“Family Feud” — KUTV, Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, 3:30 p.m. MST, TV-PG
SALT LAKE CITY — It’s going to be hard for Garet Hammond to top last year’s Christmas.
While watching TV last December, he noticed an advertisement promoting upcoming “Family Feud” auditions in Salt Lake City. Within 24 hours, Hammond gathered pictures, video footage and any other material that would effectively display his family members’ quirky personalities and applied for an audition spot.
“Something must have sparked (the producers) because I heard back pretty quickly,” Hammond joked in a recent interview.
On Christmas Eve, Hammond gathered his family members together and gave them the exciting news: They would be auditioning for a spot on the TV show “Family Feud.”
“That was the best gift I could’ve given them,” he said. “And that’s honestly when the feud started. Everybody started clamoring for (a spot). I said, ‘Listen, my foot’s in the door, you guys figure out who’s coming with me — I got us this far.’”
The family successfully came to an agreement, auditioned the following month in Salt Lake City and got invited out to the “Family Feud” studio in Atlanta. Those that missed the Salt Lake family’s interactions with host Steve Harvey on the original air dates in September can catch the Hammonds this week on Thursday, Nov. 30 and Friday Dec. 1.
Despite having the setback of his niece falling ill the morning of their audition — Hammond’s wife ended up taking her place — the Hammond family was ready to shine when they showed up for their Salt Lake audition in January of this year. Modeled after the TV show, the audition pinned families against each other in a mock “Family Feud” game — with one significant difference.
“It’s not (about) if you win or lose,” Hammond said. “It’s whether or not you stand out. When we got called up to go, I leaned down to my family and I said, ‘Just go with whatever comes out of my mouth,’ ‘cause I figured if we’re going to stand out we gotta do it right here.”
Hammond’s strategy proved successful as his family advanced to the next round of auditions in the producer’s room and, six weeks later, got a call from producers inviting them out to Atlanta. But when the Hammonds flew to the “Family Feud” studio in April, they quickly learned that a spot on the show wasn’t guaranteed.
The family arrived in Atlanta on a Thursday evening and went to the studio Friday morning in hopes of making an appearance on the show. But the Hammonds spent the entire day sitting in the audience and getting increasingly discouraged as other families were selected to go onstage.
“The first game, it’s pretty fun. It’s novel, it’s a new thing. But after the third or fourth game, it’s like, ‘Oh, my gosh, this is taking its toll,’” Hammond said.
The Hammonds were especially disheartened since their flight left Saturday — only leaving them with a few more chances to make it on the show.
Saturday morning, the first game passed them by and then the second. Hammond was nervous, eyeing his watch and wondering if this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity was going to slip by.
The opportunity arrived on the third game.
“Finally, we were going to get our shot on ‘Family Feud,’” Hammond said. ”Had they not taken us when they did, we could not have stayed ‘cause we would’ve missed our flight.”
It takes about 90 minutes to film an episode of “Family Feud,” according to Hammond. His family’s episode took three hours.
“We had so much fun with Steve Harvey,” he said. “It’s basically the Steve Harvey show, stand-up comedy, and in between, you play this little game of ‘Family Feud.’ You only (see) probably a tenth of what went on during the show with our family. We really hit it off with him.”
Interactions with Harvey included a bit about Hammond’s nephew and his mild form of Tourette’s syndrome, and even getting the TV game show host to flash the U.
“Steve Harvey doesn’t do any prep regarding families,” Hammond said. “When he comes out on the show, he sees that it’s the Hammond Family from Salt Lake City and that is all he knows. That’s it. So he just makes everything up and does it on the fly. In the second game, we had him flashing the U for the Utes because we told him we’re all Utah fans. It was really cool.”
The family ended up winning their first game and walking away with $20,000. Although the Hammonds lost their second game, they left the studio laughing and smiling big.
“(After the second game), Steve Harvey came over and said he really appreciated and had a lot of fun with our family,” Hammond said. “Four or five producers came up to us after the show and told us that was the best show that they had ever done in the Steve Harvey era.”
Hammond and his wife are putting their winnings toward their 25th wedding anniversary in February. And while he’s looking forward to that grand getaway, Hammond is especially grateful for the fun he shared with his family on the show.
“It was surreal,” he said. “It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that we had and none of us will forget it. We accomplished what we set out to do and made a lifetime of memories."