All posts from “tv”

February 8, 2012

Super Bowl Ad Winners Believe . . .

. . . in Doritos and, as it turns out, in God. And now they're $1 million richer.

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Nathan Scoggins loves Doritos. Really. He calls himself a "Ranch man all the way," referring to one of their most popular flavors. And now he's one of the proud creators of one of their most popular commercials of all time: "Sling Baby."

You might've seen the ad during the Super Bowl. You know the one, where the whiny kid taunts a grandma and an infant with his bag of Doritos -- and where the old lady launches a plan, and the baby, to nab the chips from said kid. Yesss!!!

Viewers loved that commercial (embedded at the end of this post), and voted it No. 1 in the USA Today/Facebook Super Bowl Ad Meter. As a result, Scoggins, director Kevin Willson, and the team behind the creative commercial have won $1 million from Doritos. Willson says the money will be divided among everyone who made the commercial, and Scoggins says the producers will tithe a portion of the earnings "to a non-profit organization."

Willson and Scoggins (left and right, respectively, in photo) are both Christians who met at Hollywood's Mosaic Church about 10 years ago. (Willson is a graduate of Biola University, Scoggins a grad of Wesleyan University.) Willson runs a production company called Compass Films, and Scoggins is a writer/director at Number 3 Films. (Scoggins wrote and directed his first feature film, The Least of These, which released last year.)

One more cool spin-off from the commercial: The ridiculously fun Sling Baby Game!

Scoggins was a member of the creative team behind the commercial; I did a quick Q&A with him today to learn more of their story:

How did the idea for this commercial come about?

"While we all brought some outside ideas to the table, 'Sling Baby' was a great example of a concept that was created in community. We started with the idea of old people in a nursing home fighting with doctors and nurses over Doritos, segued into an idea about kids fighting with teachers at school over Doritos, then refined that idea down to a baby and a grandmother fighting over Doritos, only to be bested by an older brother who would get the bag, creating a new enemy. We then all decided that we really liked the idea of a grandmother and a baby teaming up, and decided to make that the core concept. Originally it was much more elaborate, but we decided that the visual of the baby being 'slung' through the air was hilarious, so we went with that visual, and a few members of the group wrote it up. It was a very collaborative process -- a great example of what emerges out of community."

How did you and Kevin meet, and will you do more projects together?

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"We met almost ten years ago when we were both going to Mosaic. We first connected at an artists' retreat, and he's one of my closest friends out here. We've frequently collaborated -- he was the assistant director on my first short film, and I've given him notes on scripts and projects. We're always kicking around ideas together. Hopefully when the dust settles from this experience, we'll be able to get back to some of those ideas!"

Any idea how the $1 million will be split up?

"I know the producers have committed to tithing a portion of the earnings to a non-profit organization, and apart from that, I'm not totally sure how it gets split. However, this was a full-court-press effort on a lot of people's behalf, and I know the producers want to recognize everyone's hard work. It's tempting to see 'FRIENDS WIN A MILLION DOLLARS' and assume that we're all showering in hundred dollar bills and getting our teeth done in gold, but the reality is that once we all split it (and Uncle Sam takes his share), we will probably have enough to go out to a nice place to eat."

How does your faith inform your work?

"It's tough to say how faith informs a Dorito's commercial! (I would actually be a little leery of anyone who decided they were going to glorify God by making a commercial.) But I think my faith definitely informs my sensibilities, and Kevin's too. Kevin wants to make comedies that appeal to everyone, and 'Sling Baby' is a great example. Hollywood talks about the power of '4-quadrant movies,' movies that appeal across all demographics, and 'Sling Baby' is a great example of a 4-quadrant commercial. It also adheres to basic storytelling principles -- in this case, two unlikely heroes who overcome impossible odds to achieve an even more impossible goal -- which, come to think of it, kind of sums up the whole 'Sling Baby' Super Bowl experience!

"St. Paul sums up the core virtues of Christianity as faith, hope, and love. I love telling stories that reflect those virtues -- even stories that might be on the dark side. The stories I've been fortunate to work on -- and continue to develop -- are stories revolving around those core essentials. It's not even conscious -- I just can't help it.

"I don't think that's peculiar to Christians either. I met with a prominent producer a few years ago who isn't a Christian, and I asked him what stories attracted him. He said, 'Anything that gives me hope.' As human beings, we're hard-wired for hope, and as a result, I believe that anything that brings us hope, brings us a little closer to God. Even if it's just a baby soaring through the air!"

Finally, do you personally eat Doritos?
Which kind is your favorite? Will you and Kate be serving Doritos at every gathering you host for the rest of your lives?

"I'm a Doritos Ranch man all the way -- not even lyin'. Just saying that makes my mouth water. Might need to make a Doritos run here in a second."

December 12, 2011

Joel Osteen Getting a Reality Show

No network slated yet, so it's yet to be seen if the show will, ahem, prosper

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Mark Burnett, producer of the Survivor and The Voice reality TV shows, has convinced his friend Joel Osteen to sign on for his own reality TV gig, TMZ recently reported, running the image at left with their story.

A follow-up story in Entertainment Weekly said the show, titled Pack Your Bags, will bring "missionary-style giving to prime time."

According to EW, "the popular Houston megachurch pastor will lead volunteers to a surprise destination to try and make a difference in other people’s lives. For example: To put on a homecoming party for a group of soldiers returning from oversees to their hometown, or bringing holiday cheer to an elderly care home. 'You get on plane, you don’t know where you’re going, you don’t know what you’re going to be doing,' Burnett says.

"Burnett says our current economic climate makes this an ideal time to launch a show like Pack Your Bags. 'America is the most giving nation on Earth,' says the British producer, who became an American citizen two decades ago. 'One of the best ways to feel better is by doing something for somebody else.'"

Methinks I'll leave the comments -- snarky or otherwise -- to the readers here. The floor is yours.

December 7, 2011

‘You Deserve It’ Deserves an Audience

On ABC's new reality-TV-meets-game-show, it truly is better to give than receive

In general, I’m a horrible companion for watching game shows, particularly if you like watching them in peace. I’m competitive by nature, especially when it comes to intellectual challenges. I’m the one that guesses all the answers, quite loudly. I compete against the people on screen, as if shouting answers at the TV faster will result in the sudden accumulation of prize winnings in my bank account. (No luck yet.)

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But ABC’s newest game show You Deserve It(Mondays 9/8c) is different for one reason: the contestants on the show aren’t playing for themselves. They’re playing on behalf of someone they care about, someone who could use the money earned on the show for their needs—someone who has no idea what’s happening. As host Chris Harrison (of The Bachelor fame) enthusiastically declares each episode, You Deserve It is a game that believes it’s better to give than to receive.

The game show aspect is fairly simple. Contestants have five chances to earn cash amounts ranging from $10,000 in the first round to $250,000 in the final round. They’re given a category (who, where, or what) and one free clue that describes the answer they need to guess to win the round. Nine more clues are available for purchase, but the amount those clues cost depends on the cash amount hidden behind a number the contestant has to pick. The clue’s cost is deducted from the amount of prize money available that round.

In that aspect, You Deserve It is like most any game show, albeit dragged out a little in its hour-long format. Contestants spend much of their time reasoning aloud as the clues are revealed and angsting over which number to pick to deduct the lowest amount from their winnings. Harrison does a pretty good job here acting as a sounding board. He doesn’t offer (too much) cheesy dialogue, and if contestants get distressed by choosing a high dollar amount for clue, he keeps it all in perspective and gets them back in the game.

The show’s most compelling side centers around the person that each contestant is trying to help. Each episode begins like Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, with a montage of footage and pictures submitted by the contestant and other friends and family of the recipient, outlining why this person deserves the money. It borders on being overly emotionally manipulative, but so far You Deserve It has done a good job of keeping the swelling, overdramatic music to a minimum (which is where Extreme Makeover often loses me) and letting the emotional pull of the stories themselves do the work of endearing us to both the contestant and recipient.

There’s also a hidden-camera element; Harrison’s co-host, Brooke Burns, checks in regularly from a location near the unsuspecting recipients, hiding out until after the final round, when she can inform them just how much money they’re about to make. Personally, the hour-long wait is worth it for the expressions on their faces during the big reveal.

All in all, You Deserve It is a refreshing take for the game show genre. It’s currently only scheduled to air two more new episodes, as it was intended to get viewers into the holiday spirit. Whether it will be picked up for a longer run remains to be seen. I hope it gets the chance to continue; it deserves it.

Here's a clip from the show:

Morgan Feddes is CT's Editorial Resident.

December 1, 2011

Doctor Who Takes a Trip to Narnia!

'The Doctor, The Widow, and The Wardrobe' to air on Christmas Day on the BBC

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My former colleague Trevor Persaud, a Doctor Who geek (read his commentary on the show's spiritual imagery) tells me that the sci-fi cult classic, known for its inventive Christmas specials, is taking quite the yuletide trip this year: To Narnia!

Geeks of Doom confirms what had been rumored for some time: That the BBC's show will take its characters through a "wardrobe" of sorts and into the land that C. S. Lewis built for its annual Christmas special, this year titled, "Doctor Who: The Doctor, The Widow, and The Wardrobe." The BBC describes the show's plot like this:

Evacuated to a house in Dorset from war-torn London, Madge Arwell and her two children, Lily and Cyril, are greeted by a madcap caretaker whose mysterious Christmas gift leads them into a magical wintry world.

Here's the trailer:

November 26, 2011

Reality TV Meets the Holy Land

Five strangers take a spiritual trip in 'Journey to Christmas'

What happens when you take a group of complete strangers and throw them together in harsh conditions as something of a sociological experiment in the name of "reality TV"? Well, it's sort of like Survivor, but in the case of Journey to Christmas, it's more like a discovery of what the nativity story is all about.

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A four-part documentary series, released this month by Tyndale House (and airing in early December on CTS), Journey to Christmas follows five North Americans from all walks of faith -- including an agnostic -- as they trek to and through the Holy Land for three weeks, visiting key spots in Christian history and culminating in Bethlehem on Christmas Day.

Local Christian historian Nizar Shaheen serves as their guide, giving the biblical and Christian context for each stop along the way, answering the pilgrims' questions. Interviews with Bible scholars are interwoven throughout the series, which is more like a blend between reality TV and a documentary.

Some of the best parts come when the five travelers -- all young adults -- gather at the end of the each day to discuss what they've seen, learned, and experienced. The lone Christian's faith is strengthened on the journey, but what about the other four, including one who says he's disappointed in God and seeking spiritual guidance? What will each of them find along the way?

The four 45-minute episodes are not only interesting and entertaining, but also serve as a good springboard for families or study groups to discuss the true meaning of Christmas in the context of history and geography -- of walking the trails where the magi, Joseph, Mary, and Jesus walked. The DVD includes a discussion guide.

The series can be purchased at ChristianBook.com, and here's the trailer:

November 22, 2011

Lawrence Fishburne Finds a Little Faith

Veteran gets behind pulpit for ABC's 'Have a Little Faith,' based on Mitch Albom's bestseller

Laurence Fishburne has been a cowboy on a children's show (Peewee's Playhouse), a thug in a Charles Bronson flick (Death Wish 2), a rock 'n' roll legend (What's Love Got to Do With It?), the captain of a hovercraft called the Nebuchadnezzar (The Matrix), a college prof and spelling coach (Akeelah and the Bee), and even Marvel comics legend the Silver Surfer (Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer).

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But a preacher? That's Fishburne's latest role in the Hallmark Channel Hall of Fame movie Have a Little Faith, airing Sunday, Nov. 27, on ABC-TV. The movie, based on the latest best-selling book by Mitch Albom (Tuesdays with Morrie, The Five People You Meet in Heaven), features Fishburne as Henry Covington, a Detroit preacher who overcame a life mired in drugs and crime. Albom, portrayed by Bradley Whitford, met the reverend-in-recovery when he wrote newspaper columns about homeless people.

The other central character in Albom’s book and movie is New Jersey Rabbi Albert Lewis, played by Martin Landau. “The Reb,” as Albom calls him, asks Albom to write his eulogy.

The charismatic preacher and the feisty rabbi could hardly be more different, but they both affect Albom profoundly affect the writer. It’s a story about losing belief, and finding it again.

The film airs Nov. 27 9-11 p.m. ET. Here's the trailer:

November 20, 2011

'The Sound of Mumbai: A Musical'

Documentary explores high hopes, and stark reality, in the slums of India

In Slumdog Millionaire, a young man escapes Mumbai's extreme poverty by winning a ton of money on a game show. It was, of course, fiction.

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In The Sound of Mumbai: A Musical, premiering Nov. 23 on HBO2, a young boy hopes to escape Mumbai's extreme poverty by getting his own share of the spotlight. He doesn't. And it's fact.

