Here’s the latest from the crossroads of faith, media & culture: 10/13/23

Family Man. Known for his roles in 1996’s Sling Blade, 2013’s Jackie Robinson biopic 42 (in which he played Pee Wee Reese), the blockbuster Fast and the Furious film series and the long-running TV show NCIS: New Orleans, Lucas Black has reached that point in his career where he can be selective regarding the types of projects he chooses to take on – and he’s choosing to take on faith-themed fare that appeals to men as well as women. Toward that end, he starred in last year’s Legacy Peak for Pure Flix (now Great American Pure Flix) and is returning to the streamer today in the old-fashioned western Birthright Outlaw.

JWK: What attracted you to this particular movie – and to your character Rev. Jeremiah Jacobs?

Lucas Black: Good question. This will be my third film in a row in the faith-based genre – starting  with Legacy Peak which was also directed by Aaron Burns…Then I did Unsung Hero which comes out in the spring of 2024…My goal for these types of films is to attract more men to them. You know, the demographic is predominantly women. That’s great but I’m trying to figure out a way to create content where the men can entertained, uplifted and encouraged.

So, Birthright Outlaw is a faith-based film but in a western setting. I feel like that’s appealing to us guys, right, because we know what we’re gonna get out of a western. We’re gonna get a good guy, a bad guy, there’s gonna be a gunfight and usually – hopefully – the good guy comes out on top most of the time. My character in this movie – Jeremiah – has to make a decision to step up and fight for his family – for the relationships that mean the most to him, step up and fight for his marriage and to save his daughter. There are not a lot of movies out there that are made like this. I really like that it puts the father-figure role in a good light. It puts the husband in a good light…I think that’s a really good and positive message. I think the men are gonna like this one as well as the women.

Sarah Drew does a great job with her character. Her character is really impacted by God, His transformative love, His unconditional love. That also attracted me to this film because it’s obvious that she’s struggling with her past and then she becomes that new creation in Christ on the other side. That’s a powerful story in itself. So, there were a lot of elements to this film that I really liked but those are a few.

JWK: Westerns seem to be making a comeback. Yellowstone, of course, is huge – but a lot of the modern westerns tend to be a little darker than traditional westerns. Would you say this movie is sort of a throwback to the Gunsmoke era when right and wrong and heroes and villains were more clearly delineated?

LB: Yeah, that’s a good analogy. I believe so. We show the dark side in this movie. You really get to see evil at work. I think having that in a western setting made it a little easier to do that but we’re still fighting the same battles today. There are a lot of parallels even though we’re not riding horses, gunslinging and wearing gun belts and tons of ammo on our side…Guys are concealed carrying but it’s not out in the open like it is in a western (but) we’re still having to fight those battle today. I hope that when fathers watch this that they recognize that there is a real enemy out there and it wants to come and steal, kill and destroy – and take away those relationships that mean the most to us. We need to learn how to battle that, step up and fight to protect our families. So, there are a lot of parallels that we can take from this movie and what we’re going through today.

JWK: Do you think men are not portrayed as strongly as they used to be in the movies?

LB: Absolutely. It’s been going on for quite some time – kind of slowly, they’ve just been dripping it in every now and then. The content out of Hollywood has really portrayed the father as a weak, made-fun-of, taking-the-backstep, non-leader. We need to change that.That’s one of my goals and that’s what I like about this.

There are some elements about my character that aren’t his strong suits. He may be weak in some areas but he’s still steps up and tries to learn and become skillful in those areas and is willing to do whatever it takes to fight for his family…I believe that God has given men some innate character traits. A couple of those is to provide and protect…We need to get back to showing characters – father-figure roles and men – having those traits because I think that’s best for society. I think when we do those well – fulfill those God-given roles – it’s best for everyone.

So, yes, this is a need right out there. I think there’s a hunger for content like this. So, I’m really excited for everyone to see Birthright Outlaw and to get the feedback. I think it’s going to be well-received.

JWK: You did, I think, 125 episodes of NCIS: New Orleans. I guess you’d say that had strong male characters. Would you consider, say, doing a western TV series?

LB: I’m not a fan of TV series. A television series is a different animal. I mean it’s grinding work, long hours. The first two-and-a-half seasons (of NCIS: New Orleans) I was working 70 to 80 hours a week (on a) five-day work week. So, there were lots of days where I went to work while my kids were asleep and when I came back from work they were in their beds asleep for the night. So, you sacrifice a lot time away from family. That doesn’t bode too well for the relationships that mean the most to you.

