A reasonable person might well think that the phenomenal success of family-friendly network television shows and movies such as Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?, Touched By An Angel, Babe, and Toy Story would be a sign to the American entertainment industry that the people of this country are hungry for entertainment that doesn't insult their values and ridicule their morals.
In an industry that lives and dies by overnight ratings and box office sales, it would seem someone might notice the figures family-friendly shows are rolling up day after day and arrive at the conclusion that maybe people are more interested in such fare than in the cultural sewage that passes for sophisticated entertainment today.
Is anyone listening in Hollywood? Not at NBC, apparently.
In March, NBC introduced the series God, The Devil, and Bob, a dreadful piece of adolescent cartooning that depicted God as a hip, foul-mouthed beer drinker who commiserates with his buddy and apparent co-equal, Satan.
God, the Devil, and Bob was produced by Carsey-Werner Co., which is also responsible for producing such stellar shows as:
• Third Rock From the Sun, an NBC comedy (term used loosely) about sex-crazed aliens and dumb earthlings.
• That 70's Show, a Fox comedy (term used loosely) about sex-crazed teenagers and dumb parents.
In God, the Devil, and Bob, chums God and the devil make a friendly wager to pin humanity's survival on an aimless Detroit autoworker named Bob Alman.
The pilot episode had something to offend just about anyone in the mainstream of American life - a coarse and vulgar father, a lying teenaged daughter, a disaffected young son, and a wife/mother who is shown reading a book entitled, Why We Don't Kill Our Children.
Believers in God are equated with UFO enthusiasts. A cigar-chomping evangelist schemes to make money off Bob's revelation from God while receiving a sensuous massage from a buxom young woman in his luxurious office.
Here's a sample of the humor: God calls Bob at home, but Bob refuses to pick up the telephone. The answering machine comes on with the familiar beep to leave a message and God says, "Bob, don't screen your Maker!"
Here's a sample of the serious side of the show: At one point Bob rails at God, "You call yourself a loving Father? You're more like a deadbeat dad!"
Here's a sample of the show's theology: When Bob frets over the direction his children are taking, God says, "I made a deal with Lucifer a long time ago. I get them until they're twelve and he gets them until they're twenty."
That's a lot of sacrilege packed into thirty minutes. The pilot episode was so bad that a number of NBC network affiliates around the country refused to air it.
One of the great dangers of shows like God, the Devil, and Bob is the compulsion of many to create God in our image. This is exactly opposite of the biblical truth that man is created in God's image.
Is God a glib dude in cool sunglasses who hangs out in the neighborhood bar and drinks only light beer, or is He the great I Am who sits on a heavenly throne of light encircled by an emerald rainbow (Rev. 4)?
Are God and Satan long-time pals, or are they at continual war with each other for the souls of men (1 Peter 5:8)?
Does God marvel over the invention of "Pop Tarts" - yes, that was in the pilot episode, too - or did He speak the entire universe into existence (Gen. 1)?
Christians have ready answers to such deep mysteries, and it's time we began sharing those answers with a lost world.
Can Hollywood be turned around to the truth? Can America be turned around with the truth? It will be a daunting task, but remember that all things are possible through the true God we serve - and He's not the television version.
On Wednesday, March 30, NBC canceled God, the Devil, and Bob. By the final broadcast the night before, twenty-two stations had refused to air the program, preempting the show in roughly 5 percent of the country. Advertisers had also distanced themselves from the show. The final broadcast featured an unusually large number of promos for NBC programs, indicating the network was having problems selling ads on the show.
CNN, March 31, 2000
William H. Perkins, Jr. is editor of the Mississippi Baptist Record.