Can faith be funny? Patrick Walsh, executive producer and showrunner of the new CBS television comedy Living Biblically, thinks so. Taking the New York Times bestseller The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs as a blueprint, the Missouri native has created a show centering on Chip Curry (Jay R. Ferguson), a man looking to improve his life by living out the Bible to the letter.
Walsh, whose credits include 2 Broke Girls, Saturday Night Live and HBO's Crashing, was drawn to the project because of a desire to portray more authentic and light-hearted views on faith, but in a respectful manner.
"There's 84% of the world's population that aligns themselves with religion and the only entertainment that has a religious bent to it is heavy, very serious, solemn, somber stuff," he said. "Outside of Veggie Tales, the religious media my friends and family would have would always be dark. But my friends are able to talk about it with a sense of humor."
Chip's family, friends and coworkers find humor, bewilderment and even respect regarding his newfound faith, and he consults his local priest, Father Gene (Ian Gomez) on theological challenges.
While it's a comedy, especially from those surrounding Chip, Walsh insists he has no desire to bring disrespect to faith. Think laughing with faith, not laughing at faith.
"Many times, the only time you hear about religion is someone making fun of it, like Bill Maher," he said. "When the show was first announced and people thought it would make fun of religion, it bummed me out. This faith that people get so much out of, they get mocked for."
In the first three episodes, Chip deals with topics such as idolatry, adultery and prayer. In one touching hospital waiting room scene, Chip's supportive but questioning wife Leslie (Lindsey Kraft) asks him for prayer. The show will also deal with the idea of marital submission, a topic that Walsh admits may stir some controversy.
"While it shouldn't be controversial, to some sects it could be," he said. "To hear the studio audience get behind it was really great. That's one episode that husbands and wives will get behind. We're not trying to push any buttons but I think it would be silly to block out certain parts (of Scripture)."
Rounding out the recurring cast are David Krumholtz (Rabbi Gil), Tony Rock (Vince) and Camryn Manheim (Ms. Meadows). Walsh said the group of actors gelled together from day one.
"I love the cast and the trickiest thing about casting a show is they don't meet until the day you do the table read," he said. "You have people who play husband and wife that have never met and that's scary. This group of people really, really clicked immediately. They hang out outside the show."
Ultimately, Walsh hopes the respectful tone of the show will help "start conversation" and that perhaps even be used in youth group and church worship programs.
"For me, this is a way to show a modern day Christian and still not shy away from the skepticism he encounters from his wife and coworkers."
Dewayne Hamby is a communications specialist and longtime journalist covering faith-based music, entertainment, books, and the retail industry. He is also the editor of the White Wing Messenger, director of communications for the Church of God of Prophecy, and author of the book Gratitude Adjustment. Connect with him at www.dewaynehamby.com or on twitter - @dewaynehamby.
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