BRITISH viewers are now able to judge for themselves if the hype
over the American mini-series The Bible is justified. When
it first appeared on cable TV in the United States earlier this
year, few people expected its popularity to extend far beyond the
Eight months later, however, the drama has gone on to break
records, and has a global audience of millions. The series made its
début on Channel 5 on Saturday night, and runs for a further four
weeks. Damaris, a charity that produces free Christian resources to
accompany mainstream films, reports that the first episode had more
than 1.2 million viewers.
The ten-hour series - created by a husband-and-wife team, Roma
Downey and Mark Burnett, both TV producers - follows the biblical
narrative, beginning with the Creation story and the Flood, and
ending with Revelation.
Filmed on a budget of $20 million, it features a multi-national
cast of relative unknowns, from a Portuguese actor and former
model, Diogo Morgado, as Jesus Christ, to a Moroccan film veteran,
Mohamen Mehdi Ouazanni, who plays Satan.
Ms Downey says that she was unprepared for the scale of the
project's success. "We dared to dream that it would do well, but I
don't know that we ever dared to dream this big," she said last
week. "People in Hollywood thought we were crazy to do it."
Most of the cast members are British, the visual effects were
handled by a London firm, Lola, and all three co-executive
producers have British roots. Channel 5 commissioned Robert Powell,
the star of Franco Zeffirelli's 1977 film Jesus of
Nazareth, to narrate the British version.
The British broadcasts are being sponsored by two Christian
organisations. Spring Harvest and What's in the Bible?, a
children's DVD series, will share the video "idents" at the start
and end of each episode, and in the advertising breaks.
Other Christian bodies are helping to promote the series.
Damaris has created a souvenir guide, and is offering gift editions
of the DVD release on 26 December that can be ordered online