Millions tuned in for The History Channel’s landmark mini-series The Bible. Produced by Touched By an Angel’s Roma Downey and her husband, television giant Mark Burnett, the show’s steady viewership proves yet again the draw that religious content has for American viewers. Yet while “The Bible” was a big success, it may actually be “#TheBible” on Twitter that signals a new era of religious acceptance in mainstream media content.
Beyond being a trending topic on opening night, #TheBible has enjoyed great currency across Twitter. Hollywood figures of various ilk turned out on Twitter to support the 5-week miniseries dramatizing key Bible stories from the Old and New Testaments. The ratings prove that viewers will tune in to watch these programs, but the celebrity support may be the most critical piece to the momentum-puzzle needed to solidify a perspective in Hollywood that it is in fact OKAY to talk about religion on television… even to affirm it!
Many of these celebrity tweets highlight the friendships the husband-and-wife producing team Downey-Burnett have courted across the industry. Maroon5’s Adam Levine (@adamlevine) tweeted, “This Sunday, tune in to @History at 8/7c for the premiere of @bibleseries – produced by my friends @MarkBurnettTV & @RealRomaDowney!” Glee’s comedic curmudgeon and LGBT advocate Jane Lynch (@janemarielynch) likewise tweeted “Don’t miss America’s #1 Show – #TheBible Sunday on @History 8/7c prod. by my friends @MarkBurnettTV and @RealRomaDowney.”
With Burnett’s otherwise highly successful career and Downey’s cachet through Touched By an Angel, these positive relationships certainly have gone a long way in allaying fears that the religious perspective would be handled offensively. Praise for the show by others in the industry then confirms that many in the community are happy to have their entertainment business incorporate engaging religious content.
Many celebrity tweets praised the show, TV host Arsenio Hall (@ArsenioHall) retweeting Holly Robinson Peete’s (@hollyrpeete) tweet with his own affirming “Church!” interjection. Entertainment Tonight’s Nancy O’Dell (@NancyODell) congratulated the series on its success to her near-million followers. And singer Christina Milian (@CMilianOfficial) was “Psyched” about the show.
And the support did not stop there, reaching countless millions of followers. Throughout the series’ run, tweets continued from across the celebri-sphere, including support from Superman Dean Cain (@RealDeanCain), Taxi star Marilu Henner (@TheRealMarilu), reality star Kate Gosselin (@Kateplusmy8), rapper/actor/host LL Cool J (@llcoolj), Twilight’s Kellan Lutz (@kellanlutz), Shark Tank’s Lori Greiner(@LoriGreiner), actor Antonio Sabo Jr. (@antoniosabatojr), health-guru Dr. Oz (@DrOz)… and MORE…
Even Duchess Sarah Ferguson (@SarahTheDuchess) reminded her 59,000+ followers about the airing of the 2nd episode, and Joan Rivers (@Joan_Rivers) tweeted to her 1.6 Million followers that she was looking forward to the Easter episode.
Followers of many celebrities may have been surprised to see some of their idols spread the news of #TheBible in 140 characters or less — perhaps more surprising than hearing Noah have a Scottish accent. This celebrity twitter support for The Bible may be the necessary lynchpin to cement what Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ could not accomplish, adding the industry voice to the viewers’.
The monstrous success of the embattled The Passion of The Christ in 2004 demonstrated the power of the religiously-interested viewing audience to validate the financial investment of a Hollywood production. The impact was limited in the short-term, though, with a 2005 study showing a persistently small amount of religious identity still across television airwaves.
The Bible, however, may be ushering in a more effective second-wave of spiritual acceptability in mainstream titles. 13.1 million viewers tuned in to the premiere and 11.7 to the finale. With these numbers, and the support of Hollywood characters across the twitterverse, perhaps new shows like The Game Show Network’s American Bible Challenge (@GSN_Bible) and characters like Grey’s Anatomy’s newly religiously burdened April Kepner will continue to see the light of day. Perhaps history will show that sharing #TheBible was truly a part of a great awakening in studio sensibilities.
But what do you think? Did the show live up to your expectations? Were you frustrated that The History Channel would portray religious content? Did it seem that much different than many of their other speculative history dramatics? Were you convinced by the Obama-Satan scandal or was it mere distraction? And did you see any of your favorite celebrities tweeting about #TheBible?
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