Bruce Almighty - 21st Dec. 8pm - BBC1
A surprisingly deep film considering it stars Jim Carrey, managing to look at a host of issues from unanswered prayer to theodicy. Morgan Freeman's performance as God steals the show and there is at least one brief audio-visual reference to DeMille's The Ten Commandments.
God Gave Rock and Roll to You - 23rd Dec. 6:30pm – Ch4
Documentary with Robert Beckford looking at the relationship between music and religion. I guess this is the music equivalent of The Passion: Films, Faith and Fury. Interestingly, that programme was originally scheduled for Christmas last year, but got moved to Easter as because that was a more religious time, which suggests something has changed at Channel 4.
The Lost Gospel of Judas – 23rd Dec. 8:30pm – Ch4
Documentary looking at the lost gospel of Judas, and trying to determine whether it is real or fake.
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe - 24th Dec. 11:25 am
The animated version of the film which I was obsessed by as a kid (having discovered it on holiday). It's not as flashy as the recent feature film, nor as faithful as the BBC TV version from the late 80s, but it still holds up quite well, although the US accents are a bit strange for a story set in 40s Britain.
CS Lewis: Beyond Narnia - 24th Dec. 11:50am
Documentary-drama looking at the life of the great writer. It's written by Norman Stone who wrote and directed the 1985 version of Shadowlands
Solomon and Sheba - 24th Dec. 12:45pm
Yul Brynner stars as King Solomon, a role he took on after the untimely death of original star Tyronne Power who can still be seen in some of the distant shots. The story is based, of course, on 1 Kings 10:1-13, and so director King Vidor and his writer add plenty of padding to make those thirteen verses stretch for the 135 minutes run time. Solomon and Sheba was one of the first films to use Super Technirama 70. There's an interesting article at the Widescreen Museum discussing this and Disney's Sleeping Beauty.
Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat - 24th Dec. 3:15pm
Donny Osmond takes the title role in this fairly terrible rendition of Andrew Lloyd-Webber and Tim Rice's musical. It's as tacky as you like even starring Joan Collins and Christopher Biggins to turn up the camp factor.
The Secret Family of Jesus - 25th Dec. 8:00pm
Another documentary featuring Robert Beckford about the most talked about religious issue this year – that raised by the Da Vinci Code. It's somewhat sensationally advertised, but surely with a 2 hours runtime it will bring more balance than the book and the film, and hopefully it will reflect the scholarly consensus.
The Magic of Jesus - 26th Dec. 12:40am
Dirty Tricks magicans Barry and Stuart reproduce some of Jesus's miracles. Hardly new territory (magicians have claimed to be able to do various miracles for years), but if they manage to get killed and rise from the dead I'll be seriously impressed.
The Secret Life of Brian - 1st Jan 8:00 pm
Channel 4 are devoting an entire evening to the Pythons. The evening kicks off with this documentary looking at the controversy surrounding the film. I hope they show the complete footage of the TV debate between two of the Python's and a bishop and another religious representative. I don't think it will, but hopefully there will be some interesting footage that I've not seen before.
Monty Python's Life of Brian - 1st Jan 9:00 pm
A film that needs no introduction, but it is part of an evening on the Pythons. The evening continues after this film with the documentary "What the Pythons Did Next".
There's so much religious-related TV this year that I can't discuss everything, so here are a few more programmes of lesser relevance.
23rd, 9:25 am ITV1 - The Way we Worshipped Christmas Special
23rd, 11:40 pm Ch4 - Nuns on the Run (Film)
24th, 3:15 pm BBC2 – A Nuns Story (Film)
24th, 7:35 pm Ch4 – AFI 100 Years, 100 Cheers
25th/1st Jan 9:30 pm BBC1 – Vicar of Dibley
28th, 10:50pm BBC1 – Film 2006: Films of the Year
I'm fairly impressed with this list of programmes / films. Last year there was next to nothing. This time there are a number of interesting documentaries, a couple of Christian related films, and one proper golden-era biblical epic, albeit based on a story that would be unknown to many outside of the church and biblical studies departments. (It almost makes me wonder if it was a coincidence!). It's interesting to see Channel 4 leading the way as well. 10 years ago the majority of religious programming would have been on the BBC, but now their offerings are unimaginative low budget affairs whilst Channel 4 is producing new, engaging documentaries that should attract a far wider audience. It will be interesting to see how they do in terms of quality and ratings.