Yesterday, as I leafed through the TV guide for the week, I noticed a blurb about a six-hour miniseries, â??Revelations,â? premiering this week. Wonderful. More apocalyptic gloom and doom. I surfed online to get some reactions to the upcoming spectacle.
Back in March, in The Washington Times, Pat Nason wrote:
NBC has programmed religious fare in the past -- including the Michael Landon hit "Highway to Heaven" from 1984-89 -- but NBC Entertainment President Kevin Reilly downplayed the religious nature of "Revelations.â?
"Ultimately, this is a fictional thriller," he told the Times.
Downplay the religious nature? With a nun as one of the lead characters? And this nun leads an astrophysicist â??on a journey through the unfamiliar world of faith,â? as described on NBCâ??s website. Even the astrophysicist is described in pious terms as â??one who worships Science.â? Gosh, what am I thinking? NBC so downplays the religious nature of Revelations.
But then, per Frazier Mooreâ??s article of April 8, 2005 in The Canadian Press, the series has drawn criticism from some in the Christian community as being superstitious speculation.
Frazier Moore responds:
But why not? Entertainment is entertainment, and that's the overriding mission of Revelations.
"It isn't necessarily preaching anything," acknowledged Revelations executive producer Gavin Polone, who added, "I don't think there's going to be some church that says, 'Yes, what's going on in this television show corresponds to what we believe.' "
Yes, but we see part of Poloneâ??s mission explained further in todayâ??s Washington Post:
Bringing to television a tale that centers on biblical prophecy, Jesus Christ and the New Testament was part of the mission for executive producer Gavin Polone.
"Usually on television, when you see any rendition of faith, it becomes it so nonsectarian it has no meaning," Polone said. "I've always felt that the executives in the entertainment industry are completely out of touch with the culture of most Americans. They're disconnected from the nation's character and religion. I wanted to do something that would be directed specifically toward the Christian audience."
Confusing? Frank Rich offers some interesting observations in todayâ??s New York Times:
This Wednesday the far right's cutting-edge culture of death gets its biggest foothold to date in the mainstream, when NBC broadcasts its "Left Behind" simulation, "Revelations," an extremely slick prime-time mini-series that was made before our most recent death watches but could have been ripped from their headlines. In the pilot a heretofore nonobservant Christian teenage girl in a "persistent vegetative state" - and in Florida, yet - starts babbling Latin texts from the show's New Testament namesake just as dastardly scientists ("devil's advocates," as they're referred to) and organ-seekers conspire to pull the plug. "All the signs and symbols set forth in the Bible are currently in place for the end of days," says the show's adult heroine, an Oxford-educated nun who has been denounced by the Vatican for her views and whose mission is underwritten by a wealthy "religious fundamentalist." Her Julie Andrews affect notwithstanding, she is an extremist as far removed from the mainstream as Mel Gibson, whose own splinter Traditionalist Catholic sect split from Rome and disowned the reforms of Vatican II, not the least of which was the absolution of Jews for collective guilt in the death of Jesus.
So, if the Christian audience Polone seems directed to is the extremist far right crowd, why do we see even fundamentalist Jerry B. Jenkins (â??Left Behindâ? novels) criticizing what he considers a mishmash of silliness and misrepresentations? And why do NBC executives seem to be downplaying the religious theme at the same time they say they are â??specificallyâ? targeting Christians? They seem to playing both secular and religious camps.
I contend that â??Revelationsâ? is far right holy propaganda insidiously trying to grab a bigger bite of the secular fold. Itâ??s religion gone extreme trying to suck in a worldly audience by adding an ostensibly â??rationalâ? character, the astrophysicist. Sure, I could be wrong; I havenâ??t seen the show yet. But at least I do agree with Frank Rich about the preoccupation of the media with dying. Frank Rich also made a TV appearance today on CNN where this was a topic of discussion.
From his NYT article:
We don't know the identity of the corpse that will follow the pope in riveting the nation's attention. What we do know is that the reality show we've made of death has jumped the shark, turning from a soporific television diversion into the cultural embodiment of the apocalyptic right's growing theocratic crusade.
â??A culture of death, not life.â? â??Revelationsâ? seems to fit that mold.
Is that a theme I care to promote on a beautiful, sunny Spring day? No way.
If anyone really wants to see a religious miniseries, why not a comeback of The Thorn Birds? Here we have a relevant, practical theme about the celibacy requirement for priests also discussed today by New York Times's Nicholas Kristof. However, by todayâ??s standards, would this miniseries be too liberal? After all, we would have a gay actor, Richard Chamberlain, portraying a straight priest in love with a woman. And who can forget the delicious scene when aging Mary Carson (Barbara Stanwyck) reveals her lust for the young, handsome priest... No, too risky.