With the network upfronts looming next week — the few days in which the broadcast nets roll out their new fall schedules for advertisers in New York City — the axes are falling … and two of them just fell on the Devil.
Fox just canceled both “The Exorcist” and “Lucifer.” The first show, an updated spin-off of the 1973 movie of the same name, got two seasons; while the second, a DC Comic-inspired and rather peculiar take on Satan, got three.
I don’t find myself too upset about either of these (unlike “Lucifer” fans, who are peeved).
The first season of “The Exorcist” was really good — getting about all the big Catholic stuff right and really showcasing the power of prayer and Christ.
Season two was, well, meandering and confusing. It lacked the strong arc of season one, and it got too far away from the Church. The point of exorcists is that they have the power of Christ and His Church at their backs. To send them off on some kind of independent road trip just makes no sense.
As for “Lucifer,” there were some intriguing aspects to the show in season one, where it asked the question, can the Devil (taking a break in L.A. as a crimesolving club owner) be redeemed? There was even an excellent episode where Lucifer befriended a heroic priest.
But, as season one ended, the show took an abrupt turn away from anything recognizably Christian and decided Lucifer had a mom. At that point, I bailed.
So, what’s there to learn from all this?
My open letter to Hollywood:
Yes, the Catholic Church, her history and her theology are all that, and a side of chili fries. The closer you stick to the reality of faith, salvation, Christ and the power of prayer — and its flipside, the horror and degradation of sin — the more interesting and compelling a story you will have.
The more you try to secularize and trivialize the subject matter, the weaker it all gets. Be gusty! If you’re going to play with Christianity in general and the Catholic Church in particular, be brave. Make your characters flawed — we are all fallen creatures, after all — but give them powerful faith.
If you go back to the original “The Exorcist” movie and season one of the show, the real drama came through a troubled priest rediscovering his faith and his ability to tap into Christ’s grace to battle demonic evil and save souls.
What made the priest episode of “Lucifer” so compelling was the idea of the power of good, and seeing Lucifer cry out in pain to his Heavenly Father (as we all have done).
But, then, it all goes pear-shaped.
I know you’re afraid of offending people (not Catholics, apparently, but that’s another conversation), but shouldn’t you be more afraid of not having enough of them watching your shows?
Catholicism is too big, too deep, too powerful, gorgeous, complicated and hardcore (gees, we eat our God) to be constantly used as mere window-dressing.
Take us on, for real. I dare you.
More on other upfront news coming.
Image: Kate O’Hare