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TV Series Review

It's tricky to make a gripping miniseries when everyone knows the ending.

Take NBC's A.D. The Bible Continues, a follow-up to Mark Burnett and Roma Downey's spectacularly successful History Channel miniseries The Bible. This sequel of sorts begins with the death and resurrection of Christ and then goes on to chronicle the very earliest days of the Christian church—essentially the first several chapters of Acts.

It's a given that most of us at least know the big narrative plot points of Christ's death and resurrection. We've already been told that Peter recovers from his Good Friday bout of cowardice, and that Saul won't always be the jerk we meet at first. Even non-believers know that Christianity survived those tense early days to become the biggest religion on Earth. The faith may look fragile here, but as reliably as Rocky, it'll still be standing at the end.

Without that element of suspense to push the series forward, A.D. must rely on the drama in the details—the whos and wherefores and whys. And those details in this 12-week miniseries—one that Focus on the Family has taken an active role in supporting—make for worthwhile watching, both as a television show and as an expression of faith.

And make no mistake, A.D. is indeed an expression of faith. Burnett and Downey have not crafted some imaginative, quasi-biblical story like Noah, wherein the source material is gutted and stuffed with the director's own divergent vision. Instead, just as they did with their Bible project, they've approached the story with reverence and a true believer's understanding. "[God] might not always call the qualified," Downey said during a visit to Focus on the Family, "but He always qualifies the called."

This is not to say that Burnett and Downey don't take liberties with the original script. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Burnett estimates that about half of the events from A.D. were pulled directly from the Bible. "We colored in between the lines with what we think would have been going on," he said. Biblical timelines are also muddied a bit. In the opening episode, for instance, Peter denies his Lord three times as Jesus stands in front of a jeering crowd—not in the wee hours of the morning while sitting in a courtyard, as the Bible stipulates. And a rooster doesn't even register a cameo.

Burnett understands that some Christians will be troubled by the extra-biblical material, and he's prepared for the inevitable crit. "As Christians, we tend to eat our own young," he quipped at Focus on the Family. While he and Downey wanted to create an epic that was true to the spirit of the Bible, they also wanted to craft a compelling TV series that'd grab your attention while sandwiched between the likes of Blacklist and Homeland. As such, A.D. spends much of its time concentrating on the fractious political and religious landscape of turn-of-the-epoch Roman Judea—a time and place filled with power plays, intrigue and the rumblings of rebellion. "This is mainstream programming," Burnett told The Hollywood Reporter. "It's like taking House of Cards and dropping it into 1st-century Jerusalem."

Fortunately for families, A.D. does not take the sort of content license that House of Cards does. No ear-blackening language here. And visual representations of 1st-century sordid sexual situations are at least restrained if still suggestive and evocative. Violence, not so much, though. The crucifixion of Christ is grisly, for example, full of agonized cries and copious amounts of blood. ("We're not going to pull punches on that," Burnett told Focus.) While early Acts doesn't tell of anyone getting fed to the lions, it does chronicle moments of martyrdom. A.D. also adds violent/debauched elements related to the movers and shakers of the time.

A.D. serves as both a lavish spectacle and a tense dramatic narrative. What sets it apart from its peers is that it also encourages viewers to crack open their Bibles or visit a local church. Indeed, that's what Downey and Burnett hope will happen, gladly turning over their viewers to churches that can untie what they call the "fishing knots" of their production. So while some may say that A.D. The Bible Continues is hardly perfect—and they'd be right—Focus on the Family president Jim Daly counters (in a promotional video for the miniseries), "I believe that God is using these adaptations of Scripture to touch the hearts and to call people to Himself."

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Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements

Conclusion

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

A.D.: May 24, 2015
A.D.: April 5, 2015

Credits

Rating

Readability Age Range

Genre

Drama

Author

Cast

Adam Levy as Peter; Babou Alieu Ceesay as John; Chipo Chung as Mary Magdalene; Emmett J. Scanlan as Saul; Juan Pablo Di Pace as Jesus; Vincent Regan as Pilate; Richard Coyle as Caiaphas; Jodhi May as Leah; Joanne Walley as Claudia; James Callis as Antipas; Greta Scacchi as Mother Mary

Director

Distributor

Network

NBC

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

Released

On Video

Year Published

Awards

Reviewer

Paul Asay

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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