The conversation about the series is steeped in culture-war politics.
My critique of the first two hours: It’s grittier-looking than most Bible stories on film, and the special effects aren’t bad. But the leading figures feel like stick figures to me. Part of it is the wooden acting involved in the depiction of characters like the Egyptian pharaoh who didn’t want to let Moses and his people go.
I don’t know if that makes me “Left secular,” mainly because I’m not sure what “Left secular” means.
Robert J. Thompson, Syracuse University professor of popular culture, says there is an important cultural story involved in the ratings success of the History Channel, but it goes beyond right- and left-wing politics. What intrigues Thompson is the way the channel’s programmers like Hoogstra have taken something once considered elite culture, a niche TV channel for people who love history, and made it into a mainstream viewing choice for millions of “regular people” in prime time.
“For the History Channel to position itself through the packaging, marketing and creation of programming like the ‘Hatfields & McCoys’ or ‘The Bible’ as the antithesis of elitism is an incredibly clever thing,” Thompson says.
“That they could take something like ‘The History Channel: where history comes alive,’ with this big bronze ‘H’ for a logo, and have it be the thing that regular people embrace really is kind of remarkable,” he adds. “I think a lot of big fans of the History Channel, somewhere humming in the back of their minds is the thought, ‘If only all those egghead teachers I used to have could have would made history this interesting.’ ”