BET over the years has gotten knocked for its programming but its “Sunday Best” Gospel competition show has been above reproach.

It has become a Sunday night staple for the network.  Once again, the network shot the season Atlanta, at EUE/Screen Gems, the new studios by Lakewood Amphitheatre. It was pre-taped this spring after auditions at three major megachurches including the Greater Travelers Rest Baptist Church in Decatur.

The judges this year are Donnie McClurkin and Mary Mary (Erica and Tina Campbell) with the always peppy Kirk Franklin back as host. Yolanda Adams, a judge last year, is off the panel this time around while Erica returns after having a baby.

Last night newest show was a two-hour audition special. It featured bad singers who tend to over-sing and lose their pitch (Donnie and Tina, especially, won’t sugarcoat their critiques), but the show does not dwell on them. The best lines come when they talk to the singers who are more borderline.

“Bottom line is if you don’t have the unexplainable it,” McClurkin said on the show to one person who protested a no, “that something that will go from you to the hearts of millions of people, then the voice is beautiful, don’t get me wrong, but you need more than just that voice.” (No offense to “The Voice,” of course.)

Tina told another: “When I see you, I feel it’s more acting than coming from your heart. That’s not what gospel should be. Gospel should be less the acting and more passion that causes all of it.”

Of the 20 finalists, ten came from the Atlanta auditions while the remainders were split among Los Angeles and Dallas auditions. “Atlanta has historically been our biggest turnout” for auditions, said Connie Orlando, vice president of original programming for BET. “The talent there is amazing. Plus, the audiences are full of enthusiasm and praise.” So shooting it here made sense.

More than 12,000 people tried out in the end, the most ever.

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