Faith, Media & Culture

Here are today’s dispatches from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.

1. The Help “blind sides” box office competition. From The Wrap: The phenomenon known as “The Help” could bring another aftershock to the box office this weekend: The smart money is that the Disney/Dreamworks dramedy wins the weekend for the second time in a row…Its second weekend out, “The Help” topped the box office on just a 20 percent decline. More significantly, the audience expanded to include to a younger, more male crowd with more African-Americans.  That strong showing immediately drew comparisons to “The Blind Side,” a movie that shares certain themes with “The Help,”  and also vaulted from No. 2 in its debut to No. 1 in its second release on word of mouth. “The Blind Side” went on to gross almost $300 million at the global box office and bring an Oscar to Sandra Bullock.
Comment: Hollywood always seems surprised that audiences want films with genuine heart. I wonder why.

2. Harsh reality. From Hollywood Reporter: The already pushed-to-the-limits reality TV industry was rocked Aug. 15 by news that Russell Armstrong, 47, the oft-featured estranged husband of Bravo’s The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Taylor Armstrong and father of three, had committed suicide in advance of the show’s second-season premiere. Armstrong’s personal battles with his wife were documented in detail on the show. When he hanged himself at a friend’s house, he was said to have been struggling with financial problems as well as overall concerns about his negative portrayal on the show (though he, and all other reality participants, sign waivers for filming). He told People magazine in July, “This show has literally pushed us to the limit.” The series will now be re-edited, according to Bravo president Frances Berwick, and might have its Sept. 5 debut delayed. But the suicide has set off a media firestorm, especially following reports that Armstrong wasn’t even paid to appear on the show. As Bravo executives debate whether to air programming that documents a man’s descent to suicide, Armstrong’s family and victims’ rights advocates have slammed the network for moving forward with the show in light of the tragedy.
Comment: Debate? The show — and the entire exploitive genre of TV programming — should be canceled.

3. 7th Heaven star in new NBC family drama. Catherine Hicks stars in Game Time: Tackling the Past, the latest Walmart/P&G Family Movie Night presentation airing Saturday 3rd @ 8:00 PM (ET). I had the opportunity recently to ask her why she seems drawn to family entertainment. Her answer: “I like all entertainment. This role came my way & I family films usually contain deep scenes where an actor gets to stretch his emotions! And I love (her co-star) Beau Bridges!” Fair enough.

Below is a press release regarding the film followed by its trailer. I’m a big support of the Walmart/P&G effort to restore family entertainment to television – but it’s up to viewers to make that effort a success.  (BTW, Who is Simon Miller?, the Family Movie Night Presentation that aired on July 30th topped its competition (including a Harry Potter film on ABC) in terms of total viewers.)

Pro football star Jake Walker is living the dream… or so he thinks. The veteran tight end is a fan favorite and on pace to set the all-time receiving yards record that will guarantee him a spot in the Hall of Fame. While working out at training camp, Jake receives an unexpected call from his brother Dean – their father Frank has suffered a major heart attack. Jake immediately leaves practice and returns to Riverton, North Carolina, the small hometown he’s avoided for nearly 15 years. Memories of glory and regret flood his mind as he returns to the family and friends he abandoned in pursuit of his career. Jake dutifully visits with Frank and Dean, but hurt and misunderstanding from the past begins to resurface, leaving him counting the days until he can return to his team.

A second unexpected call, this time from his agent, delivers Jake another crushing blow. His contract is not being renewed amid concerns about his surgically repaired knee. Suddenly, the life Jake knows is over. To avoid the media circus around this news, Jake reluctantly decides to extend his stay in Riverton. Attempting to make the best of the situation, he begins reconnecting with the community that once revered him.    Jake is reintroduced to Sarah, his high school sweetheart, and helps Dean take over their father’s high school coaching job.

Surprisingly impacted by the people around him, the real Jake begins to emerge from behind his armor to see that life is much more than the accumulation of personal stats. But when Jake’s offered a lucrative new contract to play for another team, he is forced to decide whether to go back to the career he thought he loved, or stay in Riverton and embrace the people who always believed in him.

By the way, I’m going to be busy over the next week working on a book. So, no blog till Friday, Sept. 2nd.  Have a blessed week!

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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