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New Tv Show Book Of Daniel


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January 6, 2006 latimes.com

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'Daniel' can't duck the culture wars

NBC airs its first show about a troubled priest tonight. The complaints have been aired already.

 

By Matea Gold, Times Staff Writer

 

 

NEW YORK — The latest skirmish in the culture wars revolves around a mild-mannered Episcopal priest who nurses a secret Vicodin habit and regularly sees and converses with Jesus.

 

The Rev. Daniel Webster, played by Aidan Quinn, is the main character in NBC's drama "The Book of Daniel," a series premiering tonight at 9 about an earnest but often harried New England minister and his efforts to cope with the challenges of modern-day parenthood — including a moody teenage daughter who is caught selling marijuana to finance her manga animation — and the politics of leading a church congregation. Along the way, he consults with a very real-looking Jesus, a character who looks as if he stepped straight off the canvas of "The Last Supper."

 

Even before it has aired, the show has added fuel to a building debate about the portrayal of faith and religion in popular culture. The American Family Assn., a conservative Christian organization based in Tupelo, Miss., launched a campaign to get local NBC affiliates not to air the program, arguing that it is disrespectful of Christians. By Thursday afternoon, stations in Terre Haute, Ind., and Little Rock, Ark., had decided not to show it.

 

Meanwhile, some Episcopal priests are urging their congregants to watch the program, saying that it offers a refreshingly candid portrayal of religious leaders and showcases the Episcopal Church as a tolerant denomination. The Episcopal Diocese of Washington has even launched the Blog of Daniel — found at blog.edow.org/weblog — a website designed to spur discussion about the issues raised on the program.

 

All the fuss has come as somewhat of a surprise to creator Jack Kenny, who originally wrote the pilot as a writing sample a year ago. Kenny — who most recently produced "Wanda at Large" and "Titus" — said he intended to make Webster's vocation merely the background, not the focus of the show.

 

"It's never been about religion," said Kenny, who was raised Roman Catholic and describes himself now as an unaffiliated Christian. "It's about a family that loves each other unconditionally and is ready to catch each other when they fall.

 

"I was always very clear with the writers and actors that this was never to make fun of or mock Christianity," he added. "It was always a show about people of faith who believe in Jesus Christ as their savior. But it's not about that — that's just there."

 

Kenny said he got the inspiration for the show from his partner's family, a tight-knit but often taciturn clan.

 

"I always wanted to examine that world of the WASP, that uptight, Northeastern, 'Let's not talk about the world, let's have a martini instead,' " he said. "I remember Michael [Goodell] telling me that once when he was a kid, he said, 'God bless you, Mommy.' And his mother said, 'We don't say that.' I love that world; I love the unspoken, because really good actors can do so much with that."

 

NBC executives were drawn to Kenny's script because it was unlike anything on the air, said Vivi Zigler, NBC's executive vice president of current programs.

 

"You've got at its core a character that you don't usually see on television," Zigler said. "His family and surrounding extended family have so much drama, and he himself is a flawed character. And you have it set in a backdrop of a church, where his job is dealing with issues of faith and morality. There's this great juxtaposition, and the dramatic conflict and the humor come from that."

 

Critics, however, take issue with the depiction of Webster and his family, including his wife, who frequently partakes of a midday martini; his 23-year-old son, Peter, a gay Republican; his 16-year-old adopted son, Adam, who tries to have sex with his girlfriend just about everywhere he can; and his sister-in-law, who has an affair with another woman.

 

"We certainly understand that Christians have difficulties in life, even ministers," said Ed Vitagliano, a spokesman for the American Family Assn., who watched the pilot Tuesday night, along with other clergy, at the NBC affiliate in Memphis. "But this was not a realistic portrayal of a minister's life. This was so far beyond the pale, it was almost a comic strip version."

 

Vitagliano said that the group was also offended that Kenny is gay, as are two of the show's characters.

 

"We look at that and say, 'If they wanted to try to alienate conservative Christians, they're making every effort to do so,' " he said.

 

Responded Kenny: "That strikes me as both non-Christian and un-American. It seems to me I should be able to write about anything I want to write about. They have a perfect right not to watch it."

 

However, Vitagliano said more than 500,000 people had used the group's website to send e-mails to NBC and its affiliates demanding that the show be pulled.

 

"This has really struck a nerve with people," he said. "I don't know that I've personally been this busy doing interviews since Ellen DeGeneres came out on her sitcom."

 

The two stations that decided not to air the program were receiving letters, e-mails and phone calls complaining about the content.

 

"There are just so many things that bother me about it," said Duane Lammers, station manager of WTWO in Terre Haute, who noted that in the first episode, Webster says he wants God to damn his brother-in-law. (He later tells Jesus he didn't mean it.) "That just doesn't belong on broadcast television."

