Here’s the latest from the crossroads of faith, media & culture: 05/24/23

Pure Flix presents its wares at the National Religious Broadcasters Convention in Orlando. The event, which opened Monday with remarks by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (who reportedly is officially jumping into the 2024 GOP presidential race tonight), continues as the streamer’s leadership team of CEO Michael Scott, Chief Marketing Officer Loren Schwartz and Chief Content Officer Linda Blazy are joined by several like-minded movie and TV stars to celebrate the growth of faith-themed entertainment in the American media marketplace.
About that growth, Scott declared “There’s a revival happening in this country — a faith revival and a faith-in-entertainment revival. We’re seeing huge crowds that are hungry for the good news of the gospel and Pure Flix is a place where we can support and encourage their faith journey with authentic and entertaining stories.” The presentation follows the recent announcement that Pure Flix is merging with Hallmark Channel rival Great American Media which offers family-friendly cable and free ad-supported streaming.
Great American Media CEO Bill Abbott (who previously ran the parent company of Hallmark Channel) said he was thrilled to join the Pure Flix squad in unveiling “a compelling content slate featuring stories that will entertain and inspire audiences of all ages,” adding “We are looking forward to combining our business after the merger closes.”
That slate includes:
God’s Country (streaming exclusively on Pure Flix beginning June 16th)
Just in time for Father’s Day, the new movie (produced by SkipStone Pictures), which features 15  original songs, that tells the story of a country singer who rediscovers his faith through fatherhood.

Eleanor’s Bench (dramatic series set to debut exclusively on Pure Flix on June 30th)

(Photo by Ashley Zahorian)

Premise: Eleanor Thomas (Karen Abercrombie) returns to her hometown to serve as a judge for the local juvenile court.

Divine Influencer (Pure Flix original film set to debut in August)
Olivia Golden (Lara Silva of The Chosen) is an entitled influencer who suddenly loses the limelight, her parents financial support and her apartment in the same week. Desperate, she takes a job at a homeless shelter for all the wrong reasons but soon realizes the joy and purpose that comes from serving others. Directed by Shari Rigby.
Vindication: Season 3 (coming to Pure Flix in September)
The gritty faith-themed crime drama promises to resolve the Season 2 cliffhanger involving the fates of Detectives Gary Travis (Todd Terry of Breaking Bad) and Kris Tanner (Venus Monique).
Revelation Road: The Series (seven episodes begin streaming in September on Pure Flix) Episode 1 is being previewed at NRB.

Birthright Law (coming to Pure Flix in October)
The original film stars Lucas Black (NCIS: New Orleans) and Sarah Drew (Grey’s Anatomy) as  a pastor and his wife coping the the kidnapping of their daughter.
Finding Faith (coming to Pure Flix in November)
The original movie, starring Ashley Bratcher, John Schneider and Vivica A. Fox, follows the travails of a Christian advice columnist whose faith has faded and whose personal life is in shambles.

Other Pure Flix projects in various stages of development include a second season of the hospice-set drama series Going Home and a fifth God is Not Dead movie that is scheduled for a theatrical release in the spring of 2024.

Pure Flix is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Sony Pictures Entertainment.

NBC logo - Wikipedia

The Quality Shows on NBC. Turning to the broadcast networks now, that’s a classic old slogan for the Peacock Network. It’s one of the best I ever heard. They should bring it back. The question is does it apply to where the network of LA Law, Cheers and the original Frasier is going? Another question is will their programming appeal to mainstream viewers of faith? That’s where you friendly neighborhood Faith, Media & Culture blogger comes in. In my last post I offered my well-intentioned analysis of CBS‘ recently announced 2023-24 slate. You can check out the network’s official fall schedule here (which, of course, looks likely to be upended by the writers strike). Now, a look at the individual shows. Unlike CBS, no trailers appear to be available.

The Americas (Midseason, Time Slot: TBD)
Tom Hanks
narrates an epic 10-part documentary  series (with music by two-time Oscar-winner Hans Zimmer) about, well, the title says it.
IMHO: I’ve gotta give the network credit for offering an alternative to sitcoms, supposedly edgy dramas and inane so-called reality shows. That old “Quality Shows on NBC” slogan might actually apply here.
The Bottom Line: I’m looking forward to it.

