Quite a few of you have asked me to post something about the show. First I should say that one of you has already found the transcript of the show out there somewhere, so apparently it is available, and the DVD, I have been informed, will be out at the end of January. My reactions to the show are as follows:
1) In the wake of the Peter Jennings Christmas show two and a half years ago, major networks realized that Evangelicals would like to be fairly represented among the interviewees on shows dealing with things Christian or Biblical. Jennings was the first to make a concerted effort to do this, after heavy criticism of his first Jesus special in 2001. The three hour Easter Monday show (put up against the NCAA men's championship basketball game) did very well in the ratings, getting the second highest rating of the night. Producers and network execs noticed this, hence the more open door to doing such shows, and including Evangelicals. Their statistics say there is 40 million of us Evangelicals out there. If a significant portion of us watched a show, it would make a difference in programing, and is doing so.
2) In regard to this specific show, CBS put a lot of money into filming this show. We filmed in Israel Jordan and Egypt for about two weeks, with a fabulously talented crew. The producer Miguel Sancho had come and talked with me in August about doing the show and I was happy to oblige. Later on, he decided to ask me if I would go to Israel with them for filming. Fortunately I was on sabbatical and so this was possible. They had done the interviews with White, Pagels, Crossan, and myself State side (they caught up with me in Abilene where I was doing a lectureship and preaching at Hardin Simmons College). The concept of the show was to present the more skeptical points of view first in the first half of the show, being fair to their views, and then we would go to the Holy Land and see if there might be hard evidence from archaeological etc. that these stories could be true-- which was the part of the show they would feature me in. I personally feel they were extremely fair to me, and my views. In fact, I would really encourage all of you to write CBS and especially Miguel Sancho (firstname.lastname@example.org) and thank him for taking a risk and doing this. We need more shows like this where the real issues actually surface, and scholars are interviewed, not just lay persons or pastors and Evangelicals are treated fairly.
3) I found the crew a treat, and the interviewer Maureen Maher was a blessing as well. She is a practicing Catholic. She was asked to come hard after all the interviewees to make us really articulate what we think. I thought she did that very well. If you are going to do this sort of thing, you have to be prepared to answer difficult questions and "give a reason for the hope that is within you".
4) I thought the show was beautifully filmed, and was in no way hokey. Even the interviews with the children struck home at points. I really have no criticisms of the show. It was fair and balanced in showing views of the Christmas story. You can pray for me however, as I have several more such shows in the works.
Merry Christmas to one and all,