This wasn’t the best year for television by a long stretch, but a hugely under-the-radar web series has caught a lot of attention in an underserved market. Interestingly enough, it’s about Jesus Christ and it has a Christian ideological bent.
While Jesus was the subject of many films through the years, The Chosen is the first multi-season series (we’re midway through Season 2) that takes on an earnest portrayal of JC. It tells the story through the eyes of those who knew him best and it’s a mixture of historical portrayal and Bible tales. It’s a fresh approach, though it delves in the Bible it’s brand new content that doesn’t always feel so biblical. It’s definitely about morality and spirituality. In a sense it could be seen as the type of programming that is meant to instruct, though what it does best is entertain. A fervent fan base has given the series a 9.7 rating on IMDb, a figure that would be hard-to-believe at first glance.
There have been good Christian options in years past. Christian films have dwarfed records in the past (as in the case of The Passion of the Christ), but Hollywood tends to steer clear of earnest Christian productions. Even Mel Gibson was working outside the studio system. So for every masterpiece of the genre, there comes a usual crop of low-budget Christian films that can be mind numbingly cheesy, with poor production quality and wooden acting.
That’s what is so shocking about this show. The Chosen is just nothing like that. It’s a self-funded Christian series that looks and feels like it belongs on HBO, if HBO had better set its sights on family programming.
The Christian world is listening and soon the secular audience is bound to follow. The Chosen’s is primarily viewed on one of the popular Christian apps available. Aside from watching the series there, users have the option of “Paying it Forward.” By spending money to share the app, the millions of viewers actually finance future episodes and seasons, while building the show’s staggeringly large fan base. In 2019, after raising over $10 million dollars, The Chosen actually became the most expensive crowd-funded content in history and it continues to raise millions to this day for good reason.
Secular directors could learn a thing or two from writer/director Dallas Jenkins. He uses the most popular stories of all time, Old and New Testament, like a canvas. Jenkins weaves through thousands of years of history to make time look like a continuum and reifies faith for its Christian audience. There’s a supernatural presence, known as Him running through the show. Tonally it’s like nothing else in religious entertainment.
One captivated reviewer comments, “No other film has been able to take the time to focus on the encounters He had with individual people like us. We see us in the film, and it’s beyond wonderful. It’s captivating.” The show clearly holds a grip over people. They can’t stop watching. Even though it’s in the Christian genre, it transcends faith. It’s just deep, high quality entertainment for the whole family.