Diogo Morgado as Jesus Christ in the new series, The Bible. Picture: The History Channel
IT’S A five-part mini-series with a huge budget that really promises to break the mould. And celebrities are falling over themselves to plug it on Twitter.
Introducing, The Bible: Ten hours of dramatic TV re-enactments of history’s most famous book. The Bible is the brainchild of reality TV czar Mark Burnett and his actress-wife Roma Downey.
It has a huge budget, so expect polish and high drama in the mould of historical epics like Game of Thrones. There will be violence. There will be deception. There will be fire. But don’t expect the sexier elements of a Game of Thrones, what with the Sean Bean beheadings and the sex between siblings and such.
The Bible screens in America on the History Channel and has generated a whirlwind of publicity, thanks in large part to Burnett’s reputation, but also on the back of huge celebrity backing.
We’ll get to the celebrity-Twitter-PR-offensive in a moment, but first, a few fun facts:
- The budget is “under $22 million”. For a TV series, that’s extraordinary. Expect blockbuster quality, because at $2.2 million for each viewing hour, it’s certainly big-budget.
- There are no big names on the cast. Diogo Morgado plays Jesus Christ. He’s Portuguese;
- There series was shot mostly in Morocco. So, lots of sand;
- Burnett and Downey went to great lengths to ensure the series isn’t sensationalised. Academics and clergymen were consulted to check each script;
- The Bible was inspired by The Ten Commandments, which Burnett and Downey watched recently.
The choice to put the series on the History Channel is a curious one. Series like this tend to gravitate towards the likes of HBO, Showtime and AMC.
The Huffington Post‘s Mark Joseph suggests in his preview piece that this decision owes in large part to the show’s intentions: an honest historical portrayal that comes with less of the “artist flair” scene in The Passion of the Christ.
“There is a possibility that The Bible will be met by a collective national yawn. That would be a shame,” Joseph writes.
It’s not likely the show will be ignored, though, with Burnett and Downey leveraging the huge social media followings of mega-celebs to reach millions of potential viewers.
Stars such as Glee’s Jane Lynch, Maroon Five frontman Adam Levine, rapper P Diddy, pop diva Christina Aguilera and Fergie – not the popstar but the former Duchess of York – are openly endorsing the series on Twitter.
The Tweets all look somewhat pre-packaged and ghost-written, and mostly look identical. For example, this, from Levine: “This Sunday, tune in to @History at 8/7c for the premiere of @bibleseries – produced by my friends @MarkBurnettTV & @RealRomaDowney!”
It’s a curious mix of Hollywood’s secularity and the pro-Christian mindset that dominates most of America.
A synopsis of The Bible offered on the series’ homepage reads: “An epic 10-part miniseries retelling stories from the Scriptures for a whole new generation.”
“Breathtaking in scope and scale, The Bible features powerful performances, exotic locales and dazzling visual effects that breathe spectacular life into the dramatic tales of faith and courage from Genesis through Revelation. This historic television event is sure to entertain and inspire the whole family.”
A spokesperson at the Australian History Channel was not aware of the show or whether it would reach our shores.