Category: News & Trends

‘Game of Thrones’: What If HBO’s Sexy, Violent Fantasy Is Your Only View of Faith?

“Game of Thrones” fans have kept the faith, but what about the show?

The social media world was abuzz on Sunday, July 16, with the long awaited premiere of the 7th season of Game of Thrones. While many Catholics, Protestants and other faithful question the morality of even watching the show, which is known for its graphic violence, sex and language, one fact that can’t be ignored is that millions of people watch each episode.

For example, from TechCrunch:

In total, the season 7 premiere reached a combined audience of 16.1 million viewers across its linear TV airing, same day DVR playback, and streaming via HBO GO and HBO NOW. That’s a 50 percent increase over the season 6 premiere last year, HBO says.

One things the show is not known for but is very much a part of series is religion. In fact, rather than being godless, the universe of Game of Thrones has too many gods. There are the Old Gods, symbolized by the Werewoods, trees with the faces of humans carved in them. This faith is vaguely pagan and has some of the trappings of Celtic Druids. Then, there are the New Gods, also known as The Seven, but they are 7 faces of 1 God. As many mainstream Christians might figure out, this is much like the concept of the Holy Trinity, 3 persons in 1 God.

The religion of the New Gods has definite connections to Medieval Christianity, especially since the religious of this faith wear clothes strongly reminiscent of nuns’ habits and monks’ robes. Sadly, the show depicts the hierarchy of this faith as righteous bullies who, in seeking the truth and talking about mercy, really focus on shame and power. The evil queen Cersei famously blows up their Great Sept (cathedral) with the High Sparrow (Pope or Patriarch) inside it after he threatens her rule.

A third religion follows the Lord of Light, R’hllor, who is a God of fire and the sun. This faith has the marking of Islam with R’hllor being a sometimes harsh god whose will is mysterious and is to be obeyed, not questioned. To the followers of R’hllor, all other religions are false and will ultimately need to be wiped out. Also, this Lord of Light occasionally demands that people be burned at the stake in sacrifice.

Lastly, there is the Faceless God, whose clergy are an assassin’s guild. This god is Death, the god that, according to his followers, everyone must eventually meet.

Why this matters is that since the show has 25 million viewers, and currently only 20% of the Catholic faithful actually attend Mass each week, there is a good chance more people watched Game of Thrones this past Sunday than the total number of Catholics who went to church in the entire nation. If this series has something to say about faith, be aware that it has a big audience listening. One interesting facet of the show is that it does indeed seem to have something say about faith.

A part of this first episode of the new season that didn’t get as much attention on Twitter is that the show brought up some pointed spiritual questions. These issues of faith came mostly through the character of Sandor Clegane, known as the Hound for his ferocity in battle and loyalty to the king.

He began the series as a notoriously violent, heartless, amoral and cynical character, who after being saved from grievous wounds by a septon (priest) of the New Gods – thankfully some followers of The Seven are shown as good – he seems to be undergoing a change of heart.

In this most recent episode, Sandor has joined a band of Robin Hood-style outlaws who are trying to fight for justice for the common people. The outlaws believe in the Lord of Light, whose followers often do good things when they’re not burning people at the stake. Sandor’s one great weakness is a fear of fire which has plagued him since childhood when he was badly burned as a boy. He makes the comment “Just my luck that I would fall in with a band of fire worshippers” to which the priest of the group replies to the atheistic Clegane, “Yes, it’s almost like divine justice.” This is not lost on Sandor.

The leader of the outlaws, Beric Dondarrion, is famous because he has been killed multiple times, but on each occasion, the priest has brought him back to life by the power of R’hllor. After coming across a cottage containing a dead peasant and his daughter, Sandor accosts Beric with a question “Why you [Beric]? Why does the Lord of Light bring you back to life but not these people? And not this little girl? You are no better than her.”

Now both of these statements make for a scenario to which most people, especially people of faith, can relate. Events happen in our lives – “coincidences”, or “divine providence” the faithful might say – that seem to clearly indicate God’s hand at work. Then, life moves in another direction and God is seemingly nowhere to be found. This ranges from terrorist attacks that kill innocents, to seemingly bad people having good jobs, positions of power, or the luxuries of life, while seemingly good people live in poverty, get passed over at work, or struggle with finances or health. We wonder why? Is God there, if so, does He care?

