Executives at the History network in the US are praising the heavens these days for “The Bible,” the five-part miniseries that has turned into a runaway ratings hit.
More than 10 million viewers have been tuning in each week as the series recounts the foundational stories of Judaism and Christianity — a gigantic number by the standards of American cable. The series will air its final episode Sunday — Easter — and seems likely to inspire pop culture spinoffs with its considerable popularity. (As we’ve noted, several Bible-themed movies are already in the works.)
Featuring a largely no-name cast, the series is partly the work of Mark Burnett, the superproducer behind reality hits such as “Survivor,” “The Apprentice” and “The Voice.”
The series’ most familiar performer is Burnett’s wife, Roma Downey, the long-time star of “Touched By an Angel,” a Christian-themed drama that ran for nine seasons on CBS. The actress plays a Mary, Jesus’ mother, and is also a producer.
With so many viewers, the series has inevitably sparked a bit of debate, although public discussions have been more about pop culture than theology. Some have objected to Twitter references to Diogo Morgado as “Hot Jesus,” a reference to the Portuguese actor’s turn as the Christian messiah. Some viewers also believed they noticed a physical resemblance between President Obama and the series’ Satan, played by Moroccan actor Mohamen Mehdi Ouazanni.
With Passover underway and Easter on Sunday, History isn’t the only US channel with Biblical programming this weekend. In keeping with a tradition that seemingly stretches back to the Garden of Eden, ABC will broadcast Cecil B. DeMille’s “The Ten Commandments” — all 7,300 hours of it — on Saturday night.