The Good Tube: The History Channel Does the Bible

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  1. Avatar Tod Kelly
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    ” Joseph calls her a whore before he finally figures out the child is divine thanks to Maury Povich an angel ”

    That alone was worth the read.Report

  2. Avatar Jeff No-Last-Name
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    I’ve been enjoying it as much for what it DOESN’T show as what it does. Men getting slaughtered in gory detail — fine and dandy. Women and children being killed in the same attack — don’t be silly! We can’t show THAT!

    And David did not bring Saul “trophies” of the 2000 Philistines he killed.

    A am enjoying how they’re mixing up the races. I’m curious: when the Philistine made a comment about “mixed marriages don’t work” (in show because because Samson was an Israelite and his wife was a Philistine; out of show because Samson was black and his wife was white), did you take that as the producers talking; or as “this is what an enemy says”?Report

    • Avatar NewDealer in reply to Jeff No-Last-Name
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      See below, I take it as comfort for right-wing Evangelicals who might still be skeptical about Loving v. Virginia. In the CS-Monitor article, it is basically said that the show is for right-wing Evangelicals.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to NewDealer
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        Which, it turns out, there is a huge market for if more networks cared to notice…Report

        • Avatar NewDealer in reply to Will Truman
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          Huge Market yes but I still think is it huge enough to make up putting off and offending everyone else?

          I am largely okay with right-wing Evangelicals having their own Shadow Culture if they leave the rest of us alone. There are a lot of them but 40 million is still not a majority in a country with 300 plus million.

          There is more money (and more importantly art and fun) in not catering to an Evangelical audience. Plus there is often more truth.Report

          • Avatar Will Truman in reply to NewDealer
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            A market segment of 40,000,000 is a pretty huge market-segment. And I don’t think it’s just Evangelicals that will be watching this thing. I mostly point to this to be filed away next time we talk about how much of popular entertainment is directed at liberal sensibilities rather than conservative sensibilities and someone tries to argue that there isn’t any market for the latter because if there was then obviously the capitalist networks would be all over it. The History Channel is going to make a ton of money off this, just like ABC made lots of money off of Touched By An Angel.

            Artistically? Meh. I’ll watch this because it sounds interesting. You couldn’t pay me enough to watch another episode of Touched By An Angel (my ex-girlfriend’s family was into it, I avoided it but saw enough to last a lifetime). What you want to see, and what I want to see, only factors in to a certain degree. We are both pretty well served by popular entertainment (I may bitch about all of the shows that take place in a select few cities, but I recognize that as trivial in the grand scheme of things). Other folks? Not so much.Report

            • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Will Truman
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              Will, did you watch Friday Night Lights? To me, it’s very much a show with a red state, rural, conservative sensibility, and it was a ratings disaster. (As I discuss here.)Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Mike Schilling
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                From what I recall, it had five seasons.

                Would that Firefly had such crappy ratings.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Jaybird
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                “Lone Star” took place in Texas, and portrayed Midland (where it split its time with Houston) pretty nicely, and lasted two episodes with some of the worst ratings in TV history. If you ignore the bigamy part, and the fact that the protagonist was on a mission to get the oil company away from oil… okay, perhaps also not the best example. But Midland was portrayed better than I remember Dillon being portrayed in FNL.Report

              • Avatar Glyph in reply to Jaybird
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                JB, FNL only survived as long as it did because it had some exec backers that really loved/believed in it, and it was able to strike an unusual shortened-season/shared-network/cost-sharing deal with Dish.

                I hope we see more of these cost-sharing deals in the future, I’m glad they were able to tell as much of that story as they did. Maybe the next Firefly will be luckier.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Mike Schilling
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                The showrunner is pretty insistent that it is in no way conservative. There was a discussion here.

