A new television drama featuring the struggles of an Episcopal priest with family, church politics and Jesus, his mentor and friend, and even his own nagging reliance on painkillers, is planned for the NBC 2005-2006 mid-season line-up.
“This challenging new series is our first announced drama for mid-season as we continue to seek different, out-of-the-box projects," said Kevin Reilly, President, NBC Entertainment, when announcing the new series.
“The Book of Daniel' is bold and surprising storytelling told by a great cast led by Aidan Quinn,” Reilly added.
The new series also offers the Episcopal Church a rare product placement opportunity at a time when TIVO devices make it possible to excise paid commercials from home viewing. In 2004, the value of television product placements (a product or brand name inserted for marketing purposes into entertainment fare) increased by 46.4 percent over the year before, to $1.88 billion, according to the research firm PQ Media.
A pilot episode for “The Book of Daniel,” was filmed at All Saints Church in Pasadena, where Quinn portrays Daniel, a young, liberal priest and father who clashes frequently with his conservative bishop, Dr. Beatrice Congreve, played by Ellen Burstyn.
The series, set in upstate New York, would also feature Quinn’s frequent conversations with Jesus, played by actor Garrett Dillahunt. Among his parishioners is long-time actress and comedienne Phyllis Diller.
The Rev. Susan Russell, an associate rector at the Pasadena parish, said the plot for the series is hopeful.
“It is one more indicator of how much issues of faith and religion are ‘in,’ right now,” said Russell, who is also national Integrity president.
“How cool is it that a progressive Episcopal priest has a shot at being a prime-time drama protagonist,” she added. “How surprising might it be to many who tune in to find out there actually IS a church where women can be bishops – clergy can be human – and there’s enough Good News around to extend to everybody?”
Quinn, a frequent star of television and film for two decades, has appeared in numerous episodes of NBC’s Third Watch, and such films as Desperately Seeking Susan, The Handmaid’s Tale, Cave Dweller and many others.
The show’s producer and writer is Jack Kenny, a Julliard graduate and former professional actor. He has collaborated on Dave’s World, Caroline in the City, and co-wrote “Titus” the 2000 Christopher Titus comedy, with his partner Brian which ran for two years on Fox. Kenny has also directed episodes of “Titus,” the WB Network’s “Reba,” and Titus’ recent comedy special for Showtime, “Norman Rockwell is Bleeding.”
Russell noted that, in her conversations with Kenny, he indicated that he wanted to focus on places where “faith and life and family connect, particularly through an Episcopal lens.”
In a previously published interview, Kenny acknowledged that he has worked on a variety of shows and added that, in writing: “You can serve any product, whether it’s a kids’ show or an edgy adult comedy. The same kind of work goes into it, but your goal is a little different.”
The day and time the series will be aired will be announced later, Reilly said.