If you ever watched Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?, then you know that Jeff Foxworthy makes a great game-show host, with his ability to crack a joke at the right time and to be topical with what the contestants have said. He's a little slow moving the game along with all the pauses, but I think that that was more the decisions of the producers or directors. It's because of Foxworthy that, two season ago, I recorded the first few episodes of Are You Smarter Than a Bible Student?, better known as The Great American Bible Challenge. It's not a show for "religious nuts". It's funny, entertaining, and educational -- true if you've read the Bible, parts of it, or are just interested in all this Bible stuff you've heard about over the years.
I don't watch it to see if I can outscore the Bible study group contestants any more than I think I could outrun Jeopardy! champions or Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? millionaires -- especially not if they're groups of nuns or rabbis. Yes, rabbis, who may have had a bit of an edge specializing in that first half of the Bible.
No, I watch it for moments that lead a confused Foxworthy to query a contestant, "Where are the pizza ovens in the Bible?"
I'm with Jeff -- my pastor never mentioned them in his sermons.
So why the long appreciation about the show now, in its season? Because of something from this week's episode. An attempt to build tension among those who know their Biblical lion-killers, but totally destroyed it among the mathematically aware. That is, me.
The penultimate round, the one that decides which two teams advance to the final round, is called The Chosen Three. One member of the team is asked a question with multiple answers. Six choices are displayed, three of which are correct and three are incorrect. There could be other correct answers which aren't one the board. To give an overly simple non-religious example:
Monday ... Tuesday ... Frog ... Jelly ... Friday ... Wisenheimer
There are more than three possible correct answers, but only three correct answers are given. The other three are incorrect. It seems to be random whether these questions are relatively easy or impossibly difficult. Or it could just be a matter of my education on the matter as I haven't attended a Bible study in years. After all, I answered one question because I remembered it from The Ten Commandments, not from Sister St. Mark's religion class.
Okay, so here's the math.
There are three teams. They go to the team with the most points first. If that team gets all three correct, they are a lock for the final round because no team will be able to catch them. If they miss one or two (or all three), they leave the door open for one or both of the other teams to pass them. (It is possible to miss all three, but there's one one combination that doesn't include any correct answers, which is difficult enough randomly, but this is also supposed to be the "smartest" player who should be able to identify at least one of the answers. That said, I think I remember seeing it happen exactly once in two years.)
So the second team gets a question about who killed a lion in the Bible. I didn't write down all the names, and I didn't even recognize all the names. The first four were Saul, David, Daniel and Samson. (And then two with more "Biblical" names.) The contestant said that he knew that David killed a lion, and that Daniel, who was known for being in the lion's den, just "palled around" with one but didn't kill it. He added that he didn't think that Saul had killed a lion. He wasn't sure about Samson, so he chose the other two.
This team needed two correct answers to be a lock for the final round. Foxworthy revealed that David did indeed kill a lion. They need one more, so tension is mounting. He says that the contestant was right that Saul did not kill one. And then jokes about Daniel. And ... waitaminute, what did you just do, Jeff?
Sure, you're going to try to increase the tension by revealing an incorrect guess, but that didn't matter anymore.
There are three choices that we don't know about. Two of them have to be correct. The contestant picked two out of the three. Ergo, he had picked one of the two correct answers! Yes! I was so annoyed that I used the word "Ergo"!
Simple process of elimination, Jeff. There weren't enough choices remaining to have had both incorrect. His other two guesses had to be Yes-No, No-Yes or Yes-Yes. There are only three incorrect choices and you revealed two of them. So while tension was mounting, and I'll grant you that at times like this a contestant might not be thinking logically, those with no cars in the race (Indy weekend!) already knew the outcome!
That was a little bit of disappointment in an otherwise fine broadcast. Well, that and the lack of pizza ovens.