Things I Would Like To See, Part III

pastorA really good television show about the life of a pastor or pastors: this is what I’d like to see.  Rather than focus on the extremes (prosperity “Preachers of LA” or backwoods “Snake Salvation” handlers), my idea for the show would be much more mainstream.

I am a minister.  I know ministers.  I understand a lot of their world.  Which is why I have often been  disappointed by the way I see them depicted in film or television.  The wimp.  The fool.  The crusading hate-filled hyper-fundamentalist.  The hypocrite.  The money-grubber.  Not to mention the pervert.  Stock characters all.  There are ministers like this, certainly.  But only a small minority.  Most ministers are living rich and authentic lives in the everyday, serving in churches and doing the work they feel called to do in their local communities.  Sometimes this approaches the sublime.  Other days it is just complicated business.  In all cases their lives are ripe with dramatic potential.the-most-searched-character-on-mad-men-isnt-don-draper

Lest anyone think that a local congregation is too stayed a locale for serious drama, remember that one of the most revered shows on television right now focuses on office work in the 1960s.  Not exactly the stuff of heroic legend.  The writing, characters, and the situations they find themselves in are what helps make Mad Men great.  Here zombies need not apply.  In the same way, the story of the local church and the drama of the pastoral vocation contain the seeds of a number of fascinating stories.  Life, death, grief, joy, doubt, love, hate, sorrow: the ministerial world is not, despite what most people might think, boring.

I think that a show about the lives of ministers could be powerful and transformative.  But it must be honest about the trials, temptations, and toil of the vocation.  It must be a clear picture–in all its dangerous wonder and sometimes comedic inanity–of local congregational life.  And, importantly, it must actually be able to depict how people of faith really act.  No surface-level stuff here.  I’m not asking for a puff piece here that only shows happy pseudo-perfect pastors.  In addition to being boring, this would be fundamentally false.

SANY0001-pastor1What I’m asking for is a real picture of the kinds of men and women I went to seminary with and with whom I have served in ministry.  People with great gifts, heart, quirks, flaws, varying personalities, and a deep yet sometimes confusing sense of call.  Throw in the myriad people who are our congregation members (the possibilities for character choices here are endless…just ask any pastor) and you have the potential for a show that is as compelling as it honest.  Not to mention its potential for humor.

While the entertainment world has rarely seemed too interested in this kind of program, I have some hope that the AMC‘s of today would consider just such a character study or ensemble piece as worthy of their artistic efforts.  If done well, it could be embraced as a true successor to the dramas of Walter White or Don Draper.  In any case, it is one of the things I’d like to see.

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2 comments on “Things I Would Like To See, Part III

  1. wcosnett says:

    I feel like the impetus for this post was the recent “Preachers of LA.” Which I completely agree is sensationalist and not at all indicative of the life of an average pastor.

    Overall though, I’ve never felt that the portrayal of pastors in the media was that one sided. It may be that we just watch different shows and films. True, there do exist the archetypes you mentioned (The wimp. The fool. The crusading hate-filled hyper-fundamentalist. The hypocrite. The money-grubber.), but just as often I see clergy portrayed as wise, clear headed individuals that people turn to for comfort and advice in difficult times. I immediately think of shows like 7th Heaven, or The Vicar of Dibley which, within the bounds of their genre, did seem to at least attempt to portray some of the real joys and struggles for clergy members and their families. I’ve only seen one episode, (Amanda has seen more,) but the series Rev. seems to be in the same vein.

    Again, maybe we’ve just seen different TV shows, or maybe you were thinking more along the lines of a reality show like “Preachers”. For me, I’d like to see more protagonists who were not specifically clergy and yet still people of faith. As I stated before, you often see characters turn to clergy only in their darkest time when they have no other option, rather than their faith being a constant part of who they are. Agent Booth on Bones is the only current one that I’ve been able to think of.

    P.S. – I also wanted to say that I don’t think its accurate to say that Mad Men, a drama centering on high powered advertising executives at the height of Madison Avenue’s power and influence, is a show about “office work”. That’s kind of like saying “The Untouchables” is a movie about someone who cheated on their income tax, or that “Raiders of the Lost Ark” is a movie about a college professor.

    • Preachers of LA was one impetus, but I wouldn’t say all. I just think it would be an interesting idea to have a high-class drama about the ministry. I’m not sure if this has been done (I’ll have to check out Rev, but my impression–correct me if I’m wrong–was that Seventh Heaven was more fluffy and about a lot of other thing).

      Regarding characters of faith, I think that would be very interesting. Scully from the X-Files had some of that, I think.

      You’re right that Mad Men is not just about office work; it transcends that in many ways. In the same way, a show about ministers, though “boring” by one description, could transcend that powerfully. The element of Madison Avenue’s power/etc. as marking Mad Men as different is a good point, though.

      What if there were a ministry setting parallel to Mad Men’s setting? A story told there would be intriguing, if (now) unoriginal.

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