Why 'The Book of Daniel' was cancelled

145831__book_l_1Did the boycott threats work? NBC is citing low ratings in announcing its cancellation of The Book of Daniel after just three weeks, but there may be more to it than that. Whether or not viewers were watching, advertisers were avoiding the show, as were nine of NBC’s affiliate stations. Conservtive Christian groups had condemned the show sight unseen, though there was some support for it in the Episcopalian community (the same denomination as the show’s characters). I’ll take creator Jack Kenny at his word that he thought the show’s flawed but loving family (with its gay son, martini-guzzling mom, and pill-popping priest who conversed often with a laissez-faire Jesus Christ) was a positive portrayal of Christians, but he was hopelessly deluded if he thought the usual suspects would agree.

Me, I just wish it had been a better show; with its outlandishly comical/soapy plot turns (the Catholic priest whose Mafia pals make trouble for Aidan Quinn’s protagonist, the bishop’s horny niece who seduces the overwhelmed gay son in the back seat of a car), it played less like a sincere exploration of faith and family life than like Desperate Episcopalians. The show’s demise will only make it that much harder for network TV to greenlight a more artful, less frivolous exploration of similar themes, should some hapless producer ever try to pitch such a series.

addCredit(“The Book of Daniel: Chris Haston”)

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  • Ep Sato

    Preach on brother man! Totally on the money!
    Anyone remember the hubub over Dogma? The movie criticized the church but was also a re affirmation of faith. Yet it was written off as Anti Catholic almost instantly. With shows like South Park and Rescue Me demonstrating that faith manifests itself in many ways, the church itself misses out on chances to reach out to new people. After all, in these creative interpretations, Jesus is always a class act who gives great advice or who makes people feel good about themselves. Might that not lead some new people TO church?
    ANd here’s my proof: Count among yourselves how many of you have done a google search thanks to “My Name is Earl”

  • kosmo vinyl

    I liked Book of Daniel and yes while it leaned towards being a bit to much of a soap opera, it had enough absurd twists and turns to keep it interesting. While the some of the religous community is up in arms of the series, it was one of the few times one will hear a hymn done in primetime.
    Tis a shame HBO dosen’t have more than one night of orginial programming as this, Firefly, and possible Wonderfalls could have flourished on a subscriber supported channel. It interesting that the it was created a limited run series off the bat, something that the BBC has been doing for years. So many US shows just lose steam overtime as they run out of situations, plotlines, ideas, etc. Personallly give me 12 great episodes a year of a series ala HBO, instead of 22 marginal episodes.

  • Lyle

    Sigh. What disappoints me most were that Episcopalians seemed mostly fine with the show airing, even if they didn’t care for the show. So why was the likes of Dobson allowed to dictate how a group of religious people that he doesn’t represent (and frequently disagrees with) are represented?

  • DVRChatter Weblog

    EW’s PopWatch Weighs In On Daniel’s Demise

    Entertainment Weekly’s blog, PopWatch, has weighed in on the demise of NBC’s Book of Daniel:
    Me, I just wish it had been a better show; with its outlandishly comical/soapy plot turns (the Catholic…

  • stan

    Sadly there are 2 camps that are loudest, there always is.
    The conservative Christians that cry out their conservative crazy talk BOYCOTT BOYCOTT BOYCOTT. Jesus never boycotted.
    Then there are the ‘Hey, this is racy, edgy, pisses off the conservatives and doesn’t lightly step on anyone’s toes it pulls a Kristofferson on Gibson from Payback on primetime american television. Therefore I love it and will support because that’s the kind of viewer i am.’
    Those, who are like me, that are christians yet still like the idea of slight toe stepping for the sake of good art. This was not good art. It was cheesy. It was hokey. Jesus wore what could be found in most church closets reserved for the best looking young guy in the church. The pastor was way too accepting. I know we want our pastor’s & father’s to be free thinkers and give kids freedom. But this was like Tim Robbins became a pastor. “Hey, are you going to have sex with your girlfriend? Here, use a condom and for gosh sakes HAVE FUN! God bless!”

