Since in this blog I have been discussing some of the TV Shows in which religion or religious issues play a big role, I decided to create a list of some of the most interesting shows right now on network TV, cable, and streaming services that deal with this topic. The list is not exhaustive, and I focus mainly on drama (no reality shows or documentaries). The list is no particular order. I hope it is helpful (I’ll try to expand it and keep it updated), and please let me know if are there any shows out there that I should include in this list.
The Leftovers (HBO)
My favorite show on TV right now that has religion as its main theme.
Plot: “Revolves around mysterious disappearances, world-wide, and specifically follows a group of people who are left behind in the suburban community of Mapleton. They must begin to rebuild their lives after the loss of more than 100 million people.” From IMDb.
Game of Thrones (HBO)
While the show is not mainly about religion, religion does play a role in it, with many characters portraying religious figures (Priestess Melisandre, the High Sparrow, etc.), and constant references to the various religious systems and beliefs of the Seven Kingdoms.
Plot: “The series is set on the fictional continents of Westeros and Essos, and interweaves several plot lines with a large ensemble cast. The first narrative arc follows a civil war among several noble houses for the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms; the second covers the attempts to reclaim the throne by the exiled last scion of the realm’s deposed ruling dynasty; the third chronicles the rising threat of the impending winter and the legendary creatures and fierce peoples of the North.” (From Wikipedia)
Transparent (one of the best shows on TV right now) focuses on a transgender father (played by Jeffrey Tambor) coming out to his three adult children. The show though also explores Judaism and Jewish identity in many of its episodes. Jill Soloway, in fact, said this about the show: “It is so Jewy. We got away with that much Jewiness? I can’t believe it.”
Plot: “Mort has a secret that he really wants to tell his three adult children, who are so self-absorbed they don’t see that something has changed for divorced, girlfriendless dad. Even when he invites them to dinner en masse to share his news, somehow, the conversation becomes about them. The secret unfolds, though, when he comes home and sees his married daughter getting intimate with her ex. Now, he knows her secret; she learns his; and the dysfunctional family finds one secret after another being exposed.” (From Wikipedia)
Hand of God (Amazon)
Can Ron Perlman really hear God? If so, this is the God of the Old Testament.
Plot:”Hand of God follows Pernell Harris (Ron Perlman), a corrupt judge who suffers a breakdown and believes God is compelling him onto a path of vigilante justice.” (From Wikipedia)
The Path (Hulu)
This is show about life in a religious cult will premiere in March 30 on Hulu, and the previews and all of the promotional materials look very promising.
Plot: “The Path follows a family at the center of a controversial cult movement as they struggle with relationships, faith, and power. Each episode takes an in-depth look at the gravitational pull of belief and what it means to choose between the life we live and the life we want. The series blends elements of mystery-thriller, romance, and mysticism.” (From the Hulu site)
Fargo is not really a show centered on the topic of religion, but there are enough philosophical/religious questions posed by the show, (about the meaning of life, about morality, etc.) that I have decided to include it here.
Plot:”Fargo is an American black comedy–crime drama anthology television series created and primarily written by Noah Hawley. The show is inspired by the 1996 film of the same name written and directed by the Coen brothers, who serve as executive producers on the series. It premiered on April 15, 2014, on FX. Each season follows an anthology format, being set in a different era along with a different story, cast, and set of characters.” (From Wikipedia)
You, Me, and the Apocalypse (NBC)
I still have not seen this new show yet, but it looks like a comedic take on all the apocalyptic themed shows right now on TV (I am looking at your Walking Dead, Fear the Walking Dead, iZombie,… you name it!)
Plot: “You, Me and the Apocalypse” is a bold adrenaline-fueled hour-long comedic drama about the last days of mankind. When the news is announced that a comet is on an unavoidable collision course with Earth, the most hilarious and unexpected chain of events imaginable is set in motion. Against a backdrop of apocalyptic chaos, an eclectic group of seemingly unconnected characters around the world begin to intersect in the most unexpected ways, resulting in a nonstop mix of action, romance and wit.” (From the NBC website)
Orphan Black (BBC America)
The show has an interesting subplot involving “Proletheans,” a religious group that considers cloning an abomination and an insult to God.
Plot: “Sarah is a street-wise woman with a troubled past as an English orphan who bounced around foster homes before being taken in by Mrs. S, who uprooted her and her foster brother, Felix, to North America. She has made bad decisions in her life but always strives to do right by daughter Kira. When Sarah witnesses the suicide of a woman, Beth (who looks like her) she decides to steal Beth’s identity — boyfriend and money included — in an attempt to begin a new life for herself and Kira, with whom Sarah hopes to reunite. But assuming Beth’s life — Sarah eventually learns that Beth was her clone — doesn’t go as smoothly as she anticipates because Beth was a cop caught in the middle of a deadly conspiracy, making Sarah the new target. Sarah must fight to stay alive while trying to escape from the complex web. As more threads appear, Sarah is pulled deeper, and Felix becomes her one true confidant.”
