assortment of Kardashian-Jenners will open one of the seven apocalyptic seals preceding the Revelation? I do not. Regardless, it’s a seismic event for the culture, and we must prepare for a ripple effect. We are talking about a fusion of American celebrity and the televisual lexicon like nothing our screens have paid witness to. I’m going to need the whole day off to watch.
Allow me to set the stage for you. As any kid staying home sick from school is aware, daytime TV has a finely tuned flow. In the morning, when you’re still groggy, you enjoy the bright colors and high-energy crowds of The Price is Right. In the afternoon, when you need sharper fare, you watch Judge Judy berate the idiots suing each other to establish whether someone’s electric toothbrush was a gift or a loan. But right in the middle there, if Maury isn’t sending kids to boot camp or doing paternity tests, you’re eating grilled cheese as Steve Harvey hosts the legendary game show Family Feud.
Family Feud is a perfect premise for a battle of wits because it doesn’t test knowledge, but a surprisingly subtle form of empathetic reasoning. Very few of the families seem cognizant of this, which makes it that much better. Once given a category (often with the potential for innuendo, like “Name something you stick your finger in”), you score points by guessing the answers most commonly given in a survey of 100 people. Those people often manage to arrive at a very stupid consensus, so being clever on the show is not necessarily advantageous — instead you want to think like the average schmo who has the time and inclination to talk to a random phone pollster. Harder than it sounds! Between widely missing the mark of median America and simply blurting out the dumbest thing that pops into their head, the contestants sorely test Harvey’s strength.
Now, consider what happens when Kanye, Kim, Kris, Khloé, and Kendall are thrust into this scenario. Theirs is the kind of fame that typically comes without a filter — they are unlikely to hesitate or gut-check a reply to Harvey’s questioning. More thrillingly, they could not be less qualified, at this point in their careers, to relate to normal human beings, i.e., the populace surveyed for the content that winds up on the board. Remember how, on Arrested Development, Lucille Bluth was so out of touch with reality that she thought a banana cost $10? Or, more to the point, how Kendall Jenner read the script for her tone-deaf #BlackLivesMatter Pepsi commercial and thought: “Yep, solid branding”? This Celebrity Family Feud could be like that, but as a game show. We already know that Kim scored a zero on the category “What is a body part that you’re constantly bumping into things with?” by responding: “My butt.” It was a poor guess on both fronts — impulsive and, as my coworker points out, not altogether keyed into the national consciousness, as “nobody else has a butt with moons orbiting it.”
Kanye, of course, is a wild card. Always one to speak his mind, he’s bound to earn Harvey’s dumbfounded stare once or twice, and I’ll be shocked if he fails to create a larger controversy. That this amounts to his first big public appearance since his hospitalization in the fall of 2016 — after his Saint Pablo Tour collapsed due to a string of bizarre concert rants, including the claim that he “would have” voted for Trump — gives us reason to hope that he’s once again ready to take the spotlight as the glorious weirdo we’ve marveled at all these years. Especially when combined with Harvey, whose own iconic fuck-ups and uncomfortable commentary have made him into an internet punching bag, the potential for Kanye’s meme magic is practically off the charts.
As for strategies — well, Family Feud doesn’t offer many besides the order your team stands in and the option to “play or pass” when you have control of the round. I myself did not understand the rationale behind passing a category to the other team until Twitter pal @BringDaNoyz explained that “when it’s an early round and there are six or seven answers on the board and you’re less likely to get all of them,” it’s smart to let the rival family rack up three strikes and then try to steal, though it’s a fairly rare occurrence. Will the Wests or Kardashian-Jenners use this little-known trick? By his own account, Kanye seems to be a major fan of the franchise, while Kim, Khloé, and Kris have direct experience with Celebrity Family Feud, having squared off against Deion Sanders’ family in 2008. They lost by a couple hundred points; have they learned from defeat?
Even while the game’s outcome remains uncertain, it’s fair to assume the drama therein will function as a Rosetta Stone crucial to decoding 2018. I expect it to illuminate divides of class, race, stardom, and domestic life, spawning no fewer than a dozen quotable moments and remixable images. I want everyone involved to reveal or announce a new album, a lawsuit, or a pregnancy in the course of the episode. And the day it airs should be declared a holiday. As I said, I don’t imagine that this fabulous mashup of everything unpredictable in entertainment marks the end of the world, but it may as well. Afterward, I’m probably going to throw my TV out — even Judge Judy can’t compete with that.