Good Catholic TV

Good Catholic TV

Lest anyone accuse me of only focusing on bad news (which regular readers know would be a false accusation), let me point you to a story on “WOW”, a new TV show for children on Boston Catholic Television.

Fr. Bob Reed is the new head of BCTV, seen on local cable in the archdiocese, and he’s got a vision for transforming it from the deadly dull (to me) talking heads of the past to something that everyone in the family will want to see. (I don’t want to sweep with too broad of a brush. There have been some decent programs in the past, but they have been too small oases in a vast desert, and even then often the good ones stuck to the same formula so many other shows followed.)

WOW is a show that focuses on second-graders with a quiz show. (For a taste of the show, see a video news report by New England Cable News. Scroll down to the bottom to July 12, 2005 and “Church turns to TV to reach young Catholics.”) It’s a great idea because people love to watch cute precocious kids and not only will the kids be watching, but so will families and friends.

I’d also suggest they develop some kind of show for teens. I’m thinking something along the lines of MTV’s Road Rules/Real World challenge show where two teams of kids will have to run through obstacles of some sort and address team challenges. Could be a lot of fun.

I think the more we can move Catholic TV away from just talking heads (which is fine in certain contexts), the bigger the potential audience. It could be quite interesting.

What kind of Catholic TV would you like to see? Think outside the box. Dream big. I’m curious what people think would work: Sitcoms? Reality TV? What?

Written by
Domenico Bettinelli
19 comments
  • For several years, I have dabbled with the idea of a Catholic sketch show a la Saturday Night Live. But whenever some friends and I worked on skits, we felt the points made were orthodox but the overall skits just too controversial at the end. Satire is such a tricky thing. So I’ve filed them away for possible movie screenplays. But I haven’t given up the idea.

    As for reality shows, I know the “Bachelor/Bachelorette”-type shows are just fundamentally wrong, but I always thought it would be entertaining to do a show where Catholics court instead.

    “Yeah, he’s cute and he knows his Catechism, but he just says the rosary so fast… I can never keep up. I don’t know if this will work out…”

  • I can’t wait until BBC’s The Monastery (http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/programmes/monastery/) comes to the U.S.

    I’d like to see some reality TV similar to The Monastery.

    How about “The Mission”. Profile and follow a group of Catholic missionaries on their mission to Africa or South America or even some inner city slum in the U.S. and see how their faith holds up and is enriched by their experience.

    How about “The Seminary”. Profile and follow young seminarians to see what it’s like to discern a priestly calling.

    How about an hour long drama called “Tell it to the Chaplain” about a young Catholic military chaplain trying to keep his flock together in Iraq as he deals with the crises of faith he and his soldiers experience.

    I’ve got a ton of ideas, so any TV Execs who want to move ahead on any of these projects, just have your people email my people and we’ll meet and do lunch! smile

  • Dom…thanks for your kind words about wOw and BCTV.  Upward is the direction we need to go.  I’m not too sure how effective wOw will be, that remains to be seen in the fall, but it is different and it was great to have hundreds and hundreds of regular people from all over the Archdiocese come through the studios over the past weeks (we have 24 groups of kids/contestants each bringing with them a studio audience).  One thing I tried to make clear to our guests: BCTV is OUR TV station as an Archdiocese.  We have the ability to focus on the good going on every day in the Church.  BCTV can be a tremendous resource for healing and evangelization.

    I am watching the replies to see what people think.  One important point is that we have limited staff and $$ and seemingly simple projects can often be quite costly in terms of both.  We are trying to find ways to create TV that is both effective and reasonable, if you know what I mean.

    Again, I appreciate your attention to wOw and OUR cable TV station!

  • And after their statehood (or commonweathhood) is revoked, move the Red Sox to Hadlock Field in Portland smile

  • To make BCTV better, the first thing to do is make the Daily Mass better.  We’re Catholics, remember?  We’re centered around Christ in the Eucharist.  Real preaching, actual Gospel message, solemn worship, including worshippers.  CHANGE THE SET.  The BCTV Chapel is nice, but in a non-denominational, mental hospital sort-of way.  Improve the music.  Bring in actual worshippers.  Broadcast live from an actual church like the Cathedral, or Mission Church, or St. Clement’s Shrine. 

