CBS’s newest sitcom Living Biblically follows a man attempting to live by the Bible to the letter in 2018. The series is mostly inspired by the 2007 book The Year of Living Biblically written by agnostic Esquire editor A.J. Jacobs following his year living in accordance with the Bible. After ten years, the show finally made it to air, produced by The Big Bang Theory star Johnny Galecki and starring former The Real O’Neals actor Jay R. Ferguson. All of those details alone pretty much set up a recipe for disaster.
Where to start? The February 26 pilot opens with movie reviewer Chip (Jay R. Ferguson) talking with his local priest Father Gene (Ian Gomez) following the death of one of his closest friends. After attending his friend’s funeral and learning that own his wife is expecting, Chip comes to a crossroads and decides to improve his life by following the Bible. Here is the priest’s reaction to such a plan.
Chip: Look, uh, you know, for the most part, I'm a good man, but I want to be great. And, I know it sounds crazy, but the real reason I'm here is because I've decided to live my life one hundred percent by the Bible.
Father Gene: You mean in-in general, right?
Chip: Oh, no, Father. To the letter.
Father Gene: (Laughing derisively) To the letter!
Right off the bat, we’re in for a groan-inducing half-hour. The story continues with Chip informing his wife, Leslie (Lindsey Kraft), about his plan and she’s less than supportive when she realizes what his life could mean for her.
Chip: No, no, no. I want to live my life strictly according to the Bible until our non-ugly baby arrives. And I got to do it all in. It's like a soul cleanse. And I can't explain it exactly, but I feel it. And this is just, it's something I need to do.
Leslie: Uh, just changing your life like this, that changes my life, too. Do you get that? I mean, are we still gonna have fun? I'm not throwing out my rap albums. You know how much I love my filthy, filthy sex rap.
Chip: Listen. I realize it sounds nuts, okay?
Chip: But I just really believe it's gonna make me a better father for our son or daughter. Hopefully son.
Leslie: Well, what if I don't want to raise our kid religious? I work in medicine. Faith isn't so easy when you see the things I see all day.
Chip: Oh, but come on, you got to have faith. I mean, what about sunsets? Or season four of The Wire?
Leslie: Well, what about super gonorrhea? (Chuckles) Didn't God design that, too? And if so, why?
Chip: That's a great question. I haven't gotten to that part yet.
I’m surprised they jumped into the whole “If God is real, why do bad things happen” debate in the pilot, but that tends to be the first step for cynical would-be philosophers who think no one in the 2000 plus years of Christianity has ever posed that question. Hiding it behind a lame joke doesn’t make it any better.
His life does indeed become difficult as his priest informs him of several caveats from the Bible including not spreading false word against one’s neighbor, not wearing clothing woven of different fabrics, and even stoning adulterers. Seems odd that a Catholic priest is advising him based on Old Testament laws, but then I guess following the “Love the Lord your God with all your heart” and “Love your neighbor as yourself” decrees aren’t hilariously outdated enough for the show. Christianity might as well be a foreign concept at this point.
The decree on stoning adulterers eventually comes into play when Chip spots his co-worker having dinner with someone he is not married to and promptly tosses a stone at his head. Again, for someone who is dedicated to following the Bible (and clearly doesn’t want to throw a rock at his co-worker but feels obligated), he seems to overlook John 8:7 where Jesus states, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to cast a stone.”
Are we really supposed to assume that only the Old Testament qualifies as the Bible now? Are we also supposed to give the Catholic priest a pass for not knowing that passage? Did anyone on this show actually read the whole Bible before writing this plot? I’m more frustrated than entertained.
However, the biggest sin of the show is surprisingly how boring the whole thing ends up being. The executive producers emphasized, "Our goal is never to offend." It’s almost as if the series can’t reach its full potential so long as it has to play nice with religious plots. Unfortunately, that playing nice still involves misinterpreting the Bible and those who live by it, but, with outright anti-Christian shows like The Big Bang Theory and Young Sheldon, that is sadly the best we can hope for nowadays.