He is the man who almost single-handedly created the television genre of reality TV with successes such as Survivor, The Apprentice, Celebrity Apprentice and The Voice to his credit. She is an Emmy-nominated actress best known for her role as Monica on the long-running hit series Touched by An Angel. Together, this husband and wife team has brought a fresh re-telling of some of the greatest stories ever told in The Bible, a ten-hour miniseries that began last night on the History Channel.
Mark Burnett and Roma Downey decided four years ago to bring these stories to life for a new generation. As co-executive producers, the two have spent the past several months promoting the series and partnering with churches to get the word out that The Word is coming back to television. Burnett told the Associated Press he believes there is a “Biblical illiteracy” among young people today. They wanted to create a series that would touch people’s hearts, but they also wanted to “make it cool”.
It appears they have succeeded on both counts. The first episode alone covered Noah (who gives a brief re-telling of the Creation story), then moves into the lives of Abraham, Moses and Joshua (the adventures of Joshua will continue in the 2nd episode). The first installment featured The Flood, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac, the Burning Bush the parting of the Red Sea, the Exodus and the Ten Commandments. That’s quite a bit to cover in just two hours, but the fast pace holds your attention. The special effects are well-done and the soundtrack adds to the epic feel of it. Some elements of reality television are present, such as the use of time-lapse video to show time quickly passing—that’s become almost a staple of reality TV, in fact—but I wouldn’t say it was over-used, at least not in the first episode.
According to The Bible series website, this is not a documentary, but “it is a scripted, acted docu-drama filmed on location in the Middle East and Morocco. Inspired by re-watching the classic Ten Commandments film, Mark Burnett and Roma Downey set out to show the scarlet thread of redemption found in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, using the latest special effects and quality film-making techniques.”
Most of the actors are unknown to American audiences, with the exception of Downey who will portray Jesus’ mother Mary in her later years. The cast is very international and cross-cultural which should lend to its appeal to audiences around the world when it eventually is shown elsewhere as the producers are planning. For right now, the miniseries will be shown here in the U.S. and in Canada with 4 more episodes airing each Sunday night on the History Channel through Easter Sunday, and repeating each Monday evening on Lifetime.
Downey, who spent nearly half of 2012 on location with the film, said she wanted to do something that would glorify God. This is definitely an ambitious project with an ambitious goal, and she told the AP: “Nobody has taken on the broad vision from Genesis to Revelation, and I think we probably realized at midpoint why no one had done it before,” she said. “It was maddeningly complicated and extraordinarily hard work. We approached it humbly, but we were exhilarated by it.”
You can check out some clips of the series on their website to check it out for yourself, but I plan to keep watching because I believe it’s important to support projects like this. As for children, parents are recommended to treat this as they would a PG-13 film and make that judgment for their own children. Some scenes may have violent and graphic content.