Here’s the latest from the crossroads of faith, media & culture: 05/26/23

Way to go! In a week when a deal has been announced between Angel Studios, the company behind the hit faith-based TV series The Chosen, and the Hollywood entertainment powerhouse Lionsgate allowing the latter company to represent sublicensing for the show worldwide (for deals outside of the Angel Studios and The Chosen apps) comes still more evidence of mainstream appeal of faith-themed content.

Last week the excellent 2010 Emilio Estevez film The Way (starring Emilio’s father Martin Sheen) was re-released in theaters as a one-night only Fathom Event. Despite only showing in 755 theaters, the film the film garnered the #2 per screen average. In comparison, the #1 film – Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 – screened in 4450 theaters. Due to that incredible success, The Way has just been launched as home entertainment virtual cinema run due to conclude on Father’s Day. For more information click here.

Filmed along Northern Spain’s picturesque pilgrimage trail El Camino de Santiago (aka The Way of Saint James), The Way follows the journey of Tom (Sheen), a successful American ophthalmologist who travels to St. Jean Pied de Part, France to recover the ashes of his adult son (Emilio Estevez) who perished during a storm in the Pyrenees while walking The Camino de Santiago. Tom decides to complete his son’s journey in an effort to better understand him and to honor his commitment to complete the pilgrimage. As Tom walks the Camino, he reluctantly finds himself with three other pilgrims who are walking the road to find answers to their own personal dilemmas. The parabolic film which has built a loyal fan base over the years has been likened to a faith-base Wizard of Oz with humans standing in for the Tin Man, Scarecrow and Lion characters.
Regarding the strong audience embrace of The Way‘s re-release, Ocean Avenue Entertainment CEO Chris Bueno says “We are overwhelmed by the incredible response we have received from audiences. It has been an honor to continue the story, inspiring audiences to laugh, to meditate and to find their own Camino.”
As for Estevez, he tells interviewer Leah Klett that the movie conveys , in a very human way, the message that “God love us in our imperfections.”

The Bottom Line: The Way is a funny and heartwarming film. I recommend you see it.
Former Fox News host Megyn Kelly has a dire forecast for Fox News post-Tucker Carlson.

IMHO, she, unfortunately, makes some very solid points – though, as it turned out, Fox News’ prime-time interview with Ron DeSantis crushed the relatively meager audience for his campaign announcement on Twitter. So, Fox News isn’t dead just yet.

Personally, I still have an affinity for the news operation I worked for a couple of decades back and which, I think, still strives to offer a moderately conservative alternative to a corporate media that certainly leans left and, in some cases, has gone full-on Woke. The rise of alternative media voices (i.e. Russell Brand, Joe Rogan, Dave Rubin, Jason Siler and former ABC and Fox News host John Stossel) is good. Still, I don’t think we want to be too quick to undermine and, possibly, sink Fox News which, at least to some degree, has acted as a bulwark for conservatism on television. To do so would play right into the hands of those anti-free speech forces who, let’s face it, really want to shut down conservative media and would view taking down Fox News as a significant victory.

The issue to many Fox News viewers (and I’ve talked with some of them) is that the Tucker Carlson debacle has blown the lid off long simmering doubts over whether the powers-that-be at Fox Corporation really connects with social conservatives or if it’s all really a sham – and that Fox News really is not so much aligned with the traditional working and middle class families of Main Street as it is with old guard Wall Street corporatists who, in a strange quirk of current politics, find their globalist interests to be at least temporarily aligned Woke anti-faith, anti-American Marxists. That latter group, BTW, is distinct from traditional liberals who have always stood for tolerance, free speech and a colorblind society and to whom this country owes a great debt. I with they’d assert themselves again and not continue to allow the mantel of liberalism be stolen from them by the Woke mob. Meanwhile, I think there is a bit of an internal battle about that going on at Fox between the Wall Streeters and the Main Streeters but at least there is a battle. I do believe that a good portion the folks at Fox do sincerely support the latter group over the former.

One contributing long-term factor contributing to the doubters of Fox News’ sincerity regarding traditional values is that for decades its Fox Broadcasting Company (FBC) sibling has offered a slate of programming that, if anything, pushes against the traditional values put forth by Fox News leading to a bit of cognitive dissonance for viewers. Indeed, when FBC opened for business in 1986 (to become what was then an earthshaking fourth TV network) it did so with a slew of shows like Married with Children and, soon to follow, The Simpsons that mocked the traditional family shows that were popular at the time like The Cosby Show, Family Ties and Growing Pains. Doing so was part of a strategy to set the fledgling upstart apart from its established competitors. These days it’s I think it’s the reverse. If you want your network to pop a good plan would be to present creative quality programming that supports traditional values such as faith, family and patriotism.

