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The Book of Daniel was a short-lived television series broadcast on NBC. The network promoted it as a serious drama about Christians and the Christian faith, but it was controversial with some Christians regarding certain aspects of the show. The show had been proposed for NBC's 2005 fall line-up, but was rescheduled as a 2006 midseason replacement. The program premiered on January 6, 2006 in the US and was scheduled to air in thirteen episodes on Friday nights. NBC called the show "edgy", "challenging", and "courageous" in its promotional material. On January 24, 2006, a spokeswoman for NBC announced the show had been dropped.

Synopsis

Set in the fictional town of Newbury in Westchester County, New Yorkmarker, the main character is the Reverend Daniel Webster (Aidan Quinn), an unconventional Episcopal priest who is addicted to narcotic painkillers while his wife Judith (Susanna Thompson) fights her dependence on mid-day martinis.

Struggling to be a good husband, father, and minister, Webster regularly sees and talks with a classic-looking, white-skinned, white-robed and bearded Jesus (Garret Dillahunt), who nonetheless is rather unconventional. Daniel's Jesus appears only to him and openly questions modern interpretations of church teachings, reminding Daniel of his own strengths and weaknesses.

The Webster family is rounded out by a 23-year-old gay Republican son Peter (Christian Campbell), a 16-year-old daughter Grace (Alison Pill), who is arrested for drug possession in the pilot, and Adam (Ivan Shaw), a 16-year-old adopted Chinese son who dates the daughter of one of Daniel's parishioners, the latter who harbor anti-Asian prejudices. Peter's twin brother, Jimmy, had died of leukemia two years prior to the beginning of the series; Christian Campbell also played the role of Jimmy in flashback scenes in one of the episodes never aired on television, but included in the DVD release.

When Daniel's brother-in-law, Charlie (last name unknown), absconds with church funds and abandons his family, his sister-in-law enters a lesbian relationship with Charlie's bisexual secretary. Bishop Beatrice Congreve (Ellen Burstyn) is involved with Daniel's married father (James Rebhorn) a retired bishop who, despite his gruff exterior, is troubled by dealing with his wife's Alzheimer's disease.

Controversy

The show's reception within the conservative Christian community was mostly negative. Some conservative Christians as reflected in various blogs and websites opposed the program. The conservative American Family Association accused NBC of being anti-Christian. The organization has also objected to the fact that the show's creator, Jack Kenny, is openly gay [219139] , as are three characters on the program. Some have also questioned whether the show was purposely designed to offend.

However, the Rev. Susan Russell, president of IntegrityUSA and an Episcopal priest at All Saints Church in Pasadena, Californiamarker (where some of the show was filmed) had seen rough cuts of the program and praised the show by saying, "How cool is it that a progressive Episcopal priest has a shot at being a prime-time drama protagonist. How surprising might it be to many who tune in to find out there actually is a church where women can be bishops – clergy can be human – and there’s enough good news around to extend to everybody?”

The show had received some support from liberals among Episcopal clergy who claimed it demonstrated the humanity of church leaders and tolerance of the Episcopal Church. [219140] The Episcopal Diocese of Washington has launched "The Blog of Daniel" to encourage dialog among its parishioners about issues raised on the show.

In contrast, a spokesman for the evangelical organization Focus on the Familymarker compared the show's depiction of Jesus to a "namby-pamby frat boy", saying that "Having previewed the pilot and an additional episode, I find NBC’s new television show, The Book of Daniel, extremely repulsive in its portrayal of Jesus Christ and intentionally offensive in its flippant attitude toward behaviors almost universally agreed upon as unhealthy to society."[219141]

Criticism has also come from some who feel the show presented a hypocritical and dysfunctional church. Based on pre-premiere commercials, some critics have objected to what they see as Jesus's portrayal as a somewhat disinterested hippie character.

Some Catholics and others have taken exception to the depiction of Daniel's Catholic counterpart, Father Frankie (Dan Hedaya). Fr. Frankie is an Italian priest who has connections to the mob. They see this as unhealthy stereotyping of both Italians and Catholics.

NBC insisted that their program treated Christians and Christianity with respect, promising a fresh modern look of the religion with a "hip, modern Jesus". "This challenging new series is our first announced drama for midseason as we continue to seek different out-of-the-box projects", NBC Entertainment President Kevin Reilly asserted in a media interview.[219142]

The New York Times reported NBC had difficulty selling advertising during the program, even after offering significant rate discounts, because of the controversial content.

Stations refuse to air

Eight of NBC's 232 affiliates refused to carry the program due to consumer complaints: WTWOmarker in Terre Haute, Indianamarker (owned by Nexstar Broadcasting Group); KARKmarker in Little Rock, Arkansasmarker (also owned by Nexstar); KFTA-TVmarker/KNWA-TVmarker in Fayettevillemarker-Fort Smith, Arkansasmarker (also owned by Nexstar); KBTVmarker in Beaumont, Texasmarker; WGBCmarker in Meridian, Mississippimarker; WTVAmarker in Tupelo, Mississippimarker; WSMVmarker in Nashville, Tennesseemarker (owned by the Meredith Corporation); and KAMRmarker in Amarillo, Texasmarker. Most of the affiliates refusing to air the program are located in the Bible Belt, a region known for evangelical Christian activity.

After KARK refused to air the series, the local WB station KWBFmarker picked up the series. The company stated that it was excited to offer an outlet for viewers in the central Arkansas area who wanted to watch this show. However, the station soon received a number of threats which required it to hire extra security.

Several stations in Michiganmarker, including WDIVmarker in Detroitmarker (owned by Post-Newsweek), WOOD-TVmarker in Grand Rapidsmarker, WILXmarker in Lansingmarker, WPBN and WTOMmarker in Traverse Citymarker and Sault Ste.marker Mariemarker, and WLUCmarker in Marquettemarker, did not air The Book of Daniel's second episode, although this was due to a live broadcast of the 2006 North American International Auto Show Charity Preview and not necessarily the controversy.

NBC's Salt Lake City affiliate, KSL-TVmarker, did carry The Book of Daniel, despite the station's past history of preempting shows that would offend the religious.

Network cancels program mid-season

On January 24, 2006, NBC announced the show had been dropped from the schedule. The last airing of the show was on January 20, 2006. The January 20 episode was the fourth in the series, drawing 5.8 million viewers. NBC gave no official explanation for the cancellation.

Airings on the Web

The show held the distinction of being one of the first shows to be streamed on the web after its cancellation. On January 27, 2006 at 8:10pm/ET, NBC.com streamed the first of the unaired episodes.

Episodes continued to be streamed, one a week, for the next three weeks. New episodes were initially made available at around 8pm on Friday night and were viewable until the next episode replaced it on the following Friday. The final episode was streamed on February 10, 2006.

With that streaming, NBC had aired (either on TV or the Web) every episode of the show's initial order (and consequently, every episode that had been produced up to that point).

Revelations - Lost episode or series finale

The last episode to air on television was titled “Assignation” and was marked as production number 103 while the first episode to air online was entitled “Withdrawal” and was marked as production number 105. This disparity became obvious in the “Previously on…” sequence of “Withdrawal” which contained scenes that had never aired either on television or online.

That led many to believe that NBC had aired the show out of order and that the episode with production number 104, entitled “Revelations”, had been skipped.

This theory seemed to be confirmed by the Book of Daniel Web Site which featured a section titled “Catch up with the unaired episode, “Revelations””. When viewers followed the link, it led to a photo recap of an episode entitled “Episode 3” that contained a sub plot (notably featuring actress Marin Hinkle) where Daniel meets a young girl who speaks to Jesus at a time when he had chosen not to. These scenes were consistent with the recap that aired in “Withdrawal (Production #105).

“Revelations” did eventually air as the very last episode of the series but, contrary to earlier speculation, events that took place in the episode verify it aired in the proper order. The scenes recapped in “Withdrawal” and featured on the web were not present while scenes that could not have predated earlier episodes were.

This has led to speculation that this episode was repositioned as the final episode and that it consisted of newer scenes that were combined with previous material (perhaps replacing those scenes that were recapped earlier on).

DVD Release

Cover Art
As of September 26, 2006, a complete-series collection of "The Book of Daniel" is available for purchase at Amazon.com. The set includes two discs featuring all seven episodes, in the traditional hard plastic case.

References

External links




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