Just as we’d ceased wondering how WSMV general manager Elden Hale manages to walk upright, what with the missing backbone that led him to cave to irrational ravings and pull The Book of Daniel in Nashville, NBC up and announced Tuesday that it was canning the controversial drama altogether, citing a ratings disaster.
Readers may recall that a few weeks ago Channel 4 broadcast the debut episode of what can only be described as an overwrought, too-contrived prime time TV series, but it did so only after airing (for cash, of course) the Christian Broadcasting Network’s hour-long testimonial about “the modern-day power of our miracle-working God.” The station preempted back-to-back 30-minute episodes of Outrageous TV Moments in favor of CBN’s Miracles II: All Things Are Possible. On its website, the station offered an explanation to viewers proudly defending its decision to run The Book of Daniel, whose main character is an Episcopal priest addicted to painkillers, married to a boozer and parent to a gay son. But Hale threw up his hands after a herd of retired people with rotary phones and navy Chevrolets threatened him with God’s wrath and the financial damnation that lay in store for Channel 4’s advertisers.
Though the gesture is now moot (but still instructive), it was embarrassing—not because it meant we couldn’t see Aidan Quinn as a man of the cloth who had more personal and family problems than a Robert Downey Jr./Calista Flockhart coupling would produce—but because it put Nashville in league with cultural backwaters like Little Rock, Ark., and Terre Haute, Ind., and represented such transparent pandering and unprincipled decision-making. If Hale had run Robertson’s Miracles show and not aired the debut Book of Daniel, at least we could respect his consistency. In that case, criticizing the decision would be like dressing down a pro-lifer who has five adopted kids.
Of course, when not secretly lusting after Britney Spears (or perhaps Heath Ledger?), the likes of Pat Robertson and members of the American Family Association are taking credit for the show’s cancellation, publicly thanking the “678,394 individuals” who were apparently horrified by an Episcopal priest character with a gay son and who sent emails of protest to NBC to say so.
The AFA is beating its chest about its win over “the trash being offered on TV,” but the lesson here could be less victorious than it may seem. Maybe it’s not so much that gays don’t move TV viewers. Maybe Jesus doesn’t.
Imagine the Nashville Symphony without its string section, the Titans without their offensive line, the city’s meat-and-threes without the meat. The visual arts landscape of Nashville is facing a parallel prospect.
There are 70,000 students in our public schools, and most of us have been talking about director Pedro Garcia’s poor bedside manner or his elected board’s proclivity for divisiveness and concern with style over substance.