Deal or No Deal Island (Midseason, Time Slot: TBD)
An odd mash-up of the classic Deal or No Deal game show and Survivor.
It looks like the Deal or No Deal concept is about to jump the suitcase.
The Bottom Line: No deal.

Extended Family (Tuesday, 8:30 PM ET)
Jon Cryer (Two and a Half Men)
, Abigail Spencer (Timeless) and Donald Faison (Scrubs) star in a sitcom about the amicable divorce of Jim and Julie (Cryer and Spencer), a married couple with two kids whose lives are changed when a rich sports team owner (Faison) enters the picture and wins Julia’s heart. 
The concept seems a little strained to me but you never know.
The Bottom Line: It will depend on the writing.

Found (Thursday, 10:00 PM ET)
Shanola Hampton (Shameless), Mark-Paul Gosselaar (NYPD Blue), Kelli Williams (The Practice), Brett Dalton (Chicago Fire) and Gabrielle Walsh (9-1-1) play a team of investigators seachring for missing people.
IMHO: A strong cast could make for a solid show that could make a decent successor to the time slot that once housed by classics like Hill Street Blues, LA Law and ER. Now ditch the tired and depressing Law & Order franchise and put some Must-See comedies in front of it.  One more thing (as the classic NBC sleuth Columbo would say), doesn’t the title telegraph the ending. Shouldn’t the show be called something like Search?
The Bottom Line: See Extended Family.

The Irrational (Thursday, 10:00 PM ET)
Jesse L. Martin (The Flash)
stars as Alec Baker, a world-renowned professor of behavioral science hired by governments, law enforcement, and corporations to apply his expertise to high-stakes situations. Based on the book Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely.
It sounds a bit different. Has potential.
The Bottom Line: See Extended Family and Found.

Untitled America’s Got Talent Spinoff (Thursday, 10:00 PM ET)
No details available but then…
…who cares? I’m so tired of these talent shows where every week someone being given the hook in front of millions of people. How about just doing an old-style talent show where we celebrate newly discovered talent and nobody’s publicly humiliated? Just a thought.
The Bottom Line: Enough already. America’s got better things to do.

The Network Bottom Line: A lot will simply depend on how good new shows like Extended Family, Found and The Irrational are. One thing is clear. The network needs a shot in the arm of uplift and creativity. Too much of the network’s prime-time real estate has been turned over to stale reality shows and Dick Wolf ‘s Chicago and (especially) Law & Order franchises. And, while that Night Court reboot may be performing in the ratings, IMHO, the writing is pretty lame. The show’s ratings success just show how nostalgic people are for the old Must-See TV days of quality lineups. If parent company Comcast still cares about broadcast network television (a big if), a shake-up at NBC is desperately needed.

Three Free Suggestions for NBC

  1. Build off the NBCUniversal brand by changing the name of its struggling streaming service from Peacock (which reminds of the old lady from Clue) to Universal Streaming (US). Then you suddenly have a new updated slogan – The Quality Shows NBC: The Network of US – that will help convey a message that NBC not only airs quality television but it’s schedule built for the audience with a positive mission of bringing the US together. There’s a natural draw to that for folks who are seeking less divisive programming choices.
  2. Give SNL’s Kenan Thompson his own weekly comedy-variety show. His recent derivative sitcom may have crashed and burned but the guy’s likable and has enormous talent. Giving him his own prime-time hour would be a great opportunity to revive a classic TV format that’s, as they say, so old it’s new again.
  3. Tie-in with Comcast’s Syfy cable brand to create science-fiction lineups on NBC – say Syfy Friday and/or (after football) Syfy Sunday. For instance the likely final season of family sci-fi series La Brea could lead off a Friday lineup that would also include the Quantum Leap sequel (though, IMHO, the current show is  a quantum leap from matching the appeal of the original) and the import of The Ark from Syfy. From that base the network could build out the Syfy on NBC brand with better shows that will really shake-up the prime-time landscape. For instance, with state-of-the-art special effects I think a Land of the Giants reboot would really pop as an exciting buzz-worthy edition to the lineup. Go big! Check out some scenes from the classic ABC series below.

You’re welcome, NBC. Next: Fox.

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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