    Oh, and here’s a thought, what about having the bishop preach to his flock once in a while?  We’ve got five bishops in Boston, six if you count the Melkite; are all of them camera-shy? “Where the Bishop is, there let the multitude of believers be; even as where Jesus is, there is the Catholic Church’’—Ignatius of Antioch, 1st c. A.D. 

    As for the web site, I like it.  It’s bare, only the essentials.  But it would be nice to have a more complete archive…more Masses, and those “Conversations with Archbishop Sean”, and other programs that I never seem to catch.  It would be nice if the RealPlayer feeds could be made firewall-friendly (port 80, http). 

    BCTV is, frankly, taking up time slots on cable that could be given over to EWTN.  Now I’m not saying that BCTV should just fold, but it needs to realize that it doesn’t just have hours to “fill”, but that it needs to justify its programming as a better means of evangelization in Boston than EWTN would be.  If it can’t, then it should consider reducing its schedule accordingly.

  • Can. 1369 A person who in a public show or speech, in published writing, or in other uses of the instruments of social communication utters blasphemy, gravely injures good morals, expresses insults, or excites hatred or contempt against religion or the Church is to be punished with a just penalty.

    Can. 1373 A person who publicly incites among subjects animosities or hatred against the Apostolic See or an ordinary because of some act of power or ecclesiastical ministry or provokes subjects to disobey them is to be punished by an interdict or other just penalties.

    Can. 1375 Those who impede the freedom of ministry, of election, or of ecclesiastical power or the legitimate use of sacred goods or other ecclesiastical goods or who greatly intimidate an elector, one elected, or one who exercises ecclesiastical power or ministry can be punished with a just penalty.

  • Hi Don,
    Thanks for the kind words about “WOW”! At BCTV, we do air several shows that are aimed towards teens. “What I Really Want To Say” is a Catholic show in The “Real World/Road Rules” format that follows several Catholic Teens on a Road Trip with Fr. Bill Baer. “On This Rock/MVP” is hosted by Fr. John & several Catholic teens who view current Music Videos by artists such as U2 and Five For Fighting” and give their take on the videos. “Action House TV”, “Live From Studio B” and “Real Faith TV” are also excellent productions that have garnered a nice following. “Generation Cross” hosted by Lino Ruli is one of our most popular programs. Lino has gone on the road with Priests who ride motorcycles, perform martial arts, rock climb and has interviewed Nuns while ice skating and fishing. Not your typical Catholic TV! We are producing a new program with Lino that should debut in the Fall. Fr. Reed has brought his wonderful gifts to our station. Keep watching, the best is yet to come!

  • Thanks Geno. (By the way, it’s “Dom”.)

    If “On This Rock/MVP” is the same show I saw that seemed similar, I have to admit I wasn’t impressed. I saw a lot of subjectivism/relativism, a lot of making excuses for the morally offensive content of such videos, and very little defense or proclamation of the morally appropriate viewpoint.

    I think Lino’s Generation Cross is on the right track.

    I think an important point to consider is, like with books, a Catholic TV show does not have to push the agenda in your face to be effective. In other words, Catholic mystery novels that are more about issues in the culture wars than about a good mystery novel will turn off anyone but those who already agree with the author. The same goes for Catholic TV.

    So I would suggest that we expand our idea of what Catholic television can be. It doesn’t have to be just preaching, like I’m afraid EWTN and even some BCTV shows can be.

    Catholicism is more than dogma and doctrines, but it’s also a culture that engages all aspects of life.

  • Ideas, ideas…let’s see.  I got it.  It’ll be called The Sem, and will follow the auditions, er I mean the application process for a major US seminary.  Watch as 30 young men of God get grilled, tested, and brow-beaten by Sister Angry Polyester (the show’s bad cop) and Father Sensitive Turtleneck (the good cop). 

    See them go from manly to emasculated in under two semesters..or are they playing the game just to get to Ordination day?!

    Watch them squirm as they try to explain to the committee of Sixties’s leftovers why their agreement with the all-male priesthood doesn’t make them closet rapists!

    Be amazed at how Christian doctrine turns into Hallmark Card pablum when it comes to hospital chaplaincy!

    Who will make it all the way…in…The Sem!!!!

  • No wait, I got another one.  Picture it:  a Land Rover on the move at sunset headed toward the Anaheim Convention Center, the metallic glint of night goggles, a Bowie knife, a khaki safari net, and a dozen fed-up parishioners.

