While the trend of depicting spiritual and religious themes on American television has been unfolding for several years, this season’s shows reveal a more sophisticated if ambiguous approach to faith, reports TV Guide (Jan. 24).
Such older popular shows as Touched by An Angel, Highway to Heaven, and 7th Heaven tended toward the sentimental or “featured God’s agents as lending a helping hand to folks in trouble.” The newer shows, such as Joan of Arcadia and Fox’s Tru Calling, take a more daring approach that raises as many questions as they answer, writes Mark Nollinger.
These shows are deliberately non-specific about the spiritual force animating their characters. In Tru Calling, talking corpses seek help from a morgue attendant who has the power to relive past events. The upcoming Wonderfalls depicts a Gen-Xer who does good deeds a the behest of talking toy animals. Even the “more orthodox God depicted on Joan of Arcadia is pretty open-minded, telling Joan that “it’s not about religion. It’s about fulfilling your true nature.”
One Christian critic says that the new shows in part represent a critique of the church. Other observers and even a producer cites the impact of September 11 on the American psyche for the emergence of these new kinds of shows.