NY Times Martel Criticizes Celebrity Power in NBC's Three Wishes While Blasting the Religious

September 28th, 2005 7:28 PM

A few days ago New York Times writer Ned Martel wrote an article called Manna from Hollywood: Charity Begins on TV about NBC’s new Friday night television show Three Wishes hosted by Grammy award winning singer Amy Grant

As I began to read Martel’s critique of the show I was amazed to see that Martel took issue with a show that was designed to help people. To begin with Martel begins by characterizing the whole idea of the show and how it is presented as a “traveling ministry, with revival tents pitched in a different small town every week”, thereby insulting any and everyone who has ever attended a revival meeting of some sort.

Martel also characterizes Grant by saying that the show actually “sets her up to actually play God.” This is absolutely ridiculous because just because she is the host of the show and one of the most visible Christians in America does not mean that Amy Grant has a desire to play God. This also dismisses every other person who takes part in the program, as well as other shows and charities that reach out to those in need. And taken to its logical conclusion every host of every show in the world is then in the position to “play God” whether it be with their programming or desire to meet needs.

And just when one thinks that Martel might have some axe to grind with Amy Grant because of her Christian faith, he compliments her by saying,

“Ms. Grant is an amiable, wholesome warbler, and she has an easy rapport with her small-town hosts. But her show arrives at a moment that is rife with celebrity saints showily raising hurricane-relief money or arranging televised giveaways for the less fortunate. Clearly, she feels something genuine for the aggrieved. The problem is that "Three Wishes" elevates the already sky-high power of celebrity, suggesting that only through her presence can the locals get their prayers answered.”

Martel clearly states that the problem as he sees it is that celebrities “sky-high” power is the problem, which I find rather ironic because all most “celebrity saints,” want to help those who are hurting and suffering. Why is this such a bad thing to Martel? Does Ned Martel desire that celebrities use their “sky-high power” to abuse the public instead. This is a silly suggestion, I’m sure, but it does make one wonder when a great new television show that exalts the goodness of humanity is slammed because it uses celebrities, and in this case has a prominent Christian celebrity as its host.

The other interesting comment in Martel’s critique of Three Wishes is that he states that his wish is,

“…that the town could have figured out how to stage such moments of support and catharsis without the arrival or blessings of a famous singer… much of these benefits could be accomplished without such a benefactor swooping into town.”

While I can understand the power of celebrity being an issue for Martel the problem I have with Martel’s wish is that he does not provide his solution to the problem. How are hundreds or thousands of people in a town able to find out the wishes and needs of others in the town without some person of influence among them? Not all people read papers, and everyone doesn’t listen to the news or even watch television. So what is the solution to the problem of celebrity? Martel fails miserably in giving a solid answer or even an ounce of an idea about how this can be accomplished.

Martel also could’ve done well to dismiss the anti-religious commentary and comparison in his article as not to offend thousands of Christians or God loving people who appreciate the good work NBC has finally decided to do. My wish is that more people watch Three Wishes and are inspired to act in a manner that is helpful in building up, rather than tearing down. Martel might want to watch the show to learn a few lessons from those celebrities he has criticized for doing good. That’s the example to follow and only the beginning of the solution, for him who has eyes to see.