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April 11, 2005

Filed under: culture»religion

Chapter and Verse

Gripped as we are (See "Great Moments in Catholicism") in the middle of POPE-MANIA 2005 in the media, I might be a little hyper-conscious of religion infringing on my life. On the other hand, a paranoid is simply in possession of all the facts. Either way, this "Revelations" show is really starting to annoy me--I get that little twitch whenever I see religious-themed advertisements in godless heathen venues like Salon.com, and "Revelations" is particularly egregious.

Google it, and the ever-helpful TV Tome states:

From executive producer Gavin Polone (Panic Room) and writer/creator David Seltzer (The Omen), comes this six-hour event series starring Bill Pullman (Independence Day) as Harvard professor Dr. Richard Massey, an astrophysicist whose certainty that all worldly events can be explained by Science, is challenged by a nun, Sister Josepha Montafiore (Natascha McElhone, "Solaris"), who leads him on a journey through the unfamiliar world of faith.

Drawn together by personal tragedy, these unlikely partners -- one who worships God and one who worships Science -- are propelled into a deepening mystery, finding evidence that the world, as predicted by The Book of Revelation, has reached The End of Days.

Awesome! It's like a buddy-cop movie, but with Jesus! And if there's anything I really needed more of in a Judeo-Christian media market during POPE-MANIA 2K5, it's more Jesus. The mind boggles. In fact, it reaches the outer boundaries of possible boggledom after this paragraph:

Notable guest stars include John Rhys-Davies ("The Lord of The Rings"), Tobin Bell ("Saw"), Fred Durst (lead singer of the rock band "Limp Bizkit") and Mark Rendall ("The Interrogation of Michael Crowe").

So the "notable" guests are the dwarf from Lord of the Rings (whose actual career is an object lesson in b-moviedom), Fred Durst (!), and the voice of PBS's Arthur? They must be so proud.

Of course, we could snark about miniseries casting all day--and maybe one day I will--but it's all just icing on the cake. What really bothers me about this is the insinuation that the "skeptic" is the one who's out of touch with the "truth" of a biblical apocalypse loosely adapted for television. That's the kind of sloppy, wishful dramatic thinking that makes fundamentalists so infuriating. It feeds their persecution complex and their conviction that a patchy book written by a 2000 year-deceased hitchhiker is somehow more truthful than hard science, great literature, and non-Fox journalism. Note the phrasing in that first quote: "...one who worships science." Nobody "worships" science--but the fundamentalists need to think they do, so that their own kooky fantasies can have equal time with cold facts. In an era when almost half of America thinks that evolution is a mistaken belief held only by elitists, our society doesn't need "Revelations" to muddy the waters.

So I would like to offer the following alternative to the networks, completely free of charge: a show about a freelance skeptic who dramatically debunks supernatural frauds and fallacies in and around American culture. Imagine the X-Files without the blatant bias against Scully's point of view. We can even throw in a crisis of faith, some doubt, and romantic tension if that'll help. Here, try this pitch on for size:

Paranormal detective Mark Falwell wants to believe in psychics, saints, and the supernatural--but he just can't find a world that will bear him out. Having left his life as a monk when the contradictions of faith grew to be too much, this world-weary bachelor searches for new hope that this case will be the one that rational science can't explain, only to be disappointed when his powers of deduction and reasoning prove the mundane over the miraculous. Opposing him is the smoldering Jane Myers, a mysterious Christian conspiracy theorist who is drawn to Falwell despite the call of her beliefs.

Drawn together by personal tragedy, these unlikely partners -- one who practices Reason and one who worships God -- are propelled into the deepening mystery of credulity and superstition in America.

I couldn't write it--I'd be too vicious. But get a good, rational writer on this, one who's got some sympathy for the devil (as it were) and can handle both sides fairly but critically, and you could be looking at some great television.

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