TV Review: ‘A.D. The Bible Continues’

A D The Bible Continues TV
Courtesy of NBC

Opportunistically picking up where “The Bible” left off on History channel, NBC’s “A.D. The Bible Continues” is strictly more of the same, a thuddingly earnest interpretation of the scriptures from producers Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, who have virtually copyrighted the book. Preaching to the choir, this continuation of Jesus’ story is populated by fine British actors, but feels less stirring than calculated. That said, the story’s resonance among the faithful — and the perceived dearth of mainstream programming aimed at them — should virtually ensure a more bountiful ratings harvest than anything NBC has scheduled Sundays, except for America’s other religion, football.

“A.D.” opens with what amounts to an extended recap of what happened in “The Bible,” as if the audience needs a refresher course on the crucifixion, Peter (Adam Levy) denying Jesus and whatnot.

The story then dives ahead to the Resurrection, with the Hebrew High Priest Caiaphas (Richard Coyle) trying to hide the bad news from Roman governor Pontius Pilate (Vincent Regan, currently doubling as the King of England Sunday nights on E!’s “The Royals”).

“Why couldn’t this Jesus just stay dead?” Caiaphas wonders, posing a question more than a few nonbelievers have asked over the past couple of millennia.

After that, the pace helpfully quickens over the first two episodes, charting the resistance to the Roman occupiers and appearances by Jesus (Juan Pablo Di Pace) to his understandably shocked disciples. Downey also ceded her role as Mary, Jesus’ mother, to Greta Scacchi, who has little to do but look understandably anguished.

Handsomely mounted and soaringly scored by Hans Zimmer and Lorne Balfe, what “A.D.” lacks is anything that would distinguish it from earlier screen depictions of this tale, beyond extending the narrative past Jesus’ death to the establishment of Christianity in the face of Roman oppression. In that regard, Burnett and Downey’s personal commitment the text — while designed to be embraced by the faithful — proves somewhat confining dramatically speaking, possessing a paint-by-numbers quality (with frequent use of the color red, for bloody violence).

For all that, in crass commercial terms and even more nebulous ones, “A.D.” feels like a coup for NBC. Not only did the network acquire a proven commodity, given the heavenly ratings “The Bible” generated for History, but being associated with such a project addresses the perception among many Christians — self-servingly stoked, to an extent, by conservative media — that popular culture is hostile toward their faith.

Burnett and Downey have clearly dedicated themselves to bridging that gap, and with “A.D.” premiering mere days after CBS’ “The Dovekeepers,” business is currently very good. As for whether the networks are greenlighting these projects for admirable reasons or in consideration of a more cynical numbers game — recognizing that the U.S. is a majority-Christian nation — the bottom line is that this adjunct to “The Bible” delivers a Sunday fix of old-time religion without even attending church.

TV Review: 'A.D. The Bible Continues'

(Limited series; NBC, Sun. April 5, 9 p.m.)

Production

Filmed in Morocco by LightWorkers Media.

Crew

Executive producers, Roma Downey, Mark Burnett, Richard Bedser; producers, Jonathan Curling, Gina Cronk; director, Ciaran Donnelly; writer, Simon Block; camera, Tim Fleming, Toby Moore; production designer, Alan Spalding; music, Hans Zimmer, Lorne Balfe; casting, Jeremy Zimmermann. 60 MIN.

Cast

Greta Scacchi, Juan Pablo Di Pace, Richard Coyle, Vincent Regan, Adam Levy, Emmett J. Scanlan, Babou Ceesay, Chipo Chung, James Callis, Joanne Whalley, Jodhi May

Filed Under:

Want to read more articles like this one? SUBSCRIBE TO VARIETY TODAY.
Post A Comment 54

Leave a Reply

54 Comments

Comments are moderated. They may be edited for clarity and reprinting in whole or in part in Variety publications.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

  1. Danny says:

    I am EXTREMELY disappointed in NBC for dropping “AD-The Bible Continues” I looked forward to it every week. With all the crap TV NBC puts out there every week it was refreshing to watch something that is up-lifting and positive……AD-The Bible is a real REALITY SHOW.

  2. Why did you take this show off i wait all week just to watch this show.. Please put it back on the air.. I need this show it is the most important time i spend with my family every week watching this and they really lije this its really the only thing i have grounds with my teen.

