No doubt you’ve heard about the newest NBC drama titled The Book of Daniel and the newest controversy surrounding it. I won’t go into too much detail because you can go to any online news source and search it yourself. Let’s just say that the Religious Trite…er, I mean Right, are at it again!
I watched the premier and I can honestly say that I didn’t get what all the fuss is about. It’s got all the usual plot contrivances of most network dramas with a good looking cast. What’s not to like right? Well the Holy Rollers have found a few things they don’t like – homosexuality, adultry and the show’s portrayal of Jesus – and they are kicking up a lot of sand for nothing I say.
So what is the show about? I’ll tell you but you may want to get a cold beverage, go to the potty, and take off your shoes because there is a lot going on in this show:
1. The Reverend Daniel Webster [For those of you who didn’t take AP English in High School and are therefore impervious to the effects of the advanced "literary illusion" anvil the writers of this show have dropped on our collective heads, click here.] is an Episcopal priest and junkie. He’s developed a nasty Vicodin habit due to a previous injury and he also has regular chats with Jesus Christ. We aren’t told if the chats are due to hallucinations from all the dope, a sincere form of prayer or just Father Daniel trying to work out his issues by talking to himself with the image of Jesus standing in as his alter ego. All we know is that Father Daniel believes that he is actually speaking to Jesus.
Pardon me while I have a Hair flashback…
[Manchester England, England…across the Atlantic Sea. And I’m a genius, genius. I believe in Goooooooood! And I believe that God believes in Claude, that’s me! That’s me!]
Ok, I’m back…
2. While this Jesus looks like the regular WASPy version of Jesus (skinny, straight nose, blue eyes and long, perfectly coiffed brown hair), he doesn’t speak like it. This Jesus is very earthy and congenial and even cracks wise! This is the sort of Jesus you could see yourself having a few beers with at the local Icehouse! Oh well maybe that’s just me? Anyway, I don’t blame Father Daniel for talking to him all the time. He’s very approachable.
3. Father Daniel’s brother-in-law has embezzled millions of dollars from the church and absconded with the money and his nubile secretary.
4. Much to the chagrin of the Vestry, Father Daniel enlists the help of his friend, Father Frank, to find the missing brother-in-law and the money. Why get another priest involved? Father Frank is a Catholic priest. He’s also Italian. Were you able to sidestep that “Mafia Contacts” anvil? Good!
5. Father Daniel’s youngest child, Grace, gets hemmed up in a drug bust. Why is Grace selling drugs? To finance her art. She’s an aspiring Anime artist!
6. Father Daniel’s middle child, Adam, is the “Ladies Man”. Unfortunately he’s decided that this is the perfect time to fall in love for the very first time. And did I mention he’s Asian? Yes Reverend and Mrs. Webster adopted an Asian child from I know not where. China I think. Anyway, He’s in love with his girlfriend and one night the girlfriend’s parents catch him trying to escape her bedroom through her second floor window. The branch he’s perched upon breaks and he falls onto the hood of Daddy’s luxury sedan.
7. At the hospital the Reverend and Mrs. Webster find out that the girlfriend’s Mother is a racist. She says that she doesn’t want Father Dan’s son kanoodling with her daughter anymore because she doesn’t want any “Oriental” babies running around the family estate. Mrs. Webster is understandably upset as well as speechless. Later in the show we see the teenaged lovebirds making out in a parked car with Mrs. Racist looking on menacingly.
8. Father Daniel’s oldest child, Peter, has just come out to the family as a homosexual. He’s also just gotten out of a bumpy relationship with his male lover. His parents are supportive and smother him with unconditional love. His siblings tease him mercilessly. But…GASP!...Grandfather doesn’t know!
9. Grandfather Webster is…GASP!...a bishop who…GASP!...is having a hot and heavy affair with…GASP!...Father Daniel’s boss who is…GASP!...also a Bishop! Bishop Grand Daddy is known the diocese over for being a hard assed, take no nonsense as well as no prisoners type of guy. His wife, Mrs. Bishop Grand Daddy has Alzheimer’s and barely recognizes Bishop Grand Daddy or anyone else.
10. Father Daniel finds out his sister-in-law has been carrying on a Lesbian affair with her husband’s mistress…that would be the same brother-in-law who stole the church money and ran off with the mistress. It seems that the sister-in-law and brother-in-law wanted to add a little spice to the marriage so they included the secretary. What no one counted on was that the two women would fall in love.
11. Father Frank finds the unfortunately deceased (heart attack in seedy, Florida motel) brother-in-law and the money but there’s a catch. Can you guess? Come on, I know you can. The Mafia will only hand over the money if Father Daniel agrees to award the church’s contracting gig for the new school to them!
12. Odds and Ends: Mrs. Reverend Webster has a drinking problem. Bishop Grand Daddy fixes up gay grandson with girl but grandson digs girl’s brother, the family housekeeper smokes daughter’s leftover pot, Father Daniel inadvertently counsels a young couple into not getting married, Daughter steals animation software from the net with the help of new friend she met during community service, and continuing storyline reveals bigotry in the Episcopal Church against the Catholic Church.
So…think you can handle this Rubik’s Cube of a show? I’m not sure I can. I don’t know if I want to invest any more time in television. What with Prison Break, CSI: NY, The Boondocks, Criminal Minds and various PBS shows, I’m already filled to the gills with television.
The funny thing is that had it not been for all the protesting I never would have watched the show. I can understand the outrage some of these groups may feel about the homosexuality and adultery aspects of the show but why would this show’s portrayal or Jesus be seen as a sacrilege? He doesn’t smoke, drink or run with fast women. It’s obvious that Father Daniel holds Him in the highest of esteem, which is befitting His title as The Son of God. All He does is try very hard to gently lead Father Daniel in the right direction. What’s so bad about that?
Quite frankly I don’t understand how anyone can profess their love of Jesus as loudly and passionately as some of these people do when they seen to have placed him atop a gilded pedestal at the farthest reaches of the universe. Jesus was a man of the people; it was the whole reason for His birth! The New Testament is full of stories about how He went out of His way to put as little distance between Himself and His Father’s children as possible. He lived, ate, slept, and died as one of us so that He would know what God could not; what it’s like to be human and constantly tested by evil.
I think the real point of The Book of Daniel is that no one is exempt from life’s bullshit; it’s all in the way you deal with it. We screw things up royally, bad choice after bad choice, but God [No matter what you call him: Buddha, Allah, Yahweh, Vishnu, etc.] is always there; ready and waiting to listen. It’s too bad more of us aren’t as open to God’s call as Father Daniel. We’d be better for it.
Show Rating: *** ½ out of 5
As far as offensiveness goes, if I were an Italian I’d be protesting on the steps of NBC! Isn’t it past time we put the whole stereotype of "Italian Mafioso" to bed? Jeeez! - GD