 

KARK in Little Rock has also decided not to air it, although the show will be carried in that market by the local WB affiliate, NBC officials said. Although the network has received a couple of thousand e-mails complaining about the show, 99% of stations in the country will be showing the program, Zigler noted.

 

"We feel that it is actually a very good, uplifting, hopeful kind of show," said Zigler, adding that the producers consulted with Episcopal priests to ensure an accurate depiction of church hierarchy and liturgy. "Once you see it, you can see that it doesn't take [religion] lightly. I think the respect is there."

 

Quinn agreed.

 

"I don't understand all the talk about it, because if you ask me, this show is pretty wholesome, down the middle," he said in a recent conference call with reporters. "It deals with some controversial subject matters, certainly, but in a way that I don't think is that salacious."

 

And some religious leaders have embraced the program.

 

"I'm thrilled we have the opportunity to offer to the mainstream media the story of a progressive protagonist in a faith-based story where life is never tidy and neat," said the Rev. Susan Russell, senior associate for parish life at All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, where the show's pilot was filmed. "I think it's a realistic portrayal of a faithful man facing 21st century challenges."

 

Russell, who has watched the pilot and read the scripts for the rest of the episodes, said she has sent a message to her congregants urging them to tune in to the program. She and other Episcopal leaders believe the show could actually draw more people to the Episcopal Church. The Blog of Daniel, in fact, includes links to a film about Episcopalians and information about the Washington diocese, and invites visitors to join others in online prayer and meditation.

 

"I think a lot of people are looking for a spiritual home that doesn't look like the welcome mat that Jerry Falwell puts out," Russell said.

 

If the public debate has turned rancorous, however, producers said that internally the topics provoked some fascinating dialogues.

 

John Tinker, a born-again Christian who is one of the program's three executive producers, said the issues raised by the show's themes spilled into the writing room, where the staff frequently engaged in discussions about "life and death and everything in between."

 

"I've worked on a lot of shows, and I had never had an experience that came close to it when it came to people just offering up for their fellow writers what they felt their place was in the universe," he said. "What I learned from non-Christians was really a blessing. It was nice to be around people and reminded of our common humanity."

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I'm really looking forward to the show. I've got the DVR all set to record it. The show initially caught my attention because of Aidan Quinn (whom I love as an actor), and the Christian theme was just a side benefit.

 

Now, because of the hype, I'm excited to see what all the hoopla is about.

 

Someday I'm gonna get off my butt and get down to my local Epicopal parish on Sunday morning. They congregation seems quite cool. Each year they have a Lord of the Rings marathon. :lol:

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This all goes to show that the major conclusion I reached sometime ago after 60 years on this third rock from the sun is definitely true. Life is a joke, and we should all be laughing at ourselves because we are usually so ridiculous. It's really a healthy thing to do.

 

I said the same thing to my minister some years ago (whom I greatly respected for his courage, discretion, wisdom, and lovingkindness) upon the occasion of my leaving the denomination that I had been a part of all of my life.

 

He didn't disagree.

 

flow.... B)

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We watched it tonight. It was OK. Too many cliches wrapped up in one family, in one show, in one episode.

 

As my hubby said: "Boy, they sure have the stereotypical WASP family and neighborhood going don't they?"

 

I'm willing to give it a try. We are going to record it next week too. If it ends up being a dudd, I've got NUMBERS to fall back on. :) Thank the networks for repeats.

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We watched it tonight. It was OK. Too many cliches wrapped up in one family, in one show, in one episode.

 

As my hubby said: "Boy, they sure have the stereotypical WASP family and neighborhood going don't they?"

 

I'm willing to give it a try. We are going to record it next week too. If it ends up being a dudd, I've got NUMBERS to fall back on.  :)  Thank the networks for repeats.

 

 

I wasn't terribly excited about the previews. That is why I'm curious what others think about it. I did watch a new show at 9 last night about a group of attorneys who work on cases where the person in prison looks like they might be not-guilty. It was very good. Then I watched NUMB3RS. I really like that show although I sometimes get caught up seeing Charlie as the elf from "The Santa Clause." I have to shake it to stick with the show.

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I did watch a new show at 9 last night about a group of attorneys who work on cases where the person in prison looks like they might be not-guilty.  It was very good. 

 

Then I watched NUMB3RS.  I really like that show although I sometimes get caught up seeing Charlie as the elf from "The Santa Clause."  I have to shake it to stick with the show.

 

Was the new show Reality TV or more like Law and Order or CSI?

 

Regarding Charlie. I'm FINALLY past The Santa Clause. :P Now though, I think of him as Charlie when I see him on other shows, like Serenity. "You can't stop the signal Mal ... "

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I did watch a new show at 9 last night about a group of attorneys who work on cases where the person in prison looks like they might be not-guilty.  It was very good. 

