TV Surf Report: Oh, God(s) — Religion & Faith are Trending and Make For Topical, Compelling & Entertaining Storytelling

AMERICAN GODS DEATH SCENE EP 3

Santa Monica, CA — Anyone else notice that God is trending in TV right now? If you like a little Irreverence with your Reverence, then dear Reader, you are in Luck as Religion, Faith, Mythology, and Historical Fiction are available for your viewing pleasure.

There are a lot of religious-themed shows across All Platforms (Pay Cable, Basic Cable, Broadcast, Streaming) and they encompass many Genres.

What’s the buzz, tell me what’s happening?

Religion, like Television, is a Worship Game:

Whomever Has The Most Followers … Wins.

That’s a butchered quote from a scene in S1 of American Gods, but hopefully, you get the point: God is Hot right now!

Starz’ glorious adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s brilliant novel enjoyed a stellar first season  and nabbed a coupla Emmy nominations (technical) along the way.  Full credit goes to Exec Producers Bryan Fuller and Michael Green for their super smart expansion of Gaiman’s meditation on Religious Darwinism and Cultural Worship.

Old Gods have awakened to the threat of New Gods in a fascinating battle played out across America via Social Media making for very Topical Television.

A shout-out to my former boss (casting director) Margery Simkin for her stellar work:  Ricky Whittle, Bruce Langley, Yetide Badaki, Crispin Glover along with Bryan Fuller favorites Gillian Anderson (Hannibal) and Kristin Chenoweth (Pushing Daisies) make for a terrific cast.

American Gods may be one of the most diverse series on Television right now.  It’s a really wonderful intersection of Mythology and Religious Studies and perfect viewing for wannabe Seminarians like me.

YOUNG POPE

Meanwhile, The Young Pope has made a Believer out of me.  Just in the nick of time, too, as my Southern Baptist upbringing was in danger of wearing off completely.

HBO’s terrific limited run series demands a lot from the Viewer as Jude Law’s character questions God’s existence which I found to be very compelling Television:  Who better to have a Crisis of Faith than The Pope?!

Another Emmy contender here with Paolo Sorrentino’s original storytelling so wonderfully humanizing a world leader at a time when the World is questioning everything.  Just terrific.

And the supporting cast is just wonderful, both American and especially, the Italians. Silvio Orlando is my new favorite actor. Bravo to Diane Keaton, as well. Their characters pray for forgiveness for exercising their Free Will to take matters into their own hands (and presumably, out of God’s).

HBO plans a sequel, entitled, The New Pope. (Spoiler Alert!)

DOM COOPER AS PREACHER

And, Preacher on AMC is kicking butt in its second season.  This is so not Touched By An Angel, but that does not mean the storytelling is not equally as moving as the Roma Downey series.

Dominic Cooper is fantastic as a small-town Texas minister, the only person on the planet who can contain the God Force in this adaptation of a graphic novel. It’s very violent, but there is a cool twisted sense of humor to the violence reminiscent of Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill.

Another fantastic supporting cast here led by Graham McTavish (Outlander).

HANDMAIDS TALE

One of the most buzzed-about new series of 2017 is The Handmaid’s Tale, starring Emmy favorite Elizabeth Moss, in this chilling adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s brilliant novel about the Patriarchy denying women not only religious freedom but also controlling their reproductive rights.

This series has become a cultural influencer and put Hulu front and center as a destination for Creatives in Hollywood.

Greenleaf is now in S3 on OWN. Craig Wright’s soapy drama, starring Lynn Whitfield, about a Southern mega-church and the behind-the-pulpit machinations demonstrates that God can handle just about any backdrop:  Science Fiction & Fantasy to Historical Fiction to Horror to Soap Opera.

GREENLEAF CAST

Outcast on Cinemax and Wynonna Earp on SyFy also dabble in Religion and Faith especially when it comes to Hell, always a popular fictional talking point for storytellers dating back to Dante.

I fully expect Showtime to tackle Anne Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles which include popular books like The Vampire Lestat and Memnoch The Devil.  In the latter, Lestat travels to Hell in an adventure with The Devil.  Rice masterfully meditates on Christian mythology, but the content is too adult for broadcast television.

Premium pay cable (HBO, Starz, Cinemax) and Basic Cable (AMC, OWN, SyFy) and Streaming (Hulu) can handle complex ruminations on Religion, so why doesn’t Broadcast?

It’s been years since Touched By An Angel anchored Sunday nights on CBS.  Roma Downey has produced several Jesus-centric miniseries for NBC in the intervening years, and her production company (with husband Mark Burnett) has developed several pilots based on Biblical stories.

ABC has the upcoming new drama series Kevin (Probably) Saves The World which stars Jason Ritter as a guy who is met by a messenger from God.  The writers behind Agent Carter present this fun take which feels Capra-esque.  Here is the Trailer for the Pilot

Meanwhile, CBS tries with By The Book, a comedy starring Ian Gomez, that used to be titled Living Biblically, about a guy living according to the rules of The Bible.  Johnny Galecki  (TBBT)  produces this adaptation of the popular book.

LUCIFER TOM ELLIS

Hold up, though! There’s The Exorcist and Lucifer on Fox.

One is a TV remake of a feature film, and the other is an adaptation of a DC Comic.

Horror and Comedic drama can take on God, too. Or rather, God transcends all Genres!

More importantly, they appeal to an international audience.  Religion and religious mythology play pivotal roles in both series where God is the unseen Antagonist, if you will.

Both series appeal to a that much desired demographic: Young Adults.

JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR

And come April 1, 2018 — look to NBC for a live musical update of Andrew Lloyd Webber & Tim Rice’s rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar.

My mind is clearer now…at last, all too well, I can see where we all soon will be.

Craig Zadan & Neil Meron produce along with Marc Platt (LaLa Land).  Event Programming is alive and well, and JCS: Live! is timed not un-coincidentally right before Easter. Last year, Fox broadcast Tyler Perry’s production of The Passion. Expect bigger ratings and an international audience plus DVD sales for JCS.

Full Disclosure:  I know this soundtrack by heart. The film was one of my most memorable movie-going experiences as a child. And, I may have acted in a production (or two).

Prepare Ye: It’s only a matter of time before someone reboots GODSPELL

Cue DishwallaAll Your Thoughts On God

And lastly, Whoopi Goldberg reunited the cast of Sister Act to celebrate its 25th Anniversary on The View.  Just watching these Nuns sing one song from that film make me feel a moment of Joy, and that’s missing from broadcast TV right now.  Heads Up, ABC and Disney: There is a TV remake ripe for the producing here: Whoopi Directs “I Will Follow Him”

 

N E X T   U P:

DENTAL VISIT

Unaffordable Care Acts.

 

 

About Surfing Hollywood

Steve La Rue is an internationally recognized leader in Film & Television with 20+ years experience as a Development Executive championing such series as Buffy The Vampire Slayer, The X-Files, The Simpsons, King of the Hill, Battlestar Galactica, and Farscape. He writes, blogs, and consults on All Things TransMedia from his home at the beach in Santa Monica, CA, where he balances his life by surfing every damn day.
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