Magazine article Variety

Passion Play Isn't Easy

Magazine article Variety

Passion Play Isn't Easy

Article excerpt

TUNING IN

The Tim Tebow Show" is done foi* the season, thanks to the Denver Broncos' ouster from pro football's playoffs. Yet the question of how to commercially tap into the evangelicals who flocked to watch the devout quarterback is something of an evergreen, especially since few in Hollywood have mastered the playbook.

As with "The Passion of the Christ,'' the 2004 Mel Gibson feature whose box office muscle caused salivating studio execs to sit up and take notice, networks couldn't help but gawk at TV ratings for Tebow's playoff games. The stat sheet included 42.4 million viewers for Denver's overtime victory against Pittsburgh - nearly a 50% increase over last year, and a record for any NFL wild-card game in the quarter-century for which CBS has data

Some might recall, though, how the hunt for conservative Christians initiated by "The Passion's" success rather quickly fizzled. And a slew of entertainment projects aimed specifically at that market for the most part proved stiff and boring - either apocalyptic, or as soft and gooey as the center of a caramel sundae.

Reaching a happy medium in the uneasy relationship between Hollywood and the Christian faithful is clearly a tall order, especially for those in showbiz like yours truly, who derived biblical learning by way of Cecil B. DeMille's epics, or musicals like "Jesus Christ Superstar." Good shows, but Tm not really sure how true they are to the book.

So I decided to solicit advice from someone with a better grasp of what might be called Team Tebow: Syndicated columnist CaI Thomas, a Fox News contributor, former vice president of the Moral Majority and - at the risk of destroying his credibility with conservatives and mine with Hollywood - an occasional pen pal.

Like many conservatives, Thomas sees Hollywood as being uncomfortable with the issue of religion and in many ways hostile toward traditional values. "I am unaware of any other demographic that Hollywood would knowingly reject as a potential income stream," he says.

At the same time, he also acknowledges the existence of a cottage industry consisting of "groups making money off criticizing Hollywood," and says, regarding material produced directly for evangelicals, "There's a lot of this stuff that's an embarrassment. I wouldn't go to it if it was free. …

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