The Weekend’s TV: The Bible (Channel 5)

A Life of Brian take on the Bible doesn’t prove to be a revelation

Let’s gingerly sidestep 2,000-plus years of interpretive controversy and say only this: the Holy Scriptures certainly contain some ripping good yarns, don’t they?

The Bible, a new five-part series from the producer of The Apprentice (US), brings these stories to a TV audience. Predictably enough, it was a massive hit in the US, where, worryingly, it aired on the History Channel.

We can attribute the high ratings in part to a controversy surrounding the Moroccan actor Mohamen Mehdi Ouazanni, who plays Satan and also happens to look a bit like US President Barack Obama. The producers insisted that talk of a resemblance was “utter nonsense”, but it can’t have hurt ratings in the red states.

We didn’t see much of Satan/Obama in episode one, sadly. With the ruthless efficiency of a Hollywood script doctor, “Beginnings” skimmed over Creation (too wordy), the Garden of Eden (too much nudity), and Noah’s Ark (too “Titanic: the Sequel”), before taking up its tale with Abraham, his wife, Sarah, and his bit on the side, Hagar. No wonder: this is an archetypal story of social ambition and sexual jealousy for the ages, as any viewer of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills will tell you.

This is this show’s impossible challenge: to entertain a general television audience, without offending the fundamentalist Christians to whom such a series would most likely appeal. Several US reviewers criticised the addition of the “ninja angels” who laid waste to Sodom, and the omissions are just as interesting. You may recall that disturbing passage of the Bible in which a mob of Sodomites descend on Lot’s home demanding to rape the disguised angels he has given shelter. Hospitable Lot not only refused, but offered up his own virgin daughters in their place. There was none of your un-PC stuff here.

If you want pageant and scandal, stick with Cecil B DeMille, because in the main this adaptation erred on the side of tasteful understatement, an approach that occasionally backfired. Many of the actors were chosen from London theatre, for instance, “to avoid distracting the audience with recognisable celebrities”. Of course, one country’s unrecognisable nobody is another’s beloved soap star. As well as several faces from Game of Thrones, it was amusing to see that Kierston Wareing, who plays treacherous trollop Kirsty Branning in EastEnders, will be popping up as Delilah. Such a variety of British regional accents in a biblical Canaan also resulted in a few unintentional Life of Brian moments. Never mind Obama as Satan, where is it written that God is a Glaswegian? 

Perhaps the producers should have considered Charlie Brooker for “Voice of God”. He’s developed a distinctive narrational style since he started presenting TV and his sardonic segues were the main draw of How Videogames Changed the World on Channel 4 last night. Sometimes, they were the only thing separating this two-hour documentary from those Noughties nostalgia clip shows which, thanks in part  to Brooker, it’s now fashionable to disdain.

Does anyone still think videogames are just for spotty teenage boys? If so, the assembled talking heads did a solid job of explaining their wider cultural impact (hint: they’re also for middle-aged men). Not only did videogames save us from the monotony of Seventies television (“a choice between a documentary about bricks or Jimmy Savile”, according to Brooker), they introduced the Japanese concept of cuteness or “kawaii” (Pac-Man), illuminated the human brain’s love of attrition (Space Invaders) and reflected Thatcherite economics (Elite). I’ll also take the inclusion of Labour MP Tom Watson, talking here about arcade games, as conclusive proof that he and Spaced actor Nick Frost are in fact the same person.

Arts and Entertainment
Kate Bush: 'I'm going to miss everyone so much'
music
Arts and Entertainment
Boy George performing with Culture Club at Heaven

musicReview: Culture Club performs live for first time in 12 years

Arts and Entertainment
Princess Olga in 'You Can't Get the Staff'
tvReview: The anachronistic aristocrats, it seemed, were just happy to have some attention
Arts and Entertainment
Laura Wood, winner of the Montegrappa Scholastic Prize for New Children’s Writing
books

Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search

Arts and Entertainment
Pulling the strings: Spira Mirabilis

music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Minchin portrait
For a no-holds-barred performer who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, Tim Minchin is surprisingly gentle
Arts and Entertainment
Clara takes the lead in 'Flatline' while the Doctor remains in the Tardis
tvReview: The 'Impossible Girl' earns some companion stripes... but she’s still annoying in 'Dr Who, Flatline'
Arts and Entertainment
Joy Division photographed around Waterloo Road, Stockport, near Strawberry Studios. The band are Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Stephen Morris (drums and percussion), Ian Curtis (vocals and occasional guitar), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals).
books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Harris in 'The Goob' film photocall, at the Venice International Film Festival 2014
filmThe Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Streisand is his true inspiration
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor contestant Fleur East
tvReview: Some lacklustre performances - but the usual frontrunners continue to excel
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Tuttle's installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern
artAs two major London galleries put textiles in the spotlight, the poor relation of the creative world is getting recognition it deserves
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman
film
Arts and Entertainment
On top of the world: Actress Cate Blanchett and author Richard Flanagan
artsRichard Flanagan's Man Booker win has put paid to the myth that antipodean artists lack culture
Arts and Entertainment
The Everyman, revamped by Haworth Tompkins
architectureIt beats strong shortlist that included the Shard, the Library of Birmingham, and the London Aquatics Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Justice is served: Robert Downey Jr, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Team Tenacity pitch their fetching solar powered, mobile phone charging, heated, flashy jacket
tvReview: No one was safe as Lord Sugar shook things up
News
Owen said he finds films boring but Tom Hanks managed to hold his attention in Forrest Gump
arts
Arts and Entertainment
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch
Music Album is set to enter UK top 40 at lowest chart position in 30 years
Arts and Entertainment
The Michael McIntyre Chat Show airs its first episode on Monday 10 March 2014
Comedy
Arts and Entertainment

Review

These heroes in a half shell should have been left in hibernation
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Flanagan with his novel, The Narrow Road to the Deep North
books'The Narrow Road to the Deep North' sees the writer become the third Australian to win the accolade
Arts and Entertainment
New diva of drama: Kristin Scott Thomas as Electra
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
    Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

    'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

    The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
    Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

    Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

    A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
    The 10 best smartphone accessories

    Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

    Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

    Liverpool v Real Madrid

    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
    West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
    Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

    A new American serial killer?

    Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
    Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

    Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

    Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
    Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

    Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

    Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
    Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

    Wildlife Photographer of the Year

    Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
    Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

    Want to change the world? Just sign here

    The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?