A compelling documentary, The Sound of Mumbai follows the story of 20 young children from Mumbai's slums who have been selected to sing songs from The Sound of Music with the Bombay Chamber Orchestra at the National Centre for the Performing Arts, a ritzy facility normally inaccessible to the poor.

The film zeroes in on charismatic 11-year-old Ashish, whose unbridled optimism and persistent smile grab you from the moment you meet him. He is chosen to sing a solo, and he's both thrilled and nervous at the prospect of singing in front of a thousand in such an important spotlight. He looks in the mirror and gives himself pep talks, telling himself that he IS confident -- whether he really believes it or not. Articulate and outgoing, Ashish comes to believe that this opportunity is his ticket, and his family's, out of the slums and into a better lifestyle. He's convinced that he'll get noticed, and someone from the aristocracy will pay for a private education so that he can someday become "a doctor or a scientist," and earn the money needed for a better lifestyle.

It's interesting how snippets of Rogers & Hammerstein's songs play perfectly into the story. "Climb Every Mountain," with its admonishment to "follow every rainbow till you find your dream," aptly describes the hope of these children. Ashish's pep talks mirror the message of Maria's song, "I Have Confidence": "With each step I am more certain /
Everything will turn out fine / I have confidence the world can all be mine / They'll have to agree I have confidence in me."

But then there's that haunting tune sung by Maria and the Captain, "Something Good," with its reality-check lyrics: "Nothing comes from nothing / Nothing ever could." And amid all of the smiling faces and colorful optimism of The Sound of Mumbai, you can't help but think of how rare it is to escape India's caste system, for "the least of these" to move up the socio-economic ladder.

"It would be easy to say, if they believe in their dreams, they will do it," says Johannis Steinwender, the orchestra's Austrian-born conductor who puts the program together. "That would be the American way. But this is not America. This is India."

Will Ashish, like Jamal in Slumdog Millionaire, beat the odds and ultimately escape the slums?

Click here for HBO's showtimes, and here's the trailer:

August 17, 2011

Tonight on TV! Pint-Sized Preachers!

Watch 4-year-olds deliver fire-and-brimstone sermons on the National Geographic Channel

Directly from CNN's Belief Blog:
They preach, the heal the sick, and they swagger from the pulpit. But these aren't your average preachers, they are children dubbed pint-sized preachers. The viral internet phenomenon is transitioning to TV in a new documentary.

On Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET, the National Geographic Channel will air “Pint-Sized Preachers,” a documentary looking inside the controversial world of child evangelists and the families who watch over them.

The hourlong documentary tells the stories of three young boys who have gained notoriety for their explosive sermons and, in one case, a self-proclaimed power to heal the sick with a single touch.

Will the documentary have the same cringe-inducing effect on viewers as, say, TLC’s “Toddlers and Tiaras”?

After watching this preview, I don't know whether I'm fascinated or totally turned off:

May 25, 2011

'How to Die in Oregon'

HBO doc depicts how one state’s controversial law affects those faced with impossible choices.

Before the opening credits roll for How to Die in Oregon—airing on HBO tonight—we have watched one man, Roger Sagner, end his own life.

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In the documentary’s closing minutes, Cody Curtis, a woman with terminal cancer and living with escalating and excruciating pain schedules her own “death with dignity.” Here, tellingly, the camera parks outside her window. Perhaps that was her choice and not the director’s, but it feels as though the time we’ve spent with her through the film has made her a real person rather than a cause, and it is hard to not wonder whether the camera’s rather sudden reserve implies any particular feelings about what is going on.

Whether one agrees or disagrees with the Oregon law, one must concede the earnestness with which director Peter Richardson approaches his topic. And who amongst us is brave enough to stand in judgment of Sagner and Curtis?

I would be careful not to mistake the documentary’s soberness for diffidence, however. Good cases often make bad law, and those who want to shape public policy tend to do so by looking for the cases that best frame the issue in the way they want it looked at. I don’t knock the film for having a point of view—I prefer honest advocacy to feigned neutrality—but I confess to wishing that it had a little more breadth in examining the issues surrounding the law. It is worth noting, for example, that the right to request a prescription for a terminal quantity of drugs (the law’s advocates insist on calling it “medication” even when it is not being used for treatment) is limited to those who have been diagnosed with an illness that will kill them within six months. One certainly hopes that the fact that at least two of the participants in the film live significantly longer than six months after receiving such a diagnosis wasn’t deliberately downplayed for fear that it might undercut the premise that the Death With Dignity Act is sufficiently narrow in scope.

Most telling, perhaps, of whether the film is depicting or advocating is the way it deals with the case of Randy Shoup. He is interviewed at the 52-minute mark, railing against Oregon Health Plan correspondence refusing to pay for stronger chemotherapy (because it can’t be shown to probably increase his life by five years) but telling him he is qualified to receive aid for comfort and “palliative care,” including physician aid in dying. “No man has the right to offer money to have somebody else killed,” Shoup says.

By going public with his letter, Shoup was able to get the Oregon Health Plan to reverse its decision and approve the chemotherapy recommended by his physician. The film states in printed text that he died four weeks later, leaving the impression that the questions he raises are easily dismissed technicalities. It is easy to miss on a first viewing that Shoup had already lived more than a year fighting prostate cancer after he was given “two to four months.” It is also worth pointing out that Shoup is given three minutes of screen time in the middle of a 107-minute film, so, by the end, the quite reasonable questions and concerns raised by his case have been pretty much pushed aside rather than answered.

In other words, people on both sides of the issue are allowed to speak in How to Die in Oregon, but we are encouraged to listen to some of them more than others.

Here's the trailer:

May 23, 2011

Uneasy Alliances in the Heart of the Bible Belt

Tennessee town's tolerance tested in "Welcome to Shelbyville," airing on PBS

"When a foreigner lives with you in your land, don't take advantage of him. Treat the foreigner the same as a native. Love him like one of your own. Remember that you were once foreigners in Egypt. I am God, your God" (Lev. 19:33-34, The Message).

"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in" (Matt 25:35, NIV)

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These are familiar passages to many in the Bible Belt, including the residents of Shelbyville, Tennessee. But putting such words into practice is much easier said than done. That's the premise of Welcome to Shelbyville, a documentary airing tonight (10/9c) on PBS's Independent Lens.

It's a fascinating look at how a small town grapples with a rapid influx of foreign refugees, including a growing Latino population and, in more recent years, many Muslims from Somalia. Most of the film was shot in the days prior to the 2008 Presidential election, when America was already facing many changes. But for this small Tennessee town, the changes seemed to come faster than many residents were prepared for.

There are some expected comments from local rednecks and old-timers, mostly borne out of misunderstanding or fear, but there are some encouraging scenes involving local churches who are putting feet to the gospel, trying to roll out the red carpet for their new neighbors. It's a challenge, but it's a challenge they are working hard to meet -- whether through large events, door-to-door visits, or ESL classes. There are some sensitive (and some not so sensitive) insights from pastors and religious leaders.

"The movement of people from one place to another, how we acclimate to other cultures, and the resulting fusion of humanity has always fascinated me," says director Kim Snyder. "During my Masters work in foreign relations at Johns Hopkins, I was most interested in social change as it played out in more personal rather than national or historic narratives. Welcome to Shelbyville evolved out of a deep desire over the past decade to tell stories that would not only raise awareness about complex social problems, but that could go one step beyond to highlight people and communities that were tackling these problems with innovative solutions that might ignite social change.

"Welcome to Shelbyville chronicles a year in the life of one town in the rural South grappling with the challenges of rapid demographic change. With focus on Shelbyville as a microcosm of current day trends in immigration that are landing an increasing number of newcomers in rural locales, my intent was to provide a snapshot of this phenomenon through the voices of ordinary citizens, both U.S. and foreign-born, who are often navigating these challenges without much precedent or guidance."

It's worth watching for any community or congregation that is serious about putting feet to the gospel, and reaching out to the strangers among us. Here's the trailer:

May 19, 2011

'Survivor' Contestant 'Lost Game but Won Souls'

Matt Elrod didn't win the $1 million, but says 'God was with me every step of the way'

Outspoken Christian Matt Elrod had hoped his faith would not only carry him, but affect his fellow competitors and viewers on the recently-finished Survivor: Redemption Island, and it seems his prayers were answered.

A few fellow contestants were emboldened by Elrod's faith and example, including one who said she was going to find a Christian church when she returned home.

"God was with me every step of the way," Elrod is quoted in a recent story in the Christian Post. "I praise His name for just letting me be a vessel for Him. That's been my reward for all the struggle and all the strife I've been through."

CT interviewed Elrod a few weeks ago.

April 29, 2011

'Survivor' Update: Hat Tip to the Almighty

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When we interviewed Survivor: Redemption Island contestant Matt Elrod, an outspoken Christian, earlier this week, he talked about wanting to proclaim God's glory while on the show.

He also said, "I would love for Survivor to start a revival, but if God is planting seeds into non-believers and encouraging Christians, that's enough for me."

That prayer, at least, has already been answered. One of Elrod's fellow contestants, Julie Wolfe, lost a three-way competition on Wednesday's episode that eliminated her from the game. Before walking away, though, she told host Jeff Probst that she had participated mainly to win the million-dollar grand prize, "but I'm walking away with something bigger." She glanced at Elrod and said, "I see Matt’s story with God, and I am looking forward to going back home and finding a church and getting involved."

Apparently she meant it.

In recent interviews, Wolfe, a firefighter, has said that Elrod's outspoken faith showed her "that I was on Survivor for a reason and I have had a rebirth, a relationship with God." In another interview, she said, "I went there . . . to win that million and I left with a bigger prize. There's no price tag on it. I went home and found a great church. I have a renewed relationship with God. All that financial stress that was on me has been lifted. That million dollars ... what money? I got so much more out of the game. I'm very grateful."

Wolfe also said, "My whole life has changed. I was sad to leave the game, but I was really looking forward to my new life." She said she was now attending Horizon Christian Fellowship in San Diego.

Meanwhile, Elrod, in his 28th day in the game and his 21st as a "castaway" on Redemption Island, made it clear in this week's Episode 11 that he was ready to go home. Weeping, he told the viewing audience, “I’m out here wasting away . . . God has me here for a reason. I said from the beginning that God wanted me here. I don’t know what the reason is for; I can’t see that yet. He has literally been carrying me the past four days. I know I’m still in the game, but I’m just so over this game.”

When it came time for a 3-way duel that would send one contestant home, Elrod told Probst that if he ended up going home, he was okay with that. But he added, "I'm going to do the best I can in today’s challenge, but yeah, I’m ready to go home."

When Elrod ended up placing second in the duel and staying in the game, Probst pointedly asked, "So Matt, are you frustrated with your God right now?" Elrod answered, "I guess he still wants me here for some reason. I told him I’d stay here as long as he wanted me to."

March 23, 2011

Former SNL Star Slammed for 'Homophobia'

Victoria Jackson takes 'Glee' to task for airing a kiss between gay young men

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Former Saturday Night Live star Victoria Jackson, writing for the hyper-conservative World Net Daily, said that last week's episode of Glee, which featured a kiss between gay characters Kurt and Blaine, was "sickening" and that "besides shoving the gay thing down our throats, they made a mockery of Christians – again! I wonder what their agenda is? Hey, producers of "Glee" – what's your agenda? One-way tolerance?"

The comments came near the end of an article titled "The Muslims Next Door," in which Jackson had ridiculed Muslims on a number of fronts: "Why do liberals embrace Shariah law even though 'beheading your wife' seems to go against the feminist movement's mantra? Why do liberals embrace Islam knowing it frowns on homosexuality? Because they have the same goals. Progressives, communists, liberals, globalists and Muslims want to destroy America. When that goal is reached, they will fight for top billing. It will be bloody."

But it was Jackson's comments about Glee's gay kiss that really stirred the pot on Tuesday. The Huffington Post and E! Online both called it a "homophobic rant." Popeater.com called it an "anti-tolerance crusade." Perez Hilton urges Jackson to "keep your homophobic, narrow-minded, tea-party babble to yourself, 'kay?!"

Showbiz Tonight ostensibly gave Jackson a chance to defend her comments on the air, but the report was hardly objective and was clearly meant to tear Jackson down. The webpage, after all, is titled, "Victoria Jackson blasts 'Glee,' gays while waving Bible," and the video carried such blurbs as "Glee Kiss Outrage!" and "Lip-Lock Lashout!" And while interviewing Jackson, Showbiz Tonight showed the kiss eight times in less than five minutes.

On Showbiz Tonight, Jackson dismissed the accusations of homophobia by saying "that's a cute little buzz word of the liberal agenda," adding, "The Bible says homosexuality is a sin." See the entire video here:

February 18, 2011

Hannah Montana 'Destroyed My Family'

So says Billy Ray Cyrus, father of Miley, adding that they've been under spiritual attack

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In a rambling, revealing interview with GQ, Billy Ray Cyrus says that Hannah Montana, the Disney TV show that made his daughter Miley famous, "destroyed my family. . . . [T]he damn show destroyed my family." He adds, "I’d erase it all in a second if I could.” Cyrus and wife Tish are in the process of getting a divorce after 17 years of marriage.

