As the Fall TV season starts unveiling its pilot episodes, ushering in new hits and misses, here are 3 newbies and 3 returners that may offer some interesting religious stories this year…
NEW SHOWS: Will we be pleased?
Red Band Society (FOX)
Wednesdays at 9:00pm EST
Pilot Premieres: September 17
Why: This may be the season’s best chance for a new show that treats religion honestly, with all of the hope, confusion, disappointment, and strength that it brings. In fact, this might simply be the best new show of the year. From executive producer Steven Spielberg, this show follows teen patients in a Los Angeles hospital, each diagnosed with a terminal illness. Medical dramas offer easy access to diverse storylines, but the heart of the show will be the struggles these teens, their families, and their doctors must endure as they face the realities of death. There is no shortage of room for rich, moving stories of spiritual searching in that.
Tuesdays at 8:00pm EST
Pilot Premieres: Sunday September 7 (livestream online NOW)
Why: Reality TV is a mixed bag. Most of it is pretty rotten, but the major networks tend to do an okay job at it. Studies have shown that reality TV often contains more religious references than scripted shows, so this interesting new series from FOX certainly offers potential. The show follows 15 diverse individuals in a remote, deserted location who must form their own society from scratch while living together… for an entire year. With a “Utopian” who was raised Muslim, another Christian, even a pastor reportedly offering to baptize those interested, there are obviously the seeds for some interesting religious content – especially given the inevitable political drama that will ensue. Unfortunately, early reports also say that this show has become a bit, well… a bit naked. So perhaps the cast members have seen too many episodes of Big Brother and The Real World for this one to pan out.
Tuesdays at 10:00pm EST
Pilot Premieres: September 23 (available online NOW)
Why: ABC is apparently eager to cash in on the super-clever-Brit archetype. After all, Doctor Who and Elementary have been able to do it well in recent mainstream fashion. In the pilot, we learn that Henry Morgan (Ioan Gruffudd) is “cursed” (or perhaps “blessed”) with the inability to die. That is, he dies but then he reappears shortly thereafter, naked, in a body of water. Hopes are not high for the show to pack the intrigue it needs without being something of a knock-off, but the regeneration premise is likely to raise interesting spiritual questions throughout the season. …If it makes it through a whole season.
RETURNERS: Will we be pleased?
The Good Wife (CBS)
Sundays at 9:00pm EST
Season Premiere: September 21
Why: This soapy legal drama has so much good stuff going for it, even with the blindside of last season, that it can be difficult to get as much as you want from any one storyline. With an atheist mother and a politically-religious father, daughter Grace’s personal conversion is one of the most interesting religious storylines on network television in quite some time. “Grace’s faith journey is a story we love,” one of the show’s head honchos gushed, admitting that “sometimes it’s just a matter of how many stories we have to tell and how much space we have.” It’s almost guaranteed that they will make some time in this season for the faith journeys to continue. Beyond that, they have already planned an entire story based on biblical arbitration. This trailblazer continues to show others how it’s done.
Doctor Who (BBC America)
Saturdays at 9:00pm EST
Season Premiere: August 23
Why: This Time Lord sci-fi romp has always had the potential to be one of the most sacrilegious shows on television (just put the Doctor in Jerusalem circa 33 A.D. and see how many companions the BBC loses). But the show’s writers have kept its fiction friendly enough to avoid calamity. In a 2006 episode (“The Satan Pit”), the Doctor faced off against a cosmic devil, and in this season, characters that appear to have died are winding up in a new place, greeted by a cryptic woman welcoming them “to Heaven.” Perhaps this “Heaven” may prove to make too light of this important component of many religions, perhaps it might be just a jaunty new bit for the show, or perhaps it may prove to be an intriguing exploration of the concept of an afterlife.
Grey’s Anatomy (ABC)
Thursdays at 8:00pm EST
Season Premiere: September 25
Why: Grey’s has offered some interesting one-off religious subplots over the years – some better than others. In recent seasons the religious faith of Dr. April Kepner has evolved, thanks in part to the real life spirituality of the character’s actor, Sarah Drew, who recently brought her Christian faith to the big screen in Mom’s Night Out. In Grey’s last season, Kepner chose the more-exciting-but-atheist Dr. Avery over her fellow Christian fiancé Matthew, and it’s possible that the show writers are looking to move beyond her religious storyline now that it’s gotten so much airtime. Hopefully, though, her faith is given more time to breathe and mature. What started as a weak attempt to explain her guilt over a bathroom fling has become an interesting onscreen challenge of a mixed-faith marriage. In real life, that is a huge challenge for couples. With Sandra Oh’s Dr. Yang departed from the series, hopefully Kepner’s story will have room to be an increasingly nuanced point of interest in this upcoming season.
What do you expect from these shows? Which others are you planning to watch? Sound of in the COMMENTS below and be sure to Subscribe above and FOLLOW over on Twitter!