Monday, January 09, 2006
The Book of Daniel
Daniel Webster (and yes, he’s supposed to be descended from his historic namesake) is an Episcopal Priest living in a large house in an affluent neighborhood. But his life...as portrayed by Aidan Quinn (above)...is anything but serene.
Over the course of the 2-hour series debut we find that: Daniel seems to be addicted to pain pills (he pops Vicodin like breath mints), his wife seems to be an alcoholic, his daughter sells marijuana to finance her fledgling career as a comic book artist, his adopted Chinese son is bedding the 16-year-old daughter of one of his more conservative parishioners (whose shrewish wife unabashedly disdains the possibility of having “Asian grandchildren” running around her Christmas tree), his mother is plagued with Alzheimer’s, his father (a Bishop) is a sour, self-righteous prig who is having an extramarital affair with Daniel’s direct superior, a prickly female Bishop (who herself is now taking part in Daniel’s Vicodin popping), his wife’s sister is a high-strung flake who’s having an affair with the woman her husband brought in to spice up their sex life, his brother-in-law (husband of his wife’s sister) absconded with millions of the church’s funds (Daniel had put him in charge of building a school for the Church) and ended up dead (with the money nowhere in sight), and the most level-headed (well, relatively speaking) person in his family is his gay son (who is teased, constantly and unmercifully, by his siblings about his sexuality and who so afraid of coming out to his grandfather that he allows himself to forced into a date with a woman arranged the old man.)
On top of all that, Daniel contacts a Catholic Priest…an Italian-American who, as a matter of course for this series, has direct ties to the Mafia…to help him track down the brother-in-law and the missing money and finds that the church money will be returned only if he hires a mob-connected construction company to build the school.
And, if all that weren’t enough, Daniel has regular conversations with Jesus Christ, who is portrayed as a bland guy with a surfer dude attitude and more vapid platitudes than actual wisdom and comfort.
I’m not sure what The Book of Daniel is trying to be (I’m guessing that it wants to be a hip, “edgy” cross between Desperate Housewives and Joan of Arcadia)…but what it turns out to be is a mess. It’s not funny (the early promos for it positioned it as being much more light-hearted than it turned out to be)…it’s certainly not as whimsical as it thinks it is…it has no characters that you really care about…and the sheer accumulation of over-the-top plotlines is just plain numbing.
(I’m not Episcopalian and I don’t think I know any Episcopalians personally but I have to imagine that this show is insulting to them on myriad levels.)
The Book of Daniel is a limited series and I can’t imagine it being picked up to continue after the 8 episodes scheduled for this run (at this point…given the furor, the lack of sponsors (most the ads during the 2 hours were promos for other NBC programs), and the so-so ratings…I’d imagine there’s only a 50-50 chance that NBC is going to finish airing even these episodes; they're likely to shunt the show over to Bravo or one of the other cable outlets in the NBC- Universal family.)