    Tonight on NBC…..Hunting Marty Haugen.

  • To clarify my earlier comment, for the folks at BCTV who appear to be reading this, I will be more specific in my complaint about the music: get a better organ, and mix the sound better so that the vocalist is a bit softer (she’s fine, and this can’t be solved by her, only electronically).  Second, (and BCTV may have done this intentionally), but the audio makes it sound like there is only one person assisting the priest at Mass.  Also, the chapel looks fine today (have you recently remodeled?), although I would like to see the whole chapel (including congregation).  When bare during Advent and Lent, however, it does not look okay. 

    Now back to Dom’s original topic, Catholic take-offs on popular TV shows.

    “CSI: Cause for Sainthood Investigation” – Hi-tech examination of relics, interviews of witnesses…the professionals at the Congregation separate the holy ones from, well, those poor souls we can only entrust to God’s infinite mercy.

    “E.R. Caritas”: just like regular E.R., but at a Catholic hospital in the Boston area.

    A low-budget historical sitcom reminding us what life was like when the Mass actually was the center of the average self-described Catholic’s life.

    “CSI: Cases from the Spanish Inquisition”: look at re-enacted real-life cases of heresy and other questions of ecclesiastical law from the archives of Spain’s “notorious” Inquisition. 

    “Canon Law & Order”: Matrimonial cases and other processes ‘ripped’ from the secret archives of diocesan tribunals.

    “Band of Brethren”, a 12-part series recounting one squad’s journey from the fields of Europe to the Christian reconquest of Jerusalem during the First Crusade. 

    An historical drama set in Mexico during the persecutions.  Follow a priest around as he administers the sacraments while staying one step ahead of the secular authorities.  This would actually be a compelling movie, if they haven’t made it yet.

    “Fawlty Parish”: well, I can’t think of a better name, but instead of Basil Fawlty and his wife running a hotel, it would be Fr. Fawlty and Sr. Jeanne, his pastoral associate, trying to keep up with the weddings, funerals, Masses, baptisms, annointings, religious ed., etc., of the parish, while running into self-appointed liturgical abuse cops, vagrants looking for money, feminists and other folks with agendas, parish shoppers, the occasional convert, coordinating the army of Eucharistic ministers, Miguel the hapless Spanish parish secretary, discovering that every time you preach the hard truth the collections and attendance dries up the next week, and the funniest episode of all, the surprise Bishop’s Visitation.

  • Seamole,

    BCTV had a series with Cardinal Law, all about the Catechism. And it currently has one with Archbishop O’Malley (“Conversations with Archbishop Sean”).

    I really enjoyed “Generation Cross” while it was on. Of course, it’s not produced by BCTV, so that’s probably why.

    Monsignor McInerny’s show where he answers question is pretty good, too.

    One thing I absolutely DO NOT like about BCTV is its use of Protestant programming. Even if it is not overtly Protestant, it still shows.

    EWTN strikes the right balance, IMO. It has interesting shows (such as its Onward, Pilgrims series, which follows around young people). But I don’t want to see Catholic gameshows (the question is “Who is Don John of Austria, Father”). Like Evangelical movies, it’s bound to be cheesy.

  • You’re right Dom.  You were being serious.  While I was painting it ina joking way, I do think The Sem idea *could* actually work.  It would have to be funded by a millionaire type media-minded Catholic, of course.  But I can see it being compelling TV: family and friends objecting or questioning the call; sudden break-ups with the girlfriend; dramatic arguments with the rector; interviews with why these guys as to why they felt drawn to serve a Church that others might look at skepticaly if not with hostility. 

    Finally, we see the Ordination is taped and we see the whole thing, the bishop’s homily (well, let’s hope for the best) the tear-blessed mothers, the proud dads.  The “voting off” comes if they get the boot from the rector for whatever reason, or if they walk out the seminary doors themselves.

    I’m not the biggest fan of the whole “Big Brother Swan Surviving the Bachelor Island of Fear Factor Temptation” schtick.  But…it is tremendously popular, and I think the format could be massaged—in the hands of the right exec producer and for the right network—and make for a hit.

