Bil Browning

"Book of Daniel" has issues

Filed By Bil Browning | January 08, 2006 5:13 PM | comments

Filed in: The Movement

Today's Indianapolis Star has an article by liberal columnist Ruth Holliday that takes the "Book of Daniel" to task. I've steered clear of the controversy over this TV series. The American Family Association issued an action alert condemning the show before it was ever aired - all without even seeing a screener of the show. The local NBC station in Terre Haute yanked it from the air before they had seen it based on the AFA pressure. (About 6 stations nationwide decided not to show it - only Little Rock, Arkansas and Terrible Haute have decided to keep the show off the air.)

I watched as GLAAD got involved - screaming censorship since the show was being yanked sight unseen. Which is true - censorship is never an acceptable virtue. However, the point remains that they'd never seen the show either! So all this brouhaha was about something that no one had ever seen. And, as was the case with the Segway (all hype for little results), the reality of the show doesn't seem to measure up to the spin. We watched a little bit of the show when it aired but couldn't get interested in the characters or the plot.

"The Book of Daniel" aired in a two-hour special at 9 p.m. Friday on WTHR (Channel 13), The Star's news-gathering partner, although program director Rod Porter seemed to be gritting his teeth about the outcry.

"We've gotten well over 1,000 e-mails and calls" objecting to the series, he said Friday. "I can't say we have never gotten a response like that, but it is unusual to have a response that heavy."

Most e-mails came from the American Family Association in Tupelo, Miss., Micah Clark, executive director of the Indiana branch of the nonprofit group, confirmed.

"Imagine if David Duke had written a sitcom, and the NAACP had objected. If this show was demeaning to any other group besides Christians, it probably would not make it," Clark said.

In fact, as of Friday, several of NBC's 230 national affiliates had rejected the series, including those in Terre Haute and Little Rock, Ark., and stations in Texas, Mississippi and Kansas.

But as Porter notes, media hype may pique interest in the show. "More people will hear that buzz," he said.

The bigger point is that "The Book of Daniel" deserves to die not because it was censored in advance, but because viewers recognize its shameless pandering to a low common denominator.

It's not often that I find myself agreeing with Micah Clark, but I can't help but point out that if a show had premiered that portrayed the LGBT community in such a piss-poor light, GLAAD and other organizations would be screaming for blood. The fact remains that the show does cast the main Christian family in an awful, dysfunctional light and Christians have every right to object to being portrayed so negatively. We'd be doing the same thing.

And personally, I don't think we're going to have to worry about it one way or another much longer. I think the show will die for simply being a terrible show. Sight seen this time.

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I found the show to amusing but it needs some work. I disagree with Micah and the AFA. They certainly have a right to their opinion but they do not have the right to censor entertainment before they see it. If they have a problem with the show after it has been viewed....have at it. The problem is they want to define what a Christian is and what a family is as well.
Homosexuals are cast in humorous situations on sitcoms. I have viewed many TV dramas that we are cast as the psycho killers, does it grow tiresome, yes...yes it does but I don't EVER recall a show being pulled from the air before it had ever been viewed because of it. Do you?

Marla Randolph Stevens | January 10, 2006 10:13 AM

Raised in the Episcopal Church, I can say without equivocation that I've seen every archetype on the show and that I found it funny, charming, and with the exception of the writing for Ellen Burstyn's character and her somewhat over-the-top performance of it, not terribly out of the norm.

The retired bishop father of Rev. Daniel was priceless.

For a mid-season replacement, it was quite up to snuff and it'll be on my Friday night watch list as long as it's around.