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Faith, Media & Culture

Faith, Media & Culture

TV Review: GMC TV’s “I Forgive You” is a different kind of TV reality show

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

“I Forgive You” premieres Sunday on GMC TV. And, it turns out that, in a TV reality landscape that is too often filled with in-your-face anger, forgiveness actually makes for some pretty absorbing television.

I recently screened the show, an on-air pilot for a potential series, and found it to be a refreshing reminder that the medium can still tell stories of value when those in decision-making positions decide to do so.

The premise is simple. Four true stories about forgiveness told in a straightforward documentary style.  Two of the four stories in the pilot actually capture the actual pivotal encounters between victims and victimizers in which forgiveness is first offered and accepted. One of four stories deals with the difficulty people often have in forgiving themselves for a past tragedy. The fourth and final piece picks up the story after the forgiveness is offered and accepted to chronicle the special friendship that grew out an amazing act of forgiveness.

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In Segment One, we meet Lynda Frederick whose 25th high school reunion becomes an opportunity to forgive those classmates who cruelly bullied her a generation ago. Bullying is certainly a subject that has been much discussed later — particularly in a YouTube era when so much of it is caught on camera and distributed for the world to see. What’s interesting about this story is its focus on the long-term scars left on both the bullied and, even, the bulliers.

Segment Two introduces us to Juan Romero as he learns to forgive himself for an innocent act which he feared contributed to the 1968 assassination of Robert F. Kennedy.  Romero was young busboy at The Ambassador Hotel the night the Democratic presidential candidate won the California primary. As an avid RFK admirer, he was thrilled to have the opportunity to (for the second time) shake the hand of his hero. But, what should have been a wonderful memory was suddenly transformed into a tragic one, when Kennedy was gunned down by an assassin. Since that fateful day, Romero spent decades haunted by the notion that, if RFK didn’t stop to shake his hand, his assassin might not have had to opportunity to murder him.

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Juan is particularly sympathetic because, to anyone reasonable person looking at his story from the outside, he did absolutely nothing wrong. You can’t help but root for him as he struggles toward forgiving himself. Also of interest in this feature is the insight it gives into the character of Robert Kennedy, recalled in his first encounter with Romero but, most notably, in the words he spoke in the seconds after he was shot. You’ll surely come away with an appreciation for a man whose concern for other people shined through even, and especially, at the end.

Segment Three is about forgiveness within a family as Millers struggle to heal after being torn apart when one its own exploited their trust in a Ponzi scheme that wiped away their savings.

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But Segment Four is offers perhaps the most compelling narrative of all as it concerns a mother whose faith in God helped her tap the inner strength to forgive the young man who shot and killed her own son. A simply amazing story.

I Forgive You is highly-recommended viewing. The show airs this Sunday (9/18) @ 9:00 PM, 10:00 PM and 11:00 PM. As well as next Wednesday (Thanksgiving Eve) @ 9:00 PM and 10:00 PM. All times mentioned are ET.

BTW, Arnold Shapiro, whose well-known work includes the landmark documentary Scared Straight and the classic CBS reality show Rescue 911, is the co-executive producer of the program. I’ll have an interview with him in this space tomorrow.

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

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