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GSN's American Bible Challenge: An appealing do-gooder without preachments

Team Minnie's Food Pantry of Plano celebrates a correct answer with host Jeff Foxworthy on The American Bible Challenge. GSN photo

Premiering: Thursday, August 23rd at 7 p.m. (central) on GSN (Game Show Network)
Starring: Host Jeff Foxworthy and 18 faith-based teams competing for various charities
Produced by: Michael Davies, Tom Forman

"I'll take "Daniel in the Lions' Den' for $300, Alex."

GSN's new The American Bible Challenge doesn't work quite that way. And it's hosted by Jeff Foxworthy, not Alex Trebek. But there are big boards, categories, buzzers and three-way face-offs on each episode. Word plays also are in play, as in "What Do You Noah 'Bout the Ark?"

The Man Upstairs might groan a bit at that one. But surely He'd approve of this first-of-its-kind "game show of biblical proportions," as one of GSN's slogans bills it.

I'm no man of the cloth, save for soft cotton. But the spirit moves me to say that American Bible Challenge is an entertaining, enlightening, feel-good weekly hour in which 18 teams of three members apiece are playing to "love on somebody else" and perhaps eventually come away with the show's $100,000 grand prize.

Religion is the foundation but no one's trying to convert anybody. Oozing wholesomeness but not slobbering it, American Bible Challenge may well be a genuinely genius idea with widespread appeal for viewers of all ages. If so, GSN (formerly Game Show Network) will have its first "branded" destination show after years and years of trying to break through.

Two of the teams are from North Texas, with Plano's very appealing and animated Team Minnie's Food Pantry featured on the Thursday, Aug. 23rd premiere hour along with Team Surburban Saints from Sacramento and Team Gospel Geezers of Charlotte, NC. The Power Team of Dallas will compete on a later episode.

Foxworthy, who logged considerable game show experience as the host of Fox's Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?, seems mighty glad to be associated with this one. And why not? Thursday's winning team, which will advance to two semi-final games before a three-team grand finale, takes home a not-too-shabby $20,000 for its designated charity.

Team Minnie's Food Pantry is representing its own same-named food-for-the-poor center while the Suburban Saints play for the non-profit City Crossroads and the Gospel Geezers brave Old and New Testament quizzes on behalf of Samaritan's Purse. Each team goes home with something on Thursday's premiere.

The Minnie's Food Pantry trio are Cheryl Jackson, Lynette Shofner and Lanett Patt, who's easily the most demonstrative when something goes right for her team. Not in an off-putting way, though, even if she sometimes makes a Let's Make A Deal contestant seem like a church mouse in comparison.

Early questions are fairly elementary. For instance, what mountain did Noah's Ark eventually rest on? One of the four multiple choice answers is Mountain Dew.

Foxworthy goes easy on the redneck humor, at least in the premiere episode. Unfortunately, he can't resist a very lame one-liner after one of the teams correctly names Moses as the answer to, "Whose Faithbook page would most likely feature a friend request from The Burning Bush?"

"I'm so thankful it was Moses instead of Larry the Cable Guy," Foxworthy rejoins. " 'Cause he would have had a hot dog on the end of a coat hanger during the whole thing."

A forgiving God holds back on sending any lightning bolts his way. And in truth, this is a small quibble. Questions in the second half of the first episode get appreciably tougher after a brief dip into a category dubbed "In the Name of the Lord of the Rings."

In the challenging one-minute "Final Revelation Round," each of the two surviving teams separately fields the same questions on "Women of the Bible." They're definitely not easy. So don't expect anything like, "Who rode the donkey while husband Joseph made his way toward Bethlehem?"

Whatever your religious beliefs -- or lack thereof -- The American Bible Challenge is good for the soul. It's also the best new game show in years. Contestants compete to serve various greater goods while Foxworthy both extolls their virtues and jokes around a little. Not everything comes out perfect. But surely there's room for a show like this in the vast and often ghastly prime-time firmament.