- The Washington Times - Monday, May 13, 2013

After diligent study and much thoughtful reflection, programming executives at the broadcast networks have figured out why “The Bible” was the surprise television hit of the year. 

Was it a deep-seated hunger for spiritually nourishing, family-friendly entertainment or, perhaps, a church-based word-of-mouth marketing campaign that drove its success? 

Nah. 

The networks, in their wisdom, have determined that the reason the five-part compilation of Bible stories from erstwhile reality TV mogul Mark Burnett (“Survivor,” “The Apprentice”) was a historic smash for cable network History was — but of course! — its miniseries format.


Seriously. I am not making this up. The broadcast networks, with Fox in the vanguard, are scrambling to replicate the success of “The Bible” (and History’s other sleeper hit, “Hatfields and McCoys”) by betting heavily on a triumphant return of the miniseries. Identified with some of television’s most memorable classics, from “Roots” to “Lonesome Dove,” the once-popular genre was presumed to have grown stale.

With Fox’s signature franchise “American Idol” in creative disarray and ratings freefall, the network is “jumping on the miniseries bandwagon,” reports the Associated Press, with two lavishly produced, big-name “event series”: “24: Live Another Day,” a revival of Fox’s hit counter-terrorism cliffhanger from the last decade, and “Wayward Pines,” touted as a “mindbending thriller” about a search for lost federal agents, from M. Night Shyamalan (“The Sixth Sense”).

“Other broadcast network miniseries are reportedly in the works, following cable’s success with the genre,” according to the wire service.

While it might be said “The Bible” featured elements of the supernatural thriller genre, it’s hard to picture the Prince of Peace as an implacable counter-terror agent.

With Kiefer Sutherland reprising his role as counter-terror ace Jack Bauer in “Live Another Day” and large-screen leading man Matt Dillon starring in “Wayward Pines,” the two projects deviate in another important way from the formula of “The Bible,” which made do with a no-name cast. Unless you count Roma Downey as Mother Mary. And Barack Obama, who played Satan, according to internet reports.

“24” creator Howard Gordon had been planning to revive the franchise as a large screen theatrical feature, Fox Entertainment chairman Kevin Reilly told reporters Monday. After hearing about the planned “Wayward Pines,” he decided a 12-week, 12-hour “event series” was a better fit for his famously real-time hourly dramas than was the two-hour format of a full-length film. 

“24: Live Another Day” is expected to bow in May, 2014. “Wayward Pines” is slated for a mid-season debut next January.