(RNS) The Easter weekend tradition of airing “The Ten Commandments” continues this year on ABC. The 1956 epic about Moses, Pharaoh and friends is still a few years shy of earning Social Security, but the Shonda Rhimes Network should send the dated film into early retirement.
As much as octogenarians will mourn the loss of the springtime TV ritual dating to 1973, can’t the network imagine more modern and gripping religious programming? (Fox tried, and failed with Tyler Perry’s “The Passion.”)
To help germinate the creative process, here are some alternative programming ideas:
Revive a better religious epic: ‘Saved!’
If ABC wants to stick to the format of airing an old film, why not The Literalist’s all-time favorite? The 2004 comedy starring Jena Malone, Mandy Moore, and Macaulay Culkin tells the story of a teenage girl who gets pregnant by way of her gay boyfriend. Despite heavy doses of religious hypocrisy, the movie ultimately (***spoiler alert***) has an uplifting finale.
‘What Would You Do?’ Jesus Edition
Start by sending a poor, marginalized, unmarried, radical carpenter turned healer and prophet out to the streets of any major American city. The ABC newsmagazine would see how people would treat the contemporary Jesus. A John Quinones-fronted undercover camera investigation would surely result in some “gotcha” moments.
‘Nashville’ In Concert: ‘The Book of Mormon’ Live
Musicals on TV are in vogue these days, thanks to “Glee,” and ABC already has a cast of musicians and singers under contract. Ask Connie Britton, Hayden Panettiere and friends to stage the satirical show centered on young missionaries in Uganda.
Trump’s ‘Yuge Easter’: A ‘Good Morning America’ Extravaganza
The Donald has already racked up $2 billion worth of free media publicity. Why stop now? I’m sure go-to-Christian-hatemonger and First Baptist Dallas Pastor Robert Jeffress would love to host a made-for-TV special. Make God Great Again.
‘The View’ No-Easter Egg Hunt
English chocolate manufacturers are dropping the Easter from their eggs. (Not a joke.) Now that everyone can enjoy oval-shaped candy every spring, who better to lead a citywide hunt for the secular treats than Whoopi Goldberg, Joy Behar and the other ladies of “The View”?
Religious talk about damnation, salvation, repentance and forgiveness is always so serious. ABC could lighten the whole subject up with a mockumentary prequel to “Modern Family.“ Mixing Jesus, his often-bewildered disciples, episodic parables, and a bit of levity might just add up to a hit. It worked for “Godspell.”
On Earth as it is in Shondaland.
Aren’t we really just fooling ourselves to suggest anything else? Just let Rhimes do it. Cast Angela Bassett as an ex-preacher’s wife in Los Angeles who goes to seminary and starts her own rival church to her ex-husband’s congregation. The show practically writes itself.
Have your own ideas? Send them to us at email@example.com and we’ll be sure to forward them to ABC!
(Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons writes The Literalist, a twice-weekly satirical news column for RNS. His writing on faith and public policy has appeared in Sojourners, The Washington Post, Texas Tribune and other publications. Follow him on Twitter at @guthriegf)