A friend of mine has alerted me to the latest “TV event,” which has become a hallmark of American cable television.
This one is a five-part epic retelling the juiciest parts of the Bible. The Bible’s producers were inspired to make a big-budget TV series after watching Cecil B DeMille’s The Ten Commandments. A $22 million budget indicates it’s probably faithful to DeMille’s epic proportions.
The History Channel, which is screening the series in the US, has no plans to air it here. So my friend has downloaded the first episode and promised to get back to me on its merit.
Meanwhile, Catholics Come Home saw an opportunity in the Sunday night premiere. They dusted off their “epic” commercial and broadcast it to an audience of 13 million viewers. That may not sound like many in view of a total US population of 313 million, but in fact, 13 million translates into a massive rating win, making The Bible the year’s most-watched drama on American cable.
Given that ten per cent of Americans are ex-Catholics, it’s likely that more than a few lapsed Catholics numbered among the viewers, and maybe the CCH invitation reached a few hearts. Who knows?
Just viewed the first episode “In the Beginning”.
The criticisms first – the acting was a bit below par (but I’ve certainly seen worse) – so there won’t be any Oscar nominations I would think. Also, in the destruction of Sodom, the episode depicted general debauchery and no great referencing to sodomy – but I was thinking before the series started that they wouldn’t reference Sodom at all – so credit where it is due I guess.
Onto the positives – firstly, credit to the producers who have invested a sizable amount of money into the venture. I can’t recall a series that goes from Abraham to Christ on mainstream TV. The closest thing I can think of is the documentary series by Steve Ray called Footprints of God (which are brilliant). But back to the show.
Considering the amount of scriptural text that the episode covered in approximately 80 minutes, it captured the main events of Genesis to Exodus (Pentateuch) quite well. The first episode ends with the Israelites crossing the Red Sea and Joshua about to sack Jericho.
I was speaking to a colleague of mine last night (who isn’t religious at all) and the topic of the series came up. She confessed that she wasn’t aware that Jacob was renamed Israel by God and the conversation grew from there. So a five minute conversation about work became a two hour conversation about the Old Testament – and that’s where I think the series has enormous potential, as per Father John’s comments above.
So in summation, while only the first episode is available – the second airs in the US on Sunday night (10 March) their time – the show can trigger some great conversations about the faith. This can only increase as the show progresses to the times of Christ.
All in all, for those that know little or nothing about the Old Testament, the series gives a valuable snap shot of the major events and stays quite faithful to the text.
Overall, a good job and well worth the time.