You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

TV Review: ‘The Passion’

Host/narrator: Tyler Perry. Performers: Jencarlos Canela, Chris Daughtry, Prince Royce, Seal, Trisha Yearwood, Yolanda Adams, Michael W. Smith  

Fox deserved considerable credit for invigorating the live-musical form that NBC has championed with its production of “Grease Live,” but the network hit the skids with “The Passion,” a project that seemed to pander on multiple levels. Beyond catering to Christians who often lament a lack of fare aimed at them on mainstream TV – albeit in the most Sunday-school-lite of ways – the rock songs and contemporary setting sought to package scripture for the “American Idol” crowd. Throw in the procession involving an illuminated 20-foot cross, and cursing the darkness felt preferable to watching for a full two hours.

For starters, “The Passion” was only partly live, with portions of the narrative involving Jesus (Jencarlos Canela) and his disciples taped in advance. What remained thus played more like a live concert – and incidentally, an ode to the resilience of New Orleans – than a coherent telling of Jesus’ story.

The producers sought to address those shortcomings – indeed, clearly anticipated them – through Tyler Perry’s ongoing narration, which beyond filling in gaps gave the impression that he was auditioning to run his own mega-church. But while Perry gave the assignment his all, what emerged was at times oddly sterile, such as the images of people in the live audience staring up at screens, watching Canela and others belt out pop tunes.

Charitably, one could call this a noble experiment. The performances were fine, if seldom especially stirring. With a few exceptions, there was a logic to most of the songs, although it will take a more informed biblical scholar than this one to find the connection between Jesus and the theme from “Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome.”

Other flourishes, however, were simply head-scratching, perhaps foremost among them the decision to have entertainment reporter Nischelle Turner conduct man-on-the-street interviews with those accompanying the procession, as if there isn’t enough heft to the Greatest Story Ever Told to flesh out a couple of hours sans commercials. For all the people on hand who were having an emotional experience, there were also some awkward unintended moments, like a woman cheerfully waving as the camera panned the audience while Perry somberly explained the horrors of crucifixion.

The irony is that Jesus’ story has been wedded to contemporary music before, not the least being Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Jesus Christ Superstar.” Whatever controversies that rock musical engendered among the faithful – and there were many – its hit-filled score surely would have been an improvement over this “Idol”-ized version of Jesus’ final days, if only to hear Jesus sing “Gethsemane,” or let Judas wail “Blood Money” as opposed to Chris Daughtry’s powerful but somewhat puzzling rendition of “Bring Me to Life.”

Hollywood is often accused of being tone-deaf when it comes to issues of spirituality and religion, and “The Passion” painstakingly sought to be respectful, down to Perry’s disclaimers aimed at non-believers. Admittedly, many of the media types obliged to watch aren’t the target audience for such an endeavor. Divorcing the religion from the content, though, just sitting through this hybrid telecast until the saints went marching out was its own kind of cross to bear.

TV Review: 'The Passion'

(Special; Fox, Sun. March 20, 8 p.m.)

Production: Broadcast from New Orleans and produced by Anders Media and Dick Clark Prods.

Crew: Executive producers, Allen Shapiro, Michael Mahan, Mark Bracco, Jacco Doornbos, Adam Anders, David Grifhorst, Robert Deaton; director, Grifhorst; segment director, Deaton; writer, Peter Barsocchini; based on an original format by Doornbos; executive music producer, Anders. 120 MIN.

Cast: Host/narrator: Tyler Perry. Performers: Jencarlos Canela, Chris Daughtry, Prince Royce, Seal, Trisha Yearwood, Yolanda Adams, Michael W. Smith  

More TV

  • Rüdiger Böss, ProSiebenSat.1's Longtime Hollywood Buyer,

    Rüdiger Böss, ProSiebenSat.1's Longtime Buyer in Hollywood, to Leave the Company

    Rüdiger Böss, who as head buyer for ProSiebenSat.1 negotiated the German broadcast giant’s deals with U.S. studios for many years, is leaving after more than a quarter of a century at the company. Böss is a well-known figure in the international TV business and a familiar face at major events and markets. ProSiebenSat.1 CEO Conrad [...]

  • Rebel Wilson Romantic Comedy

    Rebel Wilson to Star in Australian Drama Series 'Les Norton'

    Rebel Wilson and David Wenham will star in Australian drama series “Les Norton.” Adapted from the novels of Robert G. Barrett, the show is presented by The Australian Broadcasting Corporation and Screen Australia. Set in 1985, the series will follow the exploits of a country bloke from outback Queensland, played by rising star Alexander Bertrand [...]

  • Korea's CJ ENM Acquires Scandinavian Sales

    South Korea's CJ ENM Acquires Scandinavian Sales Company Eccho Rights

    South Korean entertainment powerhouse CJ ENM has acquired a majority stake in Stockholm-based rights-management and sales company Eccho Rights. A leading entertainment and merchandising company in Asia, CJ ENM will give Eccho Rights the resources to expand its global footprint across Europe, the Middle East and Latin America. Eccho Rights has offices in Stockholm, Istanbul, [...]

  • Liz Heldens

    'The Passage' Writer Liz Heldens Inks New Overall Deal at 20th Century Fox TV

    Liz Heldens has signed a new multi-year overall deal with 20th Century Fox Television effective immediately. News of the deal comes ahead of the midseason launch of the Fox series “The Passage,” based on the book trilogy by Justin Cronin on which Heldens is the writer and executive producer. The series focuses on Project NOAH, [...]

  • Simon Cowell Courtney Hadwin

    'America's Got Talent' Rocker Courtney Hadwin Signs Record Deal

    “America’s Got Talent” rocker Courtney Hadwin has signed a deal with Arista Record in partnership with Simon Cowell’s Syco Music, the label announced today. “It feels amazing to be joining Syco and I am super excited and feel so lucky,” said the native of Hartlepool in Northern England. “I’ve always wanted to work on original [...]

  • 'Elementary' to End CBS Run After

    'Elementary' to End CBS Run After Season 7

    “Elementary” is coming to an end on CBS, Variety has confirmed. The procedural will wrap up following its upcoming seventh season on the broadcaster, which does not currently have a premiere date. All 13 episodes of Season 7 have been shot. According to an individual with knowledge of the situation, the network and producers came to [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content