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Ed Driscoll

And the Most Popular Show on Television Is…

March 8th, 2013 - 7:01 pm

“Pop Culture’s Most Popular TV Show Is — Brace Yourself — The Bible,” Megan Basham writes at Acculturated:

This past Sunday the television industry felt the ground shake when the first installment of the History Channel’s five-part miniseries, The Bible, drew a whopping 14.3 million viewers.  To put that in perspective, those are higher ratings than American Idol drew on Fox in the same week.  Higher ratings than the premiere of Celebrity Apprentice on NBC.  And it officially made The Bible the number one scripted cable broadcast of the year.

The news was apparently so astonishing it prompted Business Week to investigate exactly how the basic cable network pulled it off and inspired Time magazine’s resident T.V. critic, James Poniewozik, to ponder whether The Bible’s success will lead to further mainstream forays into religious-themed entertainment.

What’s more astonishing, given how often pro-faith productions put up massive numbers, is that major media outlets still feel the need to run shocked headlines about it.

First, of course, came The Passion of the Christ.  The highest-earning R-rated movie of all time was expected to issue a wake-up call to the industry about the potential for films based on Scripture.  When it didn’t, a series of indie movies from Sherwood Baptist Church reaped so much cash from their fairly meager showing, the Hollywood Reporter called them, “some of the most profitable films in modern history.”  Then early last year the New York Times noted the success of the pro-Catholic, pro-life film, October Baby.  And late last year American Bible Challenge debuted as the number one show ever to run on the Game Show Network.

All of this should have sent a clear message to network and studio executives long before last Sunday—if you build something of even middling quality (and, unfortunately, middling is generous in The Bible’s case) that is even remotely respectful of Christian faith, Christians of all stripes will tune in or buy tickets to see it.  But it didn’t.  Or at least, it didn’t if Time’s Poniewozik is any indication of what other industry insiders are saying to one another.

Why hasn’t there been another Passion? First of all, Hollywood is under no obligation to produce product that doesn’t reflect its worldview, any more than, say, National Review is obligated to run articles trumpeting the joys of atheism, abortion, and Obama.

The Passion got made because Mel Gibson, at the height of his career, was willing to gamble $25 million or so of his own money and had sufficient experience as a filmmaker to shepherd (pardon the pun) the movie through to completion and to secure a distributor. In contrast, the vast majority of the rest of Hollywood’s product is made by committee. A Hollywood executive who’s an atheist or agnostic has to ask himself, can he assemble a crew — a producer, a screenwriter and a director at a minimum — who are religious enough or, at a bare minimum, respectful and knowledgeable enough of religion to produce a product that a religious audience would accept? Then, is the executive who oversees the movie willing to ride out the controversy such a film would engender from the left, including attacks from, say, Time, the Daily Kos, Huffington Post, and MSNBC? Perhaps most importantly, at least from the point of view of our hypothetical executive’s ego, is he willing to be ridiculed by his peers at cocktail parties in Beverly Hills and on Park Avenue? (It’s not a coincidence that these are some of the same reasons why there isn’t another conservative or libertarian television channel to siphon viewers away from Fox News.) Best to bankroll Star Trek 26, Die Hard 13, or Star Wars: Episode Seven, instead. Besides, I hear this year is The Year of the Sequel, anyhow.

Regarding Time’s astonishment that a religious TV series is cleaning up in the ratings, again, consider the source, and the environment its editors and writers marinate in. While there’s a move afoot to spin-off Time, Inc. by the end of the year, at the moment, it’s still part of Time-Warner-CNN-HBO. Anti-religious messages are reinforced by all corners of that conglomeration, ever since Time famously asked “Is God Dead?” on its cover nearly half a century ago. As Andrew Klavan noted in his PJM column, Sports Illustrated, its sister publication, attacked religion and the NFL shortly before the most recent Super Bowl. Both illustrate how far the collective worldview of the staffers of magazines founded by Henry Luce, whose parents were Christian missionaries to China, has come.

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Top Rated Comments   
"the Bible"? darn, misse d that one. did they have any zombies in it?

you know what would make a good movie? one where a partying prez lies about his background, then tries to get the citizen's guns so he can make a (failed) attempt to become a dictator by amassing mass quantities of tanks, arms and ammo (and new uniforms) for his army. oh yeah, throw in a few thousand drones strafing his enemies (the people) into submission, after having practiced for years on foreign targets he designated as the enemy. maybe try to stir up some mayhem by selling thousands of guns to some drug cartels to try and create a (failed) sandy hook incident, and maybe a couple of old vet. codgers as senators he slithers up to who think he is just peaches and cream. also, he would maybe allow tens of millions of uneducated 3rd world immigrants to crash the borders, and allow them to suck the newly created welfare state dry. and don't forget to throw in some serious voter fraud.

heck yeah i would pay to see that, but not in a gun free zone. maybe i could just rent it.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (29)
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I tuned in to view the Bible and saw a black Samson. Samson was not black, he was Israelite. I turned the channel.

I switched back only to see King Saul urinating in a cave. I turned the channel again.

I tried once more, only to see a half-naked Kind David standing in front of the Holy Ark of the Covenant.