    Or—here’s one for Chef Dom—I think a cooking show hosted by an Emeril-type monk would be cool.  Hearty recipes from ancient monasteries from all over the world.  I’d watch!  This idea reminds me of the “low octane” evangelization of Sister Wendy, the British art critic whose genial commentary on artistic masterpieces made her a household name.  This kind of programming automatically, and unconsiously, lends cachet to the Church as something rich and beautiful.

    I’m not anti-EWTN by any means, but I’m in the creativity department, not sure it’s terribly different from the Trinity Broadcast Network.  It’s conservative Catholic TV programming for conservative Catholic viewers.  Not a thing wrong with that, but its appeal beyond the chorus is, uh, debatable.

    I personally would love to host a show in the old Crossfire model, but with Catholic figures—and not just conservatives.  Who would miss watching a “coffee table with glass of water” debate between, say, Fathers Fessio and McBrien?

    Any Catholic millionaires out there who want to launch something like this, drop me a line.

  • Jason,

    “Conversations with Archbishop Sean” – I caught the first episode.  It would be nice if BCTV could archive this show online.  But I’d also like to see him preach from the pulpit, you know, maybe once a month at Daily Mass.  The other bishops, too. 

  • I love EWTN and think that there is nothing wrong with teaching the faith. 

    On the contrary, I think that shows that are “Catholic” imitations of secular shows would be a total waste of time and money.  Who cares about an obstacle race which features Catholic teens vs. other teens if it doesn’t teach the faith?  What difference does it make?? 

    Why can’t they just show good high quality films of things Catholics would like to see that are distinctly Catholic?  Examples:
    -a program about the first diocese in America
    -a program about St. John Neumann, bishop of Philadelphia
    -a program about medical issues and Church teaching
    -a program about “compare and contrast” with other mega-religions like hinduism, for example (would need to be well-done!)
    -a program about churches around the world (art and history)
    -a program about the work being done by the CFR in New York
    -an informational program about the needs laypeople can address city by city, ie. volunteer opportunities (needs to be well-done)
    -a program on how to evangelize
    -fine quality programs about the life of Christ
    -fine quality programs about the saints
    -learning programs for kids, featuring Catholic teaching with cartoon characters of the caliber of Blue’s clues, Dora the Explorer, etc.
    -programs about Catholic places to visit in the US
    -programs about prayer by various authors
    -morning and evening prayer said in a variety of venues from the big churches of NY and Boston to places like the Dominican house of studies in DC, the CFR in NY, the Hawthorne sisters in upper NY state, a variety
    -a program about the history of church music
    -a program to teach how to read gregorian chant and sing it

    Lots and lots of things aren’t out there……we’d like to see them!

  • -devotionals, what they are and how to do them
    -programs featuring Catholic artists of high quality around the world—from icon painters and sculptors to those who design crucifixes that we buy for our houses
    -programming on the various rites of the RC—byzantine, ukrainian etc-history, customs, liturgy
    -programming about how to run a cahtolic household—WITH CHILDREN
    -programming by and about catholic businessmen who make their faith a priority
    -programming about Cahtolic crafts—what do you do with palms after easter etc….

  • -popular prayers set to music so that they can be sung…like the Divine Mercy prayers
    -start a catholic travel club and film their adventures
    -read along bible studies
    -participatory shows with Catholic themes…ie. turn the tv/internet on and cook easter cake, Christmas cookie creche special with us—open phone line, open email

  • What kind of Catholic TV would you like to see? Think outside the box. Dream big. I-state Massachusetts, it is heresy to admit that any kind of treatment of the human condition based on traditional Christian teaching is superior to secular materialist pharmacology and self-actualization.

    So when it’s liberal anti-Christian bias that shuts down programs, we don’t hear a peep from our liberal overmasters. But when the Church decides to re-order her internal affairs, city councilors deem they have the right to gin up a voter backlash against her.

    Why is this? Secular humanist liberalism is a religion in Massachusetts and that religion doesn’t like competition from real traditional faith. So when will the ACLU lawsuit be filed? Anyone?

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    tkozal@mindspring.com

    12.30.235.98
    2005-07-21 12:17:16
    2005-07-21 16:17:16
    Sorry, Dom, things like this make me want to revoke Massachusetts admission into the Union, and force them to become their own country, since they clearly don’t give a hoot about what the Constitution says. People like you can elect to stay a citizen however…;-)

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