By Denis Schulz

From The Book of Daniel: “In the third year of the reign of Jehoi’akim king of Judah came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon unto Jerusalem and besieged it. And the Lord gave Jehoi’akim king of Judah into his hand, with part of the vessels of the house of God: which he carried into the land of Shinar to the house of his god: and he brought the vessels into the treasure house of his god.”

Jehoi’kim? Nebuchadnezzar? Shinar? Are they sure?

Once upon a war a long time ago a friend listened quietly while two Japanese gentlemen discussed politics in a language he thought might be Martian. They could have been quoting from The Book of Daniel as far as he could tell. When they had finished he shook his head in agreement. “I’ve always said that,” he said.

Nebuchadnezzar; Babylon; war; strife; pagan festivals; vessels; maybe even Deuteronomy and Apocrypha—The Book of Daniel would make a great TV series. Maybe; perhaps—anyway it would be a little late in the game for Billy Bob Wilder to set down at his computer and hack out a few pages; the name has been taken. NBC’s The Book of Daniel debuts on January 6 with back-to-back episodes. Back to back episodes? That’s not such a good idea. Baseball stopped playing doubleheaders years ago—too many fans were leaving for a hot dog in the 3rd inning of the second game and not coming back. It might be too much of a good thing for a midseason replacement series.

And don’t expect Nebuchadnezzar—he’s not in it; and don’t look for any Septuagesima Sundays. Except for the Babylon part, there’s not much of a biblical nature in The Book of Daniel. It’s a dramatic series with touches of humor. Or maybe it’s a humorous series with touches of drama. As usual it is difficult to tell. Now if it opened with a lion’s den and a devouring…Naw, that wouldn’t do. It’s supposed to be a wholesome show, set in a fictional Christian community. The Daniel of the title is Daniel Webster, an Episcopal priest played by Aidan Quinn . Remember: that’s Aidan Quinn, not Anthony Quinn ; Daniel not Barabbas: 2006 not the year zero. Does anyone remember Anthony Quinn in Barabbas the poor wretch that was set free so Christ could be crucified? What rotten luck! Barabbas spent the rest of his miserable life haunted by the ghost of the Prophet. There were no Bill Murrays to fall back on in The Age of Miracles so poor Barabbas had to tough it out.

Daniel Webster has no such problems, he is not afraid of haunts or spooks; in fact, he spends a lot of time talking to Jesus. And why shouldn’t he? If Hillary Clinton can talk to Eleanor Roosevelt and Donald Rumsfeld can say “ What would William Tecumseh Sherman have done” a TV priest—that’s TV as in television, not TV as in transvestite; though no one knows what the future might bring—should be able to commune with Christ as long as he does not set about writing Epistles to the Galations.

The American Family Association has already voiced its objections to The Book of Daniel. Aidan Quinn dismisses the objections. It’s a wholesome series he says. “I’m an Episcopalian priest, who struggles with a little self-medication problem, and I have a 23-year-old son who’s gay, and a 16-year-old daughter who’s caught selling pot, and another son who’s jumping on every high school girl he sees, and a wife who’s very loving but also likes her martinis…I can’t tell you how many people have said to me, ‘Hey, that sounds like my family.’”

Why, of course—forget the drugs, the booze, the whoring, and the gay guy and one has the Cunninghams. And the Cleaver and the Nelsons—except for the hole in Ricky’s bucket. The Clampetts were more down to earth. Granny liked her tonic straight from the jug and Ellie Mae didn’t always get Bessie’s diaper changed in time but that was about as bad as it got with Jed and his kin. Why, Jethro could whomp the tar out of that pathetic Webster bunch all by his-self and smoke some crawdads at the same time.

Publicists are calling The Book of Daniel the riskiest show of the year. One episode has the priest’s lesbian secretary sleeping with his sister. Come on; get real! Donald Trump would never tolerate something like that—Howard Stern might, but not The Donald! And, pray tell, what is so risky about portraying a Christian family as dysfunctional? Now if Aidan were playing a Mullah who spends his spare time conversing with the ghost of Menachem Begin, with a 16-year-old daughter who was caught burning her hijab in a convenience store parking lot, a gay son seeking a Christian rapture, and a wife who was sneaking out of the house in disguise to eat hamburgers at McDonalds, that would be risky. But mocking Christianity is not risky; it is cowardly.

The show needs a name change. How about The Book of Jack Daniels? It sounds good. Make it 120 proof, get out the pretzels and we’ll come and sit a spell. And, hey, switch that TV channel! The midget wrestlers come on at nine o’clock. Ain’t that little Nebuchadnezzar something? And that’s about as Biblical as this is going to get.