Category: Faith and Family on the Internet

‘Maya the Bee’ Controversy: A Question of Trust Between Animator and Audience

Every day, parents sit their children down in front of entertainment that presents itself as child-friendly and child-safe — and the majority of it is — but there’s a catch. Not everyone who works on these shows may have children’s best interests in mind.

Recently, “Maya the Bee,” a popular European cartoon offered on Netflix, became the center of a controversy when a mom noticed a very inappropriate drawing of a male body part etched in the background of a scene, and posted about it on Facebook. She wasn’t dreaming or mistaken — it was there.

Here’s the reaction from the studio, as published in The Hollywood Reporter:

“An absolutely inappropriate image has been discovered in a four-second fly-by scene in one episode of the total of 78 episodes of the series,” said production group Studio 100 in a statement on Friday. “The origin of this image obviously results from a very bad joke from one of the 150 artists working on the production.”

And from Netflix (which pulled the episode):

“This is indeed unacceptable to the Studio 100 Group as owner of the brand and all its partners and doesn’t reflect the quality of its work and its values,” the company’s statement continues. “Legal action has already been started. Studio 100 very much regrets this incident and would like to offer its sincere apologies to all Maya the Bee fans. At the same time the company is taking all suitable technical measures to remedy the situation.”

It’s a little hard to imagine the mindset of an artist who would think it was funny to put such an image in a show intended for small children. But, different sorts of people work on these shows, especially animated ones, and they all have their own sensibilities. I remember doing an interview with a producer turning out animated shows for kids on Nickelodeon. He said that he and his fellow 20-something animators basically did the shows primarily to amuse each other, and delighted in slipping in little jokes.

I don’t know that he or his pals did anything like the “Maya the Bee” animation artist (but it wouldn’t surprise me if they did). But this was before the rise of social media, so if they did, it wouldn’t have gotten the immediate response that the parents who took “Maya” to task on social media did.

In a perfect world, parents would pre-screen every bit of TV that their children watch — but we don’t live in a perfect world. We do, however, live in a world saturated with media. While the producers of “Maya the Bee” may not have had any ill intent, things slip through. This might be a good teaching moments for parents to explain how entertainment comes to be, how it’s made up of writers and animators, voice actors and producers, studios and networks.

The more kids know about the process, the less godlike and mysterious it seems, and the more they realize that people who make TV are flawed human beings like the rest of us. In our world today, there’s far too much hero-worship of those in showbiz, rather than a grounded realization that it’s a business like any other.

And if you see something in a show that caters to children that offends you or your values, speak out. Enough parents doing so caught the attention of both the “Maya the Bee” studio and Netflix, and action was taken.

In this highly competitive media environment, viewers matter. Every producer and network knows that people rely heavily on word-of-mouth, often through social media, to choose programming for their children. Never forget the power you have — and don’t be afraid to use it.

As Ronald Reagan used to say, “Trust, but verify.”

Image: Courtesy Netflix

Learn more about Family Theater Productions’ upcoming, new and vintage productions as well as our Hollywood Outreach Programs; and, of course, you’ll find us on Facebook. Visit our YouTube and Ustream Channels for our contemporary and classic productions.

Bishop Robert Barron Launches New Streaming Platform, Talks Faith at Facebook

Bishop Barron’s Word on Fire apostolate has gone digital with a new streaming platform.

From the bishop’s message that landed in my inbox today:

We are offering a new way to view our content on this cutting-edge streaming site, and you’ll be able to watch any of my programs on any device and at any time.

With a Word on Fire Digital subscription, you will instantly have access to ALL of my video programs.

You’ll also be the first to gain access to new releases, as well as other content that will be added throughout the year.

Here’s how it works…

You can pay a low monthly price to access everything, or you can purchase programs individually, rent them for a limited time, or effortlessly send them as a gift.

I am confident that Word on Fire Digital will be another new way to reach souls with the Gospel via the new media.

Click this link to learn more and watch the new video trailer:

Click here for the trailer; and here to sign up for a free trial.

Now, you can have Bishop Barron all the time, and share him more easily with friends, family and faithful seekers.

