Move over Price is Right. Take a hike Family Feud. There’s a new game show in town and it chock-full of holy moly fun!
The American Bible Challenge, hosted by self-proclaimed “redneck” Jeff Foxworthy, premiered on the Game Show Network at 8 p.m. Thursday. The one-hour show features teams of families, church groups, war vets, and others showing off their Bible-savvy skills while playing to win $20,000 for a charity of their choice and a chance to win a $100,000 grand prize later in the season. (You can take a quiz here and see how you’d do on the show.)
The game consists of several rounds with a selection of Old and New Testament questions, the last of which allows 10 minutes of Bible study for the make-or-break “Final Revelation” round. Throughout the show, the audience gets to know the contestants better – personal backgrounds and links to the chosen charities are all intertwined with stories about the participants’ faith.
“Kids Sayeth the Cutest Things,” “Faithbook” (with the “Faithbook” pages of Isaac, Judas, the Burning Bush, etc.), and “Word of the Lord or The Lord of the Rings?” (my personal favorite) were several categories in the Jeopardy!-type rounds.
It’s not surprising that a religiously-based game show made it onto television. Of course, most of us have at least channel-surfed right passed Pat Robertson’s 700 Club and other talk or prayer service broadcasts on television, radio, and the web. I actually find it odd that it took so long for a show like this to come into the mainstream, given the depth and breadth of Christianity in this country, both on and off TV. Diane Werts suggests this, too.
Consider that the Pew Center on Religion in Public Life’s U.S. Religious Landscape Survey shows that a vast majority of Americans are some kind of Christian who believe that their religion is very important in their lives and attend church with a modest level of frequency. Yes, there are different ways in which the faithful define their level of religiousness (and define others’), and yes, there are many non-Christians who know a lot about the Good Book, but Biblical imagery is so pervasive throughout American culture that we cannot live our daily lives without it. So why not this program? Unfortunately, the Pew survey doesn’t ask if there is a faith-based need for Bible game shows, so it’s up to the ratings to determine that aspect. But until then it appears there is an opening for such programming.
While there aren’t any overt signs of evangelizing in this show – and some aspects of it are actually entertaining – there is plenty of built-in preachy-ness (surprise, no?) that could make the average secularist a little uncomfortable and less likely to watch. But if this is geared toward the church-going family, Bible study-group, or just super-competitive people, then it should do well enough. The biggest problem is it’s kind of humdrum and speckled with way too many commercials. Indeed, Hank Stuever of The Washington Post points out that while Foxworthy makes light of the show, he didn’t seem too excited or as engaged as a game-show host could be, or as funny as a comedian can be about Bible topics. Even the contestants (with the exception of one team) appeared to have less fun then they should.
Stuever also argues that the blandness of church programs (I guess he’s not one of the millions watching Joel Osteen’s programs) is because the entertainment industry is vastly secular, thereby pitting two opposing forces against each other. And “even when jazzed up,” he says, service programs don’t really draw viewers in as well as they could. To its credit, the game show is no Sunday service and has some life when a gospel choir sings the viewers in and out of commercials, helping to break the strange, dare I say otherworldly vibe. But, Stuever admits that he’d “like [the show] better if Mike Huckabee were on it.”
Sigh. After watching it, I have to agree.