FOX’s second journey into the Live Musical genre with “The Passion” aired Sunday night. After the success of “Grease Live,” the network was hoping for another ratings win with this kick off to Holy Week, the modern day telling of the Passion of Christ.
The timing is right. Palm Sunday begins the story of Jesus’ journey to the cross. And what better place to tell of this suffering that continues to captivate the nation, but New Orleans. Where the ripples from the suffering created by Hurricane Katrina still continue.
Tyler Perry acted as narrator, while a star studded cast (Trisha Yearwood as Mary Magdalene, Seal as Pontius Pilate, Daughtry as Judas, etc.) belted out modern day anthems to mimic the themes of the final days of the life of Jesus Christ. All played out on the modern stage. Simultaneously, an illuminated cross was traveling through the streets of New Orleans, carried on the shoulders of citizens. The message was clear, we face suffering today, but here is the Good News.
And just when you felt the impact of the story (arguably, the story that entire religions are based on) at the close of a passionate song, FOX would cut a Charmin commercial and the mood was lost.
As a Lutheran, I wanted to love this. I was so excited to see this important story played out in an accessible way. But was disappointed in the lack of substance.
Tyler Perry and FOX promised an event, and it was an event. There were lights, there was star power, it was visually stunning. But it washed over the true suffering of The Passion. The grit. The pain. The suffering. It left me feeling like I’d seen a nice cruise ship show, but not connected to the biblical story that permeates the next seven days of Christian faith.
And yet, it started a conversation. And that’s never a bad thing.
And the Twitter reaction seemed equally conflicted.
— J. Patrick Wise (@jpatrickwise) March 21, 2016
— Travis Cottrell (@cottrelltravis) March 21, 2016
If you’re picking apart this program- you’ve-missed the point. We are celebrating JESUS CHRIST on prime time television! #thepassionlive
— Jaime Primak (@JaimePrimak) March 21, 2016
Jesus just visited a food truck and then started singing Creed. Goodnight, everyone. #ThePassionLive
— Samantha Highfill (@samhighfill) March 21, 2016