The Chosen Sets a New Bar for Religious TV

Catholic review of The Chosen religious TV series

Most of us probably agree that there are at least a few religious movies out there that are well-done from an artistic-quality standpoint (The Passion of the Christ comes to mind). And then a lot of us also feel that there’s a lot of religious content out there that is of very low quality.

Some people are okay with some cheesiness or other shortcomings in their religious-themed entertainment content – they just like the message. I’m not one of those people.

When I saw the first rave-review of a new TV series about Jesus called “The Chosen,” I was dubious. As I saw more and more people on social media saying the same thing, I had to give it a watch myself.

What is “The Chosen”?

It’s a multi-season drama series about the life of Jesus and His Apostles. It was made by a company called VidAngel, and they financed it through crowdfunding. 

The way they did/are doing this is unique in that they provide episodes to viewers in the U.S. for free and ask them to consider “paying it forward” – donating money so that people in other countries can watch for free, and to finance further seasons of the show’s production.

The show isn’t available on Netflix or any similar streaming platform. Instead, it’s available through an app on your phone.

I thought, “Well I’m not watching a show on my phone…” and they were a step ahead of me. The phone app is equipped to find your smart TV via wifi. You select an episode on your phone, and it plays on your TV. 

Is “The Chosen” really that good?

I’m very critical of pretty much all Christian-themed content. My experience is usually either that it’s made by people with sincere Christian intentions but the quality is pretty poor; or it’s made by people who don’t get Christianity and push some other agenda, making for an all-around terrible product.

This show is neither of those things.

“The Chosen” looks at the characters of Jesus’ Apostles and others mentioned in the New Testament, and it gives them backstories. It shows them going about their lives, struggling and failing, and then answering Jesus’ call to follow Him (or in the case of certain characters, not answering that call).

There’s a disclaimer at the beginning of the series that says it’s based on Scripture but also contained made-up material (and it encourages the viewer to read the actual Bible as well). A statement like this might make us really scared that it’s going to be a bunch of ridiculous stuff. But it’s definitely not.

The created backstories are very thoughtfully and respectfully done. In season 1, there was nothing that I found contrary to Catholic teaching or offensive to Christians in general. Rather, most of the story felt very much like what happens when you really dive in to the stories contained in the Bible and think about what could have led up to them or how the circumstances might have developed.

A couple of criticisms…

One of my biggest dislikes of “The Chosen” is actually a technical issue. When you watch on your smart TV, you can’t go back to where you were if you stopped in the middle of an episode. You have to fast-forward and find your spot. It’s kind of a minor issue, but it definitely got to be a bit annoying when we consistently watched episodes in pieces in our house. 

Content-wise, there were a few instances of acting that wasn’t outstanding (I didn’t notice it often though), and season 1 ends in a montage-like scene with a song over it that’s a bit cheesy. 

I also felt that in the first couple of episodes, the garments that the men were wearing were awkwardly a little bit too short. Maybe it’s just me, but I kept wondering if they ran out of pay-it-forward money to make them long enough.

I’m a fan

Overall, I was very impressed with the first season of this show. We watched it with our young kids, and they were pretty enthralled too (there are some vague implications about prostitution and the situation of the woman at the well, but nothing very un-family friendly).

I’d have to say that the rave-reviews are not exaggerated. Personally, I’m really looking forward to season 2.

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