Friday, January 06, 2006

culture wars! tonight, 9/8c, only on nbc

As Terry points out, the religious right is apparently making The Book of Daniel into the newest cultural battleground.

For those of you who don't watch promos during the credits for My Name is Earl, The Book of Daniel is a new dramedy (yes, I just typed the word "dramedy") about an Episcopal priest (Aidan Quinn) who rides around town with Jesus in his passenger seat (no word yet as to whether Quinn wears a "Jesus is my Co-Pilot" trucker hat; personally I'm hoping for a "Damn Seagulls" or "FBI: Female Body Inspector" hat). He's got a messed-up family and a wacky cast of supporting characters, making it look an awful lot like it's network TV's long-overdue attempt at ripping off Six Feet Under (the main difference being there's only one dead guy on the whole show, and it's Jesus).

The Book of Daniel premieres tonight on NBC, which tells you all you need to know w/r/t how they feel about its prospects. Friday nights on NBC have been Godless even since they buried the original Star Trek in 1969; sensing this, the religious right has revved up its well-oiled outrage machine to a steady purr. Conservative Christian groups have already pressured two NBC affiliates to pull the show.

First of all, I disagree with Terry; the religious right is not stupid. He's correct in saying that their outrage has generated more buzz around the show than the mighty My Name is Earl ever could. My suspicion is that when these groups tilt at windmills like this, it spreads righteous indignation like a disease - and the only cure for the infected is to break out the checkbooks.

Second, I've noticed that a popular tactic in parrying the thrusts of the right is to be passive-aggressive and say something like "protest it because it sucks, not because of the whole 'Jesus' thing." The left does this a lot in all arenas of debate, and it bugs me for some reason. We haven't even seen the show yet, and even though it looks unfunny and uninspired, it might be good. True, the writers really seem to have been lazy in assigning each character his or her flaw ("hmmmm... How about, the priest is addicted to pain killers!" "Ooh, I like that... and his daughter, she doesn't just use drugs, she sells them too!" "Brilliant!"). But I think the concept of having Jesus as a recurring character on a show is pretty cool, and if executed well could be both entertaining and thought-provoking. Who knows - a recurring Jesus character on a TV show might even get some people interested in religion. Whether The Book of Daniel drops the ball on this or not, the left, in meekly trying to outflank shrill conservatives, risks one day giving up on something that's actually worth defending.

Lastly, it's not my place to decide what other people should or shouldn't get offended by. But really, comparing The Book of Daniel being on TV (before it's actually on TV) with the plight of blacks under Jim Crow is too ridiculous for words (I'm looking at you, Rob Kirkham), even if one accepts the debatable premise that Christians are somehow discriminated against in this country.


Terrence Ryan said...

First, you're totally right about the extortative effect of protest. I never even thought about the money that would change hands.

However I do have to say that NBC has to want controversy, otherwise, why advertise the way they are. I think they hope that they will still make a profit on the endevor.

As for passive agression, I wasn't saying "protest it because it sucks" I was saying, "Don't protest it because it looks like it won't be on the air long."

Ryan said...

I know, sorry about that - I was actually speaking about the Fark comments thread on this subject. People were all too willing to throw the show to the wolves to deny the right their prize, which kind of bugged me.

Terrence Ryan said...

Well fair enough, I tend to avoid Fark comments in general. It seems that Fark can be like salt for assholes. It intensifies their flavor.