Friday 12 July 2013
Channel Nine is rushing “The Bible”, a TV mini-series watched by 13.1 million people in the US in March this year, to air from July 16 at 9pm in Australia.
The move has taken local Christian groups who were expecting a September air date by surprise. Nine sees the series as a ratings plus, which will help them maintain a current ratings surge.
The series was filmed in ten parts, five hours on the Old Testament and five for the New. The ten parts, shown as five double episodes, drew a cumulative audience of 100 million on the US History Channel on its first outing. Over a million DVD, Blu-ray and Digital HD copies have been sold. “The Bible” became the fastest selling DVD mini-series in the US ever.
“Millions of people embraced “The Bible,” not only making it the television event of the year but also bringing it to unprecedented success with the home entertainment release in the U.S.,” said Mary Daily, president and chief marketing officer of worldwide marketing at 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. “We are excited about introducing this project to millions more as we launch internationally later this year.”
“Part of what we hoped to accomplish with the series was to show the Bible is not simply a collection of unconnected stories which are often discussed and analysed in snippets with chapter and verse numbers,” Downey and Burnett wrote in the Huffington Post. “Instead, we wanted to show how the Old Testament connects seamlessly to the New Testament. How they are one sweeping story with one grand, overriding message: God loves each one of us as if we were the only person in all the world to love.
“We had to be reminded of that truth countless times personally even as we tried to convey it professionally, because it is a daunting task, to say the least, to tackle a project like The Bible. It is not only the book from which Western civilization has drawn its very breath, influencing art, music, culture, literature and law, but also the sacred text at the heart of our own Christian faith. There were many days when the work felt so big and we felt so small.”
Christian movie producer Phil Cooke interviewed Jonathan Bock, one of “The Bible” marketers in the Huffington Post to discover the reasons for its success:
“1) It’s popular because it’s agenda-free.
“It’s not a network’s normal controversial approach of “Jesus: Did He Secretly Marry Mary Magdalene?” Or “Jesus: Was He Gay?” It’s just the story of the Bible with no ideological slant and no agenda.
“2) It’s popular because it’s unifying. There were more than 40 scholars, theologians, and pastors from the entire spectrum of Christianity involved in advising the production. It was designed to appeal to the wide range of Christians, not divide the audience.
“3) It’s popular because not only does each episode have a compelling story arc, but the entire series tells the meta-narrative of God and how he deals with humanity.”
A wide range of Christians including Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church, Craig Groeschel of LifeChurch.tv (home of YouVersion), George Wood (General Superintendent of the General Council of the Assemblies of God in the US) and evangelist Luis Palau were involved in the making of the series, acting as advisors and endorsors.
Right wing radio personality Glenn Beck attempted to stir controversy by claiming the actor who plays Satan looked like President Barack Obama. “This is utter nonsense,’ Downey and Burnett responded. “The actor who played Satan, Mehdi Ouazanni, is a highly acclaimed Moroccan actor. He has previously played parts in several Biblical epics – including Satanic characters long before Barack Obama was elected as our President.”
Bible Society Australia will be following The Bible mini-series as part of their ‘Daily Bible’ email service, starting on Tuesday 16 July. Sign up to receive a daily Bible verse and reflection in your inbox each morning that will follow The Bible TV series over the next 5 weeks. Sign up here.
Watch Roma Downey’s message to Australia, released Monday 15 July here: