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Adult Couple Watching Television TogetherAlthough Hollywood has dabbled in biblical epics in the past, they haven't been terribly common in recent years. Even fewer television programs have dealt with faith and religious values. When you think "religious television show", you might think of Touched by an Angel and Highway to Heaven. Both classics, but not exactly contemporary. 

Since Touched by an Angel's ending in 2003, Cable and television networks alike have not been particularly keen on overtly religious programming- or even programs that deal with religious themes humorously. While there has been the occasional outlier, fictional religious programming seemed on its way out. Until now.  

Two new shows, Miracle Workers and God Friended Me, have brought religious themes to the forefront in big, and very different, ways.

Welcome to Primetime

Miracle Workers is a limited TBS series about an angel who answers prayers for a living, played by Daniel Radcliffe. Also starring is Steve Buscemi as a lazy, slacker version of God who decides to blow up Earth to focus on a restaurant. God Friended Me is an hour-long dramedy about a man who receives a Facebook friend request from God, who recruits the man (played by Brandon Michael Hall) to help strangers in the New York area. Both have received generally positive reviews, and both seem likely to receive a second season. Is it possible they might usher in a new wave of religious-themed programming? 

It's important to note that, despite both shows utilizing Christianity heavily, they couldn't be more different. The two shows take wildly different views on their religious subject matter. Miracle Workers is more The Office than Touched by an Angel, complete with incompetent boss (God, in this case) and a cynical, workaday point of view. God Friended Me's religiosity is more sincere and has a tone more in line with life-affirming Christian films.

These two shows aren't the only television programs testing the waters of religious programming on television. Popular Disney Channel show Andi Mack recently set an entire episode at a supporting character's bar mitzvah. Season 2  of HBO's Crashing featured the recently divorced main character, portrayed by comedian Pete Holmes (playing a version of himself), struggling with his belief in God. Young Sheldon on CBS regularly has the titular Sheldon question his mother's religious beliefs. Even a recent Survivor season was biblically themed- pitting a tribe of underdogs against a tribe of overachievers in a season fittingly subtitled "David vs. Goliath".

Religion Resurrected?

It seems that after years of absence, consumers are interested in exploring their faith through the stories they consume on television. And writers seem equally interested in examining faith on the silver screen. As the wildly different Miracle Workers and God Friended Me show, there are opportunities for unique storytelling from any angle you can imagine. 

Faith is a big part of millions of Americans' lives, and whether you want to celebrate, lampoon, satirize, or simply explore that, the opportunity is there. It just has to be taken.


Category: Faith

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