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Hoosier Musings on the Road to Emmaus

Saturday, January 07, 2006

The Book of Daniel

Okay, I watched it. All but the first 5 minutes or so, which didn't get taped. My initital impression? In short, either too much or not enough.

  • Too much money. There may well be priests somewhere who live in pristine, tidy family legacy mansions and have household help to serve Sunday supper; but I've never met them. The clergy homes I know tend to be of the "three-bedroom, bath-and-a-half, slightly-shabby, in-need-of-a-good-decluttering" sort. And Sunday supper is far more likely to be a) eating out, b) ordering in, or c) scrounging for leftovers, because no one has the energy to think of cooking. Likewise, it is the rare church indeed that has that kind of money.
  • Too much free time. How in the world does that bishop have the availability to be hanging out at Daniel's church all the time like that? My goodness, the bishops I know have calendars scheduled out months in advance, and drive all over the diocese in the process of doing their jobs. Finding a moment to sneak into offices and root around looking for prescription drugs to abuse is not high on the priority list.
  • Too much dysfunction. I will freely admit that any of the issues the writers dropped into she script may likely show up in the life of a given cleric, as might any human experience. Yes, priests are people too. But really-- all of that (drug abuse, juvenile delinquency, conflicts over homosexuality, racism, promiscuity, debilitating illness, organized crime)? Crammed into one episode? Please! One gets the impression that the writers assume Daniel has to be really messed up because how could anyone have a commitment to religious life and still have any sense of normality? It was exhausting to watch.
  • Too much information. For the record: most clergy are well aware that sharing details of one's personal life in the context of premarital counseling is simply not a good idea (although the concept of scheduling intimate time with one's spouse when life is hectic is actually very sensible, and one I would recommend, in a general way).
On the other hand...

  • Not enough information. The writers need to work on accuracy. Liturgically, the bishop is chief celebrant when (s)he is present, not the priest, and would therefore be wearing a chasuble at the Eucharist. And both priest and bishop would be clad in the same liturgical color. And although "confession of faith" is an accurate description, it is really the Nicene Creed, and is called such during worship.
  • Not enough awareness. There was a scene where the issue of racism is dropped in like a lead weight: a neighbor made a derogatory comment about Daniel's son (of Asian ancestry, and evidently adopted). And yet nothing was made of the stereotype of the otherwise all-Caucasian family being served Sunday supper by the African-american housekeeper. Was anyone else bothered by that? And the stereotype of the local RC priest being in the pocket of the mafia. . . come on, people!
So, was there anything I liked? Well, yes. The story thread about the family dealing with the grandmother's Alzheimers' was effective, and in my experience accurate. It showed at least a modicum of awareness of the difficulty and the pain of coping with a disease that leaves a loved one sometimes aware, and sometimes not.

Overall, however, I was not impressed. I may watch it once or twice more, in case something improves. But I'm not inclined to waste a lot of time on this one.


Blogger BBOvenGuy said...

The location shots for The Book of Daniel - or for the pilot episode, anyway - were done at All Saints Pasadena. So now at least you know where Gary Hall used to preach (and still does when he's here on vacation).

January 07, 2006 11:37 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Personally I think the show raises an accurate mirror to what the American population think the Episcopalian church represents.

The folks here in Arkansas consider it "reality TV".

Thank God I'm a Catholic. I guess that means I'm just connected with the mafia, as opposed to being a drug abusing, spiritually bancrupt and pathetic (but wealthy) enabler of juvenile delinquency and promiscuity (whether straight or gay). Did anybody else catch that "so how's your sex life" comment during "premarital counseling?"

Folks like Susan Russell are hoping that it will be a wonderful advertisement for the Episcopal church.

We shall see.

January 07, 2006 12:43 PM  

Blogger Jules said...

I left some comments about the show over at PPB's place. But as a Presbyterian, even *I* found the inaccuracies in the show. As I said over on the ice floe, I think they don't expect this show to run a whole 13 episodes, so they are front-loading all the angsty plot lines in the pilot.

And a bishop without an M. Div? Hmm...peculiar!

The African American women serving Sunday dinner (and then aparently eating in the kitchen)sent my squickmeter off the charts!

January 07, 2006 2:02 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here is a link to a TV Guide article. http://www.tvguide.com/News/Insider/default.htm?cmsRedir=true&rmDate=01052006&cmsGuid={E3B9E43B-B6AF-4A8D-99B4-D4A1AEB72BBD}&cmsSrch=true

Shari has a point according to the article. But to Shari's counter argument about the Mafia I give you The Godfather I - X ;-)

It is clearly unrealistic in many ways...from all I read. But at the same time I think we all should be more concerned with the inability of TV/Film to give a proper depiction of church life in the US. The medium is too two-dimensional to do any one tradition justice. It matters not at all what that tradition is.

When asked why there was no chaplain on ER, the writers wisely claimed that they simply did not know how to write such a character.

January 09, 2006 11:28 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

NCIS (Tuesdays on CBS) is much more fun. No Christians, particularly, but there is a real live and ACCURATE Goth on there who's just the cutest thing since sliced tomatoes!!!!

I loved Firefly. Now I rush home on Tuesday nights to see Abby do her forensical thang.

January 12, 2006 1:27 PM  

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