The Cyrus family, including Miley, have been outspoken about their Christian faith in recent years, but Billy Ray says that recent incidents have shaken his -- and Miley's -- faith, and that his family has been under spiritual attack.

"Somewhere along this journey," Billy Ray told GQ, "both mine and Miley's faith has been shaken. That saddens me the most." GQ noted that the entire Cyrus family had been baptized together before moving from Franklin, Tenn., to Los Angeles. Billy Ray says the baptism "was Tish's idea. She said, 'We're going to be under attack, and we have to be strong in our faith and we're all going to be baptized...'" He says he has no doubt that the family has been spiritual attack: "I think we are right now. No doubt. There's no doubt about it."

Cyrus also says he wished he'd been tougher as a parent the last few years, as he watched Miley slowly move away from her goody-two-shoes image and make questionable -- even almost scandalous -- choices in recent years (a revealing photo shoot in Vogue, a quasi-pole dance on TV's Teen Choice Awards, drinking a beer in public, and, most recently, smoking a bong).

Billy Ray Cyrus told GQ, “How many interviews did I give and say, ‘You know what’s important between me and Miley is I try to be a friend to my kids’? I said it a lot. And sometimes I would even read other parents might say, ‘You don’t need to be a friend, you need to be a parent.’ Well, I’m the first guy to say to them right now: You were right. I should have been a better parent. I should have said, ‘Enough is enough — it’s getting dangerous and somebody’s going to get hurt.’ I should have, but I didn’t. Honestly, I didn’t know the ball was out of bounds until it was way up in the stands somewhere.”

February 4, 2011

'Grizzly Adams' Creator Dies

Charles E. Sellier Jr. created popular series, and a host of faith-and-family-friendly flicks

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According to a press release from Grizzly Adams Productions, Charles E. Sellier, Jr. passed away unexpectedly on January 31st at his North Idaho home, according to longtime business associate David Balsiger. Sellier was 67.

Sellier was the President/CEO of Grizzly Adams Productions, which produces and markets family-oriented and faith-based feature films, television series, and documentaries worldwide.Best known for creating the iconic long running NBC television series, The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams, in the late 1970s, Sellier personally wrote and produced more than 30 feature films and 230 television shows during his show business career spanning four decades. Eleven of his theatrical films are among the top 100 all-time independent grossing films, with six of those releases ranked in the top 25.

“Chuck was a truly gifted individual,” said longtime associate David Balsiger, vice president of marketing, and senior producer with the company. “Both an artist and a computer geek, he could write an original screenplay, produce the movie, and then market the show generating amazing audience enthusiasm. Chuck was an industry pioneer in pre-testing film projects using sophisticated research techniques—opinion polling, generational science and neuromarketing.”

February 3, 2011

Christian Mom up for GMA's 'Advice Guru'

Carla Barnhill, a Christian mom from Minnesota, could be Good Morning America's pick

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Earlier this week, I interviewed my friend Carla Barnhill for CT's women's blog (yes, I wrote for a women's blog, so sue me!), discussing her quest to become the new "advice guru" for ABC's Good Morning America.

Carla, whom I worked with for several years at several of our sister publications, is one of four finalists for the gig. We just learned today that GMA will announce the winner on tomorrow (Friday) morning's show. I know who they should pick; I'd take advice from Carla any day. I've taken advice from her before, and I'd take it again any time. Good luck, Carla!

Feb. 4 update: 'Good Morning America' announced this morning that Liz Pryor, a single mother of three from California, will be their new “advice guru.” Upon hearing the news, Carla Barnhill posted this on her Facebook page: “This has been an amazing, life-altering experience for me and I don't regret a second of it. You, my friends, have been so good to me and I am so, so grateful for you. Thank you for your endless encouragement, your votes, your comments, and your love. Now, let's see what we can conquer next!”

February 3, 2011

John 3:16 Ad Won't Air During Super Bowl

Fox Sports rejects commercial because it contains 'religious doctrine'

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A year ago, we were blogging about the controversy surrounding the Tim Tebow pro-life ad that was to air during the Super Bowl. (It ended up airing anyway, and there were far fewer complaints after it aired than before it -- scandal averted!)

Now we have another minor commercial controversy brewing. Fixed Point Foundation reports that Fox Sports has rejected a proposed Super Bowl ad featuring a reference to the Bible verse John 3:16 -- ironic since it has been showing up in the background on signs at sporting events for decades.

In the commercial (embedded below), Fixed Point -- whose stated mission is "to promote a confident Christianity in the public square by fortifying the minds of Christians and challenging the faith of skeptics" -- hoped to encourage viewers to look up John 3:16 and consider its meaning. The commercial directs viewers to a website (lookup316.com) with the verse and explanation. Neither the commercial nor the website sells a product or asks for money, but Fox supposedly rejected the commercial because it contains "religious doctrine."

Still, some regions have opted to air the commercial anyway; a Fox station in Birmingham has agreed to air it twice during the big game. Here it is:

And here's the Tebow ad from last year's Super Bowl:

January 13, 2011

Ted Haggard's 'Resurrection Story'

The disgraced preacher, to be featured in TLC documentary, still mugging for the camera

Ted Haggard, whose fall into disgrace was one of the biggest news stories in evangelicalism in the last several years, is the focal point of a new documentary, Ted Haggard: Scandalous, premiering Sunday night on The Learning Channel (click here for listings).

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“I hope it’s a resurrection story,” Haggard told the Colorado Springs Gazette. “I hope it encourages people to realize that no matter what you are going through, the sun will come up again.”

Haggard, former leader of the National Association of Evangelicals and a once-respected pastor, was caught in late 2006 after having a sexual encounter with a male prostitute and later revealing that he had been using crystal meth. Haggard, wife Gayle (author of Why I Stayed) and their five children have since been trying to rebuild their lives.

In a press release, TLC claims to "go inside their new world" where the Haggards are "launching a new ministry unlike any other church ever seen. The eye-opening special will the expose and follow the fascinating, compelling, emotional and controversial journey from the day Haggard announced the opening of his new ministry - St. James Church - located in Colorado Springs, the town he had been kicked out of once his double life was uncovered."

"My family and I endured the darkest hours imaginable in the public spotlight, and have spent the last four years fighting and struggling to rebuild our lives, our faith and our family," Haggard told. "Showing the world the new chapter of our lives will hopefully inspire others to find their own path to overcome their struggles and embrace the power of acceptance. The church is open to all, even those who have committed the darkest sins."

It's the second cable documentary starring Haggard. HBO aired The Trials of Ted Haggard two years ago this month.

January 10, 2011

'Children of Haiti': A Picture of Survival, Hope

'Haiti must change,' says one teen boy in new documentary. 'Then God will bless Haiti.'

A new documentary, shot before last year's massive earthquake, puts the number of orphans in Haiti at about 500,000, a number that has gone way up since the January 12, 2010 quake.

Alexandria Hammond's Children of Haiti, airing on PBS tonight at 10 p.m. (check local listings) offers the survival stories of three teenage street boys, also known as the sanguine ("soulless"). Shot in the northern city of Cap-Haitien, the film captures the different factors that create obstacles for the boys, such as scarcity of jobs and education.

The documentary offers a stark contrast between Haiti's beautiful landscape and its urban counterpart. One of the boys has been sleeping on streets since he was 8, one abuses paint thinner, and the other boy sometimes stays with his impoverished mother and stepfather, but often survives on his own.

In Creole, the boys often offer their analyses of the Haitian political leadership, expressing simultaneous dismay and hope in the government.

“We don’t have any type of relationship with the foreign world,” Denick says. “And now our president, who is supposed to be helping us, is the one who’s throwing us into a hole.”

Because the film was shot before the earthquake, we can imagine that the issues the street boys were facing have only multiplied for the children in the country's capital. The United Nations estimates that the earthquake left more than 220,000 people dead and more than 1.5 million homeless in Port-au-Prince. Many of the children lost parents in the earthquake, struggling to find basic resources like food and clothes in makeshift tent cities.

When the documentary follows the same children over three years, we learn that two of the boys enrolled in a school for street children but eventually dropped out. Another boy had a son with his girlfriend, suggesting that abortion was briefly up for discussion.

The film offers a glimpse of Haitians' religiosity through scattered quotes or songs referencing God. Before the earthquake, the State Department estimated that about 85 percent of Haitians practiced some form of Christianity, most commonly Catholicism.

"Haiti is going to change. Haiti must change. But we have to put our hands together," Antoine says. "It's then that we'll honor ourselves as people with liberty, equality and brotherhood. Then God will bless Haiti."

December 16, 2010

Schulz Wanted Bible in Charlie Brown Christmas

Peanuts creator Charles Schulz said of holiday special, 'If we don't do it, who will?'

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Lee Mendelson, producer of the beloved holiday special "A Charlie Brown Christmas," says the late Charles Schulz, creator of the Peanuts comics strip, insisted that the program had to be about the true meaning of Christmas. Otherwise, Schulz said, "Why bother doing it?"

That's part of the story behind the TV special in a recent Washington Post article. When asked if he was sure he wanted to include biblical text in the special, Schulz responded, "If we don't do it, who will?"

Coca-Cola, which had signed on as corporate sponsor, never balked at the idea of including New Testament passages, which Linus reads aloud (from the book of Luke) in what Mendelson calls "the most magical two minutes in all of TV animation." Read the whole fascinating story here, and check out Linus's famous soliloquy below.

December 1, 2010

Put Yourself in Someone Else's Shoes

That's the premise for Friday's next installment of NBC's Family Movie Night

Last April, in response to research that showed parents wanted more TV programming appropriate for the whole family, Walmart and P&G came to the rescue with "Family Movie Night" on NBC, a series of films that fill that bill.

The third installment, A Walk in My Shoes, airs this Friday at 8/7c on NBC. It's being billed as "an inspirational journey" about how "families can come together in the face of adversity." Check out the trailer below.

November 19, 2010

Palin Breaks a Record, Don'tcha Know?

'Sarah Palin's Alaska' was most-watched series debut in TLC history

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The premiere episode of Sarah Palin's Alaska, which debuted last Sunday night on TLC, landed almost 5 million viewers, setting a record for the network; it was the most-watched series debut in TLC history.

Sarah Pulliam Bailey reviewed the premiere for Christianity Today.

November 2, 2010

Reel Injuns on the Big Screen

Documentary, airing tonight on PBS, explores Hollywood treatment of Native Americans

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I've never seen John Wayne in The Searchers (1956), but after watching Reel Injun, a PBS documentary airing tonight, I'm pretty sure I don't ever want to.

Reel Injun, part of PBS's stellar Independent Lens series, explores Hollywood's treatment of Native Americans through almost a century of film -- a period in which American Indians slowly evolved from the reviled savages who must be killed to the fascinating natives that they are. The documentary, directed by Cree filmmaker Neil Diamond, looks at how the myth of “the Injun” has influenced the world’s understanding – and misunderstanding – of Natives.It includes interviews with Clint Eastwood, Jim Jarmusch, Sacheen Littlefeather, and others.

During the extended Indians-as-bad-guys segment, a clip from The Searchers, directed by John Ford, is shown. In the movie, Wayne plays a man whose niece is kidnapped by Comanches who murder her family and burn their ranch house. It's certainly reason for righteous anger, perhaps even revenge. But a scene where Wayne and his comrades dig up a freshly buried Indian is especially troubling. After desecrating the grave, one of the white men lifts a huge rock and smashes the dead Indian's face; the blow itself isn't shown, but implied.

Then Wayne's character, on horseback, says, "Why don't you finish the job?" He pulls out a pistol and fires two shots into the dead Indian's face, then says, "Ain't got no eyes, he can't enter the spirit world. He has to wander forever between the winds." Oh. My. Goodness. I was aghast.

Critics have pondered whether audiences saw the act -- and Wayne's character overall in the film -- as racist, but as Roger Ebert noted in his 2001 review, "Is the film intended to endorse their attitudes, or to dramatize and regret them? Today we see it through enlightened eyes, but in 1956 many audiences accepted its harsh view of Indians."

Today, we can watch this documentary through enlightened eyes as well. And it's an eye-opener. But it's not all bad; the film acknowledges such films sensitive to Native Americans as Dances With Wolves and others since 1990.

And there's even humor. The filmmakers snicker at the notion of white people playing Natives (see Chuck Connors as Geronimo, top left). And in an interview with an old Navajo couple that had once played extras in some old Westerns, the filmmaker learned that many Natives would go "off script" when interacting with their white counterparts in a film. "No one ever bothered to translate," says the narrator, with a pregnant pause, "until now."

A clip is shown from 1964's A Distant Trumpet in which a U.S. Calvary Lieutenant is questioning an Indian chief.

