There were things that the people at The American Bible Challenge didn’t know about me when they invited me to visit the set for the taping of their episodes. They didn’t know that I’m a bit of a game show snob. I’ve been on Jeopardy! and as such tend to think of most other game shows as of a lesser status. They may also not have known that I’m always a bit suspicious of things that put “American” and “Bible” together. Civil religion has its place, but it often manages to water down both the civil and the religious aspects. Given all that, it may be surprising that I came away from the set visit with good vibes.
The basic idea of the show is a Bible trivia game. There are teams competing against one another in a tournament format, with winners advancing to the next round. The taping I attended was the second semifinal match. Each team had one its first round match and was looking for the chance to move on to the final round.
There are many things that go on during a taping that you’ll never notice watching the finished product that airs on TV. There is a studio audience for the taping. (Press was not in the audience, but in a green room back stage watching the show on a monitor.) There is a time set aside to warm up the audience. It was interesting being a bit of a fly on the wall during this process. They work with the audience to “ooh” and “ahh” and laugh and cheer on cue. They have times of the crowd cheering wildly just to cheer. The cameras are moving around the crowd while this is going on, no doubt looking for the best people to focus on during cheering. Exuberance is a plus if you want to be on camera when you attend a taping.
I’m also always interested in the contestant selection process. It always takes something more than just trivia knowledge to be chosen out of so many qualified contestants. Some shows want bubbly personalities—and some of the teams here have that, but there are also some more reserved people on the show. In part that is because the producers are looking for interesting stories behind the contestants. And they want people who are not so much looking for their own glory (and let’s face it, Jeopardy! contestants are all about the glory) as they are looking to help others. In fact, The American Bible Challenge winners don’t get money—they play to get money for a charity (top prize: $100,000 for the finals winner).
My thoughts on the game itself will have to wait until a bit closer to the series premiere, but it gave even a game show snob like me some things to appreciate. After the taping, we were taken out to the set for photos, and then we had a Q&A with host Jeff Foxworthy. Gleanings from that interview will come later.