"After losing his best friend and learning that his wife is pregnant, film critic Chip Curry embarks on a spiritual journey to start living a better, more moral life. While searching for answers, he turns to the Bible and comes to the decision to try living in accordance with its pages. When he quickly discovers that it may be harder to achieve in today's world than he initially believed, he and his wife assemble a 'God Squad' to help him out along the way."
That's the premise of a new CBS show called "Living Biblically," which premieres Monday night.
The show follows Chip (Jay R. Ferguson), and his wife, Leslie (Lindsey Kraft), who it just so happens is an atheist. She's not so happy with the new plan. Chip meets often with the “God Squad,” comprised of Father Gene (Ian Gomez) and Rabbi Gil (David Krumholtz) to discuss his moral quandaries — which run from minuscule to gargantuan.
For instance, Chip struggles with some basics: no lying, no taking God’s name in vain, even deciding if his heavy cell phone use qualifies the device as a "false idol."
The pilot sets up the premise, and in episode 2, "Love Thy Neighbor," Chip struggles after several sleepless nights due to loud neighbors, eventually seeking help from Rabbi Gil and Father Gene on how to actually love thy neighbor. In the third episode, titled "False Idols," when Father Gene and Rabbi Gil "point out to Chip that his addiction to his smartphone is the same as worshiping a false idol, Chip decides to stop using it, causing his wife, Leslie, and his officemates to worry about his whereabouts," CBS said.
Rotten Tomatoes does not have a score for the show, and only four reviews — all with the "splattered" green tomato that signifies a bad review.
"A few lines generate a mild chuckle, but Living Biblically mostly feels stale and unfunny - the kind of show that gives broadcast network comedies a bad name," wrote Rob Owen of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "The premise promises something unusual, but the labored execution and frantic performances are so sitcom familiar," wrote Hal Boedeker of the Orlando Sentinel.
But Sonia Saraiya of Variety offered some words of praise.
"Believe it or not, there is something quite charming about the sitcom. It centers Christianity in a way that is never examined, but manages to do so in a way that feels rooted in Chip’s particular journey. Faith is a tricky topic for pop culture, so most entertainment outright avoids it — even though nine out of 10 Americans believe in God, according to Gallup, and fully 70 percent identify as Christian, according to the Pew Research Center. It’s refreshing to see a show tackle the puzzle of American Christian belief, and although 'Living Biblically,' is quite lightweight, the questions of worship in the first three episodes are recognizable — can I trust this ancient book, or how and when do you pray, or is my phone making me a worse person?"
The man behind show is Johnny Galecki, who plays physicist Leonard Hofstadter on the CBS hit comedy series “The Big Bang Theory."
Galecki, 42, is executive producer and said people of faith are underrepresented on TV, Fox News reported.
“When I started my production company, it was No. 1 at the top of the list to try to do a comedy about religion,” he told journalists at the panel at the Television Critics Association’s Winter Press Tour. “I recognized that these conversations [about religion] weren’t being had despite the fact that … 80 percent of people in the world subscribe their lives to some sort of spiritual belief.”
As a result, he set out to create a show that could “inspire a conversation around the watercooler” about the Bible.
“One of the biggest hurdles is the fear to have the conversation about [religion] …” he said. “The best way to approach [a topic] that people may be uncomfortable with it is with comedy.”
Show creator Patrick Walsh said they worked with experts to be sure the sitcom's scripts were accurate and respectful. “We have a priest and a rabbi read every draft of the scripts and tell us where we are wrong or where we could use a better example from the Bible,” Walsh said.
“I think, hopefully, [people of faith] will find this show a cool take on what a lot of people base their entire lives around,” he said.
Galecki was uplifted by the reactions he received from religious studio-audience members during the live tapings.
“… There was one shoot night where the audience wasn’t as raucous as they had been in previous tapings, and I couldn’t figure out why so I talked to [the company that gathered the audience] …and they said the only difference was that this was the first … live audience where there wasn’t a religious group there,” he recalled. “And that was so galvanizing to us. Like I almost get misty-eyed talking about it because our fear was such the opposite.
“Our fear was that we might offend those people who we deeply, deeply respect and want to represent in a very sane, grounded, respectful manner. So the fact that we weren’t turning those people off, the fact that they were invested in the show just made us feel like ‘OK we’re on the right track at least.’”