The Returned (Les Revenants)
This French show is a subtle, quiet (in other words, very French) exploration of the life of a small mountain town in which people who died in a bus accident reappear. It does pose interesting questions about what it means to be dead and, by extension, what it means to be alive.
Plot: “In a small French mountain town, many dead people reappear, apparently alive and normal: teenage road crash victim Camille, suicidal bridegroom Simon, a small boy named “Victor” who was murdered by burglars, and Serge, a serial killer. They try to resume their lives as strange phenomena occur; amongst recurring power outages, the water level of the reservoir mysteriously lowers, revealing the presence of dead animals and a church steeple, and strange marks appear on the bodies of the living and the dead.” (From Wikipedia)
A fan favorite that has created a successful mythology (11 seasons and counting) around the classic topic of Good Vs. Evils.
Plot: “Two brothers follow their father’s footsteps as “hunters” fighting evil supernatural beings of many kinds including monsters, demons, and gods that roam the earth.”
The Walking Dead (AMC)
A show that is consistently entertaining and still manages to explore interesting questions about what it means to be human in a world in which being alive is almost as terrifying as being death.
Plot “The Walking Dead is an American horror drama television series developed by Frank Darabont, based on the comic book series of the same name by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, and Charlie Adlard. Andrew Lincoln plays the show’s lead character, sheriff’s deputy Rick Grimes, who awakens from a months-long coma to confront a post-apocalyptic world overrun by zombies. Grimes reunites with his family and becomes the leader of a group he forms with other survivors. Together they struggle to survive in and adapt to a world filled with zombies and some humans who are even more dangerous than the zombies themselves.” (From Wikipedia)
An upcoming adaptation (by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg) of the comic book created by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon. There is still no premiere date, but it looks like an exciting take addition to this list.
Plot: “Jesse Custer, a conflicted Preacher in a small Texas town, is inhabited by a mysterious entity that allows him to develop a highly unconventional power. Jesse, his ex-girlfriend, Tulip, and an Irish vampire named Cassidy embark on a journey to, literally, find God.” (From Wikipedia)
A.D. The Bible Continues (NBC)
A continuation of the miniseries The Bible, that feeds of the recent success (in movies and in TV) of Christian themed stories.
Plot “A.D. The Bible Continues” picks up where the miniseries “The Bible” left off, continuing the greatest story ever told and exploring the exciting and inspiring events that followed the Crucifixion of Christ. The immediate aftermath of Christ’s death had a massive impact on his disciples, his mother, Mary, and key political and religious leaders of the era, completely altering the entire world in an instant. Beginning at that fateful moment of the Crucifixion and the Resurrection, “A.D. The Bible Continues” will focus on the disciples who had to go forward and spread the teachings of Christ to a world dominated by political unrest, and the start of a whole new religion that would dramatically reshape the history of the world.” (From the NBC website)
Of Kings and Gods (ABC)
Another show riding the popularity of Bible stories on TV. This one seems to be where Game of Thrones meets the Bible.
Plot: “An epic biblical saga of faith, ambition and betrayal as told through the eyes of the battle-weary King Saul, the resentful prophet Samuel and the resourceful young shepherd David — all on a collision course with destiny that will change the world.”
Jane The Virgin (CW)
A traditional sitcom (at least in structure) that makes fun (while being respectful) of many stereotypes about Christianity, virginity, sex, etc.
Plot: “Set in Miami, the series details the surprising and unforeseen events that take place in the life of Jane Villanueva, a hard-working, religious young Latina woman whose family tradition and a vow to save her virginity until her marriage to her detective boyfriend is shattered when a doctor mistakenly artificially inseminates her during a checkup. To make matters worse, the biological donor is a married man, a former playboy and cancer survivor who is not only the new owner of the hotel where Jane works, but was also her former teenage crush”
Angel From Hell (CBS)
A pretty standard sitcom that wants to channel Highway to Heaven.
Plot: “Angel From Hell is a comedy about Amy, a colorful, brassy woman who insinuates herself into the life of an organized and seemingly perfect young woman, Allison, claiming to be her “guardian angel.” Allison is an intense, driven doctor who is sure that Amy is just an inebriated, outspoken nut, until every one of her warnings proves true. Cautioned by Amy not tell anyone about her, Allison can’t discuss this over-the-top oddball with her father and business partner, Marv, a doctor who shares an office with Allison, or her younger brother, Brad, a sales rep who lives in a guest room over her garage. As Allison tries to push Amy away, Amy makes her final pitch: her sole mission is to provide Allison with helpful guidance that nudges her in the right direction in life – and it’s her final chance to prove herself as an angel. With that, Allison agrees to this unlikely relationship because maybe a weird friend is exactly what she needs… and what if Amy really is her “guardian angel”?”