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September 23, 2006
We'd Like Faith-Based Programming, Easy On God, Please

Christian families have made the "Veggie Tales" video series very popular with young children, with their ebullient mix of Biblical stories and the light, humorous touch of such characters as Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber. We bought a couple of these videos for the Little Admiral, and we enjoy watching them with her, especially since the videos emphasize the message that God loves us all. The sales of the videos attracted the eye of NBC programmers, who recently signed the series' creators to use the characters into a cartoon on the network.

However, NBC seems a little confused about what made the series popular in the first place. CNN reported last night that network executives have pressured the producers to tone down the religious nature of Veggie Tales:

Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber always had a moral message in their long-running "VeggieTales" series, a collection of animated home videos for children that encourage moral behavior based on Christian principles. But now that the vegetable stars have hit network television, they cannot speak as freely as they once did, and that has got the Parents Television Council steamed. ...

Two weeks ago, NBC began airing 30-minute episodes of "VeggieTales" on Saturday mornings. The show was edited to comply with the network's broadcast standards, said NBC spokeswoman Rebecca Marks.

"Our goal is to reach as broad an audience as possible with these positive messages while being careful not to advocate any one religious point of view," she said.

"VeggieTales" creator Phil Vischer, who was responsible for readying episodes for network broadcast, said he didn't know until just weeks before the shows were to begin airing that non-historical references to God and the Bible would have to be removed.

I wish I could claim surprise, but this is the level of cynicism that we've come to expect from the entertainment industry, as well as intellect. What rocket scientist decided to spend millions on a new show while stripping the main element of its built-in popularity out of the final product? The Veggie Tales series has its charm, but without the Biblical episodes and the mild Christian message, the series has nothing particularly singular to recommend it. The nature of their episodes does not give Bob and Larry striking individual personalities; they mostly goof at playing characters from the Biblical stories they retell, such as Jonah or Joshua.

NBC knew this when it bought the series. It also should have realized that its fans would expect NBC to allow Veggie Tales to remain in its ouevre, and one has to wonder why the network feels so threatened by a cartoon that basically makes an average Sunday School lesson a bit more fun. It doesn't teach jihad or crusade, nor does it delve into topics like the Immaculate Conception or review the oft-misunderstood doctrine of papal infallibility. It retells stories from the Bible that rank pretty low on the controversial scale, when one considers other young-child entertainments such as Bratz Girls and the like.

The network executives who bought the rights to Veggie Tales misrepresented their intentions not just to Phil Vischer, but also to the viewers it attracted when it announced that they would air VT episodes. Those viewers expected NBC to actually air episodes in the same style and substance as Vischer's videos. Instead, NBC has insulted those viewers by treating their faith as something shameful and attempting to transform the openly-Christian entertainment into a neutered secular cartoon. Perhaps they might want to review the tale of Saul on the road to Damascus for themselves. Vischer could make a video that explains it in small words NBC programmers can understand.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at September 23, 2006 8:30 AM

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» NBC from Conservative Musings
NBC has been no friend to Christianity in the recent past. They're continuing on in that mode. Remember The Book of Daniel? Definitely not a show that was friendly to mainstream Christendom. Now we have them airing of Madonna's mock [Read More]

Tracked on September 23, 2006 6:23 PM

» NBC is Confused from Sierra Faith
As Dan notes, Ed Morrissey hears NBC mumbling, Wed Like Faith-Based Programming, Easy On God, Please. [Read More]

Tracked on September 23, 2006 11:27 PM

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