Monday's CBS This Morning brought on only liberals for a panel discussion about the recent success of The History Channel's new miniseries, The Bible. One panelist, Michael Hogan of the left-wing Huffington Post, erroneously asserted that "biblical films have been kind of out of favor since 1965, when 'The Greatest Story Ever Told' came out and was a huge flop. 'Last Temptation of Christ' was the last serious attempt."
Of course, the editor for the left-wing website completely overlooked Mel Gibson's 2004 blockbuster, The Passion of the Christ, which made over $600 million at the box office worldwide.
Anchors Charlie Rose and Gayle King turned to Hogan, as well as Father James Martin of America magazine (who defended the University of Notre Dame's decision to give President Obama a honorary degree in 2009) and Jamie Manson of the National Catholic Reporter, a publication which actively promotes dissenters from the Catholic Church's teachings. Manson herself is a board member of the Women's Ordination Conference and is an open lesbian.
Midway through the segment, King asked The Huffington Post arts and culture editor, "Are you surprised by the success of it, especially on The History Channel? That's not normally considered one of the hit channels that a lot of people are watching. And it is the Bible story. Are you surprised?" Hogan replied with his misleading claims about Bible-based movies.
Near the end of the discussion, Rose asked the Huffington Post writer what grade he gave the miniseries. Hogan answered that "the production values are not terribly high....this is a low-budget project and, for what they had, they did a good job." When he continued by pointing out that there are other biblical films in the works, he made another false statement:
MICHAEL HOGAN, THE HUFFINGTON POST ARTS & CULTURE EDTIOR: ...Now, you've got Darren Aronofsky making 'Noah', with Russell Crowe, for $125 million. That parting of the Red Sea should be a little more impressive then this one, I suspect, and they're a whole bunch of other projects coming down the line. You've got Will Smith as Cain, and Ben Kingsley is going to play Herod – so, a lot of big stories coming up.
Hogan obviously confused the Book of Genesis' account of Noah and his family surviving the massive flood with Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt in the Book of Exodus.
Earlier in the segment, Father Martin pointed out that "sometimes people might be embarrassed by their lack of Bible knowledge. And so, this [series] is...kind of an accessible, inviting way to do it....They can use this as, kind of, the first steps." Hogan should heed what the Jesuit priest said and watch the reruns of the first few episodes, so he no longer mixes up two key biblical figures.
The full transcript of the panel discussion from Monday's CBS This Morning:
GAYLE KING: Easter is next Sunday, and millions are tuning in to the hit miniseries, 'The Bible', on The History Channel.
DIOGO MARGADO (portraying Jesus in The History Channel series "The Bible"): By doing this, I'm going to the Father. (unintelligible) I'll always be with you.
KING: Six Bible-based movies are in development right now.
Father James Martin is a Jesuit priest and editor-at-large for the Jesuit magazine America. Jamie Manson is a biblical scholar and columnist for the National Catholic Reporter. And Michael Hogan is executive arts and entertainment editor of The Huffington Post. We welcome you all. And are you all watching? Father, let's start with you.
[CBS News Graphic: "Heaven-Sent Hit: Millions Watching 'The Bible' Miniseries"]
FATHER JAMES MARTIN, JESUIT PRIEST: I am watching – yes. I give it a sold B-plus.
KING: A solid B-plus-
MARTIN: Yes, yes-
CHARLIE ROSE: Why not an 'A'?
MARTIN: Well, I – I was surprised. I learned that Jesus had very nice hair, which was kind of new to me. He spoke with a British accent. I think it's pretty good. I don't think their production values are as good as one would hope, but I think if you're interested in learning about the story, it – it really serves the purpose.
KING: Why do you think so many people are watching, because it's a huge hit for The History Channel?
JAMIE MANSON, NATIONAL CATHOLIC REPORTER COLUMNIST: I – I do think that people are longing to be connected with a faith history. You know, we know that especially young people are wary of institution and institutional religion. But that doesn't mean that they're not eager for tradition, and something that will help them make meaning of life. That's what religion is supposed to do – help us make meaning and to feel connected to something greater than they are.
[CBS News Graphic: "Who's Watching 'The Bible': March 17: -10.9 million viewers; -Including 4.2 million viewers ages 25-54; Source; Deadline.com']
ROSE: There's also the fact that the Bible itself – it's a great story. It's – I mean, people like stories, and these are interesting people in a great story that has continued.
MICHAEL HOGAN, THE HUFFINGTON POST ARTS & CULTURE EDTIOR: And Hollywood right now is looking for stories that people already know something about. You know, that's why we see so many superhero movies. That's why we see so many novels getting adapted. So, the Bible is a great group of free stories that we all kind of know about – a little bit about, and I think, as Jamie said, people are hungering to know more.
And, of course, it doesn't hurt when you get some controversy out there. This thing is gory. If you want to get people to watch something, say that it's too bloody and gory – you know, you shouldn't watch it. That's – that's a nice way to get people in.
KING: Are you surprised by the success of it, especially on The History Channel? That's not normally considered one of the hit channels that a lot of people are watching. And it is the Bible story. Are you surprised?
HOGAN: Well, I think the magnitude of it is surprising – yeah. And – and Mark Burnett – you never want to count him out, the – one of the producers. He had 'Survivor' and 'The Voice'. I mean, he's had some very big hits, but this is his first drama.
But – and also, biblical films have been kind of out of favor since 1965, when 'The Greatest Story Ever Told' came out and was a huge flop. 'Last Temptation of Christ' was the last serious attempt, and that was also very controversial and problematic. But this is just a – kind of, softball down the middle, and it has connected in a way that, I think, has surprised everybody.
ROSE: When you look at – at a series like this, are people using it as a substitute – in a sense, they like to what religion is about and is easy way to access it?
MANSON: Yeah. I would say – you know, a lot of people say that the future of the church will be outside the walls of the church. And so, this is giving them a medium, you know? It's giving them something they can engage with, which is film, which is – you know, a secular medium, but used to help people with their religious impulses. And it's allowing them to – to communicate around the TV and the – even around the water cooler.
MARTIN: I think sometimes people might be embarrassed by their lack of Bible knowledge. And so, this is a – kind of an accessible, inviting way to do it. People have been turning on the TV. They don't have to go to a pastor or a priest and say, I don't understand this story. They can use this as, kind of, the first steps. So, I think, particularly for educational purposes, this will be a good series. I would imagine this will be used in a lot of churches over the next few years.
ROSE: And if it can get you more interested, then good for it.
MARTIN: Exactly, and you can, sort of, look at more serious scholarship, and then pursue that in your own church or – you know, however you want to.
KING: Do you think that it could ever possibly replace going to church, and does that trouble you a little bit?
MARTIN: Well, I would hope not. I mean, you know, part of our – part of the Christian religion is – is community, and I think – you know, once you start doing things only on your own, you kind of set yourself up for a fall. So, I don't – I hope it wouldn't replace the communal aspect of our faith.
ROSE: So Michael, has television – you thought – you gave it a high grade?
HOGAN: Well, you know, (laughs) as Father Jim said, the production values are not terribly high. I mean, the – the budget for this entire series was $22 million. You look at 'The Ten Commandments', made in 1956 – it was $18 million, not adjusted for inflation. So this is a low-budget project and, for what they had, they did a good job.
Now, you've got Darren Aronofsky making 'Noah', with Russell Crowe, for $125 million. That parting of the Red Sea should be a little more impressive then this one, I suspect, and they're a whole bunch of other projects coming down the line. You've got Will Smith as Cain, and Ben Kingsley is going to play Herod – so, a lot of big stories coming up.
ROSE: Thank you all very much.