Passion of the Producers: The History Channel's Bible series
From the people that brought you ancient aliens...
The History Channel Presents: "History"
Jesus Christ, this is stupid as hell. I’m not saying that just to be vulgar for the sake of beckoning attention; I want my Lord and savior to know how vastly stupid I find “The Bible” mini-series. This epic is the diametric opposite of an imaginative and well researched masterpiece akin to the recently made Lincoln film. While I’ve only seen one episode of this mediocre farce given to us by the History Channel, I’ve already given it my thumbs down, my zero stars, my “skip it”, and my “don’t bother”. And while most people are willing to shoot down my negativity because I’ve somehow offended their tastes in how the entertainment industry tells, re-tells and RE-re-tells the “greatest story ever told”- I will gladly point out why this commercial fluff piece offends me as a writer- and, most importantly, a Christian.
Bill Hicks schools on fundamentalist Christianity...
Passion of the Rant
But before I serenade you with cynicism and before you are made aware of the three nails that give this epic dissasterpiece a well-deserved crucifixion, it is important for you to know about yours truly, the humble narrator. I have been a saved Christian since 1999, having accepted Christ after I encountered a local church youth group and eventually became enamored with the life, trials, and tribulations of Jesus. It fell on me astonishing that such a man could be a father to a fatherless young man as I was at the time. My previous Catholic upbringing gave me a view of Christ that was very lofty, confusing, and out of my reach, but actually delving into the scripture, actually giving the Bible an audience, it was declared to me that man had a completed and well-written philosophy in which to use as the basic instructions before leaving earth. When all else failed, when all my understanding was exhausted, when the world didn’t make sense and common sense didn’t make the world, there was/is and would always be the moments that I could close my eyes and talk to God myself- and there was no shame in me having that invisible guidance, because when all was said and done- his word, the scriptures, the pages of truth and the red letters that resided within always reminded me that the answers to live weren’t so tough to find.
Despite all my best efforts to keep the flame of God inside my heart- the fire went dim. Almost extinguished to a decayed darkness; not by my own fear, not by doubt, and not by longings of weakly flesh, but rather, a light snuffed out by the very people whom thought they knew better. The family of the Lord may mean well within the walls of a church, but behind the veneer of stain glass, a well-funded ministry, a worship band that panders to pop music, and the matriarchal pastors that clothe themselves in the finest of fashions, is a family reminiscent of a Norman Leer sitcom: dysfunctional, unorganized, crassly holier-than-thou, and flamingly hypocritical. Because of this tripe of a production that I found myself sitting in every Sunday morning, I began to proudly, and quite vocally voice out my outrage for this hum-drum masquerade. The problem that plagued me was that I knew that the perfection of Christ is unattainable to the ordinary man which is why Jesus was God and we’re not, but regardless of this obvious fact, the family of the Lord in its majority doesn’t accept anything that is practical, on the level, faith. Due to this, I haven’t attended a single church regularly since 2001. Now that you know that I am not an unbeliever that is trying to steer eyes away from the big picture of God, let me make my points about his this mini-series gets that picture wrong.
The evidence of these transgressions against a revolutionary faith are seen in the show’s promos. Make no mistake, Church: you’re being mocked. And just to simplify this further, I can boil all of it down to one of God’s favorite numbers: the number 3. Three reasons that the History Channel ought to stay away from religion and stick to history they tell a lot better: the fictional kind.
The Focus Group for the series...
We can all love to hate, and hate to love America’s favorite and most loathed mafia in all of media: a good marketing department. “The Bible” spared no expense and played to the lowest common denominator when this series was pitched and this series would be produced by the Michael Bay of television entertainment: survivor producer Mark Burnett. Why the comparison to Michael Bay? Easy, if you want to watch a film that bombards you with flashy camera work, wall to wall action, thin plots, thinner costumes, and transparently unlikeable characters- sandwiched between the stale blandness of commercialism on one slice along with a moldy, oversold slice of advertising on the other- turn off your mind. Turn on Transformers instead. Thus is the executive summary of Mark Burnett’s contributions to Television; switch off your lobes and enjoy the scripted reality of Survivor- a show that tries to give us what could be Lord of the Flies: The Reality TV Show, but ironically ignores the logic and realism of the original William Golding book.
Along with an instantly recognizable, but still uninspiring crew behind the scenes, the show is presented by The History Channel: the edu-tainment bastion of hit and miss. The beginnings of THC was promising, if not out of ideas in it’s early years- as most of the network’s programming was almost entirely devoted to showing World War II documentary footage. However recently, the channel has chosen to give us style over substance by stealing the great ideas of PBS and giving it the gloss and financial edge to turn Antiques Roadshow into American Pickers. The network still manages to catch my attention with programs like “Vikings” and “Mankind: The story of us all”, and I can respect THC’s ambition to take risks. To give us the stories of humanity’s struggles and savagery.
Let us not forget, though: This is the same network that entertained the notion that pyramids are the result of ancient “Aliens”.
And so, when it came high time for THC to give us the answer to mankind’s struggles with savagery and give us the great story of indomitable hope when we feel all is lost and our violence was met with peaceful salvation, when it came time for them to give us daring theatrics and make “The Bible” the most original portrayal of the greatest story ever told- leave to Mark Burnett and THC to play it safe, get it wrong, and insult the intelligence of Christians, and Historians alike. But we’ll get to the bigger points that they got wrong in the coming sections.
