The Jackson family of Dover will debut on Family Feud on Oct. 6.
Pam Jackson of Dover didn’t believe she had a shot of making it on Family Feud. Thankfully, she didn’t put a wager on it. Because it would’ve cost her.
“I was the last to join the team and I did it reluctantly,” Jackson said. “But then we had this once-in-a-lifetime experience and I’m so glad I went along with it.”
Jackson, her daughters Meaghan Ellwanger and Sarah Starkey and nieces Jodi Skocypec and Jami Faust-Jackson will appear in a prerecorded episode Thursday. Additional episodes will air Oct. 10-12.
The first episode was taped in Atlanta in April.
Family Feud, hosted by comedian Steve Harvey, is a longtime game show where two families of five compete to name the most popular responses to survey questions to win cash and prizes, a program the Jacksons watched during the ‘90s, when Richard Dawson was the host.
They had a blast meeting Harvey.
“He’s just a great guy,” said Starkey, who graduated from Caesar Rodney High School in 1999. “He was kind and seemed genuinely interested in us and seemed to love what he was doing,”
Jackson said Harvey rooted for both families. “During the commercial break he would say, ‘Don’t give up, keep playing hard. Good job, and just little words of encouragement,” she said.
Jackson needed any motivation she could get, because she started feeling the pressure with her first question, the one she called her hardest, since “your nerves were a mess.”
It was: “If you’re walking down the street with your friend and you see a hot guy, you would say check out his blank,” she said. “I don’t know if that was the exact wording, but that’s basically what is was.”
Prep is key
Starkey was team leader.
“I’m kind of a game-show guru,” the Felton resident said. “I’ve always loved Family Feud.”
To whip her team into game-show shape, she bought a Family Feud desk calendar, which became a valuable investment.
“Every day I texted a picture of a question to my mom, Jodi, Jami and Meaghan,” she said. “They would just spit out any answer they could think of and I’d tell them which [one] was correct. And that’s how we practiced every day.”
Not to mention, “we took the calendar with us to the auditions and actual taping down in Atlanta,” Starkey said.
Getting on the tube
January marked the start of the Jackson family’s journey.
A friend tipped off Starkey about auditions in Philadelphia. Starkey made a video of her team requesting the chance to get on the show. The video was approved and they traveled to the Philly audition that month.
In February the Jacksons received a postcard that they were being added to a pool of contestants being considered.
In March the family was asked to select dates in April through August when they would be available to appear. They were notified that April 22 was their date.
“We arrived on April 21 and then the morning of April 22 the limo service picked us up from the hotel and took us to the studio where they filmed the show,” Jackson said.
But there was no guarantee the Jacksons would appear on the broadcast.
“You have to do a final audition or rehearsal that morning -- not all the teams that were there got on the show,” Starkey said.
It was 'memorable'
Ellwanger said she will never forget.
“From the audition process to being treated so kindly by the incredible staff, meeting a celebrity, the lights and live audience, our family and friends being there to cheer us on,” said the Milford resident, “it was a memorable, exciting, once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
Skocypec, who grew up in Dover, appreciates how the game show brought the Jackson family closer together.
“Family Feud gave us the chance to spend some much-needed time together as a family and with our spouses, who all joined us for our Atlanta taping,” she said.
“Even if our Family Feud journey stopped at the Philly audition, it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I couldn't imagine a better group of people to be by my side,” Skocypec said.
Faust-Jackson, the other niece of Jackson, was intrigued by all that goes into producing an episode of Family Feud, from the audition process to actually airing the show.
“There were definitely a lot more behind-the-scenes details than you'd imagine,” the Lewes resident said. “For example, we had to hand over our phones when we got there. A Family Feud staff member had to be with us at all times, even [to escort us] to the bathroom. The experience really opened my eyes.”
What stands out most to Jackson was being able to spend quality time with her nieces and daughters.
“It was time with my daughter and nieces. We shared this [journey] exclusively for months,” she said. “We know it’s a blessing and an unusual opportunity and we’re thankful for it.”