Last night, CBS premiered its new show “Living Biblically” about a man who’s life is suddenly thrown into a crisis when his best friend dies and his wife finds out she’s pregnant.
Lead character Chip Curry (Jay R. Ferguson) evaluates his life.
He had tried to throw himself into his work as a movie reviewer. Although his office shows off worldly decadence. A coworker is having an affair. Chip’s boss is cold hearted and only cares about the bottom line.
Chip goes to a bookstore in an attempt to find a self help book, but ends up coming across a Bible. “Do you believe in signs?” Chip asks the bookstore’s clerk.
As a sort of project, Chip decides to entirely throw himself into living Biblically for the next nine months (premise based on the book “the year of living Biblically” by A.J. Jacobs).
Chip’s wife who’s a physician and who has a focus on science is skeptical of the role of faith. But she tries to be supportive of her husband.
Chip talks to a priest (and later a Rabbi) and seeks out their counsel as he tries to live Biblically.
The pilot had a couple of humorous moments, but I also find comedies hard to judge based on their first episode.
Some Christians will absolutely dislike this show. For instance, because of situations like a coworker having an affair (spoiler alert: after Chip throws a rock at the coworker, he evaluates his decisions and comes clean to his wife and later thanks Chip). But there will be people who find some of the subject matter crass. But those situations are also necessary in a series that revolves around a character trying to living Biblically in a culture where that’s countercultural.
Executive producer Johnny Galecki (of Big Bang Theory and Roseanne fame) said that he wanted to do a comedy about religion. Galecki cites his own Catholic upbringing and has talked in interviews of how many who are involved with the production of the show are devout in their beliefs.
In an interview with the Television Critics Associated Winter Press Tour, Galecki said, ““I think, hopefully, [people of faith] will find this show a cool take on what a lot of people base their entire lives around.”
From other interviews Galecki has done, it seems that one of his goals is for people to be able to have honest conversations about religion. The show hasn’t set out to mock religion.
Although it is a show about faith, it’s a man exploring faith. I don’t necessarily consider it to be a family show, but it’s a relevant show in that many are on spiritual journeys in society. The show is more of a cultural commentary. The vast majority of Americans believe in God. And through various situations of life, many face times where they truly begin to more seriously seek God out.
As we see in the show, there are different sources of truth that people try to pursue. There are many sources of purpose to which people look.
And then there’s Chip, who has thrown himself into Godly living. So many in our society are lukewarm to faith and seem to believe in a God who affirms whatever they want to do. Chip, on the other hand, is trying to truly live a Godly life. In that, there are times when he doesn’t understand but he follows.
There are situations where he faces conflict about knowing what is Biblical but facing challenges to his newfound values. We see this when Chip and his wife run into the coworker who’s on a date and where Chip is conflicted about telling the truth vs playing along with his friend’s lie in order to avoid an uncomfortable situation).
By the end of the episode, even secular characters are noticing positive aspects to the changes in Chip’s life (one says he might even need to start).
What the show is trying to do is very difficult. Have a comedy about religion that appeals to a large audience. But for many in America, regardless of beliefs, I think that this show can achieve one of Galecki’s goals about being a thought provoking look into religious life in America.
Josh Benner is the associate pastor at Cornerstone Evangelical Free Church in Fergus Falls, Minnesota and has a Master of Divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He enjoys writing about faith and culture. He lives with his wife Kari in Minnesota.