In a world with many swords and sandals-themed television programming, whether influenced by books or historical events, comes a new series chronicling the stories of the best selling book in the world. Back in 2013, The History Channel brought us a hit miniseries The Bible, and now NBC is picking up where that event left off with A.D. The Bible Continues.
I had the privilege of watching the first episode a few weeks ago, thanks to perks from klout.com (please keep them coming!) and overall enjoyed the presentation. I’ll have to be honest, I didn’t watch all of The Bible even though it’s now on Netflix among other mediums. But the good news is the same production team behind that The Bible, is returning to continue AD, headed up by power couple Mark Burnett and Roma Downey. However, from my research, a lot of the actors have been changed. But that’s something I’ll get into later.
I have no shame in admitting not is it a secret that I’m a Christian, so naturally one would assume I’d be a supporter of this series. But be not dismayed, if something is boring, I will not watch. I’m not a Bible scholar, but if your story doesn’t agree with the actual Bible, I probably won’t hang around… not in a supportive fashion. Don’t get me wrong, I understand perfectly that any historical representation or adaptation of any kind would fully translate to make intriguing entertainment without losing a few facets of accuracy or faithfulness to it’s original source material… because we want to be entertained! I say that just so nitpickers can put down their tweezers and just enjoy the program. Which I think they might and can be forgiving for creative license.
Enough of the disclosures, how was the show? I liked it. I’ve seen it twice now and I liked seeing more of the characters I only read glimpses of in the Scriptures. The first episode picks up at the Crucifixion of Jesus. I couldn’t help re-imagining Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ and that brutal portrayal of being nailed to the cross. AD isn’t as graphic or gory, but it’s still a little rough. What I will say is that compared to the movie, Jesus’ death goes by relatively quickly, as the show focuses on his remaining disciples, the Roman government, and Caiaphas, who is played by Russell Crowe Lite… or Richard Coyle. No offense Mr. Coyle, you did a great job. I was just waiting for him to pull out a sword.
Along with storytelling pace, I also liked the casting decisions made. This isn’t the same white washed portrayal of Caucasians in Bibleland that we see represented in typical Catholic church stained glassed windows. No offense to the Catholics. Here we have a bunch of ethnicities and accents flying around. Or rather, actors with an ethnicity that’s difficult to determine. Diversity is important to me, so I’m making a point of recognizing it when and where I see it. Black folk, white folk, Middle Eastern folk, and probably some Hispanic folk. Was it cast that way or was it the best actor for the job? Because honestly, all of these actors are unknown to me. I didn’t IMDb all of them like maybe I should have, but no one stuck out to me which I think is a good thing. I like the actors they chose even if I have no idea who they are. That black guy is now only known at John to me. And considering where the story takes place, I’d like to think it’s pretty accurate the way they portrayed it.
As for recapping the rest of the episode, we follow Jesus’ body to the tomb and watch everyone figure out what this all means and what should happen if prophecies are proven true and he comes back from the dead. What if they don’t? The episode ends with my favorite scene so far of an angel blazing across the sky from heaven, literally. One of the best cinematic entrances since Dr. Manhattan first appeared in a cafeteria. Is my geek flag showing?
However, with a cast of unknowns telling a very known story, does it have a chance on network TV?
I’m at a loss of that answer. Partially because I’m biased. I’m a devout Christian and would love nothing more for good things to come from this show. I know there are Christian channels, but I spend more time on channels with a single digit. No offense Christian TV. But this would be filling a void left by Roma Downey back when Touched by an Angel was a TV staple, at least in Christian homes I grew up in.
And The Bible succeeded with great ratings for a cable miniseries. Will those numbers carry over to NBC? Will there be more? Less? Could we have another Empire on our hands? Even I wouldn’t have seen that coming, but that’s another story. But it has a 12-13 episode season, and a massive promotion campaign, so they have that much in common.
I would like to think I have the ability to watch programs from a few different angles. Will the Christian household enjoy this? How about someone looking for a good drama? How about someone casually flipping channels? Really, with DVR becoming a standard, who is still flipping channels? I thought of the swords and sandals trend, that may or may not be dying down, Game of Thrones being something of appointment television on HBO and it’s period feel. Perhaps it’s more fantasy than period piece, but it’s centuries before automobiles so why not lump it together. And curious atheists can take AD as fictional fantasy and maybe might be just as entertained. All of this to answer whether or not a show like this will succeed.
While I’ve thought about it for a couple weeks, I will say it has the possibility. I’ll be watching. NBC must believe in it enough to make it a Sunday night show (and hey, why not, since it’s Easter and church folk need something to watch after the second or third church service). If people tune in to see some good acting, special effects that aren’t too over-the-top, and a story “you thought you knew” then I’d say yeah, NBC might give AD a second season if enough curious watchers are turned into believers (of good quality entertainment).