During this Lenten Season (weeks before Easter), it’s always been kind of a fetish of mine to be attentive to the offerings on network and cable stations.
When our youngest daughter was in grade school, we watched no TV during Lent, instead opting for religious movies. They would be movies I decided were religious.
I just don’t think it’s that big of a challenge to dust-off the reels of these classics and show them. But, here we go again with another year of Speed and Diehard dominating the repeat cable offerings and little to nothing else on network stations. Maybe a call to TCM host and critic Robert Osborne would help.
In 1992 a commentary I wrote about this very topic was printed in the Star Tribune. You might get a kick out of some of the references (it was 21 years ago!); however, the challenge remains.
Monday, March 30, 1992 Star Tribune
TV should be showing films appropriate to Lenten season by Dorothy Fleming
For years these 40 days of Lent were opportunity to witness right in our own living rooms the bravery and faith-filled message of hope delivered by Hollywood’s finest. No more.
Is it asking too much of TV programmers to air some worthy religious films during this time before Easter? Or will we be treated to last year’s fare of poor taste like the showing of “Friday the 13th on Good Friday?
What’s missing these days, these 40 days when smokers are climbing the walls and the kids have change in their pockets from bypassing sweet temptations, are some honest-to-goodness, color-by-Technicolor religious films. “The Robe” and “The Silver Chalice” are examples of such films that haven’t been around for a long time.
Maybe programmers believe their audiences aren’t religious. A fallacy, according to the Statistical Abstract of the United States, which lists Minnesota fourth in adherence to Christianity. “Nearly 65 percent of Minnesotans are religious,” the report says, and that’s 16 percentage points higher than the national average.”
So why would broadcasters and their advertisers not want to please the majority?
Certainly these old films aren’t too bloody for prime-time TV viewers. Horror “Freddy” flicks running just before Christmas have already ignored all such sensibilities. Instead of scheduling films during the Easter season that offer Passion and put our kids in a more reflective mood, VCRs are running “Terminator II” and “Thelma & Louise.” And why not? There’s nothing else on.
“Demetrius” is the sequel to “The Robe” and boasts a host of stars, including Victor Mature as the Greek slave who keeps Christ’s robe, and Susan Hayward, Anne Bancroft and Ernest Borgnine. It must be around somewhere.
If station programmers won’t listen, viewers can bypass the scheduled shows and bring home “Ben-Hur.” Watch
The thrilling chariot race and at the same time see the dynamic and loving role of Ben-Hur played by Charlton Heston. Admire the courage displayed when he ignores all warnings and ushers his mother and sister from the cave of lepers. The film was exhausting, uplifting, truly beautiful and appropriate for this season.
Just because our kids are expecting to find Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in their Easter baskets, and we have spring break instead of Easter vacation, there’s no reason to abandon all our traditional practices.
If a crowd of people can gather in the back yard with Paul Douglas and get “Cheers” back on the air, maybe, just maybe, there’s still hope.
Dorothy Fleming is a freelance writer, homemaker and St. Anthony City Council member.