                I’ve seen the first few episodes. I plan to go back and watch more of it. I congratulate them for not putting the show smack-dab in NYC, though the depiction of what I saw was not very flattering, as far as I recall. Which isn’t definitive in itself (my own backhome gets so little attention, even negative attention is better than none!). And is based on a relatively limited sample set.Report

          • Avatar Will Truman in reply to NewDealer
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            I should add that though this was in response to what you said, it wasn’t exactly a response to you. Or to your artistic (or moral, if you prefer, critique). You simply said something that was a segue into what I was going to say.Report

          • Avatar Kolohe in reply to NewDealer
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            “Huge Market yes but I still think is it huge enough to make up putting off and offending everyone else?”

            This is a channel that regularly shows how aliens and the illuminati are responsible for, well, just about everything.Report

            • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to Kolohe
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              At least it’s no longer nazis.Report

              • Avatar Mo in reply to Nob Akimoto
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                At least the Nazi stuff was somewhat educational and true. Interstellar Yetis of the Luftwaffe, not so much.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Mo
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                I’m a 40 year old man who knows that there is a person out there who goes by “Snooki”.

                I can totally understand complaining about the stupid and inane television shows out there. 100%.

                I understand that there is a television show out there devoted to the wives of sports figures and how catty they are to each other. There are people out there who watch television shows about the wives of sports figures who are being catty to each other.

                This is incomprehensible to me.

                Finding out that there is a miniseries dedicated to The Bible but it doesn’t really follow the text and takes out all of the hooters and cleans up the violence strikes me as a 0.4 Snooki, honestly.

                But this is, I imagine, a matter of taste.Report

              • Avatar Glyph in reply to Mo
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                If there is not an Interstellar Yetis of the Luftwaffe book or movie already, somebody needs to get on that, stat. I would read/watch the heck out of that.Report

              • Avatar Pat in reply to Glyph
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                Glyph: If there is not an Interstellar Yetis of the Luftwaffe book or movie already, somebody needs to get on that, stat. I would read/watch the heck out of that.

                pat: …. that would be Star Wars ?? !!!Report

            • Avatar Michelle in reply to Kolohe
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              As a historian, it kills me that they still call it the History Channel. History, my ass. It’s the Myths and Aliens Channel. The name should be changed accordingly.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Michelle
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                Let’s start with TLC first, shall we?

                Related:

                A few years back, The American Museum of Natural History had a special exhibit on mythical creatures. In telling a friend about it, he responded, “Mythical creatures? Those are neither natural nor historical.”

                In reality, the exhibit was pretty cool, and looked at how misunderstood fossil records and other legitimately natural and historical elements contributed to the creation of these myths.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Kazzy
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                After 9PM, it becomes The Lunatick Channel.Report

          • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to NewDealer
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            I am largely okay with right-wing Evangelicals having their own Shadow Culture if they leave the rest of us alone.

            I don’t know that I’m entirely okay with that.

            I met a young man once who did not know any of the words to the song “Hotel California” but did know all the words to, and frequently listened to, a Christian rock song that he knew was set to the music of that famous song and told the story of the very pregnant Mary and Joseph looking for a place to stay the night in Bethlehem. That such a parody song exists is rather cool. That this man should prefer the Christianized version to the original, is a matter of personal preference. But that he should have never been exposed to the decidedly mainstream cultural touchstone parodied renders the parody hollow.

            Perhaps it is obvious, but I should point out that this young man’s failure to have ever heard the original song by the Eagles was not out of ignorance that a mainstream (or to use his word, “secular”) rock band had originated the music. His failure to have ever heard the Eagles song was willful.

            If 10% of the population saturates itself in its own shadow culture to the point that it absents itself from the mainstream culture the rest of the 10% share, that’s not entirely healthy. Culture should be shared. If it isn’t it ceases to be culture and is transformed to anthropology. And as a people, we lose the commonality of our identity.Report

            • Avatar NewDealer in reply to Burt Likko
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              I didn’t know Christian Rock had a version of Hotel California about the Birth of Jesus. I am not surprised though.