This appears to be part of a new digital outreach by Bishop Barron, who headed to Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, California, on Sept. 18, to talk about how to discuss faith on social media.

From Catholic News Agency:

Bishop Barron said authentic faith is not opposed to reason; it does not accept simply anything on the basis of no evidence.

He compared faith to the process of coming to know another human person. While one can begin to come to know someone by reason, or through a Google search or a background check, when a relationship deepens, other questions arise.

“When she reveals her heart, the question becomes: Do I believe her or not? Do I trust her or not?” he said.

“The claim, at least of the great biblical religions, is that God has not become a great distant object that we examine philosophically,” the bishop said. “Rather, the claims is that God has spoken, that God has decided to reveal his heart to his people.”

Click here to watch the full Facebook video.

Word on Fire Digital is not the only place to find great Catholic content online. Of course, there’s always the Vatican Website, but that’s just the beginning.

Try the Augustine Institute’s Formed streaming service, which aims to be “Catholic Netflix.” It features hundreds of Catholic videos, movies, audio content and ebooks. You can try a seven-day free trial or subscribe as a parish. Click here.

Catholic TV can be seen on several platforms, including Roku, Samsung Smart TV, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, or on your iPhone or Android phone. But it’s also available online, just click here.

Of course, premier Catholic network EWTN is available on cable and satellite TV, but it also posts many of its shows on its Website and YouTube channel, and streams online live, right here.

So, if you can’t find anything good to watch, you can always find something to watch that celebrates truth, beauty and goodness.

And, as you see at the bottom of the post, you can also visit our YouTube and Ustream channels, and coming soon, we’re adding our catechetical Web series “Catholic Central” to the mix. For a preview and to learn more about our great young hosts, Kai (Kaiser Johnson) and Libby (Elizabeth Slater), visit

Image: Courtesy Word on Fire

Learn more about Family Theater Productions’ upcoming, new and vintage productions as well as our Hollywood Outreach Programs; and, of course, you’ll find us on Facebook. Visit our YouTube and Ustream Channels for our contemporary and classic productions.

5 Family-Centric Shows to Check Out if You Love ‘This Is Us’

Cast of ABC’s “Speechless”

As fans of NBC’s tear-producing family drama “This Is Us” wait to see if it’s going to win the Emmy Award for outstanding drama on Sunday — or if that win could change the TV landscape — fans may be wondering if there’s anything like it out there.

Our newest Catholic-mom blogger, Adrienne Thorne, has some suggestions. Take it away, Adrienne…

I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that I’m not the only one kind of counting down the days until NBC’s “This Is Us” returns on Tuesday, Sept. 26. What I loved most about the show’s first season was importance it places on family in one’s life — kind of a rare quality in today’s TV landscape.

Or is it?

Statistically speaking, probably. But there are at least a few good choices out there you can watch for a happy helping of family togetherness wrapped in a 22-or 43-minute package.


If you’re a fan of “This Is Us,” you’ve probably heard it compared to “Parenthood.” Starring Lauren Graham (Lorelai from “Gilmore Girls”), “Parenthood” is a light drama that is very much about family.

The series begins when Lauren Graham’s character moves herself and her two teenage kids back home to live with her parents and near her three adult siblings. Despite a bit more sexual material than you’d find in “This Is Us,” it’s still a pretty uplifting show with a strong emphasis on the importance of familial love. Take a look at the trailer:

“Malcolm in the Middle”

This one’s a little bit older but still a great choice (and available streaming on Netflix!). You might not think of a comedy as something with similar family themes, but this show about a genius teenage boy (played by Frankie Muniz) in a slightly eccentric family of four boys is actually very family-centric.

Highlights include a pretty good portrayal of marriage between his parents and a lot of lighthearted fun. Low points include some occasional sexual material that might make the show unsuitable for younger members of the family. Read my full review here.

“The Wonder Years”

A coming-of age-sitcom starring Fred Savage (aired in the late ’80s, but set in the ’60s). This one’s not entirely about family, as Savage’s character navigates the rocky waters of middle school drama and friendships, but his family issues play a strong part in his maturation. This show actually surprised me quite a bit with unexpected depth and feels, especially since it’s rather on the older side.