I’ve been fortunate…God has led me in the right direction to keep those relationships that mean the most to me intact because I’ve witnessed the destruction of families (of) people who work in the entertainment business. It’s a sad thing. It’s very common. I don’t want that to happen to me. That’s one of the reasons I’m not a fan of how television series operate. I think they should be done differently. They do not, in my opinion, give someone an opportunity to live their best life while they’re doing the work.

JWK: That’s interesting. The writers’ strike just ended and, hopefully, the actors’ strike will end soon. How would you do TV series differently so that they would be more conducive family life?

LB: Well, you gotta put God first and the people first. It’s all about the money, it’s all about turnover and how fast you can do it. That drains people. You gotta have leaders that care about the person first. That’s what’s gotta change. It’s gotta be a heart change.

JWK: Would you encourage your children to get into the entertainment business?

LB: That’s a decision that they have to make. I’m gonna support them in what they want to do. If they’ve got any questions for me, I’ll probably end up voice my concerns but I’ll be there to lend a helping hand.

JWK: Anything you’d like to say as we wrap-up?

LB: Yeah. I hope people watch Birthright Outlaw for many reasons. Number-one, I would like people to take away that God loves you no matter what. This story is about a Heavenly Father who’s ready to receive you with open arms. It doesn’t matter what your past is. You’re never too far gone for God. He’s there ready to love you, heal you and to help you along the way to a better life. I hope people see that when they watch this movie.

A second helping of tossed salad and scrambled eggs (or is it a third?).

The classic sitcom Cheers introduced psychiatrist Dr. Frasier Crane (superbly played by Kelsey Grammer) as a supporting character in its third season. When that show ended at the end of its eleventh season, it was followed by the spin-off Frasier which also ran for eleven seasons and was, IMHO, even better than the excellent show that give birth to it.

Now, the question is can lightning strike for a third time with this Paramount+ update that dropped yesterday almost 20 years to the day that Frasier had its final season premiere on September 16, 2003. I’ll share my thoughts on that next week – but, first, here’s a look at an alternative idea I proposed to a fellow named Chris Maul back in 2004. At the time he worked in development for Grammer’s Grammnet Productions. He seemed to genuinely like the idea but said the decision to give the character a rest was firm. When I heard that a sequel show was finally in the works and that ideas were being sought, I dusted off and updated my old concept but was unsuccessful at getting it considered. I even incorporated Grammer’s own eventual  embrace of Christianity into the concept. Alas, no use crying over spilled tossed salad and scrambled eggs.

Note that, unlike the actual new show, my idea is for an hour-long light comedy drama. I actually think that’s the way to go when continuing a classic sitcom character as it adds a different perspective and avoids that overly familiar look of, say, the recent failed reboots of Murphy Brown, Will & Grace and Mad About You (not that I think any of them can really hold a candle to Frasier). More successful character continuations can be found in vintage shows like Lou Grant and Trapper John M.D. which respectively continued their sitcom characters from The Mary Tyler Moore Show and M*A*S*H respectively in the form of hour-long dramedies (then generally referred to as comedy-dramas). In the case of Trapper John M.D. it too picked up the character’s story arc decades after the original (with Bonanza‘s Pernell Roberts stepping in for Wayne Rogers). More recently, Young Sheldon, though actually a half-hour prequel to The Big Bang Theory, benefitted from switching from a multicamera sitcom presentation to a single-camera format that incorporated more drama.

So, if for nothing else than my own amusement, here it is.

The Frasier Crane Mysteries

Log Line: Frasier meets Monk.

Concept: Thirty years after Dr. Frasier Crane left Seattle for Chicago, he is back. The good news is that he reunited with Charlotte (the woman he had fallen for during Frasier’s final season) and finally found the true love of his life that he has always sought. He also found success as a nationally syndicated TV talk show host (I pulled that idea from the actual new show). The sad news is that after 18 years happy years of marriage Charlotte died breast cancer. Her death sent Frasier plummeting into a deep depression that resulted in his rediscovery of faith and a decision to end his show and return to that place where we had gone to mend after previous life setbacks. Seattle.

There he seeks to get reacquainted with his adult son Freddy who – like his father 30 years earlier – has relocated from Boston and lives in the same Seattle condo Frasier used to live with his father Martin (and which Frasier has gifted to Freddy). Freddy has also followed in his grandfather’s footsteps by becoming a homicide detective – even serving out of the same police precinct.