The key thing for us who believe in Christ is that Jesus helps us understand the answers to these questions. While in each individual case the answer may vary, the important thing is that we ultimately know that we have a good God who suffers with us, and who has suffered for us and, no matter the good or the bad, will never leave our side.

It is interesting to note that a show so popular is asking some of the big questions of life and ones that are very theological. Where interest needs to meet action is that we must take the challenge of getting to know our faith so we understand the answers to such questions and can give a better response than Beric’s, whose only reply to Clegane is “You’re right. I don’t know. I guess the Lord isn’t done with me yet.”

We need theses answers for ourselves… and just in case one of our friends, family or acquaintances happens to be one of those millions of viewers, especially if Game of Thrones is one of the only ways they encounter religion at all.

Tony Sands is the Senior Producer for Family Theater Productions

Image: Courtesy HBO

Visit the Family Theater Productions homepage and Facebook page to learn more about how FTP is reaching out to Hollywood and producing its own projects.

Emmy Nominations 2017: Family-Suitable Fare Is in the Mix

We may indeed be living in the era of Peak Television, in terms of the proliferation of offerings on broadcast, cable and streaming — but if you’re counting shows for the whole family, especially scripted ones, pickings can be slim. But the Emmy nominations, released on Thursday, July 13, did manage to find some of the bright spots.

The 69th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards come out on Sunday, Sept. 17, and here are some of the family-oriented or family-friendly shows up for honors:

BEST COMEDY

While neither show is squeaky-clean in the tradition of “My Three Sons” or “Happy Days,” and both contain elements that may require conversations in Catholic families, ABC’s “black-ish” and “Modern Family” receive generally high marks for tackling a wide variety of contemporary family issues without being overly sensational. In 2015, the Vatican even recognized “Modern Family” as a show with worthy elements.

BEST DRAMA

While the nominees here tend toward the edgy, standing out are Netflix’s “The Crown,” a fascinating look at the life of Britain’s Elizabeth II, just before and after she becomes queen. No less than Bishop Robert Barron lauded the show for its depiction of both the difficulties and importance of Christian values (for which, regardless of the direction of the Anglican Church, Elizabeth II has always promoted).

Also nominated is NBC’s excellent family drama “This Is Us,” which had reduced many adults —  including hard-bitten TV critics — to tears, with its heartfelt depiction of two generations of a family hit by loss by enriched by adoption.

The nomination also represents the first time in five years that a broadcast network has had a best-drama contender … and it’s with a family-oriented show! Here’s to hoping that this sparks development of more warmhearted shows on the broadcast networks — in the vein of “Highway to Heaven,” “The Waltons” or “Touched by an Angel” but we haven’t exactly seen it yet.

Because of broadcast standards and a different business model, it’s going to be near-impossible for ABC, NBC, CBS and even Fox to compete with the expensive, edgy shows coming out on cable on streaming services. So maybe they should stop trying and just go back to being BROADcasters, and program for the vast middle of America.

They might even make enough money to survive.

TELEVISION  MOVIE

Thrilled and a bit surprised to see NBC’s “Dolly Parton’s Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love” among the nominees. First of all, TV-movies on broadcast networks are increasingly rare, and this one is a sequel to the previous year’s ratings hit “Dolly Parton’s Christmas of Many Colors.” Both movies — inspired by a Parton song, and based on her childhood in rural Tennessee — celebrate faith and family in a warmhearted yet realistic way. Here’s to hoping more broadcast nets decide to get back into the business of making not only family-suitable shows, but movies as well.

Hallmark may own this space at the moment, but that’s hardly set in stone.

UNSTRUCTURED REALITY PROGRAM

A&E’s “Born This Way” celebrates the joys and challenges of young adults who have Down Syndrome, and has become a critical and ratings hit. It’s a sad day when you need a TV show to show the human face of human beings, but we live in a world where many, if not most, people with this genetic condition never make it to their birthday.

I’ve seen huge billboards for this show in the busiest tourist areas of Hollywood Boulevard, and it’s great to see Emmy voters putting it  into contention.

