Tuesday, September 26, 2006
So, I'm not a big fan of television. Give me a book and a cup of Earl Grey, and I'm usually much happier. But I do have my faves. Law & Order (the original) always tops the list, of course. Reality television is for outright losers. With the sole exception of The Deadliest Catch, which (for some inexplicable reason) my wife and I are hooked on. Oh, and Dirty Jobs, too. Maybe it's a Mike Rowe thing.

Anyways, last week I happened to watch (again, inexplicably) Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.

For those who have not seen it, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip is a show about a "show", called (get this!) Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. The "show" is a Friday night version of Saturday Night Live, broadcast from Los Angeles (well, Hollywood) rather than New York. (The writers were very careful in the second episode to state that this was not about SNL, by referring to Lorne Michaels and SNL in glowing terms.) What we see is a behind the scenes of all the workings, trappings, and personalities involved in producing and writing the "show". Now, having lived in Los Angeles, I'm pretty blasé about Hollywood culture. I'm not talking about the "Culture Wars" crap, in which I have no interest at all. I'm talking about living amongst these animals. So a show about "The Biz" ought to hold no power over me.

Oops. I think I'm hooked. I was -- if not exactly a fan -- certainly an appreciator of West Wing, and Aaron Sorkin's new show looks to be just as good. A good cast with great writing.

Christianity has, so far, figured in heavily. Not religion -- Christianity. One of the supporting characters is an evengelical Christian. She is also decidedly not a kook. Harriet (played by Sarah Paulson) is (somewhat) attractive, her character makes a positive contribution to the show, she is cast as righteous without being self-righteous, and is eminently "likable". Last night, before the "show" went on the air, the cast is shown getting together for a quick prayer, and it is not the schmarmy, generalized appeal to some Unknown God kind of TV prayer as usually happens (like on Seventh Heaven); her character invokes the name of Christ and specifically identifies Him as the Son of God.

In fact, while certainly not perfect, her prayer last night should make Benke blush. I'm looking for a transcript, and will update if I find it.


Harriett's prayer--

Blessed are you Lord our God,
Creator of the Universe and Father of us all,
Thank you for giving us one of your greatest gifts, a sense of humor,
and if you have time, please make something heavy fall on Matthew's head.
We say this prayer in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ,
who had to have been funny to get so many people to listen to Him,
Blessed art thou, forever and ever, Amen.

It's not Church material, but it also doesn't equivocate.

On the other hand, for the first two episodes, the "show" is squirming under pressure from Religious Right groups who object to a sketch which the "show" refused to run on the first episode, but had decided to run on the second episode. (in the first episode, one of the "writers" (Matthew Perry's charater) referred to Pat Robertson as a bigot and the "700 Club" as a Klan gathering without the robes.) The sketch, titled "Crazy Christians," is only ever alluded to in the show (so far); we haven't seen the content. I'm willing to bet we never will. And I for one think that's good writing. I think we'll see hints of what some sketches are about (D.L.Hughly has a one-liner in previews in which he says, "Welcome to Pimp My Trike", which actually sounds like it could be an amusing pardoy ofthe MTV show Pimp My Ride), but I seriously doubt that the show will spend much showing the content of the "show".

So the show has created this bifurcation between Christians like Harriet and Christians like the readers of Rapture Magazine (yes, that's the name of the fictional magazine from the show). On the one hand, you have committed Christians like Harriet who seem to understand vocation and have a sense of Two Kingdoms, and on the other hand you have the Hal Lindsey/Tim LaHaye goofball Christians who are one step short of the Taliban.

Seems appropriate, and I for one, applaud the show for doing it.

The show is, of course, getting the expected commentary from the very demographic which it lampoons. See, for exmaple,
here and here. These guys display the very obtuseness that Sorkin is lambasting.
posted by Kepler at 08:22 |


At 9/27/2006 12:12:00 PM, Blogger Pastor David Hansen

It is so refreshing to see a show on television where every Christian is not merely a stereotypical plot device. So many Hollywood writers seem to think that if they throw in occassional characters (whose descriptions must simply be things like "The Evengelical," "The Lapsed Catholic," "The New Age Seeker") they are somehow addressing the reality of religion (specifically Christianity) in people's lives.

Here is a real character: trapped between intolerance of the 700 Club on the right, and the intolerence of the "Tolerant Liberals" on the left.


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