In short order, Frasier ends up moving in (supposedly temporarily) with his son and unwittingly becoming the alibi for the suspected killer in one of Freddy’s investigations. As it turns out, Frasier, in a bid for his father’s approval, completed a forensic psychiatry fellowship while studying at Harvard. He also soon discovers that he has a knack for using his well-honed listening skills and knowledge of human behavior to solve mysteries and trip up smug killers. When Frasier ends up tripping up the killer and solving the case, he is hired on as a consultant to Freddy’s squad (much to the younger Crane’s chagrin). As the series continues the pair grow in love and respect for one another.


Dr. Frasier Crane
The same character we know and love – just a bit older and wiser.

Det. Frederick (Freddy) Crane
Frasier’s allergy-ridden, half-Jewish son (on his mother Lilith’s side) inherited his conservative convictions and love of law and justice from his grandfather but overall social awkwardness from his father and uncle. Driven by the memory of once being falsely accused of cheating after winning the National Spelling Bee (an actual episode of the original Frasier), he’s currently studying to be a defense lawyer. He lives with Max, his beloved German shepherd/cowardly K9 cop partner.

Lt. Karen Copeland
The no-nonsense head of the investigative unit Freddy and Frasier work under. She’s about Frasier’s age and has fond memories of Martin who was something of a mentor to her when he was young and struggling to make it in a male-dominated profession. Her police officer husband was killed in the line of duty ten years ago. She believes hard evidence and leg work – not “pop psychology” – are the keys to solving crime. Still, she hates to admit just how often Frasier is right. She also hates that the name Karen has been weaponized as an epithet. A Patricia Heaton type.

Det. Tyler Tucker
Freddy’s confident, streetwise African-American partner is about his age. The son of a single mother, he grew up in the rough section of town with his single mother. Despite their different backgrounds, they are best friends.

Note: This concept provides ample opportunity for characters from Frasier (especially Niles, Daphne, Roz and Lilith) to organically recur. If David Hyde Pierce remains adamant about not reprising his role as Niles, it might be amusing to have him often referred to off screen (as the character of his first wife Maris was in the original series). Niles, BTW, now fills the time slot of Frasier’s old KACL radio show.

The Episodes

  1. Frame of Mind
    A renowned psychiatrist who inspired a young Frasier to pursue a career in psychiatry murders a patient who was threatening to expose their affair while pinning the crime on another severely disturbed patient – who actually cooperates by confessing. On top of that, Frasier himself provides the killer with an alibi.
  1. A Mime is a Terrible Thing to Waste
    A street mime who often performed in front of Frasier’s apartment is shot dead with a silencer.
  1. Method Actor
    A movie star takes his preparation for the role of a Seattle serial killer more than a bit too far.
  1. Final Draft
    A world-famous, but fading, mystery novelist steals his protégé’s ingenious plot twist — which he actually uses to do in the young writer.
  1. How to Frame a Guilty Man
    Frasier suspects, but can’t prove, that a popular TV anchorman killed his wife – until a detective with a vendetta against the newsman plants evidence against him.
  1. Mercury in Retrograde
    A TV psychic murders the executive who was about to cancel his show – and then leads police to the supposed killer.
  1. Her Worst Nightmare
    A shock jock’s obsessed groupie literally dreams of the murder of the KACL Radio star’s girlfriend – as it happens.  When she reports her dream to the cops, she becomes the prime suspect.
  1. Abra-Cadaver
    A magician commits murder while apparently on stage doing a show.
  2. The Freudian Slip
    A lingerie mogul murders her partner then attempts to divert Freddy’s suspicions by flirting with him.
  1. Mind Game
    Frasier is called in to determine whether a TV pitchman’s bizarre behavior after being nailed for killing his wife is actual insanity or cold-blooded manipulation of the legal system.
  1. Burying the Hatchets
    When media mogul Ben Hatchet dies in an ironic accident involving a hatchet, he leaves a will that stipulates his fortune will be divided equally by his surviving family members one year after his death. That’s when the Hatchets start dropping like flies — victims of bizarre “accidents.”
  2. The Crepes of Wrath
    A master chef commits murder when his lover threatens to leave him for another chef — and take his recipes with her.

Well, I got that out of my system. Have a great weekend!

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

More from Beliefnet and our partners
Close Ad