Irish actress Roma Downey and her husband Mark Burnett, the producer behind such hits as ‘Survivor’ and ‘The Apprentice,’ have teamed up to produce a ten hour mini-series for The History Channel entitled ‘The Bible.’
With the mini-series, which stars Downey as the Virgin Mary, premiering this weekend, Neil Genzlinger of the New York Times has reviewed it and says it leaves much to be desired.
Genzlinger recognizes producer Burnett’s impressive track record with reality shows such as ‘Survivor’ and ‘The Apprentice’ and their uncanny ability to make people believe the sometimes unbelievable.
However, the same doesn’t come through with ‘The Bible.’
“Instead of embracing this challenge, they [Burnett and Downey] ducked it, serving up a rickety, often cheesy spectacle that is calculated to play well to a certain segment of the already enlisted choir but risks being ignored or scorned in other quarters.
“The feelings behind the series may be sincere — Ms. Downey has said that she and her husband “felt called to do this” — but the approach here actually shows a lack of faith in the power of the biblical stories. The real Bible is a layered, often lyrical epic in which personal journeys are intertwined with collective ones, and human failings bump up against human strivings.”
Genzlinger goes on to say that neither Downey nor Burnett displayed the “skill” necessary to undertake a small-screen adaptation of the Bible: “Mr. Burnett and Ms. Downey, their actors (Ms. Downey herself is one) and especially their adapters don’t have nearly the skill to translate such a thing to the small screen in a way that does justice to its complexity. The best they can do is a black-and-white simplification in which villains often come across as laughable caricatures because the creators are so eager to make sure that everyone realizes that they’re villains.”
Comparing ‘The Bible’ to Mel Gibson’s more focused film ‘The Passion of the Christ,’ Genzlinger believes that Downey and Burnett have “forced themselves into a clumsy “Bible’s greatest hits” approach,” despite the ten-hour length of the series that attempts to cover most of the Bible.
Concluding his criticisms, Genzlinger writes: “The result is a mini-series full of emoting that does not register emotionally, a tableau of great biblical moments that doesn’t convey why they’re great. Those looking for something that makes them feel the power of the Bible would do better to find a good production of ‘Godspell’ or ‘Jesus Christ Superstar.’”
Here's the trailer for the mini-series: