Bill Cullen was the show's host and Charlie O'Donnell was its announcer. The series was produced by Barry & Enright Productions, its only post-scandal series produced by NBC under the Barry & Enright logo, and the last network game show produced by B&E. Another NBC game show, Blank Check aired nine years earlier, which was produced by Jack Barry Productions before Dan Enright's partnership with Jack Barry resumed. Another Barry & Enright game show, Bullseye, was briefly produced at NBC for syndicated television in 1980 before moving to CBS in early-1981.
The show featured an orange-and-red logo which emitted smoke (accompanied by a sizzling sound) at the beginning and end of each episode. This effect always occurred just after Charlie would say the word "hot" in the show's title, after announcing the contestants and again during the ending credits.
Although this show is often referred to as a variation on Family Feud (mainly due to the questions with multiple answers and the penalty for giving three wrong answers), it did have some notable differences. The main difference was that the questions were often general knowledge instead of surveys, and no system of ranking the answers was used. The ability of a contestant to pass to a player on the other team was also unique to this show.
One member of the champion team started the round by either giving an answer or challenging an opponent to answer. If they gave an answer, and it was correct, control passed to the next member of that team in line; each subsequent member could answer or challenge an opponent. If an answer was wrong, the contestant was eliminated for the duration of the question, sent to the bench which rotated in behind the team's podium, and the other team took control and played in the same manner.
If a player chose to challenge, and the chosen opponent gave a wrong answer, that opponent was benched and the challenging team retained control, moving to the next player. If the opponent was correct, their team kept control, and the challenging player was benched.
If play reached five correct answers, the host would read the given answers back for the contestants. Teams could win a question one of two ways: by giving the seventh correct answer in the question (regardless of who gave the first six, and regardless of how many correct answers a question had) or by eliminating all three of their opponents.
The first team to win two questions won the game, $1,000 and advanced to the bonus round. Partway through the show's run, a "Seven Straight Jackpot" was offered to any team that could get seven correct answers in a row. The Jackpot started at $500 and increased by that amount every time it was not won. This bonus was discontinued when the format became Celebrity Hot Potato (see below).