Here’s the latest from the crossroads of faith, media & culture: 06/10/22

Going Home currently streaming on Pure Flix. Created and executive produced by Dan Merchant, the drama series stars as Cynthia Geary (Northern Exposure) as Charley Copeland who leads the dedicated staff of the Sunset House hospice as they do their human best to assist dying patients and their loved ones during their emotional time of transition. The streamer is releasing new episodes weekly for six weeks. My review follows the trailer. Note: You can actually check out the episode for free here.

IMHO: A TV dramedy about the interaction between staff, patients and their loved ones at a hospice is both an intriguing and risky premise. It needs just the right combination of character development, compassionate drama (without becoming maudlin) and, very importantly, humor that remains respectful of the subject matter. Done right and you could have a show that captures the best elements of broadcast classics from the past such as Providence or M*A*S*H. From the one episode I watched, I’d say that Going Home shows promise but isn’t quite there – but, hey, it took M*A*S*H a couple years to really find its voice. This particular installment (of the six currently available on Pure Flix) features 88-year-old TV/movie vet Tom Skerritt (who was in the original M*A*S*H movie) as an elderly man doing his best as his wife (played by Sharva Maynard) prepares for her transition to the next life. It was a little slow but, essentially, it worked and was reasonably believable – but you can’t keep telling that story over and over again.

Future episodes, I think, will have to rely more on building on the show’s ensemble cast and their individual lives as well as a mix of patients and families with very different stories and lifestyles. While I appreciate and agree with the show’s overall Christian sensibility, I think a show like this needs to go very easy on the dogma and clearly embrace the Christian virtue of non-judgmentalism. BTW, as an idea for say a season-long story arc, producers might find inspiration in the true story of Art Buchwald, the famed humorist who died in 2007 after a hospice stay that extended much longer than the three-weeks his doctors initially estimated.

Regarding the regular cast, as I suggested, they generally need more to do but Cynthia Geary as head nurse Charlie Copeland certainly makes for an appealing and relatable lead. As the episode ends, we see her alone on her porch talking to God and reflecting on her day. I like that. To me it works as a sort of heartfelt weekly signature scene similar to the way Doogie Howser, M.D. (another golden oldie from TV’s past) used to sign off each episode by summing up his thoughts on his then somewhat cutting-edge personal computer.

Bottom Line: Don’t pull the plug on this. There’s a lot of positive potential here.

And keep an eye out for…

The documentary Never Again follows the parallel journeys of a Holocaust survivor (Irving Roth) and a devout Muslim who was radicalized as a teenager (Kasim Hafeez). As they share their stories and ultimate friendship, we see that even the darkness of antisemitism can be overcome by seeing one another as individuals and choosing love over hate. Distributed through Cinedigm, the film is available on demand and digital via Apple, Amazon, Google Play, Vudu and other outlets. The DVD is due on June 21st. Here’s my original review.

Sony Pictures’ Father Stu, starring and produced by Mark Wahlberg, is out  on Blu-ray and DVD on June 14th. The film tells the uplifting true story of Stuart Long (Wahlberg), a former amateur boxer and would-be actor who, after surviving a horrific motorcycle accident, comes to the startling conviction that he’s being called to become a priest.  Amid the skepticism of church officials (including a monsignor portrayed by Malcolm McDowell) and his estranged parents (Mel Gibson and Jacki Weaver), he persists with courage and compassion, inspiring others while also facing a devastating health diagnosis. My original review here.

Stay Prayed Up tells the story of 83-year old gospel signer Lena Mae Perry  who has spent the last 50 years as the steadfast leader of The Branchettes, a legendary North Carolina gospel group that has packed churches throughout the South and lifted hearts as far away as Ireland. The documentary follows the ensemble while they record their first live album as it also chronicles “Mother” Perry’s efforts to extend the group’s sacred song ministry ever forward. Following a limited release in theaters on June 17th, the documentary comes to home entertainment on  July 5th.

Finally, if you’re in the mood for a feel-good scripted comedy, Bryan Cranston and Annette Bening are starring in Jerry and Marge Go Large dropping June 17th on Paramount+. The film is inspired by the true story of retiree Jerry Selbee (Cranston) who discovered a mathematical loophole in the Massachusetts lottery and, with the help of his wife Marge (Annette Bening), won millions and used the money to revive their small Michigan town. Their story was featured on 60 MinutesRated PG-13 for some language and suggestive references,  the stellar cast also includes Larry Wilmore and Rainn Wilson.

End Note. I’m taking a bit of time off to regroup and to work on a TV project that I hope to be able to tell you about soon and that I believe will be of interest to Beliefnet readers. In the meantime, Happy Independence Day and see you on Monday, July 25!

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

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