- The Washington Times - Friday, March 21, 2008

Easter TV in bloom

When it comes to Hollywood, no single holiday or observance, including Christmas, has inspired religious filmmaking like Easter and/or the events of Holy Week.

Television, of course, long ago jumped aboard the bandwagon with annual airings of such epics as “Ben Hur” and “The Ten Commandments.” ABC’s yearly broadcast of the Cecil B. DeMille film, in fact, is the network’s only program airing tomorrow night.

Although several versions of the story of Moses have appeared on film — including “The Ten Commandments: The Musical,” two latter-day adaptations (as recently as 2006 and 2007) and Mr. DeMille’s original 1923 effort — none has surpassed the staying power of the 1956 version, which has become an Easter staple for millions of TV households worldwide. The film (starting at 7 p.m. tomorrow and clocking in at slightly less than four hours) features an all-star cast that includes Charlton Heston as Moses, Yul Brynner as Pharaoh Ramses II, Anne Baxter as Queen Nefretiri, Edward G. Robinson as the slave overseer Dathan and Yvonne DeCarlo as Moses’ wife, Sephora.

During the 1957 Academy Awards, the movie earned seven nominations — including one for best picture — but none in the acting categories. It took home one prize: a best-special-effects win for John P. Fulton.

Elsewhere, tomorrow, cable’s History Channel has a pair of back-to-back religious-themed specials, “Quest for the Lost Ark” at 8 p.m., followed by “The Protestant Reformation” at 10 p.m.

In “Quest,” professor Tudor Parfitt from London’s School of Oriental and African Studies reportedly will reveal where he believes the Ark is, the History Channel says. Mr. Parfitt is well-known for discovering that the Lemba tribe in Zimbabwe is one of the lost tribes of Israel.

In “Reformation,” scholars and researchers examine how the point at which Europe left the medieval world and entered the modern one, resulting in the greatest forced movement of population in Europe since the fall of the Roman Empire. Spurring the development of both modern nationalism and modern democracy, the Protestant Reformation shattered the authority of the traditional Church.

Both specials are rated TV-PG.

CBS to end ‘Jericho’

CBS has nuked “Jericho,” the Hollywood Reporter says. Producers have been told the post-apocalyptic drama is ending its run on the broadcast network, the trade publication reports. CBS will air the season finale Tuesday at 10 p.m. with an ending that helps give closure to fans. After the first season concluded with an abrupt cut to black, fans famously inundated the network with tens of thousands of pounds of peanuts to urge the network to continue the show. For the seven-episode second season, producers shot two endings — one that leaves viewers in suspense for a third round and another that is more conclusive. The ending that will air Tuesday night doesn’t entirely slam the door on the series, but is different than the cliffhanger version, sources told the Hollywood Reporter. It also doesn’t preclude the possibility of “Jericho” finding a second life on cable, though the economics of the production will likely prevent a continuation of the show. According to the Hollywood Reporter, CBS declined comment, though a formal announcement is expected later today.

Also scheduled:

Tomorrow

Faith & Fame: Nate Sallie (7:30 p.m. TV One): Growing up a pastor’s child in the District, Nate Sallie was a sports fanatic with a love for classical piano. When injuries forced him to abandon sports, music became his sole passion. The episode traces his spiritual journey.

Jesus: The Missing History (10 p.m., Discovery): Wars have been fought in His name. Untold millions have devoted their lives to Him. But how much do we really know about Jesus ben Joseph of Galilee? Explorer and Bible scholar Kent Dobson explains.

Sunday

Cable’s Turner Classic Movies offers the day’s best bet for continuous viewing, with two religious-themed films, a movie about an unemployed consruction worker who finds hope and inspiration in the desert — and a timeless musical filled with sparkling songs.

• Lillies of the Field, 11:15 a.m.: Sidney Poitier (in his Oscar-winning role for best actor) stars as an itinerant handyman in the American Southwest who gains a new outlook on life when he helps a group of German nuns build a chapel. Lilia Skala and Lisa Mann co-star; Ralph Nelson directs.

• Easter Parade , 1 p.m.: When his partner leaves him, a vaudeville star (Fred Astaire) trains an untried performer (Judy Garland) to take her place, finding love in the process. The ebullient Irving Berlin score features such gems as “Steppin’ Out With My Baby,” “A Couple of Swells” and, of course, the title tune. With Peter Lawford and Ann Miller.

• Godspell , 3 p.m.: Contemporary hippies relive the story of Christ’s ministry and crucifixion in this 1973 adaptation of this long-running off-Broadway hit. Victor Garber, David Haskell and Lynne Thigpen star.

• King Of Kings, 5 p.m.: Epic retelling of Christ’s life (with Jeffrey Hunter as Jesus) and the effects of His teachings on those around him. The cast includes Siobhan McKenna as Mary, Robert Ryan as John the Baptist and Rip Torn as Judas Iscariot.

On the Discovery Channel:

• Jesus: The Complete Story, 3 p.m.: An hourlong look at the last days of Jesus’ life: the Last Supper; the Mount of Olives, where He prayed; and the trial in which He was condemned for blasphemy. The special also explores what may have accounted for His resurrection and offers clues about how He may have looked.

Written and compiled by Robyn-Denise Yourse.

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