Inside the History Channel’s epic TV miniseries ‘The Bible’

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This is one of those GetReligion follow-up posts where we basically say, “See, was that so hard?”

Back in December, I raised a few questions about media coverage of “The Bible,” the epic miniseries that debuted Sunday night on the History Channel.

In reading an in-depth feature by CNN Belief Blog co-editor Eric Marrapodi over the weekend, I was pleased to see my questions answered. Obviously, Marripodi pays close attention to the excellent insight at GetReligion. Or maybe he’s just good at his job …

Kidding aside, let’s start at the top of the CNN piece:

(CNN) - Mark Burnett is the king of reality television. His shows and spinoffs command hours of prime-time television real estate. The seal of his production company One Three Media appears at the end of “Survivor,” “The Voice,” “The Apprentice,” “Shark Tank,” “The Job” and “Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader?”

He will tell you each show was No. 1 in the time slot. He will tell you he will take on all comers in his bare-knuckle, ratings-driven world and beat them. He will tell you on any given day he has 150 video-editing systems churning through edits on his dossier, which spans the three major broadcast networks.

But if you suggest he may not have the chops to take on a massive scripted dramatic presentation of the Bible as a 10-hour miniseries, his eyes will tell you he wants to throttle you.

My bad.

Burnett and wife, Roma Downey, have been barnstorming the country like roving preachers on horseback trying to evangelize the West. Their gospel is spreading the news of “The Bible” - their ambitious project that aims to tell the story of the Bible in 10 installments. It begins its weeklong premiere on the History Channel Sunday night.

My previous post complained about the lack of specific details concerning Burnett’s faith background and the motivation for the project.

Enter Marrapodi:

Both Downey and Burnett were raised Catholic, Burnett in England and Downey in Ireland. They still regularly attend Mass in Los Angeles. Growing up, both watched the classic Biblical films that the Hollywood of yesteryear churned out, like “The Ten Commandments” and “The Greatest Story Ever Told.”

Wait, there’s more:

[Read more...]

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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