By Andrew Pantzlaff * The Brillion News
BRILLION – Name an emotion you feel while competing on one of the most iconic game shows of all time?
“Nervous.” “Excited.” “Amped up.” “Thrilled.” “Amazed.” “Grateful.”
Take your pick, as any of these and more could suffice as the No. 1 answer for two Brillion natives, who had the opportunity of a lifetime recently to compete together on the Family Fued.
Cody Meetz, a 2006 graduate of Brillion High School, alongside sister-in-law Jodi Blevins, who grew up in Brillion before moving to Manitowoc with her husband Jon, were part of Team Blevins. Team Blevins also consisted of Jon and his brothers, Tyler and Chris of Grayslake, Ill.
The group was at tapings of the Family Feud last summer, and those episodes finally aired last Thursday and Friday, as well as this week Monday and Tuesday. They could not discuss the results of their shows until now.
Of note, competing on four separate episodes is an indicator of a successful run, and Team Blevins ultimately walked away having won more than $40,000.
For the uninitiated, Family Feud is an American television game show that first debuted in 1976, and has had several incarnations since then. At its core, the show features a competition in which two families must name the most popular responses to a survey question posed to 100 people in order to win cash and prizes.
Since 2010, the show has featured comedian Steve Harvey as host and Joey Fatone as announcer.
Back during the summer tapings, Jon and Jodi announced on the show that they were pregnant. Coincidentally, they gave birth to their child, a son, on Friday. That meant watching many of the episodes from the hospital, including during labor on Friday, Jodi said.
“It was kind of fascinating that we announced on the show that we were pregnant, and then had him while the episodes were airing,” she said.
They watched the final episode, which aired Tuesday, at home.
Jodi said they named their son Caleb. Perhaps that’s fitting, in a way. Some variations of the name have the meaning: bold.
And being “bold” certainly got the Blevins on the Family Feud.
Earning a spot
Team Blevins earned a spot on the show due to an admittedly corny video audition.
“It’s so embarrassing,” Cody said with a laugh. “But, hey, it got us on the show.”
Jodi is less embarrassed, and more impressed – considering the odds that the video would get them on the show.
The initial audition tape was the brainchild of team member Tyler. Tyler sent a text to Jon, pointing to an article on how to apply for the show.
At first he thought it was a joke, but Tyler insisted he was serious.
Many times hopefuls to appear on Family Feud will attend an audition, but there were no such events scheduled in the area, so Tyler took the long shot route of a submitted video.
The video included a fake round of Family Feud, complete with mock entrances – and apparently it caught the eye of the show’s producers. Cody and Jodi and the rest of Team Blevins were contacted a few months later, and soon the team found themselves on a flight down to Atlanta for an in-person audition. The flight, as well as hotel accommodations, were paid for by the show.
There were still no guarantees they’d make it on an actual broadcast, however. In fact, while waiting – and waiting and waiting – at the live auditions, things started to look bleak. But Team Blevin was ultimately the last family chosen that day to compete, and they seized the opportunity.
Of note, Tyler’s long shot had paid off, and it was a longer shot than the team even realized. “When we made the tape, we just thought that’s how everybody did it to get on the show. But we were the only audition tape entry to make it on that season, which was cool,” Jodi said.
Now that Team Blevins wasn’t just filming a corny, mock game show, but were standing in front of a live studio audience under bright lights with real money at stake, the nerves of each contestant started to creep up.
“There was a bit of disbelief,” Jodi said of stepping on stage.
Host Steve Harvey helped a lot in this regard, but his charm was a double-edged sword.
Cody said that Harvey has such a calming, funny spirit about him, that when he comes over to your side, places his hand on the podium and starts talking, it’s easy to relax, and get wrapped up in his jokes and quips.
“He made you feel comfortable, in that you almost could get lost in what he was saying,” Cody said, noting the trick was to juggle this while simultaneously preparing answers in your head. “He’s going to make you laugh. He’s a comedian, but you have to think about your answers. Pay attention to what he’s saying, but don’t lose track of your thoughts. That was our strategy, to get your answers ready in your head, and just be ready.”
“It’s definitely way easier to play watching at home, because when you’re up there you have to listen to what Steve’s saying, while trying to think of an answer, and other answers in case someone says yours first,” Jodi said.
If it wasn’t Harvey’s comedy and bravado that could distract, other things like his “perfect mustache” could throw you off as well, Cody joked.
In the end, strong focus despite distractions, along with confidence, proved to be a successful combination for Team Blevins.
Jon is a Youth Minister, Jodi works at the Salvation Army, Chris is a substitute teacher, Tyler streams video games and competes in gaming tournaments, and Cody works at Custom Plating Specialist Inc.
“We’re all super, super confident people. Anything we do, we feel we’re really good at,” Cody said.
Cody’s parents are Terry and Mary Meetz, and Brenda Schisel.
The parents of the team’s other Brillion native, Jodi, are Joe and Jolene Gerhartz.
Despite their focus and confidence, the show is notorious for the silly answers people give to seemingly easy questions when put on the spot, and members of Team Blevin weren’t immune to this fate.
Standing 900 miles from home, with a golden opportunity in front of him, Cody’s mind locked up a lot that first episode and one answer, in particular, makes Cody groan.
Harvey said, “Name something you wouldn’t want someone to stick you with.”
“I said gum. I literally said gum. I tried to sell it to Steve, but he just gave me that look,” Cody said with a laugh.
Though funny now, these missed answers looked like they were going to prove costly that first day, as Team Blevin trailed 275 to 0 to their opponents, Team Blounts.
The first team to 300 points advances to the Fast Money round, and Team Blounts was closing in.
Question 4 that day was “Name an animal whose legs are featured on a restaurant menu.”
Again, Team Blevins missed the mark, as Jodi’s guess of “pig” was not on the list.
Luckily for Team Blevins, Team Blount got three strikes in their subsequent tries to guess other items on the survey list.
Team Blevins had one final chance, and the answer “those buttery crab legs” was right, earning 105 for the team and forcing the game into sudden death due to no team hitting the 300 mark.
Team captain Jon earned the sudden death win, giving the No. 1 answer “spider” to the survey question “Name something you’ve killed.”
This improbable comeback for Team Blevins vaulted them into the Fast Money round. In this round, two team members are chosen, and each member has 20 seconds to answer five questions. One team member goes first, while the other team member is off the stage and cannot hear the answers given. When the first team member is done, the second team member must give his answers in 20 seconds to the same questions, but cannot give the same answer.
Combined, the team must earn 200 points.
At stake is $20,000.
Chris went first, and nearly earned 200 points himself, racking up 191 of the needed points before Tyler sealed the win within his first question.
“Name something that begins with the letter ‘P’ that you might find in an office.”
Tyler said paper, and Team Blevins was instantly $20,000 richer with the answer.
As the next few episodes progressed, Team Blevins found future Fast Money rounds to be more challenging, and there were more ups and downs along the way.
Cody said he was relieved …
To read the full story, please read the Feb. 12, 2015 print edition of The Brillion News, available on newsstands now.