REALITY COMPETITION SHOW

It’s in the reality genre that parents find many shows to share with their children, and this group has several, such as CBS’ “The Amazing Race,” NBC’s “American Ninja Warrior,” Bravo’s “Top Chef” and NBC’s “The Voice.”

In particular, “The Voice” and “American Ninja Warrior” have proved to be friendly to contestants of faith, and that’s always appreciated.

So, when someone tells you that there’s nothing good on TV anymore, it’s just not true — and we congratulate Emmy voters on recognizing family-suitable fare as part of the quality mix.

Image: Courtesy ITU Pictures

Visit the Family Theater Productions homepage and Facebook page to learn more about how FTP is reaching out to Hollywood and producing its own projects.

‘The Conjuring 3’: Catholic Paranormal Investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren Return

 

Hollywood loves horror, and it also loves the idea of the Catholic faith going up against demonic evil — and “The Conjuring” franchise is one good example of both.

The two, and soon to be three, “The Conjuring” films are based on the case files of Catholic paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga.

Our own head of production, Father David Guffey, reviewed the first “Conjuring” movie for this blog; and I reviewed “The Conjuring 2” for my Pax Culturati blog at Patheos.

While not everyone in the Church approves of the Warrens’ involvement in the paranormal — Lorraine is now 90, and Ed died in 2006 — the two previous movies featured the spouses relying heavily on their Catholic faith to battle demonic forces.

The first movie ended with this quote from Ed Warren:

“Diabolical forces are formidable. These forces are eternal, and they exist today. The fairy tale is true. The devil exists. God exists. And for us, as people, our very destiny hinges upon which one we elect to follow.”

The third “Conjuring” film is underway, with a June 26 announcement of a writer and producer.

From Variety:

New Line is moving forward on its third iteration of the “Conjuring” franchise with “The Conjuring 3.” David Leslie Johnson is on board to script. James Wan will serve as producer through his Atomic Monster production company with Peter Safran.

Johnson wrote “The Conjuring 2,” which went on to gross $320 million worldwide.

No plot details are available about the new movie, but the franchise has already spawned three spin-offs: “Annabelle” (2014) and “Annabelle: Creation” (due out Aug. 11, 2017), about a possessed doll; and the upcoming “The Nun” (due out on July 13, 2018), about a demon posing as a nun.

As a side note, one of the cases the Warrens consulted on became the two movies — a 1979 original and a 2005 remake — called “The Amityville Horror.”

Recently, while browsing on Netflix, I caught a 2013 documentary called “My Amityville Horror.” It focuses on now-adult Daniel Lutz, who was one of the children in the family that lived in the real Amityville house.

Not sure if it’s still available on Netflix, but the film can be streamed from Amazon Prime Video. Also featuring the reporters who originally covered the story, it’s a fascinating, compelling and even moving study of a man still psychologically traumatized and even haunted by his strange experiences as a child, and the notoriety that resulted from his parents’ choice to make the story public.

The film also features a reunion between Daniel and Lorraine Warren, who reveals that she carried a relic of Padre Pio into the house and claims to have had a vision of the saint. It is comforting to see that Daniel is still connected to his mother’s Catholic faith, and he shares that with Warren.

While Catholics absolutely believe in the Devil, and demonic influences and possession, the world of the paranormal beyond that — from ghosts to evil spirits to clairvoyance and talking to the dead — is a source of theological debate.

Some things in the movie portrayals of the Warrens aren’t in sync with Catholic teaching, but as Deacon Steven Greydanus points out in his review of “The Conjuring 2,” while the theology may be in dispute, the Warrens provide a strong witness.

Ultimately, the most persuasive image of goodness may not be crosses or crucifixes, but the Warrens themselves, who are so decent, upright and loving, they’re almost too good to be true. (How many movies can you say that about?) A spirit of positivity, solidarity and even fun is as important as anything else Ed brings to Enfield. If malicious spirits are drawn to negative emotions, a guitar and a sense of humor might be as useful in their own way as a crucifix in banishing darkness.

NOTE: If the previous two films are any indication, “The Conjuring” movies are not for anyone younger than their mid-teens, because of their intense supernatural violence (which earned both an R rating).

