“And no matter how you watch Jeopardy, whatever of those three ways you watch it, or in a given episode, it could be all three. Family Feud is a show that you cannot help watching without yelling at the TV. You just can’t. Every time a question is asked you have an answer for it and you can’t believe that the people on the show didn’t give your answer.”
The American Bible Challenge has the same potential.
A casting call in Texas for the new show was a no-brainer says David Schiff, senior vice president of programming and development. Explaining in his best TV jargon, he says Dallas was an easy choice since “we have a big Southern skew, we have a big African American audience, and we want to go to where our audience is. There’s a big faith-based community as well, and we like what Dallas represents.”
Auditions have also taken place in Atlanta, Los Angeles and Chicago.
But the American Bible Challenge will have a twist. Nobody’s going to become a millionaire. Instead, winners become philanthropists. They give away every cent they earn. And part of the audition is selling the producers on the contestant’s favorite causes.
Schiff admits that making the Bible into a game show is potentially controversial, but after all, “the Bible is the most popular book of all time. Period, end of sentence. There’s no denying that it has an incredibly continuing relevance in hundreds of millions of lives. We believe it is perfectly acceptable for us to take that material and those facts and turn it into a game. We’re excited about this, and we have the ultimate confidence that this is going to be a really well-received series.”
Eighteen teams of three contestants will play in the first six episodes. Only six winning teams will advance to the seventh and eighth episodes. In the ninth and final show, one winning team will triumph over all the others.
Contestants will answer fact-based questions about the Bible, such as “Who were the passengers on Noah’s Ark?” and “Which Apostle sliced
off somebody’s ear with a sword when trying to prevent Jesus’ arrest?”
The show’s slogan is “If you don’t know the Bible, you haven’t got a prayer.”
Schiff says you also don’t have to be a biblical scholar, however a head for biblical trivia won’t hurt. Can you recite the names of the 12 Disciples? Can you identify the first person to see Jesus after His resurrection? Which words describe Delilah: a) A high priestess of Baal; b) Peter and Andrew’s mother; c) Samson’s barber; or d) the author of the Song of Solomon?
But is there enough interest in the Bible today to create a game show around it?
“We knew in Los Angeles when we did our first casting call that we had a hit on our hands,” says Schiff. “So many teenagers and 20-somethings showed up — which was not at all what we’d expected. Some of them had jailhouse tattoos, others spray-on tans. We had retirees and professionals and little kids – all possible demographics.
“We’ve heard moms and dads say ‘There is so little that we can do as a shared experience as a family these days’ – there’s nothing on TV that the family can watch together. This is the first show in a very long time that will transcend generations – ages 8 to 80 watching together and shouting the answer at the screen. When you see these people and hear the stories of our contestants, you know that America is going to fall in love with this show.
“Some have faced very difficult challenges in their lives. Others are just ordinary people like you and me. Some of them have been through terrible times and hit rock bottom. That brought them to their faith, which is very real to them. They love the Bible. They love its stories and its heroes.
“You know, you hear these days that there are so very few role models,” said Schiff. “Well, you are going to fall in love with some of our contestants. You are going to be inspired by what some of them are doing in their day-to-day lives to help other people. The neat thing about this game is they are using their Bible knowledge to go out and be an agent of change in the world.”
And, yes, none of the contestants get to keep the money they win.
“That’s right,” chuckles Schiff. “Nobody gets to keep the money. But look at the people standing in line to be contestants. Some of them have been here for hours before we even opened, waiting to register, knowing full well that they’re not going to get rich. They’re winning money for a charity that is near to their hearts.”