"If I do not return," the white man says, "General Quaint will find you. And you will be dead, and all your people."

The stoic chief answers in his native tongue -- and in 1964, there were no subtitled translations. But now there are: "Just like a snake," he says, "you'll be crawling in your own s***."

Responds the lieutenant without blinking, "No, he is NOT a fool. You are!"

Check out the trailer here:

September 17, 2010

Now Is the Time to Freak Out for Freedom

Colbert one-ups Stewart, proposing 'March to Keep Fear Alive' vs. 'Rally to Restore Sanity'

The aftershocks (well, maybe that's too strong) from Glenn Beck's recent "Restoring Honor" rally in Washington D.C. continue -- with a couple of comedy/commentators getting in on the act.

First, The Daily Show's Jon Stewart announced last night that he was going to hold a "Rally to Restore Sanity" on October 30 in D.C. Stewart said he wanted people "to spread the timeless message, 'Take it down a notch for America' A million Moderate march, where we take to the streets to send a message to our leaders and our national media that says, 'We are here! We... are only here until six though, because we have a sitter.'"

Not to be outdone, Stephen Colbert, whose Comedy Central show airs immediately after Stewart's, called for a competing "March to Keep Fear Alive" -- also on October 30 in D.C. "Now is not the time to take it down a notch," Colbert said. "Now is the time for all good men to freak out for freedom."

Here's a beautiful thing: the official websites for the two events actually link to each other with a prominent button that reads, "DON'T CLICK HERE." I love it! Satire and irony are alive and well!

Watch both announcements in the videos below:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Rally to Restore Sanity
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party
The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
March to Keep Fear Alive
www.colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full Episodes2010 ElectionFox News

September 3, 2010

'This Jesus Thing Is a Bunch of Malarkey'

And God is like a really bad girlfriend, say the characters on FX comedy 'Louie'

Tuesday night's episode of the FX comedy Louie, featuring standup comic Louis C.K. in the title role, ventured into blasphemous territory. The episode, simpled titled "God," featured Louie saying that "if there really is a God, he's an ***hole," and that God is like a "sh*tty girlfriend." In a flashback to his boyhood days in Catholic school, Louie asks his mother about Jesus and his death on the cross. Louie's mom responds that Jesus was "a really, really nice guy who lived a long time ago and told everyone to love each other," but of his death and resurrection, she says, "The whole thing is a bunch of malarkey."

Catholic League president Bill Donohue didn't like it one bit: "It was painful. But was it anti-Catholic? Sure. That was the point of it. . . . If this show had any value whatsoever, it showed with stunning accuracy exactly how Hollywood sees Christianity."

See a brief clip of young Louie asking his mother about Jesus here:

July 9, 2010

Paying It Forward in a Very Big Way

HBO documentary 'A Small Act' shows the world-changing potential of child sponsorship

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When Hilde Back (at right), a Holocaust survivor who fled to Sweden, where she became a preschool teacher, decided to sponsor a child in Africa, she had no idea how far her money would go. She knew it would probably help one child -- in this case, Chris Mburu of Kenya -- to get better nutrition and education. Turns out that it went a LOT further than that.

A Small Act, premiering at 8 p.m. Eastern on July 12 on HBO, tells the story from Mburu's perspective -- how Back's sponsorship helped him to not only get a good education in Kenya, but to go on to Harvard Law School and later become a human rights advocate for the United Nations, dedicating his life to fighting for "the least of these."

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In an effort to "give back," Mburu (left) establishes the Hilde Back Education Fund to sponsor some of the brightest and most disadvantaged of Kenya's next generation. Secondary school can cost less than $10 a week in Kenya, but even that amount is out of reach for many families. In A Small Act, three gifted students compete for a scholarship that may be the only chance they have of continuing their schooling and changing their lives.

Meanwhile, Back is completely unaware of what has happened to the young boy she once sponsored. So Mburu tracks down the now 80-year-old in Sweden, and brings her to Kenya to see all the good that she has done. It's a wonderful little film that nicely illustrates what our own small acts can accomplish.

Director Jennifer Arnold, who attended the University of Nairobi, says she wanted to tell a story that would "inspire audiences to do their own 'small acts.' There are huge stakes for these kids, who are literally fighting for their lives. . . . These kids may one day impact people across the world as Chris Mburu has, and Hilde Back before him." As Back says, "If you do something good, it can spread in circles, like rings on the water."

Though there's little to no spiritual perspective (the organization through which Back sponsored Mburu wasn't faith-based), it's quite inspiring. And when one thinks of the difference that can be made through such Christian NGOs as World Vision, Compassion, and Food for the Hungry, it's easy to see why child sponsorship can literally change the world.

Learn more about the film here, and see the trailer below:

A SMALL ACT Trailer 2010 from Jennifer Arnold on Vimeo.

June 29, 2010

'100 Cupboards' Coming to Big Screen

Beloved Pictures to produce N.D. Wilson's children's series

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Just a week ago, Beloved Pictures announced that it was partnering with Mpower Pictures for a cinematic adaptation of C. S. Lewis's The Great Divorce. Now Beloved has announced that it will make films out of N. D. Wilson's popular 100 Cupboards, a fantasy trilogy for young adults.

The books, published by Random House, focus on a 12-year-old who discovers that the old farmhouse he calls home harbors mysterious cupboards leading to worlds and dangers beyond his imagination.

“This is truly one of the most outstanding works of fiction our company has ever had the pleasure to read.” said Beloved CEO Michael Ludlum. “Wilson is an incredible writer with an imagination that knows no bounds. We are thrilled to help shepherd this instant classic to the screen, and believe it will garner the same type of fan loyalty and passion as other successful book-to-film brands.”

June 26, 2010

Bristol Palin Plays a Teen Mom on TV

Art imitates life with upcoming appearance on 'The Secret Life of the American Teenager'

Sarah Palin's daughter Bristol, who made the news during the 2008 campaign as a teenage mom, makes her television acting debut on the July 5 episode of The Secret Life of the American Teenager. She plays -- surprise! -- a teen mom. Check out a snippet here:

June 23, 2010

Glee-ful Over Christian Stereotype

New Christian character in 'Glee' cast could be a really good thing, even if a caricature

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When our colleague Laura Leonard heard that Glee was adding a Christian character to its second season, "I worried that she might be just another outrageous caricature representing the worst people think of us," she writes on our sister blog, Her.meneutics. "But in the hands of a show like Glee, which combines choreographed musical numbers with high school drama and teenage self-discovery, this might just turn out to be a good thing."

Leonard continues, "I anxiously await Glee’s interpretation of the American Christian teenager, having been one myself and knowing many who currently choose to identify themselves with Christ in the halls, and play fields, and choir rooms, of their schools. If she can demonstrate Christ’s love in her relationships with others without giving up the values and beliefs that form her identity, it will be a great success indeed,"

June 10, 2010

'The Apprentice' Meets 'Slumdog Millionaire'

Documentary 'The New Recruits' highlights a Christian using capitalism to help the poor

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The filmmakers behind The New Recruits, airing on PBS stations on Tuesday, June 15, say it's a cross between The Apprentice and Slumdog Millionaire. Perhaps, but the main thing is this: The documentary explores how capitalism and Christianity are doing a world of good to help the poor.

The film follows Joel Montgomery, a Christian from Alabama, and two other business school graduates who use their smarts in creative ways to alleviate poverty in different parts of the world. It documents Montgomery's quest to help rural Pakistani farmers counter an impending water crisis, using drip irrigation systems as an alternative to flooding their fields. Montgomery's faith is a focal point of the film.

The 30-year-old Montgomery, who had previously led missions trips to Costa Rica and Malawi and had delivered Christmas presents to Hurricane Katrina victims, told The Tuscaloosa News that as a specialist in international development, he entered the field of "social entrepreneurship," which explores ways that global business can serve, rather than take from, the poor.

"The premise is that you're helping the underserved go to the next level," he told the newspaper. "You're creating jobs, and ultimately helping the country develop. . . . [With charity alone], you create a tremendous amount of dependency. Number two, you're treating the poor as passive, not active participants. And your growth is always limited by the amount of money you can raise."

Montgomery continued, "I see myself as long-term being an ambassador between business and the church. The church sends billions of dollars a year abroad, and a lot of that money is not having the impact that people think it's having. One of my goals is to affect the lives of millions of people, not for my own glory, but because of my faith."

For air dates and times, click here. The DVD is also available for purchase, and here's the trailer:

June 8, 2010

'It's Just Clean, Family TV'

That's how ComStar's founders, including Rev. Robert A. Schuller, describe their new network

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Saying there's already enough "Christian TV" on the airwaves, the co-founders of a new network (both Christians) are focusing instead on bringing more family-friendly programming -- without an in-your-face faith message -- to millions of viewers.

ComStar, founded by Rev. Robert A. Schuller and Chris Wyatt, in 2009, is now in 50 million homes, according to a recent story in the Dallas Morning News. By pursuing a PG-rated audience, Wyatt and Schuller are steering away from traditional ministry-based Christian media to family-friendly shows.

"What we're doing is not teaching and preaching by any means," Wyatt said. "It's just clean, family TV. No objectionable material or ads. It's what you would be comfortable sitting down [watching] with your 8-year-old or 11-year-old."

Schuller, referring to a new show, Everyday Life, he hosts on the channel, says he's not looking to become a televangelist -- a role his father somewhat played as pastor of the Crystal Cathedral.

"There are many pastors airing their message and doing a very good job," he says. "My message on Everyday Life is pretty clear. In many ways, it's a sermon message without being a sermon."

ComStar programming can be found on Family Net TV and American Life TV.

May 27, 2010

R.I.P. Art Linkletter

The multi-talented radio/TV man will be best remembered for his interviews with kids

Art Linkletter, who encouraged both kids and grownups to say the "darndest things" during his decades as a genial but gently mischievous television personality, has died at age 97.

This video is a terrific remembrance of Linkletter at his best -- interviewing the kids. The best line comes about 2:20 into the video when Art says to a young boy, "You're a diplomat, aren't you?" The boy, without skipping a beat, replies, "No, I'm a Catholic Baptist!" Enjoy:

May 24, 2010

'There Are Still a Lot of Questions'

Chris Seay found Sunday's LOST finale satisfying on some counts, but not on others

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Chris Seay, author of The Gospel According to Lost, offers his thoughts on Sunday night's finale, "The End." (SPOILERS AHEAD). Seay says he felt the success of the finale depended on the ability of the storytellers "to weave these two narratives together, and I felt like the finale fell short in that. There are still a lot of questions [including] about whether the island is purgatory. It leaves us with a lot of pieces to put together. It just wasn't what the storytelling geek in me wanted." Seay does note that he enjoyed the spiritual focus, and adds that though he wouldn't want the show to be "Christian propaganda," he was somewhat disappointed in the mishmash of religions -- "all these spiritual paths" -- that showed up at the end. "To have all these religions literally laid on top of each other felt disingenuous, even a bit offensive." Check out the rest of Seay's comments here:

May 21, 2010

My Wish List for the LOST Finale

Chris Seay offers his thoughts on Tuesday's episode, "What They Died For."

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Chris Seay, author of The Gospel According to Lost, offers his thoughts on the vital developments of Tuesday night's episode, "What They Died For," and what he hopes to see in Sunday night's finale. (SPOILERS AHEAD) Seay says he really enjoyed the scene of Jacob talking to the four candidates around the campfire: "I chose all of you because you were flawed, you were all like me, alone and looking for something you couldn't find, and you need this place as much as it needs you." Seay also laid out a "laundry list" of what he hopes to see in Sunday's finale: Aaron's birth, Jack & Kate and Desmond & Penny together, to know that Jin and Sun's child is cared for, and finally, the name of Jacob's brother. "What do you want to know?" Seay asks. Put your answers in the comments below.

May 18, 2010

The Redemption of Sayid Jarrah

Chris Seay offers his thoughts on Sayid's actions in "The Candidate."

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Chris Seay, author of The Gospel According to Lost, offers his thoughts on the character of Sayid Jarrah. (SPOILERS AHEAD) Seay eulogizes 'one of the most introspective, deeply spiritual characters on the show,' the Iraqi soldier who gave his life so his fellow castaways might have a better chance at survival. Though this season we watched him become 'a bit of a drone,' he says, in the end he was 'a man who knew evil -- who'd stared it in the face -- but he didn't find evil as something outside of himself. He wasn't afraid of what lay in the jungle; he was afraid of what lay within.' That recognition of his own capacity for evil led Sayid to seek redemption through true love, which he ultimately accomplished. Watch Seay's vlog below for the rest of his insights:

May 13, 2010

Hurley Gets All Duded Up for LOST

A six-season compilation of Hugo's favorite expression. Enjoy, dude . . .

May 12, 2010

'Say the Man's Name, for God's Sake!'

