Pastor’s life not good fodder for reality TV
NBC has a new television series, “The Book of Daniel.” It is a drama/comedy that deals with the life and work of a parish pastor. Apparently, the pastor’s family is more than a little dysfunctional. His daughter deals marijuana. He has a homosexual son who has recently leapt out of the closet and a heterosexual son who keeps leaping into anyone’s bed. His wife has her own problems, but one of his is an addiction to Vicodin. He speaks, face to face, with Jesus on a regular basis and barely manages to squeak out a sermon each week. In other words, this is a reality show.Unfortunately for its producers, “The Book of Daniel” is drawing neither the audience nor the advertisers it needs to survive on the air. As someone with a certain amount of both expertise and experience in matters ministerial, I believe I can hazard a guess or two why the producers face this particular predicament.Initially, I wondered why anyone would want to set aside a perfectly good hour of their life to watch a minister mess up his? I see it going on 24/7 and it just doesn’t make for good TV.
The American Family Association agrees with me but for different reasons. The folks at the AFA have condemned the show for being anti-Christian. Such condemnation caused several network affiliates to refuse to run the first program. I am infinitely curious as to what makes the show anti-Christian. I hope it’s not because the guy’s got a few problems. If that’s the case the whole history of Christianity is anti-Christian.I suspect it has more to do with some of the topics traversed by the TV series. Although I’ve yet to see the show, I’ve read where the first program told some family secrets that many parishioners would just as soon not hear or probably aren’t even interested in hearing. For instance, I am certain my congregation could care less that I wear Mickey Mouse pajamas and have a passion for peanut butter at all times of the day and night. I’m sure they wouldn’t be shocked that I occasionally like to put on a cowboy hat with a string around my chin and gallop around the house singing “I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy,” but I digress.The point here is that there really is nothing too extraordinary about life in the parish parsonage. OK. There was that one time with the party and the police but everyone has put that behind them by now, except for my one neighbor who just shakes her head whenever she sees me. I think she may be a Presbyterian.
In any case, what I am trying to say here is that it’s no wonder the advertisers are reluctant to shell out millions of dollars for television commercials that will probably only reach dozens of people. If the producers want to draw an audience for this show they need to decide which demographic they wish to pursue. On the one hand there is the American Family Association. Although I have no idea who belongs to such an august sounding institution, I’ll hazard a guess they’re not the kind of people who want to watch a pill-popping preacher stumble into the pulpit. On the other hand, there is, I suspect, a group of folk out there who would like nothing better than to leer at the lascivious affairs of the local priest. Boy will they be disappointed.On the third hand, I am beginning to think that the constant challenges facing your ordinary cleric could make for great television fare. Why, they could do a whole episode on Father Daniel trying to translate a difficult Bible passage from the original Greek, for example. Such dramatic tension could satisfy a host of prurient desires. Or, and even more daring, the show’s screenwriters could devote an entire television hour to watching Pastor Dan sit at the bedside of a comatose parishioner! It could have the look and feel of Fox’s successful “24” series but without all the shootings and kidnappings.Surely there is tremendous potential for this series, if only the producers would reveal what really happens on the front lines of pastoral life.
I know I would watch if it comes on before 8 p.m., of course.Rich Mayfield writes a Saturday column. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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