  • John

    I’m not surprised that NBC/General Electric gave in! In these sad times of illegal “domestic spying,” and politicians hiding behind “what Jesus would want,” it’s a shame that America is going back to pre-1776! Hope the production company releases TBOD on DVD, especially now that there will be more interest than ever. Thanks to EW for letting us know about this.

  • Mario

    Stan, let me ask you this… With Mary Magdalene, do you think that Jesus was way too accepting or forgiving? What about with the lepers, was Jesus too accepting and kind? What about anything else that Jesus did while on earth? That’s what kills me about all these so-called “christians”, they run around praising the lord and using Christ as an example of what people should be like but refuse to do the same themselves.

  • Jamie

    I liked the first two episodes, but that was all I wound up watchiing of “BOD.” NBC killed this show by scheduling it on late Friday nights (when people are not home, or are not thinking.) This would have made a nice summer series (it could have found an audience as an alternative to baseball and reruns), or been a little more fun on an edgier network. NBC never said that “BOD” would be granted eternal life (“limited series” means about half a season folks.) It is odd that, at least on American television, the clergy are not allowed to be people. (It is different on BBC, I refer to Ballykissangel, and Dawn French’s sitcom about a chocoholic female vicar.) So don’t hate NBC (they don’t even deserve your pity.) Thank them for the memories, look for the DVD, and hope that one day there will be a better version of a show like this.

  • Bob

    Wanted to like this show – great production values, interesting premise, good lead in Aidan Quinn. But, it wasn’t very good – it was maddening to watch just the first episode, as it seemed like every “controversial” plot twist was forced and/or designed to be provocative, rather than a natural outgrowth of the characters or situation. Very disappointing.

  • Steve

    The Book of Daniel was an entertaining show. It was well cast and well acted. I, too, thought it felt a little Desperate Housewivesish. The situations were outlandish and they seemed to try to have the Webster family involved with almost every hot-button issue out there (selling drugs, using marijuana for medicinal purposes, pre-marital sex, mixed race sex/relationships, infidelity, homosexuality in young men as well as older women, gay marriage, alcoholism, Alzheimers etc.) It was a lot for people to handle, especially conservative Christians. However, we live in a world that has all those things, and this show concentrated them all to one family…a family with a priest at the head. It was an ambitious show that apparently threatened the conservative Christians. Reviews I read (Dobson’s group) got it all wrong. The Jesus on this show did NOT condemn the frailties of man, but showed patience and understanding where the conservative Christian would have Him pass judgement. I found the characterization of Jesus on this show to be more in line with the Bible’s Jesus than the Jesus that the conservative Christian would like the world to see. One should not fear God, but be embraced and loved by Him. I don’t want my children to fear me…and I don’t want them to fear God either. Understanding , patience and respect and belief in one another go a long way. This show tried to show us that…and it got pulled too soon. A little out there? Sure…but it’s intent was well-meaning and Father Webster is the priest I think many people would love to have. Hopefully the full series will be available on DVD…fine actors all…they deserved better.

  • Jesus

    Now what am I going to do? I know… I’ll try singing on American Idol!

  • Gina

    MAN – I am disappointed that this was cancelled so quickly out of the gates. I looked forward to watching it – and characters develop. This was one of the few shows I watched on the “traditional” channels. I can think of several shows in the past that were much more controversial….I feel marginalized enough by the “Christian Right” movement. I guess it shows just how much insecure they are in their own faith, and the power they have. SCARY!

  • stan

    Mario, I will reply to you off of this thread. I don’t to interrupt the purpose of these comments.
    Just so it is said, I think you misunderstood me. I will clarify to you personally.

  • Cassi

    I loved the Book of Daniel. It was a funny show, yet it had twists of every day life in a complicated, every changing world.
    I can’t believe they took it off. Over reactors and people with nothing else better to do, but ruin prime time for everyone else. Where’s Mel Gibson when one needs him!

  • Jusa

    I was quite enjoying it. Too bad it’s gone. Maybe they’ll do a DVD set where we can at least catch the unaired episodes. Firefly and Wonderfalls could’ve done well on a different network, but Fox has long been one to trash good shows rather quickly. All the networks do it. It’s too bad that networks are so quick to cancel something that doesn’t blast out of the gate. Sometimes things take a while to find an audience, especially those things are a bit different.

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