By Dave Dentel
Dear ABC executives:
I’ve been advised by various activists with whom I am associated that I should protest your new television series, Good Christian Bitches. (Yes, I understand the moniker has since been bowdlerized to Good Christian Belles, and finally to the unintelligible initialism GCB, to which I can only reply, OMG! It still makes me GAG. But I digress.)
Though I’m certain that more about the series than just the title would offend me, I won’t pledge to boycott the show. Such a threat would mean little in any case as I have long avoided the stream of puerility your network attempts to pass off as entertainment.
What I do intend in return for your mockery of Christians is to respond in kind. Below you will find my creative interpretation of the kind of corporate lunacy required to produce such a blight as GCB. If it strikes you as all too real, don’t worry—the names have been changed.
• • •
The scene: A corporate boardroom in a Manhattan high-rise. A young man with tousled hair in a tan jacket and blue jeans fumbles with laptop. He’s surrounded by men of various ages in suits that differ only in the degree they reflect the fluorescent tubes overhead.
“Can’t you get that thing going?” grumbles the man at the head of the table. His greying comb-over marks him as the oldest of the group.
“Sorry, Mr. Whitehead. Should just be a minute.”
“Well, we can get started anyway,” Whitehead announces. “Have you gents considered my directive from our last session?”
Nods and grunts signal in the affirmative.
He continues. “I’m serious. That faith market is adding up to real money, and I want a piece of it. Can’t tell you what it does to my ulcer every time I see a promo for one of those church movies. Some amateurs down in Georgia score a deal with Sony and now they’re worth millions. What do they call those things? Fireball? Fearless?”
The jowly middle-aged suit to Whitehead’s right corrects him without looking up from his smart phone. “Fireproof. Courageous.”
“Right!” echoes the twenty-something on the opposite side of the table.
“Whatever,” says Whitehead. “The point is I want something that’ll tap into that audience. What have you got?”
The wall-sized video monitor behind Whitehead comes to life as the tech hands off the computer to another young suit with a dark beard. A digital pointer dances from icon to icon.
“Got some clips here I think you’ll like,” says blackbeard. “Couple scenes from what could be a pilot. It’s fresh. It’s edgy. Here’s the setup: Spunky single mom moves back to the Bible belt where she’s got to deal with a bunch of religious prigs.”
He clicks the computer mouse, and the men gape in silence at a series of visual caricatures, mostly involving women of unnatural proportions.
“I like it,” Whitehead bellows as the images go dark. “So what are we calling it?”
“I’ll let Phil fill you in on that,” says blackbeard, indicating the jowls still pondering the cellphone.
“Oh, I thought we’d run with the title of the book I saw my ex reading. It’s called Good Christian B—.”
“Whoa!” His sentence is truncated by an involuntary outburst from the techie, now seated in a corner by a phony rubber plant. “We can’t say that. Can we?”
Whitehead looks puzzled.“Why not?”
“Well,” poses the techie, suddenly unsure of his standing. “I mean, what about people with real religious convictions. Won’t they be offended?”
“Offended?” booms Whitehead. “Who cares? We’ve been offending religious nuts since before Archie Bunker. If they don’t like what we’re putting out on prime time, let 'em watch the Hallmark Channel.”
“Hallmark,” Phil parrots rather derisively. “Heart-warming shows, single-digit market share.”
Whitehead ignores the remark and continues.
“So how would we pitch this series?”
The bristles around blackbeard’s mouth form a shallow V.
“See what you think of this, J.B,” he says. “We’re calling it a cross between Desperate Housewives and Hope Floats.”
“Housewives is good,” admits Whitehead. “But I don’t get … Wait! Wasn’t that a chick flick with Sandra Bullock?”
“Right!” shouts the twenty-something.
“Yeah, I like Bullock. What was that movie she scored the Oscar for? About the football player. Now that’s the kind of thing I mean. Positive characters with a raw edge. Like a church lady who still looks good in a skirt.”
“Believe me, J.B.,” adds blackbeard. “In GCB the principals look pretty darn good in more than just skirts. Or should I say, in a lot less.”
A round of guttural laughter spirals through the room.
“OK, you got me,” says Whitehead. “Go ahead with a full pilot. And now for the next point of discussion. You know, if that Romney guy wins the election, there’s going to be a lot more interest in Mormons. Since they’re big on family, I thought we could work up a proposal for our ABC Family lineup—at least something we could pitch to sponsors.”
“Way ahead of you on that, J.B.” says blackbeard, the dark V on this face deepening. “You know the direction we’ve been heading with new Family fare.”
“I do,” concedes Whitehead. “Good work on that. I know we’ve grown our demographic. Refresh my memory on some of our big titles.”
“Off the top of my head,” says Phil, “I’d say our hits include Satan’s School for Girls and Pretty Little Liars.”*
“Which sets the stage for the kind of thing I’d like to see with a Mormon series,” adds Whitehead. “You know, HBO broke new ground with their Big Love. Why can’t we do a family show that’s funny, that’s sweet, but still has the guts to look honestly at polly, uh, polly ….”
“Polygamy?” gasps the techie.
“Not that! I mean having lots of wives.”
“I’ve had lots of wives,” Phil confesses glumly.
Whitehead is not amused. “I mean all at once, dummy.”
Blackbeard seizes the ensuing pause to once again take the floor.
“Like I said, J.B., the creative department has already thrown around some ideas on this one. Here’s the setup: A spunky teenage Mormon girl whose dad gets transferred to the Bible belt has to put up with a bunch of religious prigs.”
“I like it,” Whitehead bellows. “Got a working title?”
“Sure do. How does this grab you?” he asks, spreading his hands like an imaginary marquee. “My Three Moms.”
* To quote a much better satirist than me, I’m not making this up.
Dave Dentel is author of The God Imperative: Why We Need Faith to Safeguard Reason, Science and Liberty.