Three stirkes, you're out. This series is an absolute waste of time.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
1 Sam 24 3-4 references Saul relieving himself in a cave. David cuts a piece of his robe to prove to him he could kill him. then when Saul left, David came out to tell him what happened to try to show Saul that he was not his enemy.
1 Chron 15 refers to a robe like the levites, but we also know that he danced in front of it and embarrassed his wife.
We don't know what Samson's skin shade was - for all we know, his family were african converts to judaism.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
One thing I learned from the promos--which were all I saw--was that Noah was a Scotsman who could quote the Torah (millennia before Moses).

Sean Connery went further than that in _A Bridge Too Far_, of course, where his character says, "We always knew G-d was a Scotsman."
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
My family of 5 sat down together to watch the first episode. That phenomenon has not happened in a L-O-N-G time. My children asked questions about things they did not understand, and we all thoroughly enjoyed the program. We DVRed it, and watched it again Friday evening. We intend to watch again this Sunday and have actually had numerous conversations with friends at sports and school who watched last week and plan to watch again. Bible history is world history. Don't dismiss that fact. I thought 'The Bible' first episode was very worthwhile and well done. Looking forward to the other 4 episodes even though I have read the book and know how it ends!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
My parents loved Archbishop Fulton Sheen's TV show in the 50's. Hard to believe in this day and age that he lead one of the most popular shows at the time with just a chalkboard and an eraser. According to Wikipedia, he actually won two Emmys! The success of this show and other well-made productions with Christian content shows that there is a market that is being deliberately ignored.

Hollywood is filled with self-absorbed narcissists and the major studios are run by people actively hostile to Christianity. I am finding I prefer British actors and British productions. British actors look like normal people and cut their teeth on theater and classical training. British productions are still focused on quality product and not on being a message machine for preaching the latest liberal doctrine, like promoting gay marriage.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
My parents loved Archbishop Fulton Sheen's TV show in the 50's. Hard to believe in this day and age that he lead one of the most popular shows at the time with just a chalkboard and an eraser. According to Wikipedia, he actually won two Emmys! The success of this show and other well-made productions with Christian content shows that there is a market that is being deliberately ignored.

Hollywood is filled with self-absorbed narcissists and the major studios are run by people actively hostile to Christianity. I am finding I prefer British actors and British productions. British actors look like normal people and cut their teeth on theater and classical training. British productions are still focused on quality product and not on being a message machine for preaching the latest liberal doctrine, like promoting gay marriage.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
And yet the History channel continues to promote The Vikings and not The Bible. I wish a different channel had picked it up, but alas we know why they didn't.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
And coming soon! The Koran -- Uncut!!!! Rated XXX for its candid (imaginary) footage of the Great Islamic Porno Theme Park in the Sky!!!: PARADISE!!!!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I attempted to read the Koran. Nothing against one of the World's Great Religions, but it was all about how to tend your cattle, and in what manner God wants you to decimate the tribe next door. In His mercy.

The Bible, despite the many failings of Christianity and Judaism, has some great, timeless stories.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Judging by our economic recovery, I would have guessed "Walking Dead"...think Charleston Heston was a better Moses.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
It's no surprise that a show could get great ratings on its first outing. Let's see whether these viewers tune in week after week to get their helping of bible stories. I suspect the public will be switching back to the usual reality TV, sitcoms and video dramas before long.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I doubt that type of people that sought out The Bible on the History Channel will be doing that. But some might not like the production, and tune out. Then again, the word might spread and ratings actually increase, offsetting those loses in viewers.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
And last but not least the heavy Jewish factor in Hollywood is also contributing to hostility towards Christianity or at the very least lack of interest in producing New Testament Christian fare.

As Michael Medved has written..

"Anyone who doubts that rejection of Jesus has replaced acceptance of Torah (or commitment to Israel) as the eekur sach—the essential element—of American Jewish identity should pause to consider an uncomfortable question. What is the one political or religious position that makes a Jew utterly unwelcome in the organized community? We accept atheist Jews, Buddhist Jews, pro-Palestinian Jews, Communist Jews, homosexual Jews, and even sanction Hindu-Jewish meditation societies. “Jews for Jesus,” however, or “Messianic Jews” face resistance and exclusion everywhere. In Left-leaning congregations, many rabbis welcome stridently anti-Israel speakers and even Palestinian apologists for Islamo-Nazi terror. But if they invited a “Messianic Jewish” missionary, they’d face indignant denunciation from their boards and, very probably, condemnation by their national denominational leadership. It is far more acceptable in the Jewish community today to denounce Israel (or the United States), to deny the existence of God, or to deride the validity of Torah than it is to affirm Jesus as Lord and Savior.

For many Americans, the last remaining scrap of Jewish distinctiveness involves our denial of New Testament claims, so any support for those claims becomes a threat to the very essence of our Jewish identity."

http://www.commentarymagazine.com/article/why-are-jews-liberals-a-symposium/

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
It should be noted that Michael Medved is an Orthodox Jew, as is Ben Shapiro. I do disagree with him; I don't think they have even that much Judaism.

(Strangely, I have been accused of the above definition of Judaism, althoguh in in fact I am an Orthodox (what is sometimes prejoratively referred to as "ultra-Orthodox" Jew who actually moved to Israel for religious reasons.)
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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