 

Then I watched NUMB3RS.  I really like that show although I sometimes get caught up seeing Charlie as the elf from "The Santa Clause."  I have to shake it to stick with the show.

 

Was the new show Reality TV or more like Law and Order or CSI?

 

Regarding Charlie. I'm FINALLY past The Santa Clause. :P Now though, I think of him as Charlie when I see him on other shows, like Serenity. "You can't stop the signal Mal ... "

 

 

It is like a CSI/Law & Order. Although there are people who actually do that.

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I think during the week before New Years there was the Apoc. week on the History channel. One night they had this program on the Anti-Christ. Daniel was mentioned prominantly. It was quite a good program or couple programs of where this came from (way back apparently) and needs for faith's with one God to explain in some way the existence of evil.

Since I am familar with the rapture index and other elements of the Fundamentalist fringe, I didn't find anything new. But it was put together nicely. There was a real creepy guy that they showed stalking the scene. Occcasionally they had only the whites of his eyes showing. I guess that lost much of its creep factor for me seeing Geordi LaForge like that in the Next Generation. ;-)

 

OTOH, I think the Science of the Bible on National Geographic is just top notched. NOt so much science as archeology, biblical scholarship, some geology, and history.

 

--des

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What I have observed with both watching this Daniel show and on7th Heaven...is on both of these shows all the Rev's or Pastor's kids are hateful and disrespectful. On this Daniel show I really like the basic idea of having an Episcopailan priest..akak..a liberal church pastor....but while I Do like the idea of Pastor Daniel chatting with Jesus in the show (btw, my mom does not approve of this she thinks it displays Jesus in a very Demoted of Diety way...she says paints him as a "good ol boy.")....I dislike the Desperate Housewives mentality of the show. Here are some of the main challenges that the main character Daniel encounters in just the very first episode:

 

1. A Jr. High Daughter Grace, who gets busted for selling pot to pay for her Japeness animation project.

 

2. An adopted teenage Asian son who is proud to proclaim himself as a practicing "Man Whore."

 

3. Another son who is gay..and is prehaps the only civilized acting child of the family and the only one who is respectful to his perents.

 

4. A very hateful and unpleasent woman bishop..who constantly berates the Rev Daniel and shows contempt for him and basically everyone and likes to drink on the job and pop pills..and btw is comitting adultry with Daniel's elderly father who is also an Episcoplain bishop.

 

5. Daniel's wive is also sarcastic and bitter to Daniel and everyone and has a drinking problem.

 

6. Daniel's brother in law steels all the money from the church and somehow is killed and gets connected to the Italian Mafia.

 

7. Daniel befriends an Italian Catholic head priest who appears to basically use his position as head priest in the church as merey a cover while his real job is being a mafia GodFather figure.

 

There are more..but this is just a basic start. Now, if there were just 2 of these issues out of 7..it would seem more believable. I would say get rid of issues#1, 4 and 7....because they are just simply too over-the-top. The bitchy main bishop gal of the Epscopailan church that daniel is forced to deal with is a very unlovely character she has about as much redeemable and likeable qualities as the evil Emperor on Return of the Jedi. All of Daniel's children are obxnious and unloveable..accept for the one gay son. Now another main problem...other than the main character of Rev.Daniel himself the only other '3' main religious themed spiritual leaders in the show are morally bankrupt and make it very clear that in reality they could not give a flying bleep about faith...the bitchy hateful woman Episcopalain bishop, the Italian GodFather mafia Catholic head Catholic priest..and Daniel's elderly Epsicopalain head bishop priest.

 

These 3 characters give a very bad image to spiritual teachers of Christianity and they paint a picture that makes it look as if all Espiscopalians and Catholics leaders don;t take their faith seriously..and to them it's just a job..and that they do not really care about people..as if all Christian spiritual teachers are just two-face hyprocrits. Thee only person in this whole story that really seems to actually care about Jesus...is the main chacter Rev.Daniel...while all others in his family and even these 3 other main Episcopalian and Catholic spiritual teachers act as if they could care less.

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I have to agree with Beach on this one. I have several ministers and pastors in my immediate and extended families. They are imperfect but sincere people of faith who try to witness to the Realm of God to best of their abilities.

 

I think that many Christians attend small struggling churches of 50 or 60 doing the best they can with limited monetary resources. In spite of soaring utility and heating costs (especially this Winter) they try to be there for each other. This has been my experience with the churches I have served as a musician.

 

The only TV show that I think showed some of the reality of church life was The Vicar of Dibley on PBS. Sure there were some exagerations for comedic and entertainment value but the depictions of church finance meetings were right on the money.

