The Bible’s TV Success Is a Sign for Hollywood

There’s a real hunger for spiritual entertainment.

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This publicity image released by History shows Diogo Morcaldo as Jesus, right, in a scene from "The Bible," premiering Sunday, March 3 at 8 p.m. EST on History.

It must be a considerable challenge to try to bring the greatest story ever told to life. Yet this is what producers Mark Burnett and Roma Downey have done, faithfully, with The Bible, which had its first showing Sunday night on The History Channel.

The numbers the five-part miniseries generated on opening night should be strong enough to get the attention of everyone in Hollywood. With 13.1 million viewers for the first episode it’s the biggest cable blockbuster of the year so far. It proves, once again, that a robust market exists for religious-themed programming of the kind not seen in abundance for many years. Certainly the success of such films as the Passion of the Christ and more-secular themed movies like Fireproof demonstrate the country is hungry for entertainment that underscores their belief in traditional mores rather than celebrating some kind of counter-cultural rebellion. It’s probably hard for some allegedly creative types to understand but not every television viewer, not every moviegoer wants to be bombarded with the messages that tear at the fabric of society as we understand it to be.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the Catholic contraception controversy.]

The Bible is an ambitious project. Everyone has a favorite story and some, given the limitations imposed by its 10-hour length, may be left untold. During Sunday’s premiere it was admittedly a little bit jarring to see the fall of man retold in less than thirty seconds. But, then again, you can’t have everything.

Hopefully the success of The Bible as a miniseries will continue to prod Hollywood to produce more films and television programming with heavenly messages. The desire for them is real, as evidenced by the behavior of the marketplace.

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