Images: Courtesy New Line Cinema

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.

‘Catholic Central’: Family Theater Productions Announces New Web Series for Fall!

So excited! After many months of planning, writing, casting, rehearsal and production right here in our studio on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, we here at Family Theater Productions are proud to announce our upcoming Web series, “Catholic Central.”

Those who stopped by our booth at this past winter’s Religious Education Congress in Anaheim met our stars, Kaiser Johnson (EWTN’s “Saints vs. Scoundrels,” The CW’s “Vampire Diaries” and Fox’s “Sleepy Hollow”) and John Paul the Great Catholic University graduate Libby Slater, and got a preview of the series.

Now we’re revealing it to the world!

Click on www.CatholicCentral.com to get on the mailing list for new information.

#ENTERFORMING DESCRIBES NEW WEB SERIES FROM FAMILY THEATER PRODUCTIONS
Dubbed both entertaining and informing by young adults, series launches on YouTube in September

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. – “Catholic Central” offers entertaining and authoritative answers to questions about Catholic thought, spirituality and practice. Family Theater Productions assembled a team of witty writers, appealing hosts and learned theologians to produce a collection of videos that entertain, enlighten and inspire.

The first collection of short videos will be released on September 15 and topics include:

  1. Problem of Evil
  2. Catholic Social Teaching
  3. Creation and Evolution
  4. Being Human
  5. The Mass
  6. Praying with the Bible: Ignatian Meditation
  7. Baptism
  8. Pope
  9. The Seven Deadly Sins
  10. The Gospels

“We worked with the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate to conduct focus groups of young adults across the country to determine what topics were important to the participants and what questions they needed answered,” said Susan Wallace, Marketing Director of Family Theater Productions. “Other information on the programs was shared and has been helpful as we finalize the programs.”

“The show hosts, Kaiser Johnson and Libby Slater, are a quirky duo that move through the content quickly and make it interesting and fun,” said Wallace.

The series is produced by David Impastato and Father David Guffey, C.S.C., directed by Danny J. Boyle, and cinematography is by Steve Taylor.

Catholic Central is a production of Family Theater Productions, a member ministry Holy Cross Family Ministries, founded by Servant of God Patrick Peyton in 1947. A candidate for sainthood, Father Peyton was one of the most influential American Catholic priests of the 20th century. For more information on Family Theater Productions’ media projects – www.FamilyTheater.org.

For information, contact:

David Kindy

508-747-1832
508-863-2534 cell

Here’s a peek at the trailer:

Images: Courtesy Family Theater Productions

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.

UPDATED! Tim Allen’s ‘Last Man Standing’ May Rise Again — on CMT (or not)

Last week, in honor of the 63rd birthday of comedian and actor Tim Allen on June 13, we reported on the surprise cancellation of his still-popular ABC sitcom, “Last Man Standing.”

SCROLL DOWN FOR UPDATE …

Allen and many others feel that his outspoken Christianity and conservative politics contributed to the Disney-owned network axing the show, ABC’s most popular sitcom after the more politically correct “Modern Family.”

But, like ABC’s “Nashville” before it, “Last Man Standing” — whose six seasons were produced, not by ABC Studios, but by 20th Century Fox — may find a new home on CMT (formerly known as Country Music Television).

According to The Hollywood Reporter on June 14, one day after Allen’s birthday:

The Viacom-owned network is in preliminary talks to revive canceled Tim Allen comedy Last Man Standing. Insiders stress talks are in the early stages as CMT is exploring if it can revive the expensive show at a price point that works for the niche cable network. It’s unclear if a deal will be made as insiders cautioned that a renewal at CMT may be a long shot given the price tag on the veteran series. Also unclear is how big of a renewal the show could get as everything from a short order to multiple-season/20-episode run have been rumored. 20th TV, which has already placed calls to writers about a potential revival, and CMT declined comment.

THR also spoke to a 20th executive:

Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter after the upfronts, 20th Century Fox Television’s Howard Kurtzman singled out Last Man Standing as the most disappointing and surprising pass. “If there’s a way to bring it back, we will explore those opportunities,” he said.

