The Bible — the article’s up!

The producers of The Bible had to squish thousands of years of sacred literature down to ten hours (though it was more like seven, once you bracket off the commercial breaks). Now I have managed to squish the 15,000 words or so that I wrote about the series here at this blog down to about 2,000 words for a web-exclusive article at Books & Culture, which went online today. I cover a lot of the same points that I made in my blog posts, but I also make note of a few things that I didn’t talk about here. Check it out.

The Bible / What works and what doesn’t in the ambitious mini-series

It’s common these days for each new episode of a TV series to begin with a montage that sums up all the relevant plot points from previous episodes. So it was only natural that, when the History Channel aired its five-part mini-series The Bible over the month of March, all but one of the episodes began with narrator Keith David intoning, in his deep baritone voice, “Previously, on The Bible…”

All of the show’s strengths and weaknesses are captured in that one phrase. Produced by Mark Burnett (a TV mogul best known for unscripted “reality” shows like Survivor and The Apprentice) and his wife Roma Downey (who once starred in Touched by an Angel), the mini-series rushes through the whole Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, in ten hours — though it’s more like seven, once you bracket off the commercial breaks — and it zips through the stories so quickly that you barely notice when they are compressed even further in those opening sequences. But the mini-series also makes a point of emphasizing the continuity between Bible stories in a way that is quite rare among Bible films, and in a way that sometimes allows individual stories to shed light profitably on others.

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An open letter to the makers of the next Bible series

The Bible was a big hit on cable TV. Now it’s a big hit on video, too, as various sites are reporting that it became the top-selling mini-series ever on DVD and Blu-Ray last week, as well as the top-selling TV release of any sort on DVD in five years. And that’s not counting the various online distribution methods.

Ordinarily, success of this sort would guarantee one thing: that other studios and networks would try to replicate the mini-series’ success by producing biblical TV shows and movies of their own. So I’d like to make a plea to any studio or production chiefs who might happen to come across this post.

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History and tradition in movie depictions of the Cross.

Western Easter came and went last week, but the Eastern churches are currently only half-way through the Lenten season, so yesterday was, for us, the Sunday of the Veneration of the Precious Cross.

Thinking about this, I inevitably started thinking about Jesus movies, and I began to think about the fact that the recent mini-series The Bible has joined Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ in taking a step back from recent “historically accurate” depictions of the Crucifixion towards a more traditional sort of iconography.

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The Bible: final episode, first impressions

And so it ends. Here are my first impressions of the final episode of The Bible, which aired last night.

Continuity between Bible stories, redux. Once again, I am impressed by the fact that this adaptation-of-the-whole-Bible approach — whatever its limitations — has allowed the filmmakers to emphasize the continuity between Bible stories in a way that you rarely see in other films.

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Flashback: Over 75 years of movies based on Acts!

The final episode of The Bible airs tomorrow night, and, if the publicity materials are anything to go by, it will be one of the relatively few productions that has gone beyond the life of Jesus to include at least some episodes from the rest of the New Testament.

To mark the occasion, I have re-posted a few articles of mine on the handful of other movies that have been based on the Book of Acts. Click here for a 1997 article on The Visual Bible’s Acts (1994), A.D.: Anno Domini (1985) and Peter and Paul (1981); click here for my review of The Bible Collection’s Paul the Apostle (2002); and click here for a video column that includes a brief note about Saint Peter (2005).

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