    • Tonette says:

      Amen. I wish there were someway to emphasize this enough so that it reverses this decision. I seriously had a dream about this last night and I too am so upset to see this show canceled. Would a petition help?

  3. I like many others are very disappointed that A.D. The Bible has been cancelled! I’m so sad because my husband and I both agree that while we have read these stories in the bible many times, the series helps bring it alive. MANY TIMES while watching the different episodes, I COULD FEEL the HOLY SPIRITS PRESENCE SO STRONG! I’M JUST GLAD THAT I HAD THE OPPORTUNITY TO SEE THIS SERIES AND EXPERIENCE IT.

  4. Tonette says:

    I am truly saddened to hear that AD has been canceled. It was the show I looked forward to most every week. AD and American Odyssey brought me over to NBC on Sunday nights but I will not be returning there now that my 2 favorite shows have been canceled.

  5. sassyrose77 says:

    I think the movie was great,and yes there were things that wasn’t in the bible,and in the bible.but you can’t take the whole bible,and make a week worth of something to make it from the beginning to the end,it can’t be done less you take each book and make a movie to each one.other then that I feel they did a wonderful job.some people say well this wasn’t in and that wasn’t in the bible,you have to think how much closer people has drawn closer to our God,and maybe even open some eyes to others that may have given themselves to the Lord,that was lost in the world that alone is a plus even more to save lives.Prays Roma Downey for her good works of a great man in our life to share such a wonderful movie to us all.

  6. Paul says:

    This show is not very accurate, theologically or historically. I’ll just comment on the historical here. There is no record of Tiberius ever in Judea, and if he had come to Judea, he would have gone to the capital, which was Caesarea. Easier to get to, and that’s where the governor lived (though the show also portrays Pilate living in Jerusalem). Same comment for Caligula. Tiberius certainly didn’t die in Judea. The assassins that are portrayed in this show didn’t form, by historical record, for another couple decades.

    It was an interesting twist in the show that Paul was tricked into taking his persecutions to Damascas by the high priest who wanted to get him out of Jerusalem. But, there is no record of that anywhere – not in the Bible or elsewhere.

    • Jesus Freak says:

      Trying to tell this story in such a short period of time is nearly impossible but the producers did a great job. in the time frame they were given. Either way, it may provide some people with what you call a “quick fix” ” but for those of us who follow Jesus (Who truly follow Jesus and are are not just fans) Its not about “religion at all, Jesus was not about religion at all. It is all about Jesus, the soul, and the ratings are all about people starving for their souls to be fed with the truth. The food that feeds the soul. Instead of picking it each and every line apart, why don’t you open your bible each day and truly seek God, ask God, he will show himself and you too will begin to see…and what a beautiful site it is, what great peace you will find…I pray they keep the story going for all. Its great to finally see a show where God is relevant. Peace to you all.
      Jesus Freak

      • II have to agree with you. Satan knows His time is up very soon. You just have to look around and see what’s happening. We need these kinds of event programs as a tool to show people just what the disciples and their followers went through. We are coming into a time when this is going to happen even more. Just watching the News and reading the despair in people’s lives you can see the end of the Church age is near. James tells us the tongue is a loose gun placed in the middle of the body. Jesus dealt with it when he was here on earth and we are still dealing with. As the church we need to stand up and take our place and become the light He wants us to be. Shows like this help us to understand the bible. Praise God for Christians that are not afraid to stand up and be counted. People need to know the truth because it’s what sets us free from this world. I pray they will keep this show on.

  7. L.A. Mike says:

    I don’t know if “popular culture is hostile to the faith of Christians”, but based upon this review, Brian Lowry certainly is.

  8. Devora says:

    One more thing. Sorry to bust some of you people’s bubbles but there ARE black Jews, that’s purhaps the only one thing about the movie that wasn’t wrong. The blond haired blue eyed Jews you’ve always seen in paintings are not so. JESUS was is A Jew. FROM the Middle East, dark skinned dark hair.

    No one knows exactly how dark His skin was or, how curly His hair was.
    But, my point?? What should be the issue?
    Read your Bibles! None of the Disciples were concerned about race or color!!

  9. Devora says:

    This movie is so far removed from the truth Of God’s Word it isn’the even funny! Scripture is distorted and added on to. My prayer is that anyone watching this will not believe that it’s true. Of all the ‘Jesus’ movies I’ve watched this is the worst. It is shameful.

