Faith Based Reality TV shows expose the once guarded lives of preachers, gospel recording artists and their families to the world. But are they revealing too much?
According to the US Census, 78 percent of the total US population is Christian, an audience the entertainment world is now targeting. CBS’ “Touched by an Angel” Executive Producer, Mary Williamson told Christian Science monitor that there is a rush of interest today in faith-based television shows.
Cable TV networks are making an effort to satisfy the desire for faith-based entertainment with faith-based reality TV shows. Some of those currently on the air are Preachers of LA (Oxygen), The Sheards (BET), Thicker Than Water (Bravo), Mary Mary (WeTV) and Preacher’s Daughter’s (Lifetime TV).
While some may see these shows as telling too much of the church’s business, others see it as a way to let the world know that people of faith are just every-day people.
Millionaire, record label owner, gospel jazz music pioneer, pastor of Destiny Center Church in Murfreesboro, Tenn. and star of Bravo’s “Thicker Than Water” Ben Tankard said, “I’m a motivational speaker for the NBA, I’m an aircraft owner and pilot owner…I do over 100 concerts a year, producer and writer…so my house, my many cars, my toys, boats, planes, whatever, all of that was financed through the work of my hands busting my behind…we donate our time as pastors.
It never crossed my mind through editing or whatever, that people might see the trailer of the show or the pilot of the show…see me preaching in the pulpit at the church and then it would automatically flash to the home and the cars…and the people would go, ‘There’s another one of those pimp preachers living off the backs of the people. ’
I was not even thinking about that when we shot this. And I was totally blindsided when the show first came out because some people thought, ‘Here comes another one of those pimp, gigolo prosperity guys that’s living off the backs of the people.’ ”
Willie Moore, Jr., host of faith-based talk show, “Flatout TV” on the NRB Network said, “When it comes to faith-based reality shows, no matter how deep they get, I think it’s a good idea to have faith-based people working behind it, running it, editing and creating, putting together a story line so the mission will add value to people. So I’m pretty impressed with faith based television shows right now. Preachers of LA and a few others I really enjoy.”
Gina Waters Miller is Vice President of Promotions For Light Records/E One Music, a division of E One Entertainment, a corporation that has its hands in the production of WeTV’s faith-based reality show “Mary Mary” and BET’s “The Sheards” stressed, “With reality TV as a whole, there are a lot of stories being told…If you don’t like what’s being said, change the channel. We have a choice about everything that we consume, that we watch. I think people have the right to choose.
For so many I think it’s a positive thing. For others I think it’s a negative thing. I appreciate it because it is opening up some good dialogue and if it’s not, it’s just opening up new conversation that needs to happen anyway.”
Tankard believes people are starting to accept him as genuine. He said, “Once we got past the prosperity angle and black folks being successful, and once the “hater-ade” calmed down, they really fell in love with “Thicker Than Water,” and everybody could see that I wasn’t a pimp and living off of the people…they paid attention to the characters on the show…everyone could see on “Thicker Than Water” that there is somebody on the show that reminds them of someone in their family… Everybody goes through the same thing, no matter what tax bracket you’re in … People were having over 1,500 watch parties every week, people going over other people’s house to watch “Thicker Than Water” on Sunday night. It brought people together. They said that our show was the number one rated freshman show in the history of Bravo NBC.”
Miller said, “Advertisers and Networks are beginning to see that they can tap into another audience with the faith-based audience because on the business side, we are typically responders. We are buyers and we are loyal. And we are eye-balls who will tune in week after week.”
Moore adds, “The networks realize there’s a market that’s not as risky and they can longevity out of these people, so they’ll continue to invest money in faith based film and television entertainment. And it will allow faith-based artists to get another platform.”
While faith-based shows like “Mary Mary,” “Thicker Than Water,” “Preacher’s Of LA,” and faith-based talk shows like Willie Moore, Jr.’s “Flat Out TV” continue to grow their fan base, Hollywood is also capitalizing on this audience with Bible-based movies slated for release in 2014, including “Son Of God” and “Noah.”