On Tuesday, Betty Brown and her family will watch the game show, “Family Feud” already knowing the outcome, even though it will be the first time they are seeing it for themselves.
Betty and her husband, Joe Brown, along with their three children—Heather Byers, Mandy Stewart and Buck Yates, will be one of two families competing that night on the popular game show.
When Betty [Harrill] Brown, who was born and raised in Madisonville, had a stroke about two years ago, she made a bucket list.
“I realized how short life is,” she said.
On that bucket list, Betty wrote, “To be on ‘Family Feud.’”
“I had always wanted to be on ‘Family Feud’ and I thought this was a great way that we could have a video of all of us together as a family that we could show the grandkids one day,” said Betty Brown. “I just thought it would be a lot of fun.”
To appease their mother, Betty and Joe Brown’s three children went along with the idea.
“We were just like, ‘Sure, Mom, go ahead and send in this stuff,” laughed Byers. “We never thought we’d get on the show.”
Betty and her family submitted their audition, complete with photos of them and a biography about their lives and each member of the clan. Betty and Joe Brown are Sweetwater residents, while Stewart and her husband, Charles, live in Athens, Byers and her husband, Joseph, live in Tellico Plains, and Yates and his wife, Jenny, live in Athens.
The family was called in for a tryout in Nashville in April 2014.
“We were really shocked at how many people were there,” said Stewart, of Athens. “People from all different states.”
Joe Brown believes the family caught producers attention for several reasons; He is the pastor at Church of Life in Madisonville and Yates is an Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighter.
“There were really interested in that,” said Joe Brown, who is also a realtor in Monroe County.
Yates, a contractor/home builder with Yates Homes, explained that not all the people at the tryouts made it to the live show.
“If you got through the tryouts, you got to go to a video interview in front of producers,” he said.
To say the least, the tryouts were intense.
“We were going up against people who were hardcore practicing amongst their families,” said Byers. “We didn’t practice at all. We just wanted to be on TV.”
“I remember thinking, ‘We’ve blown it,’” added Betty Brown. “‘We’re up against pros here!’”
But, the family made it through all the steps of the audition process and were given a date to film their show.
“Originally, the date was fine with us,” said Joe Brown. “But, I ended up having a funeral and we had to cancel. They ended up calling us back.”
In August, the family traveled to Atlanta, Ga., to await the chance to be on the show with celebrity host Steve Harvey.
“Here comes Steve Harvey and all I could say to Mom was, “I can’t believe you got us on the show!’” Byers exclaimed.
From there, the process was lengthy, however.
“You’re there a couple of days and they don’t tell you until you’re up that you’re in,” said Yates. “You just watch and wait to see if you’ll get your chance. We just went and had fun, but it wore us out.”
“We drank some energy drinks before going on the show,” laughed Byers. “We thought it would help.”
Stewart said the opportunity gave her a whole new respect for Harvey and the people who work in entertainment television.
“It’s exhausting,” she said. “Even when we were in the audience, you had to be bubbly and smiley because you’re on camera. It gave me a whole new insight for people who do that as a profession.”
The family were also really impressed with Harvey.
“I gained a lot of respect for him and who he is,” said Joe Brown. “He was ministering in between breaks and sharing his faith with people in the audience.”
“I didn’t feel like we were the little people and he was the celebrity,” added Stewart.
“They’re so good at the show that you really forget that you’re on TV,” said Betty Brown. “They all act like family and treat you like family so it really relaxes you.”
When it finally came their turn to play, the Brown family squared off against a family from Bartow, Fla., where Yates, Stewart and Byers spent a lot of their childhood. The Brown family moved back to Monroe County in 1993 and both Byers and Yates are graduates of Sequoyah High School.
“We had so much in common with that family,” said Betty Brown. “It was a pleasure playing against them. That was probably the best part of the experience—getting to know several families on the way.”
The questions that were asked were tough, however, for the family.
“They asked 100 men the question, “My wife’s butt looks like a sack of blank,” said Yates. “Just wild stuff.”
The Brown family’s game ended up going down to the final sudden death round to determine a winner.
“It’s a lot easier to answer those questions when you’re laying at home in your bed watching than when you’re on live TV,” laughed Betty Brown.
To find out if the Browns win or lose, tune into the show on Tuesday, Feb. 24. The show will air on WATE-Channel 6 (Knoxville) at 7:30 p.m. and on WDSI-FOX61 (Chattanooga) at 4 p.m.
“For us, it was never about the money,” said Betty Brown. “In 13 years, this is the first time that we all got to get away as a family. It was just an awesome experience for us. That’s what we’ll remember, how much fun we had as a family.”