Saturday, January 07, 2006

The Book of Daniel

I watched the premiere of The Book of Daniel last night. The show revolves around the character of Daniel Webster, an Episcopal priest played by Aidan Quinn. His family is far from the "wrap it up by the end of the episode" clan on 7th Heaven. His wife has a drinking problem, his daughter was busted for selling pot, one son is gay and their adopted son likes the company of the ladies. Oh yeah, his brother left town with $3 million of church funds. Daniel has a problem with prescription medication as well. A few too many problems to jam into the premiere episode, but I like the fact that the writers have made his family life a little more complex than how people usually stereotype a preachers family as. Periodically throughout the show Daniel talks to Jesus, who is portrayed as the stereotypical bearded man in a robe.

This show has taken a lot of heat from people who believe that it is mocking Christians and Christianity. I don't see that at all, and some of the protesters might have come to the same conclusion had they actually watched the first show before flying off the handle. I wondered what kind of dialogue they would put in the mouth of Jesus, whether they would portray him as a Robert Powell-type who is always staring off into space and utters proverbs with the sound of classical music in the background, or a George Burns type who shows up smoking a cigar and cracking wise. Neither characterization applies here. Jesus doesn't let Daniel get away with taking pills with just a pat on the back, nor does he grab the bottle and give Daniel a stern talking to. He tells Daniel the way he should follow without violating his free will to make him follow that way, which is pretty much what real life is like. He doesn't cure all the problems of the Webster family with a wave of the hand; he tells Daniel, "Life is hard- that's why there's a great reward at the end." He walks with Daniel through the issues of life instead of carrying him through.

I think this show is fantastic. It doesn't preach, but it doesn't mock either. Look out, LOST- you have some competition on my list now.


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