Taking on a controversial topic such as religion has often proven to be difficult, which is something that the EPs of CBS’s new multi-camera comedy Living Biblically acknowledged this morning during their TCA panel discussion. “I don’t think there is any scenario where the show wouldn’t bother someone in the world,” said Patrick Walsh. “It is absolutely not the goal. Those of us [on the show] who aren’t religious have a great deal of respect for religion.”
“It’s strange to me that 84% of the world aligns themselves with some form of religion and yet the only times you hear religion discussed on television are either harshly critical like Bill Maher or so sanitized that people who aren’t religious won’t enjoy –like 7th Heaven. He emphasized that “our goal is never to offend” and with the proliferation of social media critics “it would be crazy in this day-in-age to do a show that’s trying to offend people of faith.” He continued, “I think people need guidance in there lives… we hope that we treat it with respect.”
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“One biggest hurdles is the fear to have the conversation about it,” say Johnny Galecki, who confirmed that he won’t be appearing in freshman season of the series. “There’s a fear that because [religion] such a personal sacred ingredient of each of us, you will be misunderstood or judged.” Galecki shared that having a show based on religion was a high priority for his production company Alcide Bava Prods. “The best way to approach a conversation that people are uncomfortable with is though comedy. Our goal is one to make people laugh and to inspire a conversation around the watercooler.”
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The series, based on the A.J. Jacobs’ bestselling book The Year of Living Biblically, centers on a modern-day man at a crossroads in his life who decides to live according to the Bible.
When the question was brought up on how literal the main character Chip, played by Jay R. Ferguson, would adhere to the practices of Bible, which has harsh takes on some issues like misogyny and homosexuality, Walsh said, “we’re not pretending that they don’t exist. While he is a modern man living by the Bible, there are certain things that he will not be doing. He will not be hateful. I don’t think those things are biblical attitudes and the show won’t reflect that.”
With the show being based on such a hot-button topic, it came as a surprise to the EPs when it garnered interest for all four networks before going to CBS. “We assumed that it would be [a tough sell],” said Galecki. “Each of them wanted it. CBS has been home to Patrick and I for many years and we felt most comfortable there.”
The panel also includes the shows cast led by Ferguson, Lindsey Kraft, Ian Gomez, David Krumholtz, Tony Rock, and The Practice alum Camryn Manheim, in her first sitcom series regular role.
When asked about the biggest difference between a comedy versus a drama Manheim offered, “I spent eight years with David E. Kelley and when he writes the script things don’t change.” With comedy, she said that script changes happening more rapidly and with short notice. Another big adjustment was filming in front a live studio audience, which Manheim found was advantageous in “getting the feedback right away.”
Living Biblically premieres on CBS February 26.
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