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October 22, 2014

The Book of Daniel: Temptation and Forgiveness

by Michael Sciannamea, posted Jan 7th 2006 12:12AM

In the middle of his sermon, Reverend Daniel Webster (Aidan Quinn) poses this question to the congregation:

"If there were no temptation, how can there be redemption?"

The Book of Daniel made its much anticipated debut Friday night on NBC with a two-hour episode. If you saw it, you know there were so many subplots that trying to recap them here will make your (and my) head spin.

In a nutshell, Daniel's life is a complicated one, to say the least. This Episcopalian man of the cloth has to deal with his teenage daughter (Grace) being arrested for dealing pot, to having a gay son (Peter) that causes confusion for him, to having an adopted son from China (Adam) who pokes fun at his Asian features and heritage, to having a neurotic wife taken to having martinis as soon as noon passes, to having a female bishop critiquing his Sunday sermons, to finding out his brother-in-law has embezzled $3.2 million from the church, to dealing with a stiff and wooden father who happens to be a bishop, to his mother suffering from Alzheimer's, to interacting with a Mafia-connected Catholic priest. (I could go further but I think you get the general idea.)

And let's not forget to mention that Daniel has lost a son to leukemia, pops pills, and has conversations with Jesus about everything that is happening in his life. At one point, with his entire world swirling around him, Daniel asks Jesus why is life so hard. Jesus responds that "life is hard for everyone--that's why there's such a nice reward at the end of it."

You get the idea, after these two hours, that Daniel is at his core a good and decent man trying his best to do good for his family and the community. However, he and everyone else have given in to temptation, whether it's Adam entering into a forbidden romance with a churchgoer's daughter that has undertones of racism behind it, or when his brother-in-law's wife enters into a lesbian relationship with the woman with whom he cheated with who may have played a role in the embezzlement of the church money. In addition, you have his father (the bishop) who ends up sleeping with his bishop (Ellen Burstyn). And of course, at it's very essence, Jesus shows up every now and then to help Daniel understand it all.

There's still more we could cover, but you probably get the general idea. Did the show live up to the hype, especially after a number of religious groups blasted it and a few (4, I believe) NBC affiliates refused to air it? It's difficult to say at this point. The concept of the show is a good one, but it seems that the creators/writers are doing their best to "shock" Middle America with all of the edgy humor and controversial subject matter.

I definitely will tune in next week, when the show reverts to one-hour episodes. What may cause viewers to get frustrated is the fact there are too many subplots going on and it too closely resembles a daytime soap. Hopefully, the following episodes will be a little tighter with one central theme and one or two subplots instead of the avalanche of storylines we got in the premiere. Let's see what happens next week and we may get a better idea of where this all takes us.

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