Newsbites: A “Teen Jesus” Series is Being Developed by the Creator of ‘Orange Is the New Black,’ and More!

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Three quick news items with a TV-and-the-Bible twist.

1. Jenji Kohan — creator of Weeds and Orange Is the New Black, the latter of which just released its fifth season on Netflix — has revealed that she had to get “terrorist insurance” for her building because she’s developing a “teen Jesus” series. In a recent Hollywood Reporter roundtable interview, she said that the project in question is “like The Wonder Years, but with Jesus,” and it “got some people nervous.”

She was quick to point out, however, that religious viewers aren’t the only ones that can get out of hand:

There’s always crazies out there. I mean, I remember Shonda [Rhimes] telling me a story of people camping out outside her house when she killed McDreamy [on Grey’s Anatomy]. Like, people get crazy because they live with– they bathe in these characters, and they take it personally. And, you know, you’re always going to do something that someone doesn’t like, and you don’t know how crazy that someone is going to be. . . . There’s all sorts of things where we cross lines and people get weird about it.

Kohan did not give any more details about her “teen Jesus” series — she did not clarify, for example, whether it’s a modernized version of the Jesus story or set in the first century — but it bears mentioning that this is just one of a few young-Jesus shows that have been floated in recent years. Fox had Nazareth in development, and Lifetime had The One, while the History Channel briefly considered a series called The Lost Years. And of course, last year there was a theatrical film called The Young Messiah. Time will tell whether Kohan’s series ends up getting made, like the film, or whether it languishes in development hell, like the other TV shows.

2. NBC has announced that it will be airing a live version of Jesus Christ Superstar next year on April 1. (That’s Easter Sunday in the western churches, Palm Sunday in the eastern churches, and April Fool’s Day no matter which church you belong to.) This would not be the first biblical entry in the recent wave of live-musical productions — Fox aired The Passion to so-so ratings last year — but it would be the first one based on an existing classic. Incidentally, what ever became of that Nativity musical that Mark Burnett and Roma Downey were developing for NBC?

3. CBS is going ahead with a full series order for The Year of Living Biblically, but they have changed the name of the show to By the Book. The series is based on the 2007 book by A.J. Jacobs, who tried to follow the Bible “as literally as possible” for one year. Presumably the series is aiming to last a little longer than that.

— The image above is of Jenji Kohan at the Hollywood Reporter roundtable.

About Peter T. Chattaway

Peter T. Chattaway was the regular film critic for BC Christian News from 1992 to 2011. In addition to his award-winning film column for that paper, his news and opinion pieces have appeared in such publications as Books & Culture, Christianity Today, Bible Review and the Vancouver Sun. He has also contributed essays to the books Re-Viewing The Passion: Mel Gibson’s Film and Its Critics (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004), Scandalizing Jesus?: Kazantzakis’s The Last Temptation of Christ Fifty Years on (Continuum, 2005) and The Bible in Motion: A Handbook of the Bible and Its Reception in Film (De Gruyter, 2016).