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Losing his religion's not an option in CBS' Living Biblically


Film reviewer Chip Curry hopes to be a Godsend in Living Biblically. CBS photo

Premiering: Monday, Feb. 26th at 8:30 p.m. (central) on CBS
Starring: Jay R. Ferguson, Lindsey Kraft, Ian Gomez, David Krumholtz, Tony Rock, Camryn Manheim
Produced by: Johnny Galecki, Andrew Haas, Spencer Medof, Patrick Walsh, Vanessa Wong, Andy Ackerman, Matthew Fernandes, Arthur Spanos

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Adapted from a bestseller that’s not the Bible, Living Biblically finally comes to fruition as a CBS sitcom with an abominable laugh track.

It’s fronted by one of the network’s former kid stars (Dallas native Jay R. Ferguson from Evening Shade) and will be the new caboose for Monday’s lineup of Kevin Can Wait, Man With A Plan and Superior Donuts. All are male-driven, broadly executed, replete with canned laughter and amusing now and then. Even if God can be forgiven for joining the majority of viewers tuned to The Voice from start to finish. Uh, that’s a joke.

Esquire magazine editor A. J. Jacobs’ The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible originally hit bookstores in 2007. Brad Pitt initially planned to turn it into a feature film financed by his production company. But nothing came of this, and a decade passed before Johnny Galecki, already very gainfully employed on CBS’ The Big Bang Theory, decided to take his first major fling as a head executive producer.

Ferguson plays movie reviewer Chip Curry, who works for an unspecified “newspaper in Manhattan” that’s decidedly not The New York Times. He’s blue because his longtime friend has just died, but then buoyed when wife Leslie (Lindsey Kraft) informs him she’s expecting -- and expects him to stop being “completely checked out.”

This leads him to the confessional of Father Gene (Ian Gomez), who laughs hysterically when Chip tells him he plans to live by the Bible “to the letter.” A rabbi pal of the priest, named Ableman (David Krumholtz), likewise is incredulous while Chip’s spouse and co-workers are all skeptical naysayers.

“You look like a business casual ghost,” newspaper pal Vince (Tony Rock) tells Chip when he arrives in all-white clothing in adherence to the Bible’s dictum to not “mix fabrics.” Rabbi Ableman has a different take: “You look like Diane Keaton.” The laugh track keeps rolling along very merrily. Alas, the Bible has nothing to say on this.

CBS made three episodes available for review. In the second one, Chip gently “stones” a co-worker who’s also an adulterer while bracing for a visit from his abrasive scientist mother-in-law (guest star JoBeth Williams). There’s also time for a stalled elevator that puts Chip’s boss, Ms. Meadows (Camryn Manheim), in a very loud panic. But it’s nothing an impromptu prayer can’t resolve.

Episode 3, arguably the strongest, finds Chip smashing his cell phone as a false idol that he’s been worshipping. Also in the mix: the pursuit of elusive Beyonce tickets. Chip’s wife has no problem at all worshipping her.

Any viewers who come in cold get a weekly narrative sum-up of what Chip’s now all about. He ends with, “I’m becoming a better man, one verse at a time. I am -- living biblically.”

The best interludes in Living Biblically so far are Chip’s weekly meetings in a bar and grill with his somewhat irreverent “God Squad” -- Father Gene and Rabbi Ableman. They know he’s up against it, and try not to let Chip get too carried away.

The Bible otherwise is interpreted in many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many different ways by various clerics and believers. Which means that Living Biblically could become a flashpoint for those who choose to tear it asunder for not adhering to the Good Book according to (fill in the blank).

For those of a more forgiving nature, this is an amiable enough little comedy series that doesn’t use religion as a punching bag. Previous long-distance runners such as Touched By An Angel, 7th Heaven, Amen and even The Flying Nun have shown there could be a market for Living Biblically, particularly during this here and now of uncertainty and divisiveness.

One wonders, though, whether Chip, let alone the show’s writers, truly can have him renouncing his cell phone beyond Episode 3. What a living hell for him that would be.


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