Currently available streaming on Netflix, but hurry if you want to watch it because it leaves in October!

“Life in Pieces”

A current Monday-night sitcom on CBS, “Life in Pieces” — returning for its third season on Thursday, Nov. 2 — reminds me of a comedy version of “Parenthood.” It’s about three adult siblings who live in close proximity to each other and their aging parents. This show is often quite hilarious but does suffer from more crudity than I’d like to see (or technically hear, since most of it is of the dialogue/joke nature). The good thing, though, is that in addition to having an emphasis on the importance of family in your life, this show also has quite a few moments where elements that I thought were going somewhere immoral turned around into a good message, in a pretty clever way. Read my full review here.


I’ve saved my favorite for last. “Speechless” is a current ABC sitcom — returning for a second season on Wednesday, Sept. 27 — starring Minnie Driver about a family with a special-needs son, who is unable to talk because of his cerebral palsy. Personally I don’t think the premise necessarily sounds super-fun, and yet the execution is top-notch. In other words, it’s absolutely hilarious, not to mention very pro-family, pro-life, and even pretty clean.

I would say this show is a pretty rare gem in today’s TV landscape, and I’m kind of holding my breath for season two, hoping against hope that it stays this good. Read my full review here.

Image: Courtesy ABC

Learn more about Family Theater Productions’ upcoming, new and vintage productions as well as our Hollywood Outreach Programs; and, of course, you’ll find us on Facebook. Visit our YouTube and Ustream Channels for our contemporary and classic productions.

Bishop Robert Barron Takes on ‘David the King’ in New Video

On Sept. 5, Bishop Robert Barron’s Word on Fire apostolate releases “David the King,” a new study program including video talks by the Los Angeles Archdiocese auxiliary bishop and extensive Bible-study materials.

Here’s the trailer:

Here’s a taste of the first lesson:

Click here for a sample of the Lesson 1 study guide.

In addition to the videos, the study program is structured for seven 90-minute sessions on the Davidic themes of Kingship in the Old Testament and their fulfillment in Christ in the New.

From the Website:

Each section of the study guide provides a detailed commentary on the DVD and “Questions for Understanding” based on the presentation, Scripture and the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  Each section also includes “Questions for Reflection” that help you connect the material to your own life and experience.

Each session includes DVD viewing and small group discussion of Study Guide questions. Participants read the commentary in the study guide and prepare the questions before the small group discussion. This preparation can be accomplished either before or after they view the DVD, as the Commentary in each lesson is very detailed.

There is also free training available for study-group leaders.

The entire “David the King” program is available for pre-order, and those who take advantage will receive it in advance of the Sept. 5 launch date.

And, of course, the first set of “Catholicism: The Pivotal Players” is available, with more episodes in production.

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing Bishop Barron, and I’m eager to see what his long-term effect will be on the entertainment industry in Los Angeles. Here’s something he said to me on the topic, shortly after arriving in L.A. in 2015:

Now that I’m here in this great entertainment capital, which includes the whole world, it’s an important question. One thing I’ve tried to do in my evangelical work is to reach out to TV and to movies and to popular culture, and try to find what the Church Fathers called seeds of worth, the signs and echoes of the Faith that you see in pop culture, and to point those out, so as to lead more positively.

It’s easy enough to say that there are all sorts of negativity within media culture — and there is — but my preferred method is to find the points of contact and to emphasize those.

In a more direct way, you can think of [the training and mentorship program]Act One here in Hollywood, trying to bring Christians into screenwriting. That’s a good thing.

My thing, from an evangelical standpoint, is to look out into popular culture, to find the points of contact and thereby draw people closer.

So that’s been my strategy, kind of an affirmative orthodoxy, if you will. It’s a hopeful way to engage popular culture.

Click here for more on how the bishop found himself in Southern California.

Apparently it was a surprise:

“I was in my room on a lazy Sunday afternoon,” he said. “I had finished Mass, and I was back in my room, watching golf. This phone call comes from the apostolic nuncio, [Archbishop Carlo Maria] Viagano.

“I knew exactly what it meant — that’s the only reason he calls people. I knew it what it meant but I was really surprised by Los Angeles. That was nowhere even vaguely on my radar screen, because the whole bishop thing wasn’t on my radar.