Chris Seay weighs in on Tuesday's LOST episode, "Across the Sea"

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Chris Seay, author of The Gospel According to Lost, chimes in on the developments in Tuesday's episode of LOST, "Across the Sea." (SPOILERS AHEAD) All along, Seay has believed that the Man in Black represents Esau of the Old Testament, and Seay, like many viewers, was itching to hear the guy's name in Tuesday night's back story, especially as we learned that MIB is actually Jacob's twin brother. But NEVER was he called by name in Tuesday's episode, "my greatest frustration," says Seay. "He was just, 'Hey you.' Say the man's name, for God's sake!" Seay also noted that some LOST fans are getting frustrated over a lack of answers, especially with just a couple episodes remaining. But as Seay reminds us, "This is life, and this is faith. Life doesn't give us all the answers. It's like Paul said: There are things I know, the rest I see through a dim glass." Watch Seay's vlog below for the rest of his insights.

May 6, 2010

Jesus Christ Cartoon in Development

Comedy Central announces "JC," an animated sitcom that follows Christ in modern-day NYC.

While Comedy Central is censoring depictions of Muhammad, they’re giving Jesus Christ his own show. At the network’s upfront presentations this week, Comedy Central announced “JC,” a program currently in development that follows Christ as he attempts to “escape the shadow of his ‘powerful but apathetic father’ and live a regular life in New York.” The network described the animated comedy as “a playful take on religion and society with a sprinkle of dumb.”

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The network recently came under fire for censoring images of Mohammad in an episode of the long-running animated sitcom "South Park." After drawing criticism from Islamic groups, the network decided to censor all images of the Muslim prophet as well as a speech given by the character. Over the years, "South Park" has regularly featured Jesus as a character on the program; he hosted a television call-in show called “Jesus & Pals,” used his “master carpentry skills” to fight an evil magician,” and, in his last appearance, got shot in the back by a Muslim extremist.

“In general, comedy in its purest form always makes some people uncomfortable,” said Comedy Central head of original programming Kent Alterman.

The show was announced as one of 22 projects currently “in development”; the network says planning is in its early stages and, according to Alterman, “we don’t even know what the show is yet.”

May 5, 2010

'The Beauty and Power of Marital Love'

Chris Seay weighs in on Tuesday's LOST episode, "The Candidate"

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Chris Seay, author of The Gospel According to Lost, chimes in on the developments in Tuesday's episode of LOST, "The Candidate." (SPOILERS AHEAD) Seay opens the vlog by noting that he usually turns to Scripture or analyzing Egyptian hieroglyphics after an episode of LOST, but this time, he's pretty subdued and melancholy as he, with LOST fans all over the world, mourns the loss of two of our favorite characters, Sun and Jin Kwan. "If you're not a LOST fan," says Seay, "just turn this off because you're gonna think I'm silly and sappy. But if you're a fan, you've come to love these people." Seay notes how Sun and Jin's marriage has come full circle, going from selfish and "radically unfaithful" to falling in love again "in a way they never have before. . . . We see the beauty and power of marital love." Seay also notes that his favorite line from the episode was when Jack tells Claire, "We're not strangers. We're family." Live together, die alone . . .

April 26, 2010

Where Does Webb Stand on the Gay/Christian Issue?

Theologian Denny Burk says Webb's public comments 'anything but clear'

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Denny Burk, a New Testament prof and dean of Boyce College, the undergraduate arm of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, recently answered a blog reader's question about Derek Webb, who has been touring with Jennifer Knapp. Knapp recently came out as being gay -- she talked about it on Larry King Live last week -- and Burk's reader wondered where Webb stood on the issue.

In a blog post titled, "What About Derek?", Burk says he did a little bit of research and concluded that "it's difficult to say" where Webb might stand on the question, "Can one be Christian and gay?" He said that Christians would likely find some "red flags" in some of Webb's comments on the matter, but adds, "I can’t find any instance in which Derek has stated unambiguously what his views are on the moral status of homosexuality. It looks like he’s trying not to speak definitively either way. I suppose the best case scenario is that Derek takes a traditional view on the question though his iconoclastic approach sometimes makes it appear otherwise."

Burk concludes, "My hope is that Derek is at least speaking more clearly about these things in private. His public statements are anything but clear."

Read Burk's full post and leave your own comments on the topic below.

April 21, 2010

LOST and Joseph Conrad's 'Heart of Darkness'

Chris Seay weighs in on Tuesday's LOST episode, "The Last Recruit"

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Chris Seay, author of The Gospel According to Lost, chimes in on the developments in Tuesday's episode of LOST, "The Last Recruit." (SPOILERS AHEAD) Seay notes that Jack is "a different man; our man of science is now a man of faith." He says that perhaps the episode's best reveal "was the fact that Sayid and Claire may not be beyond redemption," but that the episode's most important came in the few seconds of scenes from next week, when the words on the screen, accompanying images of John Locke, read, "His soul had gone mad being in the wilderness." Seay notes that the quote comes from Joseph Conrad's novella, Heart of Darkness, a book that "parallels LOST in so many ways," says Seay, "because it’s the prototypical framing story, this story within a story. The story that you’re walking through isn’t really what it’s all about." Seay notes that the quote used in those scenes are further indication that, like in Conrad's book, the evil that we should truly fear is not "out there," but within ourselves.

April 15, 2010

Is the Island a Purgatory? Or Not?

Chris Seay weighs in on the meaning of Tuesday's LOST episode, "Everybody Loves Hugo"

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Chris Seay, author of The Gospel According to Lost, chimes in on the developments in Tuesday's episode of LOST, "Everybody Loves Hugo." (SPOILERS AHEAD) Among Seay's observations: "It's great to know what all these whispers [on the island] have been, and to see Hurley's interactions with Michael. But the inference that Michael is stuck there in a purgatory kind of sense is at least a disappointment." Seay also notes that Desmond's importance "can't be underestimated," and that he still seems to be sort of a messianic figure, with his "ability to withstand this evil magnetic energy without being harmed." And Seay notes how he was "stunned" how the episode ended.

April 9, 2010

The Emergence of Parallel Realities

Chris Seay weighs in on the meaning of Tuesday's LOST episode, "Happily Ever After"

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Chris Seay, author of The Gospel According to Lost, chimes in on the developments in Tuesday's episode of LOST, "Happily Ever After." (SPOILERS AHEAD) He notes that it's beginning to become more apparent that the flash-sideways characters are becoming aware of their counterparts on the island, and wonders how it will "change things" when the characters "figure out that connection. Will the two narratives weave into one? How will they utilize their off-island activities to change things on the island?" Seay goes on to say that such knowledge will "ultimately be part of what allows them to defeat the forces of evil, the Man in Black." Seay's new vlog:

April 8, 2010

Women & Blacks: No Chance on 'Idol'?

Evidence suggests preteen white girls control the vote -- and they go for the "cute boys"

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In a new column titled "Tween Girls Hijack Idol," Richard Rushfield of The Daily Beast suggests that white males have a distinct advantage over other American Idol contestants because 11-year-old white girls do most of the voting with their incessant texting -- the principal means of voting for artists on the popular show.

"[T]ext messaging, it can now be definitively said, has transformed the electorate of American Idol from a diverse microcosm of the nation’s broad middle, to a playground for willful 11-year-olds seeking to reshape the world in their image," writes Rushfield. "Armed with their text messaging superpowers . . . tween girls have stormed the ramparts of Idol democracy and—depending on your perspective—either wreaked havoc upon our national pastime, or given an aging show a fresh wind of underage relevance. Either way, they have made the Idol stage a very different place, and nowhere was the heavy hand of the tween dictators felt more strongly than at the Idoldome during Wednesday night’s elimination show, where in the first big shocker of the season, Michael 'Big Mike' Lynche found himself with the week’s lowest vote total for the week.

"Not only do tween girls seem to prefer their Idols be male, but they also seem to prefer them to be white," he continues, adding that "careful study does point to an irrefutable fact, that in the past few years, 'cute boys' have come to dominate American Idol to an unprecedented degree."

Read the rest of Rushfield's fascinating findings and musings here.

April 1, 2010

'A Lot of Things We're Waiting For'

Chris Seay weighs in on the meaning of Tuesday's LOST episode, "The Package"

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Chris Seay, author of The Gospel According to Lost, chimes in on the developments in Tuesday's episode of LOST, "The Package." (SPOILERS AHEAD) He says "There's a lot of things we're waiting for," but believes the episode had the "best flash-sideways yet" with Sun and Jin. "It's amazing how patient their love is," he adds, saying "it's very 1 Cor. 13." Seay also believes "there is a messianic figure to emerge, and it would make a lot of sense if it's Desmond." But he also believes that "Aaron will be more important as this all comes together," as he predicted in an interview with USA Today this week. Seay's new vlog:

April 1, 2010

LOST Spoiler: Resurrected Locke Saves Island!

In an exclusive interview with an insider, CT gets the scoop -- mostly -- on how Season 6 will end

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In one of the biggest scoops in CT history, we have learned from an ABC junior staffer how the popular TV show LOST will end with its season finale in May.

A camera assistant working on the set in Oahu -- she asked to remain anonymous, giving us only her initials, A.F. -- secretly obtained a copy of the script for the show's last episode and shared it with CT.

In the finale, in a bizarre twist on the whole "flash-sideways" concept, 10-year-old Aaron returns to the island where he is not only reunited with Claire, but apparently has a miracle touch as well. He finds the dead John Locke, lays his hands on the body, utters what seems to be a prayer in a combination of Latin and Egyptian, and Locke slowly rises, Lazarus-like, from his coffin. The risen Locke's first words are, "Where is the imposter?"

When told how to find "Fake Locke," the real Locke grabs a knife and strolls away from the beach. When he finds his "evil twin," Locke stabs him in the heart, killing him instantly. Locke then finds Richard and asks him to round up everyone on the island and bring them to Charles Widmore's submarine by Hydra Island. They all climb on board the sub and leave the island, which Widmore blows up with an atomic bomb -- and this time, it really disappears for good. They then head to Los Angeles, where they will be reunited with their "parallel universe" selves and somehow resolve that ongoing tension. But we don't know how that happens, unfortunately; our source tells us that the final six pages of the copy of her script were accidentally charred in a fire, and are thus illegible. So, some mystery remains intact.

Even though we don't know how it ultimately ends, we do know this much:

A powerful redemption is looming for oodles of LOST supporters!

March 30, 2010

Sunday School on Tuesday Night with 'LOST'

'USA Today' piece with Chris Seay highlights show's biblical references

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A nice piece in today's USA Today, titled "It's Sunday school on Tuesday night for 'Lost' devotees," includes author Chris Seay explaining a number of the biblical allusions and references in the show.

Seay, author of The Gospel According to Lost and a regular guest vlogger here during Lost's final season, told the newspaper that he believes the Man in Black represents Esau, that Richard's story "has something to do" with the Old Testament's Joseph in Egypt, and that Aaron may be a Moses figure, "the one child, uniquely saved in a tragic situation, and thus is prepared to help liberate God's people." Seay says he's "guessing on a very Aaron-centric episode" in the season finale in May.

(Photo: ABC/Mario Perez)

March 25, 2010

A Story of Grace, Forgiveness and . . . Doubt?

A new Lifetime movie based on the Nickel Mines shooting lacks the power of the real-life story.

When the Amish community of Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania extended their forgiveness to the widow and family of the man who just hours earlier had shot and killed five of their own young daughters in October 2006, the world marveled in disbelief. Where was the anger, the bitterness, or the doubt that plague most people who experience such senseless tragedy? As the hours stretched into days and days piled into weeks, people struggled to wrap their minds around what made these people so different—beyond the bonnets and buggies, there was an unfamiliar certainty that guided them through the pain. Their willingness to forgive stemmed from a firm conviction in God’s sovereignty over all things, both good and tragically, incomprehensibly bad.

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Amish Grace, a made-for-TV movie airing on the Lifetime Movie Network this Sunday, March 28, at 8/7c, loses some of the story’s power by focusing on the fictional Ida Graber (Kimberly Williams-Paisley), an Amish wife and mother who struggles to accept her daughter’s death and balks at the idea of forgiving the family of a man who caused her so much pain. She is supposed to be relatable, but that is the opposite of what made this story so powerful in the first place. She looks and sounds like any other suburban mom in a similar situation. She questions God and lashes out at her friends who so easily accept their religion’s answers. But it is the lack of this kind of response that made the story so compelling in the first place.

The movie is based on the book Amish Grace: How Forgiveness Redeemed a Tragedy by Donald Kraybill, Steven Nolt, and David Weaver-Zercher, but the authors have distanced themselves from the project “out of respect to our friends in the Amish community and especially those related to the Nickel Mines tragedy,” according to a joint statement. The Amish shy from media attention and do not allow themselves to be photographed or identified in the press. Some from within the community anonymously expressed discomfort with the project: “We’re not happy. It’s not something we want to be a part of. We were too close to it,” says one Amish woman.

