[Editor’s note: This post contains spoilers for The Righteous Gemstones Season 3 Episode 3.]
Uncle Baby Billy (Walton Goggins) always craves the spotlight. As his niece and nephews rise to even greater renown as the new heads of the Gemstone megachurch empire, Uncle Baby Billy seems to need fame more than ever. It’s not enough to perform poolside at Zion’s Landing every day in one of his flashiest outfits yet. Even the free, extra-glamorous accommodations for him and his family don’t seem to appease him. No, he needs a bigger stage and an even bigger idea to get there. That big idea just might be Baby Billy’s Bible Bonkers.
The idea comes to him in Season 3, Episode 3 while watching old episodes of Family Feud. Two families of Christ followers go up against each other to see who knows the Bible best, answer questions about passages one by one, with Uncle Baby Billy as the host, of course. It’s not a completely far-fetched premise, considering how closely aligned his wardrobe and general demeanor is to 1970s Richard Dawson — Billy would look totally natural wielding a long, thin microphone and kissing every woman a little too tenderly on the lips as he greeted them.
The Gemstones dismiss the idea, saying it’s just a Family Feud rip-off with no merit of its own. But a test run during an emotionally charged “cousins night” shows that not only does Jesse (Danny McBride) become more engrossed in the game than he thought he would, but also that it has more in common with the real-world game show The American Bible Challenge than Family Feud.
The American Bible Challenge ran for three seasons from 2012 through 2014 on the Game Show Network, all of which are now available on Pluto TV. Jeff Foxworthy hosted with gospel singer Kirk Franklin as his sidekick and announcer who performed live during a round called Kirk’s Righteous Remix. Each episode featured three teams of three contestants tasked with answering questions related to the Bible in rounds that grew increasingly difficult. Sometimes there would be a physical component to the game, like during the Stick a Fork in It round, in which contestants would have to fling objects across the stage into glasses marked with various answers to questions.
But all the gimmicks aside, winning came down to know biblical knowledge. In the last round, called the Finale Revelation, teams were given 10 minutes to study the Bible backstage based on a specific given category. The team that was able to answer the most questions correctly won $20,000 for the charity of their choice.
When the show premiered, it broke network records, bringing in the highest viewership in GSN’s history. In 2014, the series garnered two Daytime Emmy nominations, for Outstanding Game Show Host and Outstanding Game Show. The series inspired a Facebook game, a phone app, a study book, and a board game, all of which are still available today.
In the world of The Righteous Gemstones, Baby Billy’s Bible Bonkers is poised to be just as successful. When Jesse reluctantly agrees to participate in the game’s trial run, he quickly becomes wildly competitive. After Cousin Chuck (Lukas Haas) correctly guesses the first answer, Jesse throws a frustrated tantrum, proving just how much winning really means to him.
As the Gemstones and the members of their church move through life, these characters are already keeping score based on how many seemingly virtuous acts each person in their lives performs. If they could wear a marker of their godly achievements on their sleeves, they probably would — they’re the perfect target for a game that literally rewards righteousness. Uncle Baby Billy may have a hit on his hands after all.
New episodes of The Righteous Gemstones air Sundays at 10 PM ET on HBO and Max. Join the discussion about the show in our forums.
Brianna Wellen is a TV Reporter at Primetimer who became obsessed with television when her parents let her stay up late to watch E.R.