When West Des Moines couple Sara and Daryl Saunders asked to be on the “Family Feud” game show towards the start of the pandemic, their family had limited expectations.
“We were quarantined together and (Sara) said, ‘Let’s do something different. Let’s widen out a bit and see if we can get on a game show,'” Daryl said. “We went through the process, and of course friends and family were kind of doubting it, like ‘It’s not going to happen. “After a few interviews, emails and phone calls, it became a reality for our whole family.”
About a year later, the family found themselves on an all-expenses-paid trip to Atlanta to film on the set of “Family Feud.”
Sara Saunders and her husband Daryl, Sara’s brothers Jason and Andrew Mielke and Sara’s father, Bruce Mielke, appeared on the show. Sara’s mother, Nancy Mielke, was involved behind the scenes at the Mielkes’ home in Forest City.
“She was our design artist, our fashion designer,” Daryl said. “She made sure we looked good on TV.”
Although the family had watched the game show many times before, Sara said it was harder than expected once on stage.
“It’s so different when you’re on stage,” Sara said. “We had watched the show at home and were like, ‘Why didn’t they get this? It was so easy. But now I fully understand why some people are saying crazy things up there. It’s just a primal instinct to respond.
According to Daryl, the pressure of being on stage and time constraints made answering host Steve Harvey’s questions harder than it seemed to viewers.
“Being in those bright lights and seeing Steve Harvey look you in the eye, it kind of puts things into perspective,” Daryl said. “You only have a few seconds to answer the questions, so you don’t have a lot of time to process the questions. So when you hear funny answers and out-of-this-world answers, we totally get that now.”
Offstage, Daryl said ‘Family Feud’ host and comedian Harvey was “just a genuine, normal human being. He’s just a genuine, down-to-earth legend. He’s very warm.” , said Daryl. “It was a pleasure to be with him and have normal conversations with him.”
When the cameras stopped rolling, Harvey continued to joke around with the families and the audience — one of the highlights of the experience, according to Sara.
“It was crazy because in between, when it’s not on camera, he’s just entertaining the audience and the family members,” Sara said. “The production team said a lot of other great TV hosts would just go in the back room or something, but he was there all the time.”
Sara said the experience filming “Family Feud” was a bright spot during an otherwise uncertain time.
“We had a lot of fun with the production team,” Sara said. “They were extremely warm and made sure we were comfortable at all times and really upbeat, so it was really fun. During COVID there are a lot of uncertain times, and it was nice to have a time where we could just laugh and have fun as a family.”
While the family can’t reveal the outcome of the show, Daryl said, “I think everyone did well and everyone contributed as much as they could.”
“I would say the best part for me was just an honor to represent the Des Moines area and to represent the Mielke family themselves,” Daryl said. “Meeting the whole production team and Steve Harvey and having the opportunity to be on national TV, I mean the whole experience was awesome for me.”
The episode “Family Feud” airs at 4 p.m. May 20 on FOX.
Grace Altenhofen is a reporter for the Des Moines Register. She can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @gracealtenhofen.