Newsweek (July 17, 2009)
Why do TV shows with religious themes keep crashing and burning?
The latest to be canceled is Kings on NBC. Next to go is ABC's Eli Stone. Religious people complain that the godless Hollywood moguls ignore them. But when the moguls produce a religion-friendly show, no one watches it. Joan of Arcadia (2 seasons) and The Book of Daniel (1 season) were two other show with short life spans.
Touched by an Angel (9 seasons) and Highway to Heaven (5 seasons) had good runs. Newsweek claims these two were popular because they are the most treacly (that means sweet or saccharine. I looked it up).
Maybe treacly is what religious people want, but they are also partial to blood and gore. Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ was a sadist's dream movie, and it was wildly popular with Christian audiences.
There's a notion, mostly borne out, that a religious program can serve only one master. Either it attracts people of faith while repelling the secular, or vice versa. In today's ultra-segmented television landscape, a religiously themed show on network TV has to appeal to the faithful and faithless alike in order to trump the ratings of a Desperate Housewives. And it has to have a cool factor. Television has gotten edgier; a show like Highway to Heaven would be a conspicuous fit in any network lineup.I think the godless TV moguls should forget about competing against Desperate Housewives. They should shoot for the niche market and try to produce something at a reasonable price. If they want edgy, they could use actual stories from the Old Testament. There is enough blood and sex in the Old Testament to make the Marquis de Sade blush.
I suspect fundamentalist/evangelicals want the real thing -- actual Bible stories set 2,000 years ago or earlier. (One possible exception may be a re-do of Left Behind. It might work as a TV series.)
What Hollywood has been dishing up are shows with Christian moral themes set in modern times. Not good enough, guys! There are millions of people in this country who believe the Bible is the literal word of God. Give it to them and see what happens.
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