Deadline.com offered a few more details, also on June 14:

The talks are preliminary, exploring the financial feasibility of producing the series for CMT, which would involve virtually everyone on the show taking a pay cut. A deal is considered a long shot though not impossible.

While the studio has reached out to the writers on the show, who had all scattered to pursue other jobs, the cast has not been approached about extending their options, which expire in two weeks. Depending whether talks with CMT progress, the studio would likely move to pick up the actors if there is a reasonable chance for a deal.

CMT has found success with “Nashville,” a country-music-centered show that fit well with the cablenet’s core audience. Since the network is getting good results from syndicated reruns of “Last Man Standing,” it appears to also resonate with the same viewers.

Picking up the sitcom would further solidify CMT’s move from a countrified MTV-style music-video network to a viable niche alternative network, presenting middle-America-centric fare. This sort of programming doesn’t seem to much interest the major broadcast networks — with the possible exception of CBS — which prefer to program edgier shows that appeal to urban and coastal audiences.

If you’d like to tell CMT to pick up “Last Man Standing,” tweet them @CMT or drop a note to the network’s Facebook page.

UPDATE: Alas, it looks as if this won’t happen. From Deadline.com:

It was considered too long of a shot for fans of Last Man Standing to get their hopes up, and I hear now it’s final — CMT won’t be picking up canceled ABC comedy series Last Man Standing a new season. CMT, which carries reruns of the Tim Allen-starring sitcom, had engaged in conversations with the studio behind Last Man Standing, 20th Century Fox TV, about possibly ordering original episodes. The talks were only preliminary, exploring the financial feasibility of producing the series for CMT, which would’ve involved virtually everyone on the show taking a pay cut. I hear in the end, the two sides could not agree on the numbers.

Image: Courtesy 20th Century Fox

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.

Good Dog! Trailer for ‘The Stray’ Previews Heartwarming Family Film

Sometimes, people will lower their barriers and allow themselves to feel, in the presence of a loyal dog. That’s one man’s story, and now he’s made “The Stray,” a new movie based on his experience.

Last week, Motive Entertainment released the trailer for “The Stray,” directed by Mormon filmmaker Mitch Davis, a family film due for release in select U.S. markets on Friday, Oct. 6, 2017.

Here’s how the press release describes it:

Struck Films, Purdie Distribution and Motive Entertainment announce the upcoming release of The Stray, a heartwarming family film written and directed by Mitch Davis (The Other Side of Heaven) based on a screenplay by Parker Davis with Ken Brailsford executive producing.

 

Set for release in select markets in the United States on October 6, 2017, The Stray tells the true story of how a one stray dog impacts a struggling family.

That stray dog is “Pluto” who comes out of nowhere and quickly makes himself at home with the Davis family, which is on the brink of falling apart. Dad (Michael Cassidy; Argo, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice ), is a career-driven personality who’s neglecting his marriage and family. Mom (Sarah Lancaster;  Everwood, The Judge) is at her wit’s end raising three young kids. The last thing they need is another mouth to feed. Or is it?

In just a short time with the Davis family, Pluto the “wonderdog” manages to save a lost toddler, bring comfort and companionship to a hurting 9-year-old boy (Connor Corum; Heaven is for Real), help restore a marriage, and repair a broken father-son relationship.  Pluto is not only a guard dog – he’s a guardian angel.

 

The Stray received the Dove Family Approved seal for its portrayal of positive values and is a film you can take your entire family to see.

The Stray is a heartwarming family movie that is wonderfully entertaining, while teaching about love for a pet, love of family and making time for family,” said Donna Rolfe, Dove Foundation.

 

“It’s really not a stretch to say that Pluto gave me my life back,” said Mitch Davis. “He saved me and my family in more ways than one. And although The Stray reflects my personal story, I know there countless families across America who could say the same thing about a pet that greatly impacted them with its unconditional love – which is why I hope families will see this film together.”  

 

Sometimes help comes from the most unlikely places. Sometimes our prayers get answered in strange ways. Sometimes one dog can change everything.

Click here for the Facebook page, and here for the official Website.

Take a look at the trailer:

Image: Courtesy Motive Entertainment

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.