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ABC to Air New Faith-Based Series 'Life of King Saul'; Muslim Scholar Reza Aslan Among Show's Producers

( [email protected] ) May 11, 2015 05:44 PM EDT
Another faith-based show is coming to television, as ABC has announced it is developing a new series, Of Kings and Prophets, based on the life of the Old Testament King Saul.
'Of Kings and Prophets' will be produced by Muslim scholar Reza Aslan along with several others. Random House/Hilary Jones

Another faith-based show is coming to television, as ABC has announced it is developing a new series, Of Kings and Prophets, based on the life of the Old Testament King Saul.

ABC's Logline reveals that Of Kings and Prophets will be "an epic Biblical saga of faith, ambition and betrayal as told through the eyes of a battle-weary king, a powerful and resentful prophet and a resourceful young shepherd on a collision course with destiny."

According to the Biblical account found in the 1st and 2nd Samuel, Saul was appointed by the Prophet Samuel to be the first king of Israel. Although Saul was initially a wise and respected King, he eventually became arrogant and disobedient to God's commands. In return, God withdrew his favor from Saul and instead appointed a shepherd boy, David, to become the King of Israel. Consumed with rage and jealousy, Saul spent his last years attempting to kill David before eventually committing suicide.

The Hollywood Reporter notes that the series comes from the writers behind the controversial Ridley Scott movie, Exodus: Gods and Kings that starred Christian Bale, which was criticized by many faith-based groups for its lack of Biblical accuracy. The film's writers, Adam Cooper and Bill Collage, will also executive produce the series alongside Jason Reed, Muslim scholar Reza Aslan, and Mahyad Tousi. Jeffrey Nachmanoff (Chicago Fire, Homeland) is set to direct.

The series will star British actor Ray Winstone (The Departed, Noah) as King Saul and Elodie Yung (Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) Haaz Sleiman, Mohammad Bakri, Maisie Richardson‐Sellers and Oliver Rix. Filming began in April in South Africa, Deadline reports.

Of Kings and Prophets marks the latest in a string of biblical dramas across cable and broadcast networks following the success of History's hit 10-part miniseries The Bible, which drew a record 100 million viewers on cable TV, and NBC's 12-part follow-up series, A.D. The Bible Continues.

"TV networks for years have bent over backwards to reach special interest groups," Phil Cooke, a filmmaker and media consultant said of the recent success of faith-based telivision and film. "What they forget is that [Bible believing] Christians make up the largest special interest group in the nation. And if you produce a biblically accurate program, they will watch."

While Christians are certainly eager for faith-based entertainment, a recent Christian News Service/Nicaea poll performed by American Insights found that the overwhelming number of Christians who watch faith-based movies and T.V. shows is not only determined by the fact that these movies are considered "faith-based" or "religious," but also if the movie accurately represents their faith and Scripture. According to the majority of Christians who were surveyed (79%), compared to the 10% who disagree, faithful biblical interpretation is a determining factor to whether or not they will see a faith-based movie.

"People would like to be optimistic, but they have been disappointed over the years," Russ Jones, president of Christian News Service, said.

"The biggest lesson we saw was that historical and biblical accuracy is really important to Christians," he added. "That should give folks a stern warning that it's crucial to use historical data, historical facts and biblical themes as accurately as possible."