In the beginning, there was The Bible.
That shockingly successful 10-hour 2013 miniseries from producers Roma Downey and Mark Burnett set ratings records for History, spawned a feature film and reminded Hollywood that there was a neglected audience hungry for faith-related programming. Enter (after a bidding war) NBC with Downey and Burnett’s A.D. The Bible Continues (Sunday, 9 p.m. ET/PT, **1/2 stars out of four), a 12-episode expansion and sequel designed to explore the early years of the new Christian church.
But not yet. First, A.D. revisits territory covered in the earlier miniseries, starting with its Easter Sunday opening episode about the arrest, death and resurrection of Christ.
Thanks to the success of the first version, however, A.D. is not simply a retread — and does not have to recycle old footage. A larger budget has allowed for better production values, and some rethinking has allowed for a stronger and more diverse cast, led by Juan Pablo di Pace as Jesus, Greta Scacchi as Mary, Chipo Chung as Mary Magdalene, Adam Levy as Peter, Richard Coyle as Caiaphus and Vincent Regan as Pontius Pilate.
There are some non-biblical additions to the story Sunday: an expanded role for Caiaphus, a cameo by the Zealots, and some humorously acid asides by Pilate. But for the most part, this is a straightforward and sincere retelling of the Crucifixion with no doubts, no revisions that might offend the faithful, and no attempt to explain away the miracles. In A.D., as in the New Testament, angels appear and the dead rise.
Yes, the additions sometimes feel shoehorned in, and, as in The Bible, the storytelling gears still sometimes clunk. But anyone who loved The Bible and yearned for a sequel is likely to find A.D. satisfying.
As for anyone who found The Bible hopelessly hokey, well, A.D. should at least feel like an improvement.
SOURCE: USA Today – Robert Bianco