Thinking Out Loud

March 12, 2016

Sitcom Bait and Switch

Real O'Neals

At first I wasn’t going to watch. My broadcast television viewing — beyond the 6:30 newscasts — is limited to a couple of sitcoms which are basically time to de-stress. Besides, I have to justify owning the monster in the living room. Then I decided I’d give it a couple of episodes after all.

Billed as “an Irish-Catholic comedy,” The Real O’Neals is a mid-season replacement that joins a rather huge stable of ABC family-centered sitcoms such as Last Man Standing, Blackish, Fresh of the Boat, The Middle, The Goldbergs, Modern Family, etc. Only Dr. Ken is primarily workplace-centered.

Make no mistake, there is an Irish element and a Roman Catholic element to each episode. As a religion writer, that’s what drew me in. How would they portray the family? The mom, played by Martha Plimpton — who is somewhat of a carbon copy of the mother in The Goldbergs — had a bit of rant at the beginning of the episode broadcast Tuesday that sounded more Evangelical than anything. And the cross — definitely not a crucifix — in the background of one scene looked like someone in set design missed a detail. At least they got the Bingo Night part right.

Oh, and Jesus appears in each episode, but only one family member can see him.

But make no mistake, The Real O’Neals is the story of gay teenager’s coming out as gay to his family, to his girlfriend, and then to the community at large. Noah Galvin plays Kenneth “Kenny” O’Neal and his character is, in my view, the central one of the show. If anything, Kenny is a role model for gay teens and the program is thereby a “How To” manual for youth in a similar position.

Some in the gay community may feel the show kept a safe distance from some issues, but I’m sure that high school students, gay or straight, would give this a more positive review.

You Me and the Apocalpyse

In a way, the show parallels the British/American co-production, You, Me and the Apocalypse. Despite the presence of a priest or two and a nun, and frequent scripture citations from Revelation in the first few episodes, any religious elements in the plot generally take a backseat to the action, adventure, suspense and intrigue.

There is the element of people claiming that the impending impact on earth of a giant meteor is actually the second coming of Jesus Christ but the key priest, Father Jude, played by a chain-smoking Rob Lowe, who must deal with Messiahs and rumors of Messiahs, is really part of a larger purpose and his clergy status is almost incidental as the series progresses. The show is really about the convergence of four very disparate people and plot-lines

Full disclosure: I bailed after four episodes. My wife watched the whole series — it has already aired in the UK — and filled me on the six scripts I am missing. I found the show terribly dark and have no idea why it aired at 8:00 PM in the U.S.

…With both The O’Neals and Apocalypse, I think the producers are playing on the American interest in all things spiritual while in fact furthering a different agenda. It’s not that Christians are misrepresented, but that the religious element is almost secondary to the larger plot.


August 7, 2012

Christianity is Sitcom Fodder in Two Series

Move over GCB, it’s time for two new series to put Christianity under the microscope.

In Canada, the series The L.A. Complex, broadcast on MuchMusic (our original counterpart to MTV) is adding a religious-flavored plotline in series two which features guest star Alan Thicke as the host/producer of a Christian talk show.  Wikipedia lists the plots for the first two episodes:

Episode One: Alica decides to take the dance troupe offer and moves out of the Lux. After the sever homophobic beating he gave Tariq, Kaldrick sets out to make things right, only to find that Tariq has gone into hiding. Meanwhile, in the aftermath burning down his own house, Connor is eager to drown his sorrows and turns to Raquel for comfort to hide his pain. But Raquel has her own issues as she faces life-changing news that she is pregnant, but keeps it to herself. Back at The Lux, Nick and Abby take their relationship to the next level, but learns that living together has its perks. After her movie deal falls through, Abby goes to an audition for a role on a Christian TV series called “Saying Grace” while Nick has a run-in with the jealous Sabrina during a meeting to land a comedy series writing offer that she also wants. Elsewhere, in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Beth is a teenage runaway living in her station wagon with her 10-year-old brother, whom she sets to turn into a film star after his appearance in a TV commercial and decides to pursue the commercial’s director back to L.A.

Episode Two: Despite Abby’s best efforts to masquerade as a good Christian girl, her first day filming on the TV show “Saying Grace” goes right to Hell as she sees the dirty underside of the motion picture business which may threaten her career and life. This is nothing compared to Nick’s woes as he’s pitted against his former fling, the scorned and vindictive Sabrina, now that they’re working together, and whom sets out to destroy Nick’s career. Meanwhile, Connor gets an interesting offer from A-list movie star, Jennifer Bell (guest star Krista Allen), while at the same time, Raquel continues to hide her pregnancy from everyone so she can continue to work, but finds offers difficult to come by. Elsewhere, Beth and her younger brother, Simon, arrive in Los Angeles where they struggle to make their own way while trying to break into the movie business which eventually leads to them moving into Alicia’s vacant room at the Lux. Elsewhere, Kaldrick lands in the hospital after a suicide attempt and voluntarily commits himself to the psych ward, but he is still reluctant of opening up about his shame at being gay… apparently out of fear for his career, his tough reputation, and possibly his own life.

I printed the episode summaries in whole so you could see the religious storyline in the fuller context.

Meanwhile Christian Post is reporting on a new series being developed for U.S. prime time:

Political commentator and comedian John Fugelsang is developing a primetime show on Current TV that will tackle politics and religion, particularly taking aim at the “Christian right.”

“[T]his show of mine will focus on the hypocrisy of the Christian right,” Fugelsang told TheWrap this week.

The Long Island, N.Y., native has been unreserved about his disagreement with conservative Christians and he believes they’re distorting who Jesus is.

“I view Jesus much the way I view Elvis,” Fugelsang, the son of ex-Catholic clergy, said, according to Current TV. “I love the guy, but some of the fan clubs terrify me. I want to do with the religious right what Eliot Spitzer is doing with Wall Street. I want to take the Bible back from the creeps.”

Dan Kimball, author of They Like Jesus but Not the Church, believes the show could actually be helpful to Christians.

“[W]hen I hear evangelical Christians or conservative Christians mocked or viewpoints of the Bible made fun of, I personally don’t get mad or upset,” he said to The Christian Post in an email. “I do, however, like to read what the criticisms are and see if what is being said is valid or not as we all have things to learn from people who disagree with our viewpoints.”

continue reading here

Fugelsang told the Chicago Tribune:

“I want to do a show that takes on Chick-Fil-A and the Westboro Baptist Church using the bible,” Current TV’s new primetime host John Fugelsang told TheWrap on Wednesday…

…Fugelsang will mix comedy, politics and pop culture, introducing viewers to new music at the same time he dresses down politicians.

However, his real focus is on religion and the selective interpretation of the bible he feels conservatives have pushed on the American public…

continue reading here

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