Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Count Me Among the TV Cheeseheads

Check out my friend Paul Harvey's review of The Bible, The History Channel mini-series that debuted last Sunday night.  Here is a taste:

Thus far, the show appears to take too many liberties with the text to satisfy the most biblically-minded of viewers; to be too dark and violent for ordinary evangelicals drawn by Downey’s Touched by an Angel pedigree; to be too lacking in coherent narrative and stilted in script to appeal to those who just want good entertainment; and to be too sketchy in history and profundity to match the hopes of church leaders who want the miniseries to become the next cultural sensation. 

But I do think the series certainly will appeal to the TV cheeseheads out there, those who soak up entertainingly unsuccessful filmed epics. And so, the epic of the Bible remains the greatest story never sold, at least on film, but watching the repeated attempts is both historically edifying and emotionally irresistible. 

Count me among the cheeseheads, Paul.  I thought the opening episode was pretty good, or at least it wasn't terrible.  Granted, there were too many commercials for Christianmingle.com, the Bible app, The Vikings, and the Roman Catholic Church, but I thought Mark Burnett and Roma Downey did a decent job of capturing the first five books of the Old Testament in two hours.  (I thought some coverage of Jacob and Esau or Joseph would have made the episode even more compelling, but I don't think evangelical viewers would have been happy with a Potiphar's wife scene).

I watched it with my family over a couple of pizzas.  Everyone was engaged and full of questions and comments during the commercials.  For example, we had a great conversation about all of the violence in the Old Testament.  

If the mini-series causes my kids to raise questions about the Bible and has enough drama and entertainment value to keep them interested for two hours, I am all for it.  If Burnett and Downey can bring the story of the Bible and its life-changing message to a new generation by creating a television mini-series, then I think that is a good thing.

I am looking forward to next week.

1 comment:

Ed T. said...

I thought it was rather well done, also, and enjoyed it. I think it's hard for Christians to set aside expectations of Biblical adaptations and they forget there are logistical, monetary and time considerations that have to factor into putting something on TV. There's just SO much that has to be left out.

For instance, I believe the Exodus involved somewhere close to an estimated 2 million Israelites leaving Egypt, which wasn't reflected in the show and I suspect it had to do with budget or technical constraints in CGI.

It was a bit of an eye-roll to have the "ninja angel" (which I'm sure was there to keep teens and youth engaged), but I was also impressed that they differentiated between the 3 "angels" to imply that one of them was the pre-incarnate Christ.

As Downy and Burnett have stated, the whole purpose of this series is to get folks talking about or getting back into or picking up a Bible and to READ the REAL thing. On that level, I think it will succeed greatly.

I know my wife and I had a few conversations with out youngest (16yrs) about some of the scenes and we even had to hit pause on the DVR to discuss a few items.

My biggest challenge is to put aside MY preconceptions of how I would tell the story or how I think they should be told and what I think should be included in order to enjoy how someone else has done it.

Personally, I was moved by the conflict and tension between Abraham, Hagar and Sara. Even though Isaac was God's chosen, how Abraham must have been pained to send his "firstborn" out into the wilderness. To see the joy when Isaac was born. The relief when the angel told him to not sacrifice Isaac.

I think one of the biggest issues with bringing the OT to life on TV is that one can't really show many of the sins that warranted God's judgment on various cultures without earning at LEAST a TV-MA or making it so sexually explicit that it would warrant an R or NC-17 movie rating. It usually just gets boiled down to dancing, drunkenness and some mild sensuality and we don't understand just how perverse some of the cultures were.

All in all, I guess I'm a cheesehead too.