A Monroe County family will appear on the Family Feud TV game show this Friday, November 13 on FOX24. The game show recently resumed production at the Tyler Perry Studios, located on the grounds of the former Fort McPherson army base, and placed ads on Facebook looking for families who would like a chance at $20,000 and a brand new car.
Dawn Bessett, of Forsyth, came across one of these ads. She filled out an application and soon was calling on family members to join her on a Zoom audition to be held around the family dining room table. She called her daughter and son, Kalley Jones and Austin Whatley and said, “Y’all ain’t going to believe what I just did!” They were more than eager to sign on. She also enlisted her sister and niece, Lynn Watts and Christy Watts. They chose Dawn’s and Lynn’s mother’s last name, Johnson, as the family name for the show.
For the audition they played mock games remotely and used an iPad they turned to each person when it was their turn to answer. The production company was impressed with their charisma and the way they played the games and chose them to be on the show. Whatley, who was picked as the captain of the team, said, “I think it was more about our interaction with each other. We’re loud and eccentric, but we work well together.” Soon they loaded up the car and were on their way to lights and cameras.
What started in 1976 as a game show spinoff of the Match Game, the Family Feud had Richard Dawson as its first of many hosts who quickly became famous for kissing the female contestants on the show. He began his controversial smooching when a nervous contestant couldn’t think of a green vegetable and he told the young woman, “I’m gonna do something that my mom would do to me whenever I had a problem of any kind.” He kissed her on the cheek and told her it was for luck. The woman immediately said, “Asparagus.” and her family went on to win the game. He kept up the practice for years and even planted a peck on a woman guest who eventually became his second wife.
Fast forward to the COVID-19 era and we now have Steve Harvey making a few “slight adjustments” in order to maintain the required social distancing. He can no longer put his arm around a lucky contestant during the “Fast Money” segment. Instead of leaning on the podium, he now stands back from it. The show is shot with a minimal crew and with no audience members except for contestants who are waiting to be taped. The crew must wear protective gear and are required to have regular temperature checks. While not taping, contestants are required to wear masks.
The Johnson Family has already taped two shows and are scheduled to do another show this spring featuring “Favorite Families”. Bessett said, “It’s going to be a tournament of the Family Feud favorites. Families can appear up to five times, win or lose.” Whatley said, “If they love your family, they bring you back. If you’re boring, they’re not going to bring you back.” His cousin, Christy Watts said, “There were some people there that were on the show two or three years ago. And they called them back because they liked them.”
There were eight families at the studio during their two days of taping which lasted 12 hours a day. Whatley said, “It was tiring.” His sister, Kalley responded with, “Yeah but it’s an experience I’ll never forget.” Lynn Watts added, “They told us what to say during the part where the family is introduced in order to get everything in the show. It took an hour and a half to tape a game and then it is edited down.”
While two were families were taping, the waiting families sat in the audience, socially distanced, cheering and clapping. They were instructed to applaud as loudly as possible due to the lack of a real audience.
They spent their nights at the Marriott in College Park and were well fed, with all expenses paid for by the production company. Whatley said, “The producers were amazing, and the studios were exceptionally nice.” He said the other families were all wonderful and everybody got along great. The family agreed wearing a mask all day long was somewhat painful and even though the days were long and grueling, they enjoyed every minute.
The Johnson family was recently interviewed by WGXA FOX24 News of Macon. The interview will air this Friday and will be shown as the last segment of the 5 p.m. news broadcast, immediately followed by their appearance on the Family Feud (or simply The Feud) which will begin at 6 p.m.