  10. bill says:

    dId NBC have a program with A. D. last night (6-10-15).

  11. George says:

    After watching the AD Bible TV show.
    I don’t understand why they pick an African American male to play John and a African American women Mary Magdalen?
    All my life reading the bible and going to church John was white and Mary Magdalen was white also.

    This is misleading of the bible cast.
    Because they never had any African American in apostle back then!
    Even the last supper painting by Michelangelo.
    There was no African American in it?!
    They were all white!

    They had to put African American people in the show to make blacks happy?!
    To make it fair??!
    The Show is misleading!!
    It’s not believable!
    But i will watch the show for the stake of the Holy Bible

    • John says:

      Actually they are British actors so they would be African British. And while most people in that region have dark features and light skin, there are a considerable amount of people who are of African decent and Asian and so on. America is not the only melting pot.

    • Devora says:

      Also, you sound racist to me.

    • Devora says:

      You’ve been deceived By the White media. JESUS IS a Jew from the middle east, He was dark skinned and dark haired. Also there are many many many black Jews.

  12. For something actually informative and intellectually honest about the Bible, PBS put out an excellent documentary in 1998 called “From Jesus to Christ.” You can still watch it all online, and the accompanying articles are excellent.

    Of course the fundamentalists would probably not care for it…they would rather watch actors than real New Testament scholars.

  13. Andro says:

    After every 5 minutes of the programming we get 5 minutes of commercials.

    That was enough for us….we could not stand it any longer so we switched the station. I counted 5 commercials in 40 minutes and each one last approximately 4 – 5 minutes! WHAT A WASTE OF TIME!!

  14. Rodney says:

    Where did your resurch lead you to cause you to cast John with the person you chose? My take is based on hundreds of paintings and writings unnumbered that disagree with you. Did you care or strive to create a movie that had truth in it. I understand that most of the people don’t even know who Geogre Washington was. We live in a dead and dieing world.

  15. Jerod says:

    Okay, people, some reality: you need compelling actors to compel people to watch. No, the actors probably aren’t exact duplicates of the real people. Can that just be okay? I love the fact there is diversity on the show, even though they were most likely Middle Eastern men and woman. Why is this an issue? It’s a drama! It’s not a documentary.
    It never claims to be an exact retelling, so there will be a few things that are outside the scriptures. None of these things have been sacriligious so far. Commercials? Yes, that’s annoying. I DVR and have no problem. And let’s give it a few more episodes before declaring it devoid of Christian content regarding the death of Jesus, etc.
    I have a hard time believing people can be so judgmental on a show that is pretty much a miracle to be on network tv. Can’t we just be happy this message is on tv?? Don’t you think at least ONE PERSON is going to become interested and check out the book of ACTS?
    Frustrating to read these posts.

    • Easa says:

      Oh YES…. You are spot on…this was exactly my point! We should be thankful this is an option on TV . JEROD, YOU ROCK!

  16. bonwhit says:

    I agree the number and type of commercials affect the reverence I could feel from the storyline, even though not totally accurate and yes, poor casting-John and Mary Magdalene were not from Africa. Still appreciate Roma’s attempt to tell the greatest story ever told. Many of the scenes are well done.

  17. Easa says:

    WOW…I am just sitting in disbelief of some of the comments made on here. As christians are we so pious that we cannot look past a blond in a movie and look at the potential this series can have on people watching it? I look at it and if I see something that seems incorrect, it sparks me to go to the Bible and investigate thereby increasing my knowledge.
    This is not a poorly done production – it is an interpretation JUST LIKE the NIV, the King James etc are interpretations of of the written word.
    I just think you should be less critical and more supportive of Christian works being shown on network TV…..I’m sure some seeds were sown from this that will one day reap a harvest.

    • Fred Keyes says:

      Translations of the Bible are just that–translations; not interpretations. Granted, different words and phrases can be used in making a translation but the objective is to translate in a way that faithfully represents what the original document said.

      I don’t know why a dramatic rendering of the Bible isn’t possible, one that *can* add fiction, but hopefully it’s fiction that realistically portrays logical consequences of what was written in the Bible. For instance, it’s doubtful that any Jews living and working in Palestine at the time were African. That view has absolutely *nothing* to do with racism.