Continue reading A Story of Grace, Forgiveness and . . . Doubt?...

March 25, 2010

'The Most Informative Episode to Date'

Chris Seay weighs in on the meaning of Tuesday's LOST episode, "Ab Aeterno"

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Chris Seay, author of The Gospel According to Lost, chimes in on the developments in Tuesday's episode of LOST, "Ab Aeterno." (SPOILERS AHEAD) Seay calls it "the most informative LOST episode to date," recounting the history of Richard Alpert -- who he was pre-island, how he got to the island, and how he became involved in the ongoing psychological/spiritual battle between Jacob and The Man in Black, whom Seay is convinced represents Esau. Seay notes that at one point, Richard was reading Luke 4 in prison, where Jesus is tempted in the wilderness; Richard later comes to the island and faces his own temptations and tests in the wilderness, including this promise from The Man in Black: "You can have it all, even get Isabella back." And lots more. Check out Chris's comments here:

March 17, 2010

What SpongeBob Can't Deliver to Your Kids

VeggieTales co-founder Mike Nawrocki and his kids enjoy mainstream TV, but it's lacking

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My kids watch SpongeBob SquarePants every morning at breakfast. First my daughter, 11, as she’s munching on Special K with berries before being driven to middle school, and then an hour later my son with his Honey Nut Cheerios as he’s preparing for his day in the third grade. I suppose if I were a really good parent they would be reading Ezekiel 4:9 while they were eating, but Ally and Michael seem to be turning out okay despite their current routine. I also enjoy the show and watch it right along with them; for the most part SpongeBob is brilliantly written with great characters.

I understand it may be shocking to learn that the children of Larry the Cucumber do not always watch VeggieTales. But it’s true. When they were younger, the TV was at times tuned to Arthur, Dora the Explorer, and Zaboomafoo.

Broadcast TV for kids has come a long way over the past couple of decades. When we started VeggieTales 17 years ago, I didn’t have kids. But I remember thinking if I did, the only thing I’d let them watch was Sesame Street or Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, because that’s what I watched when I was a kid and they were still pretty much the same. Everything else seemed too violent, too sarcastic, or too crude. Fast forward to 2010 and it’s not hard to find well-produced, age-appropriate content that teaches kids math, reasoning, spelling or manners. A fair amount of stuff I don’t mind my kids watching.

So what’s the problem?

Continue reading What SpongeBob Can't Deliver to Your Kids...

March 16, 2010

Is It 'Family-Friendly'? Or 'Discrimination'?

When it comes to a Florida bill to attract filmmakers, it depends on whom you ask

When Florida's House of Representatives drafted a $75 million bill to entice "family-friendly" filmmakers to make movies in the Sunshine State by giving them a tax break, some equal rights groups cried foul.

Why? Because movies and TV shows depicting gay characters may not be eligible for the tax break, according to The Palm Beach Post, which reports that "the bill would prohibit productions with "nontraditional family values" from receiving a so-called family-friendly tax credit."

"Think of it as like Mayberry," state Rep. Stephen Precourt, R-Orlando, told The Post. "That's when I grew up — the '60s. That's what life was like. I want Florida to be known for making those kinds of movies: Disney movies for kids and all that stuff. Like it used to be, you know?"

But the head of a coalition of 80 groups that advocate for equal rights said the bill would "subsidize discrimination" and marginalize gay and single-parent families.

"Instituting 1950s-style movie censorship does nothing to support real-life families or help Florida's struggling economy," said Ted Howard, executive director for Florida Together.

March 16, 2010

From Mother of God to . . . God?

Nativity Story's Keisha Castle-Hughes to play 'Creator' in Legend of the Seeker

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A little more than three years ago, Keisha Castle-Hughes played Mary in The Nativity Story -- a role that became a bit true to life as it was announced shortly after production that the young star from New Zealand was actually pregnant at the age of 16.

Now it appears that Castle-Hughes has received an "upgrade" in roles -- she'll play God, or at least the Creator, in the March 27 episode of TV's Legend of the Seeker.

"We imagined the Creator as a very young, beautiful, and ethereal woman," exec producer and head writer Ken Biller told Entertainment Weekly. "Keisha was pretty much our conception of what it would be."

March 10, 2010

'Can I Get a Witness?'

"Dr. Linus," Chris' "favorite episode in LOST history," pays off on themes of faith and redemption.

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Chris Seay, author of The Gospel According to Lost, chimes in on the developments in Tuesday's episode of LOST. (SPOILERS AHEAD) Seay calls this his "favorite episode in Lost history," noting that "none have dealt better with faith and redemption." Chris notes how Jack's newfound "tremendous faith" restores that of the desperate Richard Alpert, adding, "if you haven't been in Richard Alpert's shoes [feeling hopeless and abandoned by God], you likely haven't been living the life of faith very long." As we witness yet another in a string of transformed father/son relationships, Chris wonders what it might all mean for our characters' redemption (or destruction). And he breaks down Ben's "remarkable and beautiful redemptive narrative" in light of his conversation with Ilana at the episode's end.

March 3, 2010

How Do the 'Flash Sideways' Affect the Island?

In Tuesday's episode, 'Sundown,' some questions were answered, but more questions arose

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Chris Seay, author of The Gospel According to Lost, chimes in on the developments in Tuesday's episode of LOST. (SPOILERS AHEAD) Among other things, Seay says that "Sundown," a "very Sayid-centric episode," "gave us much more than I anticipated. We've learned that the redemptive narratives that play out in this 'flash sideways' have an impact on what happens with the same characters on the island," and that it was further confirmed that "Fake Locke" is "offering many of the same things the serpent was offering in the Garden." Here are Seay's observations:

March 1, 2010

The Gospel According to . . . Desmond?

Henry Ian Cusick's filmography might just give us a clue as to who will save the island

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I think I've figured out who will save the island and all of its inhabitants:

Yes, it's Desmond, aka Scottish actor Henry Ian Cusick, aka Jesus in The Visual Bible's excellent production of The Gospel of John. Hmm, Desmond as savior? The plot thickens. Or not.

February 25, 2010

'Blind Side,' 'Up' Big Winners at Christian Gala

Movieguide's 18th Annual Faith & Values Awards Gala lauds 2009's best films & TV

Handing out more than $300,000 in prize money -- including $100,000 each to The Blind Side (Most Inspiring Movie) and Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story (Most Inspiring TV Program) -- Movieguide's 18th Annual Faith & Values Awards Gala was held Tuesday night in Beverly Hills.

The Blind Side was also named the best movie for mature audiences, while Pixar's Up was the best movie for families. Meanwhile, The Stoning of Saroya M. and Invictus tied for winning The Faith and Freedom Awards for Promoting Positive American Values.

Read more about the awards and the event here.

February 25, 2010

'This Show Asks the Deeper Questions'

Locke and Jacob reminiscent of characters in Garden of Eden . . . but which is which?

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Chris Seay, author of The Gospel According to Lost, chimes in on the developments in Tuesday's episode of LOST. (SPOILERS AHEAD) Seay notes that Fake Locke/Man in Black/Esau "seems to be upright" in his conversations with people, while Jacob seems more mysterious and less "forthright; he seems to be manipulative." Fake Locke is reminiscent of the serpent in the Garden of Eden, but Jacob? With his vague "guidance" and lack of specifics? Seay speculates on what it all means in his latest vlog on the fascinating series:

February 22, 2010

The Candidates: What's in a Name (or Psalm)?

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A lot of Lost fans noticed in last week's episode, "The Substitute," that Jack's name in the cave was assigned the number 23. (Warning: Don't read if you didn't see that episode.) The connection to Psalm 23 seems almost too easy for a guy with the surname Shephard.

Ever since I saw that, I've wondered, "Do each of the names in that cave relate to their respective number's psalm?"

Well, this is no exact science--and it's totally stretching. I mean, the producers didn't sit down 6 years ago and assign psalms to various characters. I know. But still, this is a fun little exercise, right? And so, I tried to see what I could discover. And while it may just be meaningless fun, I also stumbled on some very intriguing things--including a possible clue about who may replace Jacob.

Continue reading The Candidates: What's in a Name (or Psalm)?...

February 19, 2010

Catholics to Laud The Hurt Locker, Glee

17th Annual Mass and Awards Brunch will also honor author/critic Sr. Rose Pacatte

The Catholics In Media Associates 17th Annual Mass and Awards Brunch, to be held February 28, will honor The Hurt Locker with the CIMA 2010 Film Award, and Glee with the CIMA 2010 Television Award, it has been announced.

The CIMA 2010 Board of Directors Award will be presented to Sr. Rose Pacatte, FSP, MEd Media Studies, director, Pauline Center for Media Studies (PCMS) and media literacy education specialist, film and television journalist and author.

February 17, 2010

John Locke: Man of Science, Man of Faith?

This week's episode of Lost asks us to consider the truths of competing narratives.

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After last week’s fairly quiet episode, this week’s Locke-centric entry, “The Substitute” (watch it here), moved us closer to answers on some of the biggest questions of the series: why are these people on this crazy island? Do they have any choice in what happens to them, or is fate in control? What forces are driving the story, and who falls on the sides of good and evil?

WARNING: SPOILERS AFTER THE JUMP. IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THE LATEST EPISODE, DO NOT CONTINUE READING.

Continue reading John Locke: Man of Science, Man of Faith?...

February 16, 2010

Roger Ebert: 'There Is No Need to Pity Me'

In profiling the critic's battle with cancer, Esquire has a great story about a great writer

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In one of the best pieces I've ever read about Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert, Esquire magazine gives us a well-written and sensitive look into the life of a man who has lost his voice but not his spirit or gift. Arguably the best film critic of all time, Ebert is an interesting study -- he's an atheist in a world (big-time newspapers) that's generally populated with hard cynics, but he is full of joy, wit, and wonder, even as his life slips away.

"There is no need to pity me" he tells the Esquire writer, Chris Jones, by writing on a scrap of paper. "Look how happy I am."

Later in the story, Jones writes (italicized portions are Ebert's direct quotes):

Ebert is dying in increments, and he is aware of it.

I know it is coming, and I do not fear it, because I believe there is nothing on the other side of death to fear, he writes in a journal entry titled "Go Gently into That Good Night." I hope to be spared as much pain as possible on the approach path. I was perfectly content before I was born, and I think of death as the same state. What I am grateful for is the gift of intelligence, and for life, love, wonder, and laughter. You can't say it wasn't interesting. My lifetime's memories are what I have brought home from the trip. I will require them for eternity no more than that little souvenir of the Eiffel Tower I brought home from Paris.

There has been no death-row conversion. He has not found God. He has been beaten in some ways. But his other senses have picked up since he lost his sense of taste. He has tuned better into life. Some things aren't as important as they once were; some things are more important than ever. He has built for himself a new kind of universe. Roger Ebert is no mystic, but he knows things we don't know.

I believe that if, at the end of it all, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn't always know this, and am happy I lived long enough to find it out.

Read the whole story here.

February 10, 2010

What's Happened to Sayid?

Speculation abounds as to what's going on with the Iraqi character.

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Chris Seay, author of The Gospel According to Lost, chimes in on the developments in last night's episode of LOST, the second show if this sixth and final season. (SPOILERS AHEAD) Is Sayid really "claimed," as temple leader Dogen declares? Can he still find redemption? What about Jack and The Pill? And what's up with the revival of Claire? Check Chris's thoughts below:

February 3, 2010

'I Want to See a Battle Between Good & Evil'

So says author Chris Seay in reaction to Tuesday night's Season 6 premiere of LOST

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Chris Seay, author of The Gospel According to Lost, weighs in on Tuesday night's premiere:

February 3, 2010

'When I Die, What Do You Think Will Happen to Me?'

The Lost premiere raises questions about the afterlife.

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I hope you loved that episode as much as I did. Lost has always excelled at delivering mind-bending, game-changing premieres, and “LA X” proved no exception.

So much happened in this episode, I am not even going to attempt to recap it all. Instead, I'm going to focus on the theme that most intrigued me: the question of what happens to us when we die.

(WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD. Do not read if you are not completely caught up on last night’s episode.)

Continue reading 'When I Die, What Do You Think Will Happen to Me?'...

February 3, 2010

LOST character study: Will Kate Believe?

Author Chris Seay explores the possible character arc for Kate Austen in Season 6

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Chris Seay, author of The Gospel According to Lost, is video blogging for CT about Season 6 of Lost. In one of several brief character studies, Seay notes that Kate believes she'll never be good, that she can't be redeemed. But he says, "My prayer is that we'll see Kate believe that good things will come to her" during this final season. Chris's thoughts:

February 2, 2010

LOST: The Place Where 'Nothing Is Irreversible'

The season premiere for Lost's last season was rich with spiritual imagery

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It's been just a few minutes since the season premiere of Lost's sixth and final season ended, and I think I'm going to be scratching my head on this one for a while.

(WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD)

I don't think we've solved the mystery of Locke/The Man in Black/The Smoke Monster yet, but hopefully those answers will continue to unfold in the weeks ahead. This much is certain, though: Nothing is certain. Not on this island, and not in this unpredictable universe. Reality isn't, unreality is, dead people are alive, and living people are dead, and I don't even think 1.21 jiggawatts could send me far enough into the future to figure it all out. At least not yet.

Three images/scenes near the end of this episode really caught my attention . . .

Continue reading LOST: The Place Where 'Nothing Is Irreversible'...

February 2, 2010

Predictions for Season 6: Answers in the Bible

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Chris Seay, author of The Gospel According to Lost, says that Scripture can provide some of the answers to Season 6 of Lost, which begins tonight. He believes the story is playing out like the Exodus story in the Bible: "They've been in captivity on this island. They've been forced to face their demons, their struggles, but ultimately to be redeemed by the journey." Check out more of his thoughts in the vlog below, and keep coming back here over the coming days and weeks for our frequent blogging on the final season.

February 2, 2010

HBO Plans Biopic on Anita Bryant

The former beauty queen, a Christian, may be best known as an opponent of gay rights

Cable network HBO is developing a biopic about Anita Bryant, a former beauty queen, singer, and a devout Christian who is also well known for opposing gay rights.

"She is a fascinating person on every single level," said writer Chad Hodge. "The twists and turns of her life are incredible." Sex and the City creator Darren Star will direct.

Bryant, now 69, led a highly publicized campaign in Florida in 1977 to repeal a county ordinance that prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. As leader of a coalition called Save Our Children, Bryant feared the potential homosexual recruitment of children and child molestation, saying, "What these people really want, hidden behind obscure legal phrases, is the legal right to propose to our children that theirs is an acceptable alternate way of life. [...] I will lead such a crusade to stop it as this country has not seen before."

Bryant's outspoken opposition led one gay rights activist to throw a pie in her face at one press conference; at the time, Bryant quipped, "At least it was a fruit pie."

February 2, 2010

LOST character study: Sayid's Redemption?

Will the tortured torturer reach a point where he can let go of his troubled past?

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Chris Seay, author of The Gospel According to Lost, is video blogging for CT while in Hawaii for the big premiere event. In one of several brief character studies, Seay wonders if Sayid will be redeemed in this final season by finally letting go of his tortured past and embracing his future, or will his final words of Season 5 -- "Nothing can save me" -- be his epitaph? Chris's thoughts:

February 1, 2010

LOST's Ultimate Question

Will the sixth season move from “where are we” to “why are we?”

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If you haven’t yet had a chance to rewatch Lost’s season 5 finale, “The Incident,” I highly recommend you find time to do so between now and tomorrow night at 8/7c. Without the question of what’s going to happen to distract your viewing, you can spend more energy picking up the details you may have missed the first time around (or just plain forgot sometime in the last nine months). This episode is so much more than an exciting race to turn back time — it’s a meditation on the nature of good and evil (note: not necessarily good vs. evil), the consequences of choices, and, of course, the ultimate showdown in the fate vs. free will debate.

I think we’re about to get an answer to that last question — the premiere will pick up right where we left our castaways, and those first few minutes should make it clear whether Jack's plan succeeded. But a brand-new promo, the first to feature season six material, hints that there may actually be a bigger question at stake:

(Promo discussed after the jump)

Continue reading LOST's Ultimate Question...

February 1, 2010

LOST characters: 'I Really Want Jack to Be Right'

Will Jack Shephard transition from being a man of science to a man of faith in Season 6?

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Chris Seay, author of The Gospel According to Lost, is video blogging for CT while in Hawaii for the big premiere event. In one of several brief character studies, Seay wonders if Jack Shephard will be redeemed in this final season by his decision to embrace "destiny" by dropping a bomb (literal and metaphorical) on us at the end of the last. Chris's thoughts:

February 1, 2010

Who Decides If We're Lost or Found?

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Have you seen the 24-version of the Oceanic Flight 815 crash? This YouTube hit takes all the action happening around the time of the crash and puts it chronological order. It's fun. But it also helped stress something to me. The final words Juliet says before hearing the crashing plane? "Here I am thinking free will still actually exists..." (See this at the 6:40 mark).

I don't believe there are too many coincidences in Lost. And this statement clearly fits with Jack and Locke's long-running debate about destiny vs. choice. In fact, as we look back, we can see that theme growing stronger and stronger throughout the series--culminating with last season's "Whatever happened happened" missive, Jacob's repeated assertions that characters have a choice and the huge cliffhanger leaving us wondering, "Did Jack's plan work? Did he change everything on faith?"

So where does Lost go know with it's exploration of free will? Co-producer Carlton Cuse told Entertainment Weekly that “this notion of predeterminism is something we’re very actively exploring this season." I'm expecting a lot of redemption in this season. Who stays lost and who gets found? And in that mix will be the ever present underlying question: Were their paths laid out or do characters truly choose their paths?

What do you think? Where is Lost going with free will? Will it affirm it? Or will it turn out that Jacob and his nemesis have been using the characters as pawns all along? Does Jacob have to touch you for you to be saved? Or can you choose him?

Will any of this actually be answered or left for us to decide?

Todd Hertz, a CT movie critic, is also a regular contributor for ThinkChristian.net where he'll also be writing about Lost this season.

January 31, 2010

Bloggers Getting LOST at Hawaii Premiere

Author Chris Seay, vlogging for CT, gets to show off his work to other fans

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Chris Seay, author of The Gospel According to Lost, is vlogging for CT while in Hawaii for the big premiere event. Here's his latest:

January 29, 2010

CT at the LOST Premiere in Hawaii!

Chris Seay, author of The Gospel According to Lost, is videoblogging for us from the island

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Lost fans and media have landed in Hawaii for Saturday's final season premiere, live at Sunset on the Beach in Waikiki.

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Chris Seay, author of The Gospel According to Lost, is on the island, taking part in the festivities, and will hopefully be interviewing some of the cast members. Chris is doing regular videoblogs exclusive for CT through the weekend and throughout this sixth and final season of the popular show. Here's his first installment:

January 27, 2010

'Are you offended that Tim Tebow's alive?'

Bill O'Reilly and an activist talk smack over controversial Super Bowl ad; Palin weighs in

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Hoo boy. His college football career is over, he didn't win a national championship, and he's not even in the NFL yet, But University of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow is still making big headlines.

Now it's about a controversial pro-life ad funded by Focus on the Family. Though the script and commercial have been kept under wraps, CBS has approved it -- and pro-choice activists apparently don't like that decision. The ad apparently addresses Tebow's mother's decision to give birth to Tim when doctors had advised considering an abortion.

On The O'Reilly Factor last night, host Bill O'Reilly and guest Jehmu Greene of the Women's Media Center got into it:

O'REILLY: Are you offended that Tim Tebow's alive? . . . You can't be offended that Mrs. Tebow made the decision to give birth to Tim?

GREENE: I applaud the fact that she had Tim.

O'REILLY: Yeah, so let's celebrate it.

GREENE: And every American woman deserves that same choice.

O'REILLY: And they have it.

GREENE: And this ad, this organization is trying to undermine that, is trying to take that right away. And that is not appropriate.

Meanwhile, Sarah Palin weighs in, and CBS refuses to pull the ad.

Read more about the ad controversy at CT's Liveblog.

January 15, 2010

More Than Golden Thrones and Big Pink Hair

What one of our critics learned from watching a week of TBN

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Todd Hertz, a critic for CT Movies, is also a self-professed TV geek. But he'd pretty much avoided TBN -- the Trinity Broadcasting Network -- till a couple months ago, when, as an experiment, he watched a week of its prime-time programming just to get a better feel for what the network was all about.

"All I knew," Todd wrote recently at ThinkChristian, "was what I’d read, heard or glimpsed while channel surfing—headlines about mixing money and ministry, a reputation for being cheesy, a talk-show set with golden thrones, and some woman with big pink hair."

But Todd notes that when his week-long experiment ended, "Yes, I’d seen some cheesy stuff. I’d listened to pastors who certainly mixed money and ministry. But I’ll admit that I was pleasantly surprised by some programs" -- including Precious Memories with Bill Gaither. Kingdom Connection, and Ancient Secrets of the Bible.

Read more of Todd's observations about the network in his two-part series.

January 14, 2010

So, John Locke Really IS Jesus After All!

Lost fans agonizing, analyzing ABC's "The Lost Supper" for clues to final season

Since ABC's recent release of a couple of promo shots for the final season of Lost (beginning next month), fans have been crafting all sorts of theories about what various clues in the photos might (or might not) mean. The first obvious clue is that the pictures are clearly akin to Da Vinci's "The Last Supper" painting, with John Locke's character sitting in the place of Christ. Locke has always deemed himself something of a "savior" when it comes to the mysterious island.

The images are posted below (as well as Da Vinci's masterpiece), and here are various musings on what the pictures might be saying. Meanwhile, the show's producers give a few hints (but no spoilers) regarding the final season here.

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January 8, 2010

Baseball, Shopping: Great Christian TV!

Sky Angel adds MLB and Home Shopping Network to its lineup.

Sky Angel, the self-billed "faith and family television" network, has recently added the Major League Baseball channel and the Home Shopping Network to its lineup.

Interesting additions for a TV channel whose official vision is "to provide a global communications platform as an instrument of unity to equip the Body of Christ to fulfill the Great Commission."

Baseball, shopping, and the Great Commission? I'm just sayin'. What do you think?

December 29, 2009

The Gritty Life of a Real Parish

Scenes from a Parish, airing on PBS tonight, grounded in everyday reality

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Scenes from a Parish, which airs tonight on PBS (check local listings), is absorbing, conscience-stirring, and occasionally tinged with political correctness, but grounded in everyday reality. This superbly filmed Independent Lens documentary centers on St. Patrick Parish in Lawrence, Massachusetts, the poorest city in the state and the 23rd poorest in the nation.

Led by a Harvard-educated activist priest from an affluent family, the congregation—some members wholeheartedly, others grudgingly—reaches out to immigrants, to the hungry and the homeless, to “the least of these.” Over the course of several years, during which the parish raises money to build a center that provides free meals with no strings attached, the film’s director and producer, James Rutenbeck, tracks the lives of a handful of parishioners against the background of the larger story of the church’s calling.

We see people transformed by the love of Christ, and we see instances of failure, confusion, and disappointment. Many scenes in the sanctuary—including a beautifully simple foot-washing ceremony—remind us that there should be no disjunction between worship and service to the community.

Here's the trailer:

John Wilson is editor of Books & Culture, one of CT's sister publications

December 17, 2009

'How Sweet the Sound': Lost Gets (Even More) Religious

While 'Amazing Grace' plays in the background, new teaser includes many Christian allusions

With less than two months to go until the premiere of its sixth season, the TV show Lost has begun ramping up energy and excitement by releasing new promotional content around the world. In order to avoid spoiling the results of season five’s cliffhanger ending, promos for the final season have not revealed any new footage. Not that fans need any incentive to tune in — at this point, you’re either obsessed with the show or you could care less — but half the fun of following Lost is theorizing on every morsel of information, especially in these eight long months between seasons.

First we received an electrifying, original promo from Cuatro, the Spanish carrier of the program. That 45-second spot creatively repackaged old images into a narrative of epic proportions and puts the show’s overarching spiritual themes — of fate vs. free will, good vs. evil — into what seems like a very specifically Christian context:

It’s visually stunning and thematically clever: the chess board! The eyes! The Egyptian statue! A popular Lost blog identified the poem as an adaptation of a verse from the Rubaiyat by Omar Khayyam – see their excellent analysis of the verse and its translations.

Then yesterday ABC released its own extended promo, perhaps less visually creative but just as thematically, and religiously, significant:

Set to Willie Nelson’s cover of “Amazing Grace,” this new spot also seems to suggest a rich payoff on the spiritual themes the show has nurtured over the years. See how many Christian allusions you can spot. My favorite: the image of Jack’s eye opening (the very first shot of the pilot episode) set to the lyrics, “was blind, but now I see.”

Are you excited for the return of Lost? What is your favorite religious "moment" on the show? How do hope to see the religious themes addressed in the final season?

December 9, 2009

Is Glee "Anti-Christian"?

What one of America's most popular shows says about us

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Nothing says wholesome, family entertainment like a group of teenage misfits doing jazz squares. But since last May’s exuberant post-Idol premiere, FOX’s freshman series Glee has some of the nearly half million who downloaded that exuberant cover of “Don’t Stop Believin’” wondering if, as a recent Time article suggests, the show is actually anti-Christian.

