The Good Tube: The History Channel Does the Bible
The Bible has been getting big ratings on The History Channel the past few weeks. Generally speaking, I’m a little weary of these types of TV events. Most entertainment pieces about the Bible have been bad. However, we’ve entered the renaissance of TV shows with HBO, AMC, FX, A&E, and other networks creating amazing TV. Maybe this will be better, I thought. So out of morbid curiosity I’ve been catching up on The Bible and so far I’m a bit stunned by how much it diverges from the text.
The show’s producers aren’t hiding the changes. There’s a disclaimer before each episode that says some changes have been made. 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. The story is moving so fast that there’s no character development. Which means every dramatic part is a little comical.
For instance, when the angels visit Lot in Sodom and Gomorrha the city residents attack them. It’s not clear why, but by the time they arrive at Lot’s house they’re covered in blood. The angels tell Lot it’s time to find better real estate and they fight their way out of town. It’s an amazing spectacle watching the ninja angels fight their way out of town before hell fire rains down from above. Good TV? Perhaps, but that’s not the way I remember it.
In the Bible, when Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refuse to worship a nine-story golden image of Nebuchadnezzar they are condemned to be thrown into the furnace. In the History Channel’s The Bible they’re burned like witches for not bowing to Nebuchadnezzar. The man who protects them from the flames is some kind of massive fiery angel. This isn’t a big deal I guess, but why change it at all?
When the Virgin Mary gets pregnant there’s a bizarre conversation between her and Joseph about the pregnancy. She’s knocked up and he’s not the father. Joseph calls her a whore before he finally figures out the child is divine thanks to
Maury Povich an angel who must have got stuck in Heavenly traffic. The list of examples goes on and on, but some of the choices the producers made are puzzling.
The show has been getting lots of media attention thanks to those big ratings. Instead of discussing the content of the show people are discussing whether or not Satan looks like Obama. No… really. There are literally thousands of articles but I’ll choose one to make my point. Lisa Suhay has penned an article for the ages. It has everything. She even mentions Nate Silver somehow.
What I have learned from the past five years of working with any and all kids and parents who live in predominantly African-American neighborhoods here in Norfolk, Va., is that color is an issue right down to which side of the chess board you choose to play. I stopped bringing black-and-white chess pieces to first-time chess sessions and substituted green versus gold and red versus blue because I could not get kids or adults to play white if they were a variant of brown themselves.
You might be asking yourself what this has to do with The History Channel or The Bible, but asking rational questions is dangerous these days. It seems the producers bent over backwards mixing in different races throughout the series. For example, Samson is depicted as a black man as are many of the angels. ??Historians would do a better job of shedding insight on what people looked like in that area of the world during the periods covered in the Bible. It doesn’t really matter. Western civilization conjured up the most recognizable version of Jesus. The Bible rarely described what people looked like because it’s completely irrelevant (Goliath being one notable exception). It’s creepy picturing Jesus as a Jeffrey Hunter look-alike or the guy from Person of Interest. Maybe the producers would have been better off casting Asians for all the parts.
The actor chosen to portray Satan in History’s “The Bible” mini-series, Mohamen Mehdi Ouazani, was given the nasty moniker by TV pundit Glenn Beck, sparking a social media smack-down over the weekend. Thanks Mr. Beck, just what the world really needs right now, someone stealing the light from the Bible and shining it on hate, intolerance, and political agendas.
I thought Glenn Beck was gone? He’s still around? So all of this can be laid at Glenn Beck’s feet? If it’s a “nasty moniker” why did she dedicate an entire article to it? Certainly Glenn Beck isn’t the only person who made this observation. I’m not surprised he’d tweet something so ridiculous and I’m less surprised that people like Suhay feel compelled to bash The Bible over it. This kind of dog-chasing-its tail type of writing is maddening, but that’s what the internet does with everything. Meanwhile, The Bible gets big ratings and some people worry about chess boards and Glenn Beck.
Overall the The Bible is an ambitious effort. Ten hours doesn’t allow enough time to compress something as long and complicated as the Bible. It takes me a year to read the Bible from cover to cover thanks to a daily reader on the YouVersion app.
I realize that people don’t read the Bible as much as they used to (even regular churchgoers) so I’m glad people are watching The Bible in big numbers. The Word of God is powerful. Maybe some people will feel compelled to read the actual the Gospels. Perhaps producers will develop some shows with a narrower focus. The audience is there and there are some wonderful characters that are worth exploring. Or, maybe it’s time someone brings back Saved by the Bell.