Adding insult to injury is the Wal-mart friendly approach to promoting this pile. A good marketing department always knew that this was going to cater to the easily-impressionable, and simple to impress, and to that end, comes the campaign to sell you... crap. Not just any kind of crap, HOLY crap. Why is it crap? Because it’s as unnecessary and wasteful as actual crap. Anything and everything from guidebooks, to companion books, to devotional books, to even a novel. A novel, based on the series that is based on a book, the Bible.
Yo Dog! We know you like the Bible, so we put a Bible, in a Bible, inside a Bible.
It’s as if even in a recession Mark Burnett thinks American Christians suffer from expendable wallet diarrhea. And what would a great Bible merchandising campaign be without a free silicone wristband so that everyone knows you not only saw the series, but also bought the crap. You’ve given your last shillings to a concept made popular by a doping marathon bicyclist. Way to be played like a fool.
All frills aside, this whole idea doesn’t just rest on it’s outward appearance alone, that would be like making Star Wars action figures without the films. There wouldn’t be so much crap made if nothing was there to base it on, so while every toy company vies for action figure rights to kung-fu grip Jesus, lets look at the hardware store of two other nails that ruin this series at face value.
Satan Presented by Fox News
Oh yeah. Go ahead and cry liberal.
I’ve never seen 1 picture of the devil that made me immediately think they were taking a low-blow at the most controversial president to ever get legitimately elected to office. I’ve never seen so much ruckus raised over the casting of the “man below” since Harvey Kietel in Little Nicky. So while you might be ready to discredit my article of discreditation, let me just ask this
Did they really think about satan, or rather, did they think about the audience that would be watching the show?
When one would think that the best way to inspire a generation to turn to Christ, one would have to consider the mind of skeptic and cynic, such as myself. One of the most disenfranchising things about modern Christians is their constant, unrelenting, and spiritually futile attempts to sway public opinion or politics. Interesting display coming from the people claiming to believe the Bible from cover to cover and yet always be appalled and surprised when the scriptures fulfill themselves and Christians lose more ground politically. But how does that relate to THC’s newest sham Luci-Barack?
Two things: Stereotyping on all fronts and lack of imagination. First of all, why make Satan a brown guy in a sea of inaccurate Caucasian Biblical figures. If not to make him stand out in the crowd apart from the uninspiring black cloak, then it’s purely for racial stereotyping on the cheapest level. Couple that with facial features like goiters that resemble Barracks almost perfectly, and you’ve got a Satan that any conservative would find a menace: A brown, and charismatic stand out from the crowd.
That’s all they could think of?! The angel that takes many forms, and could have been better done as a faceless and indescribably ambiguous figure gets simplified to a Satan that only half the country would be scared of seeing. The other half would want to know his plan for health care. Lame.
The remaining cast of characters of “The Bible” series is an okay troupe of actors, most notably, voice-over prodigy Keith David (Love him!). But the worst casting decision, one that even eclipses the lack of inspiration dealt with Luci-Barack, is the choice made for the most important figure in not only biblical history, but history entire. Let’s look at the final rusty nail into the hand of faith.
Where they afraid to show us the REAL Jesus
Hippie Christ is Risen!
Seriously THC and Burnett. Screw you guys.
This was worth all the marbles, all the flash in the pan, and all the dough the marketing department this production could muster and what did they serve? The same damn thing. How many times will we let ourselves be hoodwinked into thinking that Jesus Christ was an attractive, long haired, bearded hippie that looks like he recently gave up his bong and started showering daily.
The History Channel, the network that made damned sure to make sure every actor that donned the image of Adolf Hitler had a proper looking moustache, failed to crack open any other source of Middle Eastern history from 4 BC to 30 AD in an effort to give us a historically accurate and revolutionary look at the Christ. This argument has been beaten to death, this I know, but that further proves my point: No one has got it right yet, not ONCE!
Consider everything that could have shaped a person, holy or not growing up in Bethlehem. Think of the malnourishment that would stunt a man’s growth- not to mention the fasting. Factor in the absence of plumbing and adequate medicine. Consider the facts that clothing was probably never clean even before the textiles were sold or made. A carpenter, in his thirties, living as a poor Jew in a desert country, where the scars on your face determine your status in society if not the dirt.
Santa Christ: More Credible than the History Channel Christ. He atoned for all our sins, but he also likes pancakes.
Where Credit is Due...
To give any credit, whether deserved or not, Jesus is played by Portugal native and soap opera actor Diogo Morgado. From what I’ve gathered he’s got good looks, charisma in spades, and a near-flawless profile. He might be a fantastic actor, but I am not from Portugal, so I have no idea. Diogo, you might be dramatic gold, and you’ve been accepted into the ranks of on screen messiahs like Jim Caviezel, Willem Dafoe, and a myriad of others, so congrats.
If you’ve made it this far, then please give this a thought. Do they think you’re stupid? There is no way this thing is going to pack the pews for the long term. I could be wrong, and maybe I SHOULD watch the show more before casting a stone, but hell, it’s not like I am the first person to cast judgment on something before I see it, Christians have been doing just that for the last 2000 years, hence is the reason I’ve stopped churching my way through faith and refused to be sold an empty and uninspired bill of goods sold only to people that are already saved.