When I first heard about CBS’s new sitcom “Living Biblically” was fairly certain that I would not like it. I almost didn’t bother watching but I decided I wanted to see just how bad it could be. The premise is that a man goes through a bit of a spiritual crisis and decides that he wants to live his life precisely according to the Bible. My first comment in my entertainment blog when the show was announced was that I wondered if it would mean he would stone to death his children for disobeying him. (Deuteronomy 21:18-21, Exodus 21:17). When I saw a preview for the show in which the main character tells his parish priest he wants to live according to the Bible 100%, the priest laughs in his face hysterically. That was encouraging for me. Maybe it was worth checking out.
Jay R. Ferguson plays the main character Chip Curry is a film critic for a local newspaper. He decides to go on a spiritual journey and live a better life 100% according to the Bible. This is instigated by losing his best friend to an untimely death and after finding out that his wife is pregnant with their first child. While in the bookstore, he accidentally picks up a Bible and includes it with the books he’s about to purchase. He sees this as a sign from God and decides he’s going to live 100% according to the Bible.
Ferguson has previously been seen in “The Real O’Neills” and “Mad Men”. His wife is played by Lindsay Kraft who has been seen in “Grace and Frankie”. Neither of them are very familiar to me.
He then goes to his parish priest to speak with him in the confessional (not necessarily to go to confession but just to seek advice). It is probably the first time in any movie or television show that I’ve seen the confessional portrayed in the modern form where you sit down with a face-to-face conversation with the priest and not behind the old time partition or screen that is so familiar to most TV shows and movies. After the laughing out loud scene that we got in the previews, the priest illustrates the ridiculousness of this plan by advising him to change his clothes because the Bible prohibits wearing clothes of mixed types of threads.
The first challenge to face our hero is that he knows that one of his friends is having an affair. Their wives are friends. Should he tell his wife that her friend is being cheated on? It comes to a head when he and his wife bump into the cheating friend at a restaurant with his mistress. The friend tried to get Chip to cover for him by agreeing that the woman he’s with is just a coworker. Chip doesn’t know what to do so he reaches over into a nearby planter in the restaurant, picks up a rock, and throws it at his friend hitting him in the forehead. Thereby fulfilling the biblical command that adulterers be stoned.
It’s all done in a very funny slapstick sort of way and for some reason it works. I couldn’t help but laugh at parts of it and for me that’s the ultimate test of any sitcom is “Did it make me laugh?”
Part of the story is about is friends at work. He has a best friend Vince played by Tony Rock who in real life is the brother of comedian Chris Rock. His boss at the newspaper is Camryn Manheim whom I’ve not seen on TV since 2004 in the legal drama “The Practice”. When she finds out about his plan to live biblically she gives him a new column to write three days a week and a raise in salary. And in the end, his adulterous friend thanked him for hitting him in the head and making him countries senses. He confessed everything to his wife and they are going to counseling. Sara Gilbert also has a bit part as an annoying coworker. It’s yet to be seen how these coworkers characters will flesh out or not.
So the end result is that after just a couple of days of living biblically, he’s gotten a raise at work and he saved the marriage of his adulterous friend. Maybe it’s working?
His pastor Father Gene is played by Ian Gomez and does a pretty good job of walking a fine line between offering genuine spiritual advice and continuing to make fun of his choices. We also get some input from a rabbi who is a friend of the priest. Rabbi Gil is played by David Krumholz who you will remember from the FBI drama Numb3rs and many other roles. By the way they’ve already done the “a priest and a rabbi and a guy living biblically walk into a bar” joke.
In the end this show is doing a reasonably good job of walking a fine line between finding the comedy and religious beliefs versus all-out ridicule and making fun of religion. The whole thing has really surprised me at how well it is written. Don’t get me wrong, this is at times very silly stuff but it tackles some very tough topics with an excellent sense of humor.
According to IMDb.com this show is based on a nonfiction book “A Year of Living Biblically” by A.J. Jacobs. I might have to check that out.
For now I’m giving it a very strong rating of “could be watchable” but the jury is still out as to whether or not the whole thing is going to work.