Italians flock to ‘Jesus’ mini

Program goes stateside in May

Can the spinoff series “Jesus Says the Darndest Things” be far behind? The CBS miniseries “Jesus,” which won’t bless U.S. screens until this May, became Italy’s highest-rated program of the year after a recent airing in that country.

Part one of the miniseries, airing on government-run RAI Uno, reached 10 million Italian viewers on Dec. 5, part two 12 million on Dec. 6 — not bad for a country with 54 million people.

As a general rule, Italians relish period miniseries more than American viewers do, but this one surprised even the odds-makers. The mini’s ratings rivaled those of the world championship soccer finals when Italy is playing, that country’s version of the Super Bowl.

It probably didn’t hurt that “Jesus” was Pope-tested and approved: CBS Television CEO Leslie Moonves had visited His Holiness over Thanksgiving to personally deliver a copy of the miniseries. Italian TV was able to air “Jesus” early because of a deal with the mini’s Italo producers. The Italian cut varied slightly from the U.S. version.

Jeremy Sisto, Jacqueline Bisset and Jeroen Krabbe star in “Jesus,” which chronicles the religious figure’s relatively short life.

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