I really liked the show Joan of Arcadia a few seasons ago and since then we’ve had a scarcity of shows which deal with religion in a respectful manner. In fact, I think that since Bing Crosby, Hollywood hasn’t shown us a priest that wasn’t an alcoholic, a pedophile, gay, a pill popper, or just a plain old cheat.
When I first heard that AMC was doing a drama on Jesuits I thought “Oh no here we go again. ”We’ve seen that awful apocalyptic vision of “Revelation. We ignored “Book of Daniel” which nobody with even a passing respect of religion was involved with. There was “Nothing Sacred” which critics praised and once again nobody watched. But then I heard Karen Hall, an award-winning television writer and a Catholic convert was involved. Her sister is Barbara Hall, creator of Joan of Arcadia.
Now after reading this article from the National Catholic Register, count me among those who will give the show a try.Check out these quotes from Karen Hall:
“The orthodox priest-protagonist is a novelty,” she added. “Everything else has been done: the cool liberal priest, the gay priest, the drug-addicted pastor, priests who are pedophiles or who have lost faith. Networks are interested now in what is real, which seems weird enough to them to be compelling.”
“Priests for the most part used to be left alone,” she said. “But now people really wonder what it is like to walk down the street wearing a collar, why men choose to be priests in this day and age, and what the priesthood is about. And in the recent annals of priest screen characters, a man who is faithful to his vows and in love with the Church is something that almost never comes out of religious-cynical Hollywood.”
Hall says the Jesuits hold a special place in her own life. Having been raised Methodist, she recalled that Ignatian spirituality played a central role in her conversion to Catholicism as an adult.
“I didn’t seek out St. Ignatius,” she said. “He found me. I used to wonder why I had this irrational love for a dead bald guy from the Basque country, until I finally figured out that I have some kind of strange Jesuit vocation.”
Plus, she said, the Jesuit charism remains unique and relevant for people today.
“Ignatius was really the first to show people how to find God in all things. He set the Jesuits up to be in the world, to roll up their sleeves and get into the muck. This is still true of them and they are particularly accessible to the audience because most people know a Jesuit or have at least heard of them.”
Having spent years researching the Jesuits for a movie about St. Ignatius that she is writing in her spare time, Hall stopped in Rome last month to explore the surroundings for her protagonist.
The characters and events, she said, will be based on composites of real situations. The story will feature a faithful-to-the-magisterium Jesuit priest in Rome who teaches at the Gregorian University and gets reassigned to a house of formation in the Bronx.
Hollywood producer Barry O’Brien called Karen Hall “a rare commodity for television…a sort of Eudora Welty meets Cormac McCarthy. You could not find a better person to create this show.”
I hope he’s right. I haven’t been this interested in a show for a long time.
P.S. -I just noticed Karen Hall has a blog called some have hats.