NEW HAVEN — A New Haven family will be featured on a nationally televised game show on Thursday.
The Tennant family, comprised of Rhonda Tennant, her sons Lenny and David, David’s wife Shannon, and Rhonda’s nephew D.J. Gibbs, will appear on the show “Family Feud.” The episode will be shown on Fox Channel 11 on Suddenlink, and although the show is on at 5, 5:30 and 6 p.m., Rhonda said an e-mail she received said they will appear in the first time slot, which she is assuming is the 5 p.m. airing.
The Tennant family’s journey began back in September 2018 where, after years of playing at home, they went for a first try-out in Louisville, Kentucky. But even before Louisville, the family had to submit a video application to be invited to the Kentucky try-out.
Rhonda said the show audition consisted of three parts, and among them were a mock show, competing with other families, and an interview, where judges look for what is believed to be high energy and audience appeal. When leaving the interview, the Tennants were told if the judges liked what they saw, they would receive a postcard in the mail with an invitation to come to Los Angeles, California. There, they would audition one last time for the show. Rhonda added they were told their trip would be paid, but even if they made it to L.A., a show appearance was still not guaranteed.
She said a month came and went with no word, but after six weeks, the card arrived, and the family was headed to California.
“I credit D.J. for playing a large role in helping us get there,” Rhonda said. “Being 25 at the time, D.J. was all about winning the trip to L.A. and being on the show. Plus, he made an answer “blooper” in our first audition that sent everyone in the entire room rolling with laughter.”
On June 30, 2019, the family landed in L.A., and members were shuttled to their hotel. Rhonda said they were at Universal Studios from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., but afterwards were able to visit tourist attractions like Santa Monica Pier, the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and the Hollywood sign. D.J.’s and Lenny’s girlfriends, Ashley Wolfe and Stacey Miller, accompanied the Tennants at their own expense.
Rhonda said one question the family was asked when they returned was, “What is Steve Harvey like?.” She said after spending five days with him, the family was impressed. When not doing the actual show, Harvey is entertaining the audience. Both a comedian and inspirational speaker, Rhonda said he credits God for his success and his gift.
Harvey, who was born in Welch, W.Va., made a huge impact on other family members, as well. David and Shannon said he was much more impressive in person, and are now fans. Lenny agreed, saying the whole experience was awesome, but especially Steve.
A second question was one the family could not answer. The Tennants were vowed to secrecy on how they did on the show, and if they won any money, until after the episode airs.
While on the set, Rhonda said the family got the “red carpet treatment.” A personal photographer accompanied them, snapping pictures behind the scenes, on the set, and during make-up touch ups. The family was sent all of the photos as a keepsake of their time.
Next came “practice” auditioning, and after being told they were selected to be aired on the show, the Tennants took their places on stage. Taping was done in 10-minute intervals, and Rhonda recalled it was very hot under the lights.
“Performing on stage as a contestant isn’t easy,” Rhonda said. “You’re pressed for time, you can’t always hear what other players have answered, and sometimes when the camera turns on you, your brain freezes.”
Rhonda said once again, D.J. was the crowd pleaser. Loving to dance, he challenged a competing family member to a dance-off during a break. By the end of the taping, a warm-up comedian and an assistant producer had joined in to show off their skills.
The family was originally set to appear on television much earlier, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its adverse effects on L.A., the date was postponed until now.
“The thing that has impressed me most about this whole experience is the people here at home,” Rhonda said. “Everyone is so happy for us… genuinely happy.”
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Mindy Kearns is a freelance writer for Ohio Valley Publishing, email her at [email protected]