It shouldn’t have come as a surprise, however, that a show conceived by Ryan Murphy, the man known for pushing boundaries on Popular and the controversial Nip/Tuck, would quickly generate controversies of its own. Call it “the ick factor”: the show’s two main story arcs center around Mr. Schuester, a teacher/choir director who’s stuck in a marriage so bad you find yourself rooting for him to leave his wife for the perky guidance counselor, and Finn, a quarterback-turned-baritone who accidentally got his cheerleader girlfriend pregnant. Did I mention that she’s a committed Christian (who interrupts their make-out sessions to pray) and the president of the celibacy club? And when her very religious parents find out about her pregnancy, they kick her out of the house. Ick, indeed.

If a show portrays Christians in a negative light, is it "anti-Christian"? This is the question Nancy Gibbs asks in her Time article, “The Gospel of Glee: Is it Anti-Christian?” While acknowledging the show’s reinforcement of negative stereotypes, she ultimately argues against the thesis: “It insults kids to suggest that simply watching Characters Behaving Badly onscreen means they'll take that as permission to do the same themselves. The fact that Glee is about a club full of misfits already makes it ripe gospel ground; Jesus was not likely to be sitting at the cool kids' table in the cafeteria.” She’s right; what we need to worry about is kids seeing characters behaving badly without repercussions. But this is not the case in Glee; its portrayal of struggling teenage parents offers an embodied, complex exploration of the consequences of sin.

She goes on to conclude, “The point lies in the surprises that jostle us out of our smug little certainties and invite us to weigh what we value, whatever our faith tradition.” It makes me uncomfortable to find myself rooting for even a fictional married man to leave his wife, but still I find myself struggling to reconcile my own beliefs with the action unfolding on screen. Is this cause for alarm with the show, for portraying a complicated situation without an easy resolution, or is it in myself, for being exposed in my baser instincts? I’m helping the show make its point—I am the “hypocritical Christian” it critiques. We can be quick to jump on obvious red flags, but it’s often the subtleties of a well-made work that draw out the true message. They don’t make for easy sound bites, but they’re often there if we’re willing to do the work.

Glee airs its fall finale tonight at 9/8c on FOX. Are you still watching? What do you think about the idea that the show is “anti-Christian"?

November 30, 2009

TV Preachers: Everything BUT the Gospel?

Woman asks them how to receive Christ, but has a hard time getting a straight answer

Our friend Phil Cooke recently tipped us off to this story:

Mary Hutchinson of Inspired Direct, a direct mail and fundraising company for non-profits, churches, and ministries, conducted an interesting experiment recently. She sent a simple letter, under an assumed name, to dozens of TV ministries that claim to be about "winning the lost." She enclosed a $20 bill with each letter and asked "how to accept Jesus in my heart."

The good news: She got responses from 95 percent of the ministries. The bad? Less than 25 percent gave her a simple, direct answer to her question about how to become a Christian.

Hutchinson writes: "If we are really about evangelism, how could this be? The most impressive of all responses was a simple letter from a smaller ministry that walked me down the road to salvation. It was personal, direct and spoke to me from the heart. A few others had small books dedicated to doing that as well; they just presented it in a more formal manner. Another 20 percent sent me packages that contained a book, or a handful of books and DVDs, but none gave a direct answer to the most important question of all. In fact, one up-and-coming TV preacher sent me such a large package of "stuff" that it cost him $8.10 to mail it to me!"

Read Hutchinson's observations here.

November 3, 2009

Looking for Laughs? Look No Further

'Thou Shalt Laugh 4' brings plenty of yuks into your living room

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Sometimes the best cure for stress and anxiety is a good laugh, and there are plenty of them on Thou Shalt Laugh 4, which released to DVD today. I've enjoyed previous installments of this series, and this one may be the funniest yet.

Though billed as "Christian comedy," don't roll your eyes. (I know what you're thinking!) Yes, it's clean, but it's also really funny -- proving that the terms "Christian" and "funny" don't have to be mutually exclusive. (Even an oxymoron could figure that one out.)

There are a lot of funny moments on the disc, but the funniest come from Michael Jr., whose schticks on "creepy Christians," the "oversaved" and the pressure of being Jesus's little brother are all worth the price of admission. I like what the comedian says on his own website: “If I’m in a club, my material has to be clean enough to work in a church. If I’m in a pulpit, it has to be funny enough to work in a club.” Amen to that.

Watch the trailer here:

October 29, 2009

Law & Order Takes On TV's "Most Persistent Taboo"

Surprisingly sensitive portrayals of pro-life views . . . on network TV?

You may be surprised at what many prominent women’s groups are protesting as “anti-choice propaganda.” It’s not a new book, or a graphic display; it’s a recent episode of NBC’s Friday night staple, Law & Order.

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The show, which often rips its story straight from the headlines, recently aired an episode clearly based on the murder of late-term abortion provider George Tiller. The episode, titled “Dignity,” offered sensitive portrayals of pro-life views that result in two characters who originally take the pro-choice side to reconsider their views.

For one character, a police detective, it is the revelation that his partner was born two months prematurely after his mother tried to end the pregnancy that forces him to think differently about the subject. For another, ADA Connie Rubarosa, it is the testimony of a nurse who witnessed and assisted in late-term abortions and ultimately left the practice. After hearing the nurse’s graphic description of a botched abortion that resulted in a post-delivery murder of the newborn child, she says, “I grew up thinking Roe v. Wade was gospel and that a woman’s privacy was inviolate. But after hearing that woman on the stand, talking about her baby dying in her arms, I don’t know. I don’t know where my privacy ends and another being’s dignity begins. On one side they’re talking about abortion never, and on the other side it’s abortion whenever, meanwhile the rest of us are just stuck in the middle trying to figure it out.”

After her partner asks her to “do her job” and “put the bad guys in jail,” Rubarosa's response is quite stunning, considering her point-of-view just hours before:

Continue reading Law & Order Takes On TV's "Most Persistent Taboo"...

October 12, 2009

'Love Boat' Captain Finds Reel Love

Gavin MacLeod (aka Captain Stubing) finds Jesus, stars in new film -- and other tidbits of interest

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Remember that cheesy '70s TV show, The Love Boat? And its lovable pilot, Captain Stubing? Of course you do.

These days, Stubing -- er, actor Gavin MacLeod -- is making family-friendly movies with Christian themes, including The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry, now showing in limited theaters. Set in 1970, it's a story about a young boy who befriends an old man.

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"The film is about forgiveness," MacLeod, a Christian, told Fox News. "Forgiveness is one of the greatest tools God has given us."

> The Great Reverse is a compelling documentary about nine students who take a months-long missions trip to West Africa, experiencing culture shock and God's grace along the road. It's worth watching for anyone considering a short-term missions trip. The soundtrack features artists as diverse as MercyMe, Seabird, Sara Groves, Jars of Clay, Sleeping At Last, Jon Foreman, Lori Chaffer and more.

> The Fabric of Time, a docudrama which examines physical evidence of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, is being re-mastered in 3-D by Grizzly Adams, gearing up for an April 2010 release. The European release is timed to coincide with the first public viewing in more than a decade of the Shroud of Turin, believed by millions of Christians to be the burial cloth of Jesus.

April 16, 2009

Newsbites: The Terminator edition!

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1. Terminator Salvation director McG says the ending of his film will be "challenging" and "elliptical" -- and it will leave the door wide open for a couple more sequels: "It’s not a happy little bow of an ending at all. The ending is tough and requires reflection, and in some degrees it bifurcates the audience. You walk back to the car and one person thinks it means this, and the other person thinks it means that." -- MTV Movies Blog

2. The ratings for The Sarah Connor Chronicles went up a bit a few weeks before the season finale, but did not pick up on the night of the finale itself. Some insiders say the show is as good as cancelled, now, but there will be no official indication of that until Fox announces its fall schedule May 18. -- Ace Showbiz, Hollywood Reporter, TV by the Numbers, Entertainment Weekly, io9

3. Thomas Dekker, who plays -- or played? -- John Connor on The Sarah Connor Chronicles, is in final negotiations to play a swim-team jock in the remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street. -- ShockTillYouDrop.com

4. A settlement has been reached in the lawsuit between Terminator Salvation producer Moritz Borman and his fellow producers Derek Anderson and Victor Kubicek. -- Variety

March 15, 2009

Kings -- the interview's up!

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My interview with Michael Green, executive producer of the new TV series Kings, is now up at BC Christian News.

The first episode airs Sunday night, and it's interesting on a number of levels, especially if you're a Bible-movie buff like me. (The show is basically a modernized version of the story of Saul and David.) I'm not reviewing the episode, per se, but here are four extra points that occurred to me while watching it, which I couldn't fit into the article linked above:

First: The way the film depicts David's battlefield heroism, and his reluctance to be feted and exploited by the powerful and influential people back home, is reminiscent of Flags of Our Fathers (2006) -- but when I mentioned this to Green, he said he had never seen that film, so he couldn't comment on that.

Continue reading Kings -- the interview's up!...

March 5, 2009

Arrested Developing?

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The happiest movie-related news I've heard all week comes via MTV, reporting that the long-rumored Arrested Development movie is really, truly, 100% DEFINITELY going to happen. For serious this time. Yes, I know, this project has been on-again, off-again pretty much since the day the show was canceled, but you know this report is true, because Ron Howard says it is. And he would never, ever lie.

And man, when this thing finally comes out, I'll be jumping for joy. In my mini-bio here at CT Movies, I say that the combined three seasons of Arrested Development are my favorite film of all time, and I'm only half kidding. I suppose picking a TV series as my favorite movie is cheating, but I've watched the series (yes, the whole series) more than I've watched almost any film ever made, save for a few long-time, sentimental favorites, and I care more about the characters in that series than any movie characters I can think of right now. The whole show is just a perfect blend of the heartfelt and the absurd, the satirical and the silly. It's great comedy that never sacrifices great storytelling.

Of course, if you've seen the trailer for the upcoming Land of the Lost feature, you know that TV shows turned into movies aren't always well-advised (see also the announcements of upcoming adaptations of The A-Team and Yogi Bear), but then again, some of them work out pretty well-- see the Serenity film. And since this particular franchise dropped some not-so-subtle hints of a feature film in its final episode, I'm trusting that the storytellers have been planning this for some time, and won't disappoint.

March 3, 2009

WGA Strike -- One Year Later

WGAw Executive Director sent this letter to the membership on the one-year anniversary of the end of the 2007-2008 writers' strike. In it, he quotes Battlestar Galactica showrunner Ron Moore as saying:

In my opinion, nothing is as important as the issues surrounding digital delivery of content. Nothing. In the not so distant future, literally every piece of work ever done by the Guild will be available digitally. The systems and methods of delivery will vary and change, but the central truth is that all our work is going to be converted to ones and zeroes and sent to the consumer. We have to have a very clear, very solid method of tracking and being compensated for any and all work that is delivered in this way, whether it was originally created for TV or film or directly for digital distribution. To me, it is a strike issue.

I absolutely believe this to be true. A year later I remain convinced that the WGA scored a moral victory, despite the fact that the strike effectively ended my career as a rank-and-file screenwriter.

Continue reading WGA Strike -- One Year Later...

March 2, 2009

The Lost Dawn Treader?

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Peter reported earlier this week that The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage Dawn of Treader film is currently undergoing much rewriting. Ironically, some TV viewers have noticed in recent weeks that this Narnia book may actually be getting a rewrite in a different way - on ABC's Lost.

C.S. Lewis' influence on Lost isn't anything new. After all, last year saw the addition of a character named Charlotte Staples Lewis (pictured). Her arrival on the island clearly rang of Prince Caspian. And when I wrote my recent Christianity Today review of the show, I was tempted to include my observations about the show's parallels to The Great Divorce (a group of characters visit heaven - symbolically in Lost, literally in Divorce - but cannot be happy there because of their stubborn and selfish attachment to selfish sins and thus rush back to hell.)

Only recently has the show begun to overtly connect its island to the magical, mythical land of Narnia. While some examples of this would be spoilers to those not fully caught up, suffice it to say that the episode two weeks ago introduced an important place called "The Lamp Post" - which stands figuratively at the Island's entrance, much like the one that welcomed Lucy to Narnia in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.

Entertainment Weekly's resident Lost writer, Jeff Jensen, recently devoted a whole column to Narnia-Lost connections. While much of the article will read like ancient hieroglyphics to the uninitiated (and spoiler-heavy to fans not absolutely caught up), he had some thought-provoking observations - especially regarding Dawn Treader.

Here's a spoiler-free rundown of Jensen's Dawn Treader comparison:

Continue reading The Lost Dawn Treader?...

February 26, 2009

Kings makers discuss their series

Kings, the TV series that quasi-modernizes the biblical story of Saul and David, premieres March 15. ComingSoon.net attended a screening of the pilot episode a few weeks ago and has a handy summary of some of the key characters and narrative details.

The screening was followed by the Q&A below, in which, among other things, series creator Michael Green and a few of the actors discuss the show's real-life political inspiration, the reality of God and the role of religion within the storyline, the sexuality of the Jonathan figure, and whether the network ever censored story elements that happened to come straight from the Bible:

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