Just as the 12 days of Christmas were ending, as millions of Christians celebrated the sacred mysteries of the virgin birth of a messiah, NBC was preparing for a birth of an opposite kind: a new TV series mocking Jesus as just another amusingly clueless televised sidekick.
The new show is called "The Book of Daniel," which is first and foremost a tired carbon copy of the outrageously dysfunctional suburban family shtick, but with the twist that this time, the Fool is played by Our Lord. Episcopal minister Daniel Webster is hooked on Vicodin and sees Jesus Christ regularly. His wife is an alcoholic. His son is gay. His daughter sells marijuana. His adopted Chinese son is a teenage sex machine. His female bishop, who asks him for one of his "Canadian headache pills" for the codeine, and later raids his office for more, is having an adulterous relationship with his father, who's also an Episcopal bishop, whose wife has Alzheimer's and keeps talking about penises.
Are there enough ridiculous, plastic characters in this spectacle yet? No, apparently not. Daniel's brother-in-law escapes town with the church treasury, but his wife and the church secretary have gone from a menage a trois to a saucy lesbian relationship. To find said brother-in-law, Daniel seeks out "Father Frank," an Italian Catholic priest who (no stereotypes here?) uses his Mafia contacts to hunt down the missing money, so the mob can compromise Daniel.
It's obvious that today's TV scribes have thoroughly rejected reality. Today's trend is to create plots that are utterly buffoonish, spinning so many dizzying plates of dysfunctionality that the viewer gets too tired to flip channels. Nearly every TV critic sees ABC's "Desperate Housewives" and HBO's "Six Feet Under" in the show's DNA. The Washington Post suggested it be titled "Desperate Holiness."
It's a sad descent for NBC on Fridays. They've cancelled "Three Wishes," the uplifting show NBC premiered on Fridays this fall, with gospel singer Amy Grant going to small towns and working little miracles, after weak promotion and critical sniffs at its goody-goody nature. That show was doing positive things in the real world, not tearing down religion in a desperate attempt to grab eyeballs -- and who wants that?