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How Steve Harvey slimmed down and bulked up 'Family Feud's' ratings

December 1, 2010 |  4:45 pm

Steveharvey Name a stand-up comic who's managed to breathe some life into a musty old game show.

Survey says: Steve Harvey!

The syndicated "Family Feud" -- brought to you by Fremantle Media, the same folks who make "American Idol" -- is averaging 3 million total viewers since Harvey took over this fall, according to the Nielsen Co. That's a 36% surge compared with the same period a year ago, when John O'Hurley was hosting the program. In a season that hasn't seen many breakout hits, syndicated or otherwise, "Feud" is a ray of hope for TV programmers.

"They told me that I could just be me," Harvey said in a recent interview. "They didn't know what they wanted. They just said, 'We want something different and we want you to just do you.' "

Harvey, the program's sixth host since former "Hogan's Heroes" star Richard Dawson created the role back in 1976, taps his comedy-club roots to help add some spontaneity to the mix. And given that "Feud" isn't exactly a new programming concept, the show (which airs in Los Angeles at 6 p.m. on KCAL-TV) can use all the spontaneity it can get.

"I'm never mean to the contestants," Harvey said. "But I gotta tell you, man, if you say something crazy ... I'm gonna have to make a comment."

Like, for example, when this contestant let slip something unexpectedly:


Harvey shot all of this season's episodes in marathon, eight-shows-per-day sessions in Orlando this past summer, commuting from his home in Atlanta, where he hosts a syndicated radio show that is heard weekday mornings in Los Angeles on KJLH-FM (102.3). "I'm looking forward to working the show next season, but I can't work that schedule," he said of "Feud." "That took a lot out of me."

In fact, he had so little time to work out or watch his diet that when shooting wrapped he went on a crash diet where he juiced all his meals. He lost 16 pounds in 16 days and now weighs 222.

"I hadn't seen my jawline since I was 30," he joked.

-- Scott Collins 

Photo: Steve Harvey on the "Family Feud" set. Credit: Fremantle Media