  18. I agree with Born4Battle and find the script and the added sequences, made for TV, to be inaccurate and dramatically dumb to those who read the Bible. The first thing that captured my attention was the huge number of commercials, which completely lost my attention. I did watch an interview with Mark and Roma and was looking forward, with great anticipation, to the video series, “a picture is worth a thousand words” and generally true. This was not the case. One thing that was promoted by both NBC and Mark himself was the amazing business and and financial abilities of Mark. This was clear and obvious from the interview and struck an unwelcome taste while watching the 30% film and 70% commercials. The advertisers paid huge unpresidented amounts of money to have any kind of spot during the broadcast, obviously filling the pockets of NBC and the producers of the film. Mark’s approach was, if they hate all the commercials, people will simply purchase the DVD set, another financial gain for the DUO. Sorry Mark and Roma, I will not make that purchase or watch any more of the series on NBC or any other media. Any intention to to further the Word of God or attract new followers of Jesus was shamefully lost here, but the greed showed through quite clearly, as is with most other useless TV productions. I have watch a few well done portrayals of Biblical issues and/or events on Amazon Prime and even YouTube, but NEVER on national TV broadcasting networks. They are after all a product of our Post Modern World Culture.

  19. Born4Battle says:

    The fact that Jesus died for my, yours, our, SIN according to the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God was totally absent, but that is to be expected on a major network. It provides an opportunity to bring the reason Christ died into conversations, along with talking about the meaning of Jesus’ words on the cross.

  20. sally says:

    This show was far off from the true Bible story. It has A LOT of added content that’s not in the Bible. Also, I found it very hard to get into the story due to the casting. I don’t think people had obvious plastic surgery during this time, there were no blond haired blue eyed people in the middle east, James, John, and Mary Madeline were not from Africa, the high priests of this time were not so young and didn’t clean trim their beards, and no one looked like they just stepped out of the spa. I was SO excited to watch this serious but after struggling through the 1st episode…. I don’t think I’ll waste anymore time trying to watch this. I’ll just stick to reading the Bible.

    • John Kopala says:

      I totally agree with your assessment of AD, the Bible continues. I was immediately turned off by the casting. The next thing was the embellishment of the story with fictional events for which there is no historical basis. People have been let to believe that this series is a true presentation of the historical facts and the story of salvation history recorded in the Bible. Unfortunately, the miniseries contains more Hollywood embellishment and fiction than historical fact. Even when presenting material from the Bible, they have picked and chosen sections that do not belong together in the Biblical narrative and then intermixed that with a made up fictional narrative of the actions of Pilate and the Jewish priests. The series is a total disappointment. Read the Bible, it’s way better and you won’t have to try and sort out the fact from the fiction.

    • Tom Vasko says:

      Thank you Sally! We AGREE. It’s the BIBLE and they should try to stick to the FACTS.

  21. Kat says:

    “…what “A.D.” lacks is anything that would distinguish it from earlier screen depictions of this tale, beyond extending the narrative past Jesus’ death to the establishment of Christianity in the face of Roman oppression…”

    “…Burnett and Downey’s personal commitment the text — while designed to be embraced by the faithful — proves somewhat confining dramatically speaking, possessing a paint-by-numbers quality…”

    This author doesn’t seem to understand that the producers are trying to be true to scripture, not create a drama or a new story altogether.
    And it is clear from his tone and sarcasm what he thinks of Christians and the Bible. Not exactly professional in my opinion.

    • akmiecik says:

      I’d like to add, it does have additional content that helps to engage the viewer so, saying it “lacks …anything that would distinguish it from earlier screen depictions” shows ignorance of previous screen depictions, this screen depiction, the Bible or perhaps all three. (maybe all three).

  22. A Native American says:

    I love the part where Jesus was potrayed by a Middle Eastern actor!
    Oh wait, you mean the white network executives didn’t do that, because it would be stating a truth!
    Aw, shucks! Guess we are all still stuck watching and learning their lies.
    After all they way they run the media and our history classes, “if it ain’t white, it ain’t right”.

  23. Gloria says:

    Love the part of Christ rising from the tomb, the entering of the angel, the soldiers reaction and the rolling away of the stone. The affects were breath taking, his slow motion entrance pulling his sword and the wings WOW!!! If only that part could have been extended it was beautiful. With the music it made the scene come together. Just loved it!!! Hope there will be more like this in the up and coming episodes.

  24. IT 2 IT says:

    DO your research into REAL judaic practice of the period.