That’s a strategy today’s FBC should seriously consider to A.) boost its own less-than-spectacular ratings (with recent data placing it behind not just CBS, NBC and ABC but also Fox News, TNT and TBS) and B.) to finally provide some cohesive synergy with Fox News. For years the Fox News and Fox Broadcasting brands have been incongruous partners. That’s a situation that, considering FBC’s low ratings, has proven to be unfruitful while also indirectly – but significantly – hurting Fox News’ credibility with its core audience. It’s time to bring the two outlets into alignment.

Last week FBC announced its 2023-24 season programming plans. Unlike the other networks, the announcement did not include an actual fall schedule but the network revealed enough to reveal that, while some of the new offerings have potential, there’s not much there that seems particularly targeted at attracting the Fox News audience.

Here’s the list (along with my initial thoughts):

Based on an Italian show, the dramatic series will follow Dr. Amy Elias, the chief of internal and family medicine at a Minneapolis hospital who’s also recovering from a brain injury that has wiped out the last eight years of her memory.
IMHO: I’m tired of these overly-complex supposedly super-deep dramas. Give me an old-style episodic medical show about doctors and nurses doing their best to help patients.
The Bottom Line: Likely to be quickly forgotten.

Animated comedy about a great detective (voiced by Jon Hamm) who can’t figure out his own family.
IMHO: A concept that has potential but might actually work better as a live action dramedy.
The Bottom Line: It depends on the execution but Fox is getting a bit overloaded with animated comedies.

Rescue: HI-Surf
An action-drama about lifeguards in Hawaii.
IMHO: A bit of a Baywatch knockoff but maybe the kind of unpretentious escapist fare viewers are in the mood for.
The Bottom Line: I see a potential hit here.

Yet another Fox animated comedy. This one takes place is about flawed family of human, gods and monster in mythic ancient Greece.
Fox seems to think they’ve cornered the animated comedy but when was the last time they had an actual new animated hit? Yet, depending on how it’s presented (light absurdist Rocky and Bullwinkle-style humor [my choice] or Family Guy edgy), this one could conceivably work.
Hit or Myth (which, maybe, should be the show’s title).

Snake Oil
Hosted and produced by David Spade (Just Shoot Me) this lighthearted twist on ABC’s Shark Tank has contestants trying ascertain who are the genuine entrepreneurs with innovative ideas and who are just snake oil salesmen.
IMHO: Could actually be fun.
The Bottom Line: I’ll check it out.

We Are Family
Hosted by Jamie Foxx (who is currently recovering from a medical scare) and his daughter Corrine, the game show will have contestants trying to guess who non-celebrity musical performers are related to.
IMHO: I certainly wish Jamie Foxx well but the concept of this particular show sounds kinda boring to me.
The Bottom Line:
I could be wrong.

Like I did for CBS and NBC earlier this week, here are…

Three Free Suggestions for FBN

1. Lean into conservative comedy. How about rebooting the classic celebrity game show Hollywood Squares? It could be hosted by canceled Bachelor host Chris Harrison. Put Roseanne in the center square surrounded by such other on-the-outs stars as Gina Carano, Tim Allen, Kevin Sorbo and Sharon Osbourne. The casting itself would send a message that it’s time to cancel cancel culture. For good measure, shoot it in Hollywood, Florida. Also, how about a conservative-leaning competitor to SNL produced by The Babylon Bee? The possibilities go on.

2. Lean into conservative drama. Why must all of TV’s lawyer, cop and medical procedurals have a decidedly left-of-center bent? There are lots of talented content creators who think differently. Give Andrew Klavan a development deal. Beyond that, there books and novels written by Fox News personalities like Brian Kilmeade that would make for great TV movies and miniseries.

3. Lean into conservative news programming. How about a quality hour-long nightly news program, produced by Fox News with broadcast network production values, to run at 7:00 PM ET leading into the networks prime-time offerings? I’d suggest Kevin Corke has both the necessary gravitas and likability to successfully anchor. In a similar vein, how about 60 Minutes-style weekly magazine featuring profiles, human interest stories and, yes, investigations not likely to garner the interest of that venerable but increasingly left-leaning program. Make Miranda Devine the new Mike Wallace.

Bonus Suggestion
Launch an old-school weekly music/variety hour that celebrates uplifting music. America really needs to sing happy songs again. Such a show could be built around the popular Home Free singing group.

With Memorial Day upon us, here’s an appropriate sample of what I’m talking about.

You’re welcome, Fox.  Next: ABC. Have a happy and blessed Memorial Day everyone!

John W. Kennedy is a writer, producer and media development consultant specializing in television and movie projects that uphold positive timeless values, including trust in God.

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

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