Sunday, January 08, 2006

It seems that everyone is talking about the new show on NBC, The Book of Daniel, and not always in a good way. Apparently, there are some Christian groups who are urging boycotts of the show and trying to get it cancelled, because the show doesn't portray the desired "perfect" image of a minister and his family. I taped the show, somewhat because of the subject matter, but (frankly) more because I've been a fan of Aidan Quinn for years now, even before Legends of the Fall. I watched the show yesterday and liked it. I watched it again today with the aim of making a few notes to share here. Not so much a review, exactly, more just some observations about the show.

As I said, overall I liked the show and will probably watch some more episodes to see how they develop some of the themes presented. That being said, here are a few observations that struck me as I watched the second time:

~The first scene opens with Daniel (Aidan Quinn's character) going to bail his daughter out of jail for possession of marijuana. Apparently she was selling it because she needed money for what seemed like a legitimate purpose to me, and that was the only plan she could think of to raise the money. First of all, Grace seems like a pretty smart girl--this was the best idea she could come up with? The money was for buying software to do animation, and she was afraid to tell her dad what she needed it for. This brings up the second observation: what's so embarrassing about wanting to be an animator that she couldn't tell her family about it?

~One great bit of dialogue was when Daniel and his bishop were talking after a service. Daniel replied to one comment with: "I wasn't aware that we were in business." The bishop replies, "Then you should take a closer look at the church's expense account." I like the fact that Daniel didn't see what he was doing as "business", but as an Episcopal priest, perhaps he was being a bit naive.

~I like the way Jesus is portrayed--he doesn't take himself nearly as seriously as those who claim to represent him do. He's gentle, saying the right things but not forcing himself on anyone. In one scene where Daniel's getting a bit stressed, Jesus looks out the window and says, "Wow, look at those clouds," which I took as a gentle reminder that there are more important things to focus on than our petty problems.

~There is one very funny scene in which Daniel and Jesus sit and make fun of Christian self-help books and start making up names for them, such as Jesus' Guide to a Comfortable Life; Men Are From Mars, Jesus Is From Heaven; My Tuesdays With Jesus; and (my favorite) I'm OK, You're Divine.

Some of the things that "bothered" me about the show were not the things I've seen in the anti-"Daniel" comments on various websites. I mean, yeah, there's homosexuality, alcoholism (really, do all well-off women sit around drinking martinis all day?), hypocrisy, drug use, and teen-age sex all portrayed, and while I think it might be a bit over the top to portray of all those things being present in one family unit, I think of some of the families I know (mine included) and think, oh yeah... Anyway, there were some things that I didn't especially care for in the show, such as:

~The one Catholic priest in the show was practically a Goodfella, with his contacts within the mafia. I can't imagine that the Catholic Church or the Italian community will be pleased with this...

~In the midst of dialogue between Daniel and his wife, the assumption is made that homosexuality is a genetic thing, like blond hair or blue eyes. Did I miss an important piece of research? I've not heard any proof of that thesis. I think that may be where the agenda of the head writer, who purportedly is gay, may have come in. (Of course, if I have missed an important piece of research, someone please let me know...)

~Probably the biggest "problem" that I personally had with the show was in the scenes where Daniel is giving pre-marital counseling to a young couple. After asking perfunctory questions about possible money problems and whether the couple were on the same page in regards to having children, he asks, "So how are things in the bedroom?", as if it's assumed that a church-going couple would of course be sleeping together before marriage. Then later on, when the husband-to-be says something (after a late-night meeting with Daniel) that he should get back home before his fiancee started to worry about his whereabouts, Daniel asks, "So you two are living together in sin?", then when the man gets uncomfortable, Daniel says, "Just kidding." Excuse me?

So, yeah, there are problems in the story, but I'm willing to give the show the benefit of the doubt for a few more episodes. If it turns out to be, as one blogger put it, Desperate Housewives in the rectory, then I'll have to rethink things. But above all, this show seems to be about a man, one who is trying to follow God in the best way he knows how, who has all the same problems as any other family, except that because of his "position", his problems are played out in front of the whole congregation. He doesn't have all the answers, but he's not afraid to admit that. That's got to be a good thing, image-wise, for the clergy, doncha think?

posted by #Debi at 2:10 PM | permalink | 0 comments


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Hi, I'm Debi. Once in a while I have a thought and I like to write it down before it goes away. This is where I write it.

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