              I can see your point but the issue with Christian-Evangelicals is that they just don’t consume mainstream culture but they think it should all bow to their will because they have the force of God on their side and what not really. This is stuff like the Family Research Council and all the stuff Tod writes about in his spinning away towards irrelevance series. It seems to me that Evangelicals need everything to fit comfortably in their worldview or it scares them. There are a lot of discussions about why Evangelical popculture is often so bad and unbearable for everyone else:

              http://imagejournal.org/page/blog/bad-christian-art

              http://www.salon.com/2011/04/13/soul_surfer/

              I want them to have their own space so they don’t turn everything into Bad Art.Report

            • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Burt Likko
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              Burt, I agree with you that there should be something resembling a public culture so that we can have a commonality of identity and that its bad when too many people and groups isolate themselves from the public culture. My issue is that whether its really popular to have a true mass culture anymore because of the diversity of our society and becasue of technology. Even without getting into the intricacies of race and religion, most Western societies are incredibly diverse in their tates. You have the various nerd fandoms like anime, comic book, and video games fans, and more. You have the fans of Mad Men and other premium TV television shows. You have opera fans and pop fans, etc. Modern technology allows each access to their own cultural preferences more than in previous times. During the Golden Age of American mass culture (roughly from the 1890s to the Vietnam War), people with different tastes where forced into niches with limited access to thier forms of entertainment. This isn’t the case anymore.

              How do you determine what should be common knowledge and what should be part of the mass culture canon? What should people be expected to know. I’m a dork and really don’t like a lot of pop culture but I still try to know whats kind of popular. I’ve been shocked at people who are much more mainstream than I am being unaware of things like who Pink Floyd are. I wouldn’t expect people to know eveything about Pink Floyd but the Wall made enough of a cultural impact that I’d expect them to know it, especially since they knew who the Talking Heads were.Report

              • Avatar Henshaw in reply to LeeEsq
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                Good point. Just look how diverse music is these days. Radiohead (who took their name from a Talking Heads song) is one of the more influential rock bands of the last two decades and they’re far from a household name.

                One of my friends just asked “what is a radiohead” the other day. I wasn’t shocked. He listens to different music.

                What made Beatlemania such a phenomenon was the fact that music diversity was non-existent on the radio.Report

              • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to LeeEsq
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                I don’t pretend to have all the answers and there’s no solution to people engaging in some degree of lensing and filtration based on personal preferences and social affinities.

                I do think that the experiences and attitudes of the young man who I described above is the culmination of Christian cultural cocooning, although I fully recognize that Christians do not have a monopoly on that sort of behavior. At some point, people start adopting different realities when they insulate themselves from other peoples’ perspectives and experiences. You wind up with, for instance, 24-hour cable news channels that deliberately lens their content to continually affirm their audiences’ political preferences to a degree so substantial it overpowers whatever substantive information content with which the propaganda might originally have been alloyed.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Burt Likko
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                Was he familiar with the great religious music of the past, say that written by Handel, Bach, and Mozart? If so, I’m not going to lose much sleep over his not knowing much about the Eagles.Report

            • Avatar Kim in reply to Burt Likko
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              Why you hate teh Amish so much?Report

        • Avatar NewDealer in reply to Will Truman
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          says:

          For example, I really don’t care if there is money in catering to people who are skeptical about Loving v. Virginia. What I care about is that they are wrong in their skepticism.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to NewDealer
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            If only we could censor them. Hey, it’s not like corporations are people, right?

            (If we’re taking turns making leaps, it’s your turn again.)Report

            • Avatar NewDealer in reply to Jaybird
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              Where did I ever say I would censor them?

              I just said that in my judgment (if I had power over such things), I would not cater to them.