 

MOW

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The thing that bothers me most about this show's dipiction of pastors and priests is in this show, other than Daniel they are such an Unlikeable and uncaring jerks that I am affraid this show will only make Humanists and those who have been burned by fundamentalists or hypocritical church past experinces even more bitter towards the entire concept of the Christian faith. I can see why conservative Christians find this show insulting to Christianity..but more so, since this Daniel show is 'supose' to be about a liberal or Progressive Episcopalain pastor...this should be disturbing to Episcopailains, Liberal catholics and ALL Progressive, liberal and moderate Christians of all faith group backgrounds disturbed about how liberal or Progressive churches and their members are protrayed on this show as not really caring about their faith very deeply and instead just looking at it as a 9 to 5 job.

 

Instead of the woman bishop of Daniel's church being a caring progressive minded woman who wants to use her position to better the community she lives in by reaching out in social justice..instead she is protrayed as a apthathelic and cold-hearted bitch who shows contempt for Daniel, the congeration and humanity at large. Then Daniel's elderly father who is the senior Episcopalain bishop is a judemental and hyprocritical fart who the entire family in in fear of will discover the truth that his grandson is really gay, and if he is so prime and proper and the authority on morality and yet while their fear his disprovel of the grandson being attracted to the same sex, he himself is committing adultry with the cold-hearted bitch lady bishop who's hateful to Daniel.

 

All of this is extremely negative..and yet how positive could this story been written. What if the female bishop would NOT be an uncaring bitch? What if she was SO caring and progressive to her community and suportive of Daniel that the wive might even feel jealous? What if..the elderly senior bishop/Daniel's father was not an old hyprocrite? What if he were an old school conservative Episcopalain who finds the new liberal spirit of the Episcopailan church had to accept even though he does show moderate signs? What if Daniel and the lady bishop could help him in this? What if the adopted Asian son was not an ungrateful jerk? But was actually grateful to Daniel and his mother that they accepted him as their own? Well, this is a start...humm..maybe one of us should write a tv show about a Progressive Christian family...

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Wow. You really really really really didn't like the female bishop. :blink:

 

I haven't formed an opinion about any of the characters yet. I've only seen one show and I don't feel I have enough information to judge any of the characters one way or another.

 

I liked Jesus.

 

"My Tuesdays with Jesus" - coming soon to a bookstore near you. :lol:

Edited by AletheiaRivers
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About the only part of the show I Do like is the parts where Daniel talks to Jesus..Daniel and jesus are the only two likeable characters on the show. The reason why i DIslike the gal bishop so much is cause she is hateful and acts likes she hates people..and so she must have chosen the wrong job. Daniel's father as the senior bishop is also a jerk because he's cheating on his wife and yet would look down on his grandson because he's gay.

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I believe that in the real world there are hateful and judgemental people that intrude into our realities and do turn potentially beautiful episodes in life into hellish experiences. At least that's one truth that I fave found in my everyday experiences over sixty-plus years or so.

 

To write a television drama that conforms to one person's or a small group's ideals of what the world they are creating through writing "should be like" would be tantamount to creating a "fantasy world that really doesn't exist". Or, one could call this a massive "suspension of disbelief", which is the key to writing successful fiction.

 

In the world of television programming, writers are led into creating "so-called" realistic scenarios that serve to enable a larger share of watchers to identify with its goings on than the competitions'. This enables larger survey numbers that draws more advertising money to the program and network, which is the entire point of the television business.

 

It's ok to criticize what's on TV and wish that it were something else, but for me the reality of the medium is that I personally agree less and less with the truth of what is presented there, and spend less and less of my time watching it. For me it is simply not worth it.

 

I guess I do not enjoy watching television portrayals of the activities of hateful and judgemental people because I've experienced enough of that to last several lifetimes, so I don't. Televisions can be turned off, and I do quite often these days.

 

flow.... :)

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I thought the show was way too cliche and the charcters were filling stereotypical roles. I thought the controversy around the Jesus character was a bit ridiculous. I think that a lot of Christians have a "personal Jesus" that hangs around. I doubt that most of these "personal Jesus's" are orthodox. For entertainment value, I just do not think a minister who is concerned about improving the community and social justice will keep people coming back. I guess the networks figure there has to be something scintilating to keep people around for an hour. After saying all of this, I may tune in again next week.

 

Also regarding some of the controversy surrounding the show. I think the biblical narrative is clear that God does work in the difficult areas of life. I guess the religious right is comfortable when there is a Leave it to Beaver environment for God to act in not a screwed up family system that Rev. Webster has found himself in.

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I actually thought the show was funny, and I think it is great that the Episcopal church can apparently laugh at itself. I thought the Jesus character was pretty real. I don't really understand why some afiliates in some cities wouldn't play the show, given all of the much worse crap that gets aired with no problem.

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