Here’s the latest from the crossroads of faith, media & culture: 07/02/24

Bill AbbottDave Noll

Above: Great American Media CEO Bill Abbott and serial unscripted TV show hit maker Dave Noll

Television as a noble calling. I don’t know if you’re a news buff but if you’ve been paying attention at all you may have noticed there’s a lot angst and anger currently in the air – and on the air. The state of affairs is sort of reminiscent of 1970s and early 1980s  when America was recovering from both Watergate and Vietnam, nuclear war was a threat, prices and crime were both on the rise and there was a similar lack of confidence in our institutions and leadership.

Back then though at least, our TV shows and movies had a way helping us escape all those worries. On TV people looked forward to their favorite shows which delivered heroes we rooted for and comedies that made us laugh. Even their theme songs made us happy. To the extent that the shows dealt with serious issues, those issues were usually approached with a sense that people are good and have the power within them to make things better. There was some pointed political humor but, for the most part, it avoided the nastiness present in so much of it today. Johnny Carson would make fun of both sides and his jokes were aimed more at pricking pretensions than drawing blood. Whether intentionally or not, network TV particularly served the positive purpose of cheering us up and giving us hope that better days were ahead.

Around 2004 or so, TV began to take a darker turn that has only accelerated with the advent of streaming. Somehow darkness became cool and sophisticated – at least in the minds of many of the content creators. Well, after about 20 years of the darkness diet, the world actually does feel darker – but I honestly think things are things are beginning to change as the public thirst for optimistic storytelling has grown undeniable.

Among those who I think get it and are leading the industry back to its higher purpose is Great American Media CEO Bill Abbott and Dave Noll, the noted producer and show creator whose hits include the Chopped franchise and the popular game show America Says.

Abbott, who built the Hallmark Channel brand and whose current Great American Media portfolio includes the faith-based streamer Great American Pure Flix, was interviewed recently for Beliefnet‘s sister site Patheos. In that conversation, he noted that positive entertainment doesn’t have to be geared to a particular religion, saying that Great America American Media’s goal is to offer faith and family friendly programming that is “inclusive.” He adds that “We’re not just for one religion or one set of people of faith. People of faith — they have a lot more in common than … things that are different.” Whether Christian or not, he notes, most people want a little uplift with their entertainment. “At the end of the day,” he says “it’s basically the same fundamental value system.” To which I say “Amen.” (You can read my previous conversation with Bill Abbott here.)

Dave Noll, who I also interviewed in this space, has built a career creating and producing an enormous amount of unscripted TV programs for various networks. His latest, The Flip Side hosted by former Family Matters star Jaleel White, is set to air this fall on Game Show Network and CBS stations across the country.  His approach is to take simple but ingenious concepts that everyone can understand and put them out for people to watch and enjoy together. That Big Tent programming philosophy has certainly worked for him and his creative partners. I bring him up now because his book The Visionary in Charge is aimed at inspiring and offering tips to others who just need that extra push to turn their God-given dreams into reality. I say get the book and go for it. We need more positive content creators out there – and the timing couldn’t be better!
Coming Attractions.

Reagan, starring Dennis Quaid, the inspirational life story of our 40th president, arrives in theaters August 30th. Ronald Reagan, of course, was known as the embodiment of the sort of optimism America could use now.

You Gotta Believe, starring Luke Wilson and Greg Kinnear, is based on a true Little World Series underdog success story. The film also hits theaters on August 30th. Make it a double feature!


A shout out to my good friend – and funniest lady I know – comedian Angie Beagleman. The judges smartly chose her as their winner at the 2024 Comic Cure Boca Raton Fest. Good clean fun – and very well deserved!

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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