    The REAL Christ would NOT have had long hair.

    He was also described as dull and ordinary to behold.

    DON’T fall for the Merovingian con–jobs.

  25. A.N Withers says:

    This miniseries misses some of the important acts in Christ’s life. Like why he was crucified during the Passover. And Jesus willingly laid his life down because he always did his fathers will. Also it isn’t accurate and takes liberties where they didnt need to. If someone is interested in knowing God, I would suggest reading the Holy Bible and not relying on a TV show to teach accurate doctrine.

  26. D.R. Kellner says:

    the movie Ad. the bible continues is great interpertation of events in the bible but leaves out some small but noted things in the events as they took place . but what it really lacks is a narrator to describe some of what is taking place in the sceens and to lead into other sceens because to some one who has already read the bible the king james version it makes sence, but to someone who has never read the bible yet you would not understand what is happening in the sceens and why it is happening ! D.R. Kellner

  27. James Hughes says:

    Way to many commercials during AD. I will not continue to watch.

    • Alan Kmiecik says:

      Gotta concur with this one. WAY too many.

      And is too much to ask to keep erectile dysfunction ads off a particular show. The advertiser should be smart enough to say “hey, not really my target audience, my money would be better spent elsewhere”.

      As for the other comments about it not being “bible” enough, I find the added content to be a little thought provoking and a nice twist (eg. personally, I don’t think there is any way that the Romans would have sent guards).

      Worth watching on the web where you can start the show, run it through to get through the commercials the first time, then watch it and skip through the ads.

      And of all the complaints about authenticity I’d like to ad “dang they had good dental care back then, wish my teeth looked that good”

    • karin stombock says:

      Thank You James Hughes. I agree 150%! I was not able to follow the story. Also, too much marketing and hype leading up to the program. Dateline devoted an hour before airing for more marketing and gobbeldegook. The show on for JUST an hour airing at 9PM. It couldn’t air at 8PM? Why? Money was wasted. What was a work of art ended up being vandalized with graffiti. And I am supposed to spend 12 weeks submitting to this torture? hulu has a program called IN THE BEGINNING. You can watch whenever you want with not commercials. What a concept.

  28. Guy says:

    Since he Lowry, calls it a tale, He is obviously an unbeliever. But perhaps in watching a seed has been planted that God says can be watered, and His heart will see the truth like the Apostle Paul.

  29. Lori says:

    Can’t wait to watch this Show Easter Sunday

  30. Walter Muench says:

    How can we get to see it, we missed it last night?

  31. Beth C. Pfohl says:

    “Opportunistically” or not, Mr. Burnett and Miss Downey deserve kudos for putting together a period appropriate ( and visually well done), production that, in all honesty, is more of a niche audience grabber when it comes to how the “Big Three” broadcast networks view such a religiously oriented show. If it brings in the revenues, and satisfies that snippet of viewers who still tune in to NBC/ABC/CBS, that’s fine and dandy. No harm, no foul. And yes, Mr. Lowry, full disclosure. I’m one of those out here in “fly over country” that does believe “….that popular culture is hostile toward (their), faith.” One need to only watch a minimal amount of a network such as MSNBC to get the gist of their disdain. But, it is what it is.

    In the end if people want to watch “A.D.”, they will tune in. If not they will turn it off or go on to something else.

  32. Mary Shafer says:

    after Sunday night, when is the rest of the series on?

  33. sloan96 says:

    I assume from the flippancy of this review, Mr. Lowry’s not one of “the faithful”

  34. EK says:

    “Dovekeepers” didn’t work. Cote de Pablo wasn’t enough to save this bore. Presumably “A.D.” will preach to a bigger choir but networks don’t seem to be the best addreses for this material.

  35. Sandy L Watson says:

    you are such a hater. sad for you.

    • Barbara Carney says:

      I watched the entire series – missed only one episode. Thought it was wonderful-couldn’t wait from Sunday to Sunday. Am totally amazed by all the critical comments. Does everything have to be perfect??? It was the story that mattered. No matter if John and Mary Magdalen are dark -skinned. Seems like they could very well have been. The painting of the Last Supper is not an actual photo. I would love to see the whole thing again. Thought the acting was awesome, especially Peter, Pilate and Caiaphus but all were good. Congratulations on presenting such a worthwhile program. Do have to agree about commercials.

More TV News from Variety

Loading