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TV series The Bible makes its début

06 December 2013

By Olly Grant

history channel

Sea of troubles: the parting of the Red Sea in the first episode of The Bible

Sea of troubles: the parting of the Red Sea in the first episode of The Bible

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 Bible Belt.

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 (www.thebibleuk.org).

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