Stranger Than Reality: Mark Burnett Bringing The Bible to History Channel

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I am all for giving the Bible the kind of kinetic-but-hefty cinematic treatment that has made so much fantasy fare so popular with adults and kids alike over the last decade or so. The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Spider-Man, Batman, Iron Man, POTC and on and on have succeeded by saying, "What if we pretend these stories are real-ish, give the characters emotional weight, inject actual grit into the conflicts, honor cause and effect, and make the settings and effects as spectacular/believable as possible?"

Not that I'm saying the Bible is fantasy, but that it could benefit from the treatment afforded these successful fantasy series. Of course, most people don't want things taken as far as passion-of-the-christ-nail.jpgMel Gibson did in The Passion of the Christ, which took the "realism" angle all the way to gore-porn. But everyone knows Mel is crazy, and that brings us to today's announcement that the History Channel is backing an "epic" five-part, 10-hour docudrama series called, simply enough, The Bible, which will air in 2013.

Which filmmaker with an affinity for such things is at the helm of this project? Peter Jackson? Alfonso Cuaron? David Yates? Sam Raimi? Christopher Nolan? Jon Favreau?

Well, no. It's Mark Burnett. Mark Burnett, whose name is synonymous with complex characters, breathless adventure, sensitive adaptations, and jaw-dropping special effects? No again. Mark Burnett is a "reality" show producer, "reality" in this case meaning "unscripted," er, rather, "not fictional" - oh, forget it.

Mark Burnett Donald Trump.pngMark Burnett has produced The Voice, Survivor, The Apprentice, Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?, Shark Tank, among untold others, none of which have anything to do with anything that might lead a rational person to conclude he's just the man for a ripping "epic docudrama" series on the Bible, although I CAN see Donald Trump as a pouty Pontius Pilate and Christina Aguilera as a puffy Delilah.

History pres Nancy Dubuc announced today, "There's no question The Bible is one of the world's most significant books. This series will bring the historical stories of the Bible to life for a new generation." This seems reasonable.

She continued, "We are thrilled to work with Mark, who is a rare breed in the business. He is an amazing storyteller..." In what way is he a "storyteller"? He is an assembler of highly contrived artificial circumstances into which "real people" are injected. The Bible as reality show?

Duboc added, "[BurBible Hug.jpgnett] has the ability to deliver what we hope will be the largest audience HISTORY has ever seen." Ah, that part may well be true.

Burnett has purportedly been developing the project for two years already and his vision encompasses "unforgettable stories" told with "live action and state-of-the-art computer-generated imagery." Spanning Genesis to Revelation, The Bible will be chock full of "revealing insights into the life and times of some of its most iconic characters," and include stories such as Noah's Ark, the Exodus, Daniel in the Lion's Den, and the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.

Maybe it will work - stranger things have happened. I think.

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Eric Olsen is a career media professional and serial entrepreneur who has written influentially on a vast array of topics for periodicals, books, TV, radio, and the Internet. Olsen founded and published award winning online magazine and oversaw creation of the original content organization…

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