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.

 

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March 7, 2012

Wednesday Link List

As Harpo Marx once said, “

  • A mother of four is yanked out of a Georgia church for breastfeeding. Meanwhile, Caryn at ThinkChristian wonders how Jesus handled this situation (if there was one) say, while giving the Sermon on the Mount.
  • Also at ThinkChristian, Karen says we shouldn’t sweat the new TV show, GCB, because it doesn’t have the right mix of ingredients to last.
  • I though we’d send some traffic to Reylo, the latest blog at Alltop Christian, and to get you there, he’s got the official trailer for the Blue Like Jazz movie.
  • “Ring by Spring or Your Money Back” — If you’re at a Christian college and not yet engaged, you just have a few weeks left.  Brittany Johnson guests at SCL.
  • 50 people, representing 10% of the head office staff, have been laid off at the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, as the organization focuses more on online initiatives.
  • “I can do all things through Christ…” says the opening part of Phil. 4:13. But Bill Mounce points out that for Paul, it wasn’t true. “There are many things Paul could not do. He couldn’t fly. He couldn’t remove the thorn in his flesh. He couldn’t get released from his second Roman imprisonment…”  So in a departure from every other translation, check out what the NIV 2011 does with this text.
  • Kirk Cameron does his best to defend his beliefs as Piers Morgan relentlessly goes after Cameron’s views on gay marriage and homosexuality. Here’s a response to the show’s repsonse from Denny Burk: “Are we really at a place where a Christian who is pressed for his views on a matter can no longer state those views without being tarred and feathered?”
  • Worship Leaders: Carlos Whittaker offers you ten-plus-one ways to improve your worship leading. Of course, his title was a little more blunt.
  • Digging deeper into worship, Internet Monk has an article expressing the limitations modern worship has expressing lament.
  • At the above article, a reader offers this song as an example of worship in the wilderness. (click the mp3 link to play)
  • Catch the irony: A pastor loses his temper while preaching about God’s love. Or did he? The scene is one every church-goer would like to see happen at least once. The blog is A Brick in the Valley.
  • William Hamilton, the Oregon theologian who declared in the 1960s that God is dead, is dead. Another individual for whom, “The image of God as all knowing and all powerful couldn’t be reconciled with human suffering, especially after the Holocaust.”  Story at Oregon Live
  • An new Amish ‘fish out of water’ story, though not sure who is the fish and who is the water. An Amish woman decides to raise money by teaching quilting to a mix of people from the broader community. The new book by Wanda Brunstetter really should be made into a film.
  • In other publishing news, Justin Bieber’s mom, Pattie Mallette releases her own story Nowhere But Up, in September with Revell Books and a foreword by Justin…
  • …Meanwhile, basketball sensation Jeremy Lin has the book Linspired coming in May from Zondervan in both an adult edition and kids edition; though the latter is not even on the corporate website.
  • “You can’t get to heaven in a mini-skirt.” A good devotional post, but with a lead line like that, I just wanna see how many clicks it gets. The blog is called Moment of Selah.
  • Another edition of David Platt’s Secret Church happens on April 6th and you can simulcast the six-hour event where you live. Check the website or read more at Desiring God. In the book Radical, David admits that there’s nothing like seeing thousands of people quietly taking notes in church at 12:30 in the morning!
  • In Ontario, the most populous province in Canada, you can’t shop on holidays, which include New Year’s Day, Family Day, Good Friday, Easter Sunday, Victoria Day, Canada Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. The City of Toronto, the most populous municipality in Ontario is surveying residents to see if they want that to change.
  • The cartoons today are classic Rob Portlock, from Way Off the Church Wall (IVP, 1989)

March 4, 2012

ABC Launches GCB Tonight

Filed under: media — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:51 am

My first reaction to the launch of GCB tonight is to ignore it completely, but my fear is that this might leave some Christians completely unprepared for the water cooler conversations that will happen Monday at work.

GCB portrays Christians as sexually overwrought people who maintain an outward veneer of piety and purity which covers over carnal urges.  A mix of holiness and horny-ness.  Like the saying, “Cats are like Baptists, they raise hell but you can never catch them at it.”  And, no doubt, six other deadly sins.

Starting to get the picture?

I covered the TV series here on March 20th last year.  So if you’re wondering what GCB stands for, you can click the story, but not if there are kids in the room.

Everything Hollywood produces is a caricature of real life.  And doubly so where the media tries to portray anybody with any connection to religious life.

Though a Wikipedia article downplays the faith element, this show is definitely going to cross several lines. 

And it might be you that’s taking the heat over this in the days that follow; because the message of GCB is that church life in the United States is an exercise in hypocrisy.  

March 20, 2011

Oh My! Good Christian -itches Set to Debut on TV This Fall

The book’s title probably insures there won’t be copies sold in too many Christian bookstores.  Which may be good or bad depending on how you feel about confronting the issue of people (i.e. women) who appear sanctimonious on the outside, but are in fact, often about a different agenda, especially the gossip agenda.

Surely the book could have been released with a different title, right?  Perhaps, but then, the author says it might not reach its intended audience.  Author Kim Gatlin was interviewed yesterday on the Drew Marshall Show, probably one of the few such “Christian radio” interviews she’s done.  The station wouldn’t allow him to say the third word in the book’s title.  You can hear that interview when it’s posted on Friday (3/25) at this site.

The scary part of all this is that the book is going to become a TV series in the fall.  On network television, not cable.  NBC, I think.  Hanging out “our” dirty laundry for all to see, I suppose.

Here’s what the website has to say:

Good Christian []itches is the devilishly fun, yet strikingly honest, tale of Amanda Vaughn, a recently divorced mother of two. To get a fresh start, she moves back to the affluent Dallas neighborhood where she grew up. In an Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Desperate Housewives on steroids style, her old friends are already out to destroy her reputation.

In the whirling midst of salacious gossip, Botox, and fraud, Amanda turns to those who love her and the faith she’s always known. Will the Good Christian []itches get the best of her, or will everyone see that these GCBs are as counterfeit as their travel jewelry?

Before you think that perhaps the description here describes a Christian fringe that doesn’t identify with your own church experience, you might want to look at — and take — the “Are You a GCB?” 15-question quiz at the website.

My take:

I think the author truly sees an intrinsic value in all this.  A means to an end, perhaps.

Honesty and transparency in the church is something I am 100% in favor of.  We need to be real about our failings, our foibles and our faults.  But that should be part of the natural process of living.  This TV shows strikes me as rather gratuitous attack on Christianity.  And no matter what the book has to offer, the television writers will have licensed the concept and will be creating original scripts that will go off in all kinds of directions.

Like Canada’s hit “Little Mosque on the Prairie” TV series, the writers will probably follow the tendency to portray churchgoers and clergy negatively to get laughs.

That’s what has me worried.

That, and being in a position that forces true Christ-followers — especially some Evangelicals — to go into damage control mode.

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