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Living Biblically - Pilot - Advance Preview: An Epic Stinker

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A few years back I read, and thoroughly enjoyed, A.J. Jacobs’ memoir The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to follow the Bible as Literally as Possible. At times insightful, funny, thought-provoking, heartfelt, and often surreal, the book follows Jacobs, an accomplished writer, as he attempted to live for a year by all of the rules laid out in the bible.

Jacobs’ storytelling was fantastic and I recommended it to several friends (I actually never got the book back after lending it out, so someone else must have really enjoyed it too). Not once while I was reading it did I think, ‘this would make a great TV series!’ Thinking about it now, it probably could have made a fascinating docu-series.

As a CBS sitcom, however, it simply doesn’t work.

The series' shortcoming can't be laid on star Jay R. Ferguson. Since his time on Mad Men, as the often-hilarious art director Stan Rizzo, I’ve been eager to see Ferguson land a great leading role. This isn’t it (oddly, I just started rewatching Mad Men… which probably didn’t help when I sat down to watch this), though he's often charming and always giving his all.

This ill-conceived adaptation, penned by Patrick Walsh (2 Broke Girls, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia), leaves behind all that was so brilliant about the book. It reduces a fascinating and potentially enlightening journey to a predictable 21-minutes of stale jokes. Worse, the characters are hollow and the heart of the story is almost completely absent. The basic plot is this: After Chip (Ferguson) loses his best friend – which is mostly played for laughs, a rather strange way to launch the story – and discovers that his wife is pregnant, he decides to straighten out his life. A goofy supposed sign from above leads him to resolve to living his life according to the bible.

What’s most off-putting is that a show with such a unique premise seems to have no identity. The jokes range from predictable to straight-up unfunny; the setups are so obvious that even the most casual sitcom watcher can smell them coming a mile away. The supporting cast of characters are little more than a group of interchangeable clich├ęs used to spout off one-liners, which is a real pity considering there are some great actors on the series.

I’ve only seen one episode, and as with almost any series a lot can change after the pilot. Perhaps there’s some life – and fun – to be found in this. The cast certainly deserves it, as does the source material (even if I believe that this is a truly misguided take on bringing the book to life). Still, there wasn’t enough promise here for me to tune into episode 2. I’ll stick to rewatching Mad Men on Netflix for now.

Living Biblically premieres tonight 9:30EST on CBS. For more TV reviews & updates feel free to follow me on Twitter and check out the official SpoilerTV Instagram here.

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