Religion and reality TV: Is it a match made in heaven?
Mike Stone, Associated Press
America's favorite guilty pleasure is getting a religious spin as a few new shows bring a faithful flair to reality TV.
Variety recently addressed the religious television trend, highlighting shows such as A&E's "Duck Dynasty" and Lifetime's "Preacher's Daughters."
"If we're going to expose the world to every other aspect of life, why not expose it to a Christian life when you're not in church," said "Mary Mary" star Tina Campbell in the Variety article. "Mary Mary" follows Campbell and her sister, Tina, who perform contemporary gospel music.
The biggest story in faith-based reality TV this summer is "It Takes a Church" on Game Show Network (GSN). The series premiered on June 5 following the network's other popular religious program, "The American Bible Challenge."
"Each week the show visits a congregation and matches up one of its single members with a prospective mate," The New York Times reported. Combining "The Bachelorette" with "The Dating Game," the series allows church members to make the initial selections before the single Christian in question makes his or her final choice.
GSN markets the series as "television's first faith-based dating show," The TV Page reported. Each of the eight episodes this season will rely on "family-friendly ice breakers and experiences (no hot tubs here!)" to produce a new couple in the congregation.
"Dating shows come and go. But in this particular case, one of the things that made this show special is that the primary focus for the dating is more than just looks or a superficial connection. It was talking about something much deeper," said "It Takes a Church" producer Tom Rogan to The TV Page.
Unfortunately for Rogan, not everyone is buying the idea that religious belief brings wholesomeness to reality TV. "The show is utterly frivolous and is reviewed here only because it's another development in the continuing spectacle that is religion in America," wrote critic Neil Genzlinger for the Times.
The "continuing spectacle" is going to keep on going for the time being, with another faith-based series set to launch later this year. Lifetime's "The Sisterhood" will follow potential nuns as they ponder joining a religious order.
"The unscripted series will sneak behind the doors of a Catholic convent and delve into the lives of five women with a big decision to make: whether or not to fully commit themselves to God," The Daily Mail explained. Each hour-long episode will explore what it takes to live as chaste, poor and obedient "servants of God."
For audience members who prefer their reality TV light on religion, this summer offers a full line-up of other options. "The Bachelorette," "So You Think You Can Dance" and "Big Brother," to name a few, are all back with new seasons.
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