Overseas TV smash hit The Bible hopes to get Aussies talking
PRODUCER and reality TV guru Mark Burnett hopes his new adaptation of The Bible will get people talking.
The Bible is the passion project of Burnett and his actor wife Roma Downey, who independently financed the 10-part mini-series which debuts on Channel 9 tonight.
Burnett is best known for his popular TV franchises Survivor, The Apprentice, The Celebrity Apprentice and Shark Tank.
"We've made a lot of TV shows as a couple, separately and together, and in the past 12 months in America five nights of out seven we've had number-one shows," Burnett told APN over the phone from LA.
"We've been used to knowing what that feels like. Nothing had prepared us for how our beloved series The Bible would set America on fire."
In March, The Bible attracted more than 13 million viewers on debut in the US and beat more established shows like Downton Abbey.
Combined with repeat episodes, the series was watched by more than 100 million Americans.
"Even the repeats were getting 3.5 million viewers every night," Burnett said.
"Never in our lives have we been approached in the street or airports that may times about any series."
Burnett is very clear that the mini-series is an adaptation of The Bible, and its main aim is to get people talking about the religious text.
"It would be very odd if someone walked up to you and said 'let's talk about the Bible'. You'd probably be taken aback," he said.
"But if they come up and say 'did you see that Bible series? Let's talk about that' then you'd be much more open to discuss it.
"There might be some slight inaccuracies or additions here and there, but that is to make it a connective story for TV. The outcome is a giving of permission for people to discuss the Bible and connect more."
Filmed over five months on location in Morocco, the mini-series depicts stories from the Book of Genesis to the Book of Revelation.
The Bible begins with Noah aboard the ark and tells the stories of Moses, Joshua invading and conquering Jericho, Delilah's betrayal of Samson, Samuel anointing Saul as King, Daniel in the lions' den, the birth of Jesus, the betrayal of Jesus by Judas, the Last Supper and finishes with the Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection.
"These are stories we all grew up with and know," Burnett said.
"But even people who have never heard these stories will be emotionally connected. You will be able to feel what it was like to be these people. It's gory, bloody, dirty. The actors don't look like they stepped out of a dry cleaner's."
Burnett, a devout Christian, believes the stories of the Bible can all be boiled down to the themes of love and redemption.
"We worked on this for about four years. It took a long time to figure out how to approach it," he said.
"Thematically it's a love story, with so many mistakes made by beloved characters."
While Australia is a much more secular country than the US, The Bible might rate better than many predict.
In Canada, more viewers watched the series premiere than ice hockey, the national sport which has a fanatical, bordering on the religious, following.
The Bible debuts at 9pm tonight on Nine/WIN.