"The £295 million couple you’ve never heard of” blared a headline in the Daily Mail a few days ago. Well, perhaps Roma Downey and Mark Burnett fly under the radar in Britain, but over here they’re TV titans thanks to the smashing success of their just concluded History Channel miniseries The Bible – not to mention Burnett’s other creations such as Survivor, The Voice and Shark Tank.
Downey, from Co. Derry, and Burnett, a former British paratrooper who served in Northern Ireland (they met in Hollywood) were named by the U.K. Sunday Times as the richest husband and wife showbiz team in the U.K. with a net worth of £295 million – in around the $500 million buck mark over here. (The couple have also lived in Malibu for many years, but hey, what’s a little geography when hundreds of millions are involved!)
Burnett has made a fortune from his reality TV shows over here. But his scripted miniseries on the Bible, which he co-created with Downey, his wife of six years, was totally off the charts in the ratings department. It’s debut broadcast on the History Channel attracted a massive 13 million viewers, unheard of numbers for a cable series, and the five-episode, 10 hour run which ended on Easter Sunday set all kinds of records.
It’s DVD release last week was also a huge home run, shifting over half a million copies and easily outselling popular shows like Game of Thrones and True Blood to become the top-selling TV miniseries of all time!
"The Bible continues to reach a broad audience and in just its first week it became the number one title at retail stores," Simon Swart, executive vice president and general manager for Twentieth Century Fox's North America branch, said in a statement regarding the DVD sales.
"It's rare that a project comes along that touches millions of people in such an impactful way," Swart added.
Ain’t that the truth! For their part, Downey, famous for starring in the popular CBS series Touched by an Angel many years back, and Burnett are pretty awed by how Americans took to The Bible. Even Oprah Winfrey got in on the excitement, interviewing the couple on Sunday night for her show on her OWN network.
The Bible – which didn’t get the greatest reviews, but obviously that meant squat to viewers – was criticized in some quarters for allegedly casting a President Obama lookalike to portray Satan.
"I honestly was horrified," Downey told Oprah. "We love the president. We have nothing but respect for the president. We felt somehow hijacked."
"For Satan to be the point of conversation was really heartbreaking.”
Lord only knows what Downey and Burnett will do for a follow-up!
Watch the trailer for The Bible here: