We already knew Mark Burnett and Roma Downey Jr. were contemptible assholes. To help develop their miniseries The Bible they hired Rick Warren, a megachurch pastor
whose main complaint against the label "anti-gay activist" comes from the "activist" part. You know, when you're espousing your political opinions to 20,000 people on Sundays, you've pretty much got to take that title whether you want it or not.
Then -- surprise! -- they cast a Barack Obama lookalike as Satan. It wasn't intentional, they say.
Okay, fine: you didn't mean for Satan to be an Obama doppelgänger: you just wanted him to be a dark-skinned dude. There goes all our misplaced blame! Totally cool that he's on the opposite side of the color wheel as Jesus, though polls show 98% of Americans picture Satan as being red.
I'm sure B/DJ have a whole raft of explanations. They were filming in Morocco, so they hired a Moroccan actor. They couldn't afford to import a white Satan because flying in white Jesus, white Mary, white John, white Joshua, white Saul and white Abimelech totally sapped the travel budget.
They vehemently deny any untoward intent:
"This is utter nonsense. The actor who played Satan, Mehdi Ouazanni, is a highly acclaimed Moroccan actor. He has previously played parts in several Biblical epics -- including Satanic characters long before Barack Obama was elected as our President."Um, whaaa? "Satanic characters"? What does that mean? Folks who aren't Satan, but are Satanic? That just seems to obfuscate matters, opening a continuum that runs all the way from lesser demons and harpies down to Donald Trump.
An IMDB search turns up no Satans in Mr. Ouazanni's past, though maybe he's Satanic as "Leah's Husband" in The Ten Commandments. In The Hunt For The Hidden Relic (original title Das Jesus Video) maybe he's a devilish "Hotel Manager." Either way, these epics proved he was perfect for B/DJ: they just gave him a promotion.
I'm not sure how The Bible ended up on the History Channel, but B/DJ are strongly religious so I'll bet God himself was involved. I'm picturing an angel appearing before B/DJ one night and saying, "I want you to film the Bible, but only make it available to people with better than basic cable."
And the Word was made HDTV.
The show was a smash, opening the floodgates of hyperbole. In today's paper DJ says, "By the end, we expect 100 million people will have watched."
Let's look at the ratings so far:
First episode ratings: 13.1 million
Second episode ratings: 10.8 million
Third episode ratings: 10.9 million
Fourth episode ratings: 10.3 million
The most likely explanation we can think of is this: In total there will be ten episodes, and considering the way ratings are dropping it's not farfetched to say they'll average 10 million viewers each. Ten times ten is a hundred million, just like DJ said.
However, that's making a weird assumption. See, we'd guess that the 13.1 million people who watched the first episode would also watch the second, third, and subsequent episodes, with a few dropping out along the way. That means 13.1 million people tops would see the show. DJ apparently thinks it's all new eyeballs every week. Which means either they didn't like the show or they didn't know it was continued next week. Like at the end of every episode the viewers all went, "Wow, that wasn't too bad, but the ending sure is different from the book!" And then they never tune in again.
Of course, those 100 million people are just the start. "There are 2.2 billion Christians," DJ says. "We expect in 15 years, more people on the planet will have seen this show than will not have seen it."
That might be a little harder to justify.
Three-quarters of America is Christian, yet (using DJ's optimistic estimate) less than one-third will watch The Bible. What hope does the show have in, say, China, where 4% of the population is Christian? Or in India, where it's just 2%? Does she honestly think TV stations will slap this stuff on primetime when odds are there are more viewers interested in sex with balloon animals, or scrapbooking? If people were genuinely curious about other religions, American TV would cover some topic of Amish life aside from how they always seem to get naked during Rumspringa.
I'm thinking the show will have legs in South America, Italy, and Vatican City, but it's all downhill from there. Looking at it optimistically, it's probably best the thing doesn't air in, say, Pakistan, because if Jesus is white and Satan is brown, those won't be donations Mark and Roma will be getting in the mail.