Sunday's premiere of "The Bible," a new miniseries on the History Channel
that dramatizes scenes from what one producer calls "the most debated book of all time," may not have gotten the best reviews from television critics, but the show's creators still expect the holy drama to draw record numbers.
Divided into five two-hour episodes, the series covers Genesis to Revelation with one overarching narrative, according to Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, "The Bible" husband-and-wife producer team. Burnett is known for his work on "Survivor" and "Celebrity Apprentice."
"The Bible" highlights some old favorites — Noah's ark, Adam and Eve, and the Exodus — and includes both the Old and New Testaments. The series, despite its modest $22 million budget, has an action film feel, with a lot of computer-generated scenes meant to wow audiences.
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"We wanted it to look, sound and feel like a $100-million production, not some old donkeys-and-sandals movie of the past," Downey said. "We have incredible special effects with Moses parting the Red Sea, Jesus walking on water. We have this amazing international cast. We set out to create scale."
But Sunday night's premiere left most critics scratching their heads. Here's an overview of what everyone's saying about "The Bible."
The New York Times – Neil Genzlinger
Mark Burnett missed out on a good opportunity to do something great.
"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. The Red Sea parts no more convincingly here than it did for Charlton Heston in 1956."
The Hollywood Reporter – Allison Keene
The show struggles with identifying its central audience.
"Unfortunately, The Bible is fractious and overwrought. Others are sure to pick apart the deviations from the sacred text, but that's just the beginning of the miniseries' issues. In the end, this is the most well-known and popular book in the history of humanity for a reason—it's exciting and interesting and full of hope. The Bible is unfortunately none of these."
The Los Angeles Times – Robert Lloyd
It's been done.
"The Bible according to Burnett and Downey is a handsome and generally expensive-looking production, but it is also flat and often tedious, even when it tends to the hysterical, and as hard as the Hans Zimmer soundtrack strains to keep you on the edge of your sofa, the dialogue is pedestrian and functional… It is 'psychological' only in obvious ways, with the poetry of the King James version all but ignored."
The Miami Herald – Glen Garvin
"With the pace of a music video, the characterizations of a comic book and the political-correctness quotient of a Berkeley vegetarian commune — laughably, the destruction of Sodom is depicted without the faintest hint of the sexual peccadillo that takes its name from the city — this production makes Cecil B. DeMille look like a sober theologian. 'The Bible' marks the first attempt at drama by reality-show maven Mark Burnett, whose soul I would consider in serious jeopardy if it hadn’t already been forfeited during the second season of 'Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?'"
The Christian Post's Dr. Geoff Tunnicliffe, however, called the miniseries "a remarkable spiritual and emotional experience."
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"The theme of God's love and hope for all humanity is the thread that holds the entire series together," Tunnicliffe wrote. "I received a fresh new perspective on many of the famous Bible stories: Looking through the eyes of Sarah as she thinks that her husband, Abraham, has sacrificed their son Isaac; listening to Noah telling the story of Creation to his children on the ark; agonizing with Mary (played by Roma Downey) as she sees her son, Jesus, beaten and crucified. These and so many other stories allow you to connect with the characters on a deep emotional level."
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