In 1977, NBC aired the Jesus of Nazareth miniseries during the week of Easter for the first time. The network aired the special series five more times after that. Despite the fact that Jesus featured piercing blue eyes and that the production was fairly dull, it was received well. Subsequent attempts at airing biblical material have not fared so well for the network including 1999’s Noah’s Ark which like the recent big screen adaptation, veered away from the straight biblical context and turned viewers off.
However, the network has begun promoting its next venture in the biblical realm with A.D., a 12-week limited series produced by Roma Downey and Mark Burnett. A.D. will begin on Easter Sunday, April 5, 2015 and is said to be a sequel to the Bible mini-series that aired on the History Channel in 2013 and the Son of God movie that was shown in theaters this last Easter.
“Christianity is among the most diverse movements in history, so when Mark and I looked to bring this epic story of A.D. to life on NBC, it was important to us to find a cast as diverse and beautiful as the church is around the world.” said Executive Producer Downey in a recent press statement. “We look forward to sharing these amazing performances with our audience, and in them we hope that people see themselves.”
Downey’s and Burnett’s previous efforts have been warmly received partly because they were not hyper-serious productions. The language was easy to understand and even featured some humor, which helped make Jesus more relatable. Some criticized that the projects featured a “hot Jesus” for the actor’s good looks, but if that was the worst they could find with the productions, then so be it.
Juan Pablo di Pace (Mamma Mia, NBC’s Camp), has been cast as Jesus and will be joined by an accomplished cast from more than 10 different nations. Not surprisingly, A.D. picks up where The Bible, left off and follows the first ten chapters of the Book of Acts which explores what happened after Christ’s death. “A.D. will take its audience from the intense sorrow of Christ’s ultimate sacrifice to the awe-inspiring wonder of the Resurrection and deep into his disciples’ struggle to survive against opposition from every side as they continued to share his message of love with everyone, everywhere,” says the press release.
To coincide with the show’s airing, churches and small groups are encouraged to share Bible reading plans provided by the makers as well.