              I know many people here came from Evangelical backgrounds and even if they are currently not believers have some warm fondness for the culture of their youth. This is human and understandable. But to a non-Evangelical especially many Jews, the paternalism of Christian Evangelicals is simply unbearable. They know nothing of Judaism and yet constantly talk about Judeo-Christian ethics. I simply wish they would stop doing so.Report

      • Avatar Henshaw in reply to NewDealer
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        I can’t say I’ve personally encountered Evangelical Christians my age (I’m 34) that are against interracial marriage. In fact, several of my friends are in interracial marriages. That’s not to say there are some crazies out there.

        When I was 4 or 5 my parents were going to a church in rural South Georgia. I’m not sure how long we attended because life is a blur at that age. Anyway, it was during the 1984 Olympics and my Dad was at the pastors home. The track and field races were on and the guy was pulling for the Russians against the Americans because he was a racist. My Dad was shocked and that was the end of that. We were always church hoppers, but that’s the only example I can remember of that kind of backward thinking among people considered “evangelical.”Report

  3. Avatar NewDealer
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    says:

    Perhaps I am too secular and an academic grump but I have heard nothing but complaints to the show but:

    1. This is again part of the History’s channel decent into being anything but History. There is a way to present Biblical history via archeological work to find what is truthful/existent in the bible and what is not but this series is not it. It seems to be history at best from a very machismo, brodude-friendly version. A kind of ancient “America, Fuck Yeah”. This is super-Macho Brodude Jesus as only Americans can imagine him.

    2. The series seems to exclusively present the Bible from the prospective of a bland, conservative, Evangelical and does nothing to challenge their assertions and views of the Bible. The article below seems to show that Mainline Protestants and perhaps Catholics are weary of this version of the Bible,

    http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Society/2013/0318/Why-History-Channel-s-The-Bible-draws-boffo-ratings-despite-reviews-video

    http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/tv/showtracker/la-et-st-history-the-bible-review-20130302,0,3996253.storyReport

  4. Avatar BlaiseP
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    I’ve given up on History Channel ever doing a historical/mythical re-enactment correctly. But the Bible, well, here’s a collection of books which are tailor made for theatrical retelling.

    But then, I’ve given up on anyone with a camera and an editing desk ever doing a story “by the book”. JRR Tolkien can’t even get a faithful retelling of his stories, no matter how much better his story is than the twee bullshit we get from Peter Jackson.

    May I tell you a little dark secret, a fantasy from my twisted little soul? I hope you won’t think worse of me for it. I’d love to do an accurate retelling of the book of Bereshit/Genesis as a small-screen series — told straight, as Jewish mythology. A strange, brutal story, unwinding from the scroll, each parsha a perfect chunk for each episode, established by the original tellers of the tale.

    Why screw with a good thing? A whole tradition of scholarship has grown up around the preservation and accurate retelling of these stories. You don’t have to believe them as articles of faith. Just don’t screw with them, like the goddamned History Channel did.Report

  5. Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto
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    The ninja angels…

    Did they use the Frank Miller version of the Bible?Report

  6. Avatar James K
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    I feel this thread is incomplete without a link to Tim Minchin’s song, The Good Book.Report

  7. Avatar Fnord
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    I get it some things have to be moved around for it to work in this format. The biggest challenge in doing a TV drama on the Bible is the length. There’s just so much to cover and ultimately that’s the main problem with The Bible….Ten hours doesn’t allow enough time to compress something as long and complicated as the Bible.

    Then why are they trying to do it in a single season? Isn’t the entire point of television that you can keep going until you run out of material (or people stop watching)?Report

    • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Fnord
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      IIANM, the most popular television series of all time was Ramayan, done in 78 episodes. Mahabharat quickly followed with even better ratings and share on television. Ramayan was completely redone in 2008 and again in 2012, Ramayan: Sabke Jeevan ka Aadhar.

      But the original Ramayan series is so well loved, it’s considered the standard, still available in 16 DVDs.

      We’re kinda stupid, allowing these pinhead directors to spoil the ancient stories. I sense it started with Disney’s screwing with the Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Now there’s a set of stories which could use a retelling.Report

  8. Avatar best dog clipper
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