Coming soon to a TV near you: ‘The Bible’

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It only took 2,000-plus years, but ‘The Bible” is making news.

Seriously, both USA Today and the Wall Street Journal  ran features today on the epic miniseries scheduled to air next year on the History Channel.

From USA Today:

Famed television producer Mark Burnett tackles his projects with passion, but The Bible is a special labor of love.

The 10-hour, five-part docudrama, which premieres March 3 on the History Channel, will span the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, presenting some of its best-known stories, including Noah’s Ark, the Exodus, Daniel in the lions’ den and the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.

Former Touched By an Angel star Roma Downey, Burnett’s wife and fellow executive producer, heads a large international cast in the role of Mother Mary. Keith David, an Emmy winner for voice-over performances, will narrate with a musical score by Oscar- and Grammy-winning composer Hans Zimmer.

“In terms of importance, nothing we’ve ever done, not Touched By an Angel, not Survivor, not The Voice, not The Apprentice, none of this could possibly compare toThe Bible,” Burnett says. “To us, as a family, we love the Bible. This is not a TV show to us. It’s images and sound and sacred text that people will still watch, way after our grandchildren are old people.”

USA Today’s relatively short story appeared on the Life section cover and did not jump. Given its brevity, it left me with a number of unanswered questions — including details about Burnett’s faith background and exactly why he loves the Bible.

As this television event draws closer, I’d love to see more reporting — by Godbeat pros or otherwise — on the specific stories chosen, the facts portrayed and the biblical and historical accuracy (or not).

The Wall Street Journal provides a little more insight into Burnett’s motivation, but not much:

Mark Burnett made his name as the power behind such reality-television hits as “Survivor” and, more recently, “The Voice.” Now he is turning his attention to a different kind of TV: biblical.

Mr. Burnett is nearing completion of a 10-hour miniseries, “The Bible,” based on stories like Noah’s Ark and Daniel in the Lion’s Den. Scheduled to air next spring on the History Channel, the series is Mr. Burnett’s first effort in scripted television programming.

It is also a project close to Mr. Burnett’s heart. In the past couple of years the 52-year-old former paratrooper says he has become deeply religious, a transition he credits to Roma Downey, his wife since 2007. “It wasn’t until I met Roma that I truly understood my faith and it’s been a dynamic shift for me,” Mr. Burnett said.

Deeply religious? What exactly does he mean by that? What does he believe? And how does the miniseries reflect his beliefs?

The Journal doesn’t delve into such questions, but it does note:

In recent years Mr. Burnett and Ms. Downey have become friends with celebrity televangelist Joel Osteen, who preaches at a church in Houston that is home to the largest congregation in the U.S. Mr. Osteen is advising Mr. Burnett on the show.

“He’s been to [our church] several times and we come over to their house for dinner and things like that,” Mr. Osteen said.

Despite the short length of its story, USA Today managed to make reference to the Connecticut school massacre:

He hopes the project brings comfort after the Sandy Hook school shootings. “What happened Friday is absolutely the saddest tragedy imaginable,” Burnett says. “Our prayers are with the families and friends. We hope The Bible, by shedding some light into the world, can help in some small way to try and stop the darkness.”

Tell me, GetReligion readers: Does tying this miniseries to the fresh tragedy make the story seem more timely? Or does the reference impress you as a stretch? Or even pandering?

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About Bobby Ross Jr.

Bobby Ross Jr. is an award-winning reporter and editor with a quarter-century of professional experience. A former religion editor for The Oklahoman and religion writer for The Associated Press, Ross serves as chief correspondent for the The Christian Chronicle. He has reported from 47 states and 11 countries and was honored as the Religion Newswriters Association's 2013 Magazine Reporter of the Year.

  • Jerry

    My vote is a stretch if I’m feeling charitable and sensation-mongering otherwise.

  • http://twitter.com/likeacannon Jordan Andlovec

    It’s a stretch for sure, just a thoughtless tie-in for promotion sake.

    And also, for being a series entitled “The Bible”, you would kinda hope that they would read it (i.e. Matthew’s report that the Magi came after Jesus was born, not when he was born).


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