January 9, 2006

The Book of Daniel

(Filed under: TV)

So I watched The Book of Daniel, the new NBC dramedy about an Episcopal priest and his family. Oh, and said priest regularly sees Jesus--a long-haired, white-robed, European Jesus, as stereotypically hippie as you can imagine. Of course the show is more Desperate Housewives than Joan of Arcadia. I'm always intrigued when a show tries to explore religion, though more often than not it doesn't work.

Daniel has a few counts against it:

1) Every named character in the show has an incredible issue to deal with: Daniel the priest is addicted to vicadin, his wife is a borderline alcoholic, his daughter was just arrested for drug dealing to finance her manga comic, his oldest son is gay, his adopted Asian son is having sex with the daughter of a hoity-toity couple in the church who happen to be racist and manipulative, his brother-in-law just embezzled $3 million dollars from the church and ran off with his secretary, leaving his wife all alone--but wait, he was actually having at threesome with his wife and secretary until he turns up dead and the wife and secretary get together until the secretary runs away. Got all that? Plus, rather than calling the cops about the embezzled funs, Daniel goes to his Catholic priest friend with mob connections who find the money and blackmail the church. Oh, and we're not done: Daniel's maid smokes pot, his mother has alzheimer's and don't recognize her husband, who is having an affair with Daniel's bishop, who is also becoming addicted to vicadin.

2) The Christian morals presented in the show are pretty weak. I can handle seeing a priest with an addiction problem. Nobody's perfect and we've all got flaws. But when said priest is counceling an engagec couple and asks about their sex life, he not only doesn't flinch about them having pre-marital sex, he doesn't flinch when they explain that she has to be stoned in order to have sex, and then he makes jokes about them "living in sin." I realize the guy's an Episcopal priest and we won't be coming close to conservative values, but c'mon. Episcopalians may not have a problem with homosexuality, but I'm pretty sure adultery is still a problem.

The one upside to the show is Jesus. He often feels tacked on, unlike the God characters in Joan of Arcadia, but he does have a nice role. He tries to help Daniel with his addiction, sometimes with a simple reminder, sometimes by offering a lime Lifesaver. He's a hippie Jesus and I wouldn't say his theology is right on ("He's a kid, let him go"--the unsaid part is that he's going to have sex with the daughter of the WASPy family, not exactly something Jesus should be standing up for), but he does present an interesting and rare look at Jesus in primetime TV. While many Christians are up in arms over the show (Andrew Careaga has a great post about that), that's at least something.

Posted by kevin at January 9, 2006 9:24 AM

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