“If someone becomes an auxiliary bishop, first, it’s almost always in your hometown. If someone had mentioned Chicago, that would make more immediate sense. So, I never dreamed of being a bishop in Los Angeles.”

Let’s all keep Bishop Barron and his work in our prayers!

Image: Courtesy Word on Fire

Learn more about Family Theater Productions’ upcoming, new and vintage productions as well as our Hollywood Outreach Programs; and, of course, you’ll find us on Facebook. Visit our YouTube and Ustream Channels for our contemporary and classic productions.

Ellie Kemper and Stephen Colbert Talk Her Baby’s Catholic Baptism

On Wednesday night, Aug. 17, Ellie Kemper, star of Netflix’s “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” stopped by to visit a fellow Catholic on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert,” and revealed a big milestone in the life of her one-year-old son, James.

Kemper and writer husband Michael Koman, who’s Jewish, were married in a Catholic ceremony — last summer, a very pregnant Kemper told Colbert that story — and like many interfaith couples, had to make a major decision when the first child came along.

“We were sort of figuring out how to raise James, with what religion,” she told Colbert. “We’re going the Catholic route. He did get baptized.”

Kemper revealed James was baptized in May, when he was 10 months old — and she was a little concerned that he might be too big for the priest to manage. Apparently, young James did scream, but all turned out well — even when he grabbed a shard of glass at his grandparents’ house.

“An hour after the baptism,” Kemper said, “I found James with a shard of glass in his hand! It was in my parents’ house …He was miraculously unhurt. I don’t know if he was testing God. I don’t know what the point was, but I mean, he turned out OK. I don’t know if it was a sign.”

Kemper then finished off with a bravura, more grown-up (but still clean!) rendition of the song played by her son’s favorite toy.

Here’s the whole thing. Enjoy!

Congrats to Ellie, Michael and James, who seems to have gotten a good start on life.

Image: Courtesy CBS

Learn more about Family Theater Productions’ upcoming, new and vintage productions as well as our Hollywood Outreach Programs; and, of course, you’ll find us on Facebook. Visit our YouTube and Ustream Channels for our contemporary and classic productions.



Dads, Tell Your Kids a Joke — It Could Be a Memory Forever

It’s National Tell a Joke Day, so why should that matter to dads?

My dad, who passed away last November at the age of 91, was know for puns and limericks (as any waitress who served him found out). Just thinking of them makes me smile. Today’s kids are no different.

Today, the Ad Council released a video showing kids relating the silly jokes their dads told them, and then snuggling with their fathers. You’ll laugh … and maybe tear up a bit.

Below is the full press release from the Ad Council, plus links …

A Message to Dads across America: Take time to be a dad today

According to an Ad Council survey, 86% of dads spend more time with their children today than their own fathers did with them. However, a majority of dads (7 out of 10) also reported that they could use tips on how to be a better parent. To inspire and support fathers everywhere, the Ad Council, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse have launched a new series of public service advertisements (PSAs) to encourage dads to recognize the critical role fathers play in their children’s lives through something as simple as a dad joke. The TV spots feature kids re-telling jokes their dads shared with them, highlighting that even the smallest moments fathers spend with their children can have the biggest difference in their children’s lives.

More On Fatherhood Involvement:

These PSAs are reaching out to all fathers to inspire and support men in their commitment to responsible fatherhood. The PSAs communicate to fathers that their presence is essential to their children’s well-being. The tagline “Take time to be a dad today” is part of an ongoing effort to encourage dads to play an active role in their children’s lives. The campaign also serves as a resource for fathers by providing the information they need to become more involved with their kids.
Click here to learn more:
Subscribe for Ad Council’s latest PSAs:

Of course, dads can always turn in prayer to St. Joseph, the foster father of Jesus, for support and consolation. He’s there to listen!

Images: Courtesy the Ad Council

Learn more about Family Theater Productions’ upcoming, new and vintage productions as well as our Hollywood Outreach Programs; and, of course, you’ll find us on Facebook. Visit our YouTube and Ustream Channels for our contemporary and classic productions.