Report: Bruce Jenner Uninjured in Fatal Car Accident While Fleeing Paparazzi

TV Tattle

Report: Bruce Jenner uninjured in fatal car accident while fleeing paparazzi
According to TMZ, Jenner struck a car on Pacific Coast Highway that then went into oncoming traffic, resulting in the driver of that car’s death. UPDATE: An L.A. County Sheriff spokesperson says Jenner did not appear to be chased by paparazzi at the time of the accident.

Brian Williams taking leave from NBC Nightly News
Williams said in a memo Saturday he’s “decided to take myself off of my daily broadcast for the next several days,” with Lester Holt filling in for him. “In the midst of a career spent covering and consuming news, it has become painfully apparent to me that I am presently too much a part of the news, due to my actions,” Williams wrote in the memo. No word on when Williams will return, but he’s still scheduled to visit Letterman on Thursday. PLUS: NY Times’ Maureen Dowd writes: “NBC executives were warned a year ago that Brian Williams was constantly inflating his biography.”

Could Happy Endings return?
The Twitter account from the canceled ABC comedy’s writers sent out a cryptic tweet on Friday linking to a countdown clock that ends on April Fool’s Day, with the message “It’s almost a new day.” The Twitter account then followed the accounts of Amazon, Netflix and Yahoo Screen.

John Mayer ends his Late Late Show stint by getting tattoos with Ed Sheeran
The two performers agreed to “change each other’s bodies like this forever.” PLUS: Mayer cracked a Taylor Swift joke.

Jesse Tyler Ferguson’s husband won’t be charged in crash that killed the fiancé of Kirstie Alley’s daughter
A wrongful death lawsuit has been filed against the Modern Family star’s husband, Justin Mikita, who struck and killed motorcyclist Nick Trela while making a left turn in Los Angeles on Nov. 19. Trela, 23, was engaged to Alley’s daughter, Lillie Price Stevenson. Last month, the former Cheers star spoke to Howard Stern about how the death has affected her family.

Chris Pratt roasted at Harvard while wearing a bra
The Parks and Rec star was honored Friday as Hasty Pudding Man of the Year.

One person who’s been involved in marketing religious projects to Christians (and prefers not to be identified because nearly everyone in evangelical media circles ends up working together at some point) posits that Bill O’Reilly, an executive producer and coauthor of the source book, “essentially did a secular version of Jesus’s story, and the only reason it didn’t get organized protests is because he’s on Fox News. A lot of Christian viewers like his political views but can’t figure out his faith.”

Kent Eanes/National Geographic Channel

Getting pegged as the open-minded person’s guide to Christ was fine by Nat Geo, which wanted to play Killing Jesus as religiously nonpartisan. “This is a story that has been told trillions of times,” says Heather Moran, the network’s executive vice president of programming and strategy. “By stripping away what was most familiar to so many, it [became] such a powerful story. That was a very conscious choice of ours, to keep those details open to interpretation so different viewers with different perspectives could come to this historical spine of a story and use it as a jumping-off point for what they personally might bring to the table.” In the end, Killing Jesus split the difference between faith-based and secular audiences–leaving any resurrection off screen but still showing an empty tomb–and for all the publicized emphasis on outside history and scholarship, it took many of its events and dialogue straight from the gospels.

A.D. gave us a majestically backlit warrior-angel rolling away the stone, while the dustier Killing Jesus preferred to let the mystery be. What the two have in common is how they essentially play out as political thrillers, not spiritual reveries. In the days of such Cecil B. DeMille biblical epics as 1949’s Samson and Delilah, the joke (and maybe reality) was that churchgoers ostensibly came for the piety but stuck around for the chance to see sinful temptresses in skimpy outfits. The modern analogy is in how much these new projects make the religious aspects somewhat secondary to the machinations of the bad guys. None has gone quite as far as the musical Jesus Christ Superstar, which had the temerity to bump Judas up to colead. But Pontius Pilate is almost always going to wind up being a more fun character to depict than a Messiah whose most famous cryptic aphorisms aren’t about to get a dialogue polish.

Joe Alblas/LightWorkers Media/NBC

If you’re a Christian tired of seeing the Messiah alternately portrayed as a stiff, saintly victim or (occasionally) tortured neurotic, you might consider the historical taboo on filmic portrayals of Muhammad and develop a slight case of Muslim envy. Back in the CinemaScope era, Christ arguably made a greater impression as a cameo player in Ben-Hur, showing up just long enough to have the hem of his garment touched, than he did in the whole of The Greatest Story Ever Told. So part of the canniness of A.D.–not to get too irreverent about it–is that the series kills off this dramatically risky and unwieldy character before the first commercial break and doesn’t even let Jesus stick around past the second hour, so as not to get in the way of all the bloodshed, Lady Macbeth-style conniving, and disciples-on-the-run action that make it more of a diverting potboiler than a Sunday-school lesson.

The Old Testament doesn’t present as great a risk in adaptation as do Jesus’s red-letter words. But filmmakers can still run into danger–as demonstrated by Exodus: Gods and Kings director (and Killing Jesus executive producer) Ridley Scott’s divisive decision to portray God as a petulant boy and Darren Aronofsky’s infamous rock monsters in Noah. “In order for a biblical epic to be financially successful, you need the evangelical audience to become engaged,” says Matthew Paul Turner, author of Our Great Big American God and a leading figure in the progressive Christian movement. “But evangelicals are nitpicky about the details of their Bible stories, often carrying the persona of ‘protectors’ of God’s stories. That’s why Noah infuriated many of them, because rather than being able to sit back and enjoy a creative expression loosely based on Genesis, they squirmed at every turn away from how the Bible portrays the Great Flood.” There is a mainline church audience that isn’t hung up on absolute biblical literalism, says Turner, who believes “progressive Christians mostly just want to see a well-told story, one that doesn’t overplay the torture of Jesus for dramatic effect and one in which Jesus isn’t a hot white guy.”

Joe Alblas/LightWorkers Media/NBC

The emphasis on bloodshed in most of these adaptations doesn’t sit well with some mainline Christians–not even when it’s Jesus’s blood. “In journalism, the standard is ‘If it bleeds, it leads,’ and I think it’s the same in these sensationalist film depictions of Christ,” says Rev. Kathy Cooper-Ledesma, pastor of Hollywood United Methodist Church, which has many constituents from the entertainment industry. “They’re all about the substitutionary-atonement theory, focusing on violence and guilt and the belief that God required a blood sacrifice. That’s not the God I believe in at all. The greater story we celebrate is the love of God, but these TV shows don’t consider that dramatic enough.”

And then there are believers who just think other TV shows are better at illustrating the Bible than, say, The Bible. “I’m far more intrigued by the spiritual, ethical, and moral questions raised by Orphan Black or Sons of Anarchy,” says Cathleen Falsani, author of The Dude Abides: The Gospel According to the Coen Brothers, “than I am interested in another film interpretation of a biblical story that may or may not have a hidden religious or political agenda.”

A.D., as it goes along, will inevitably delve more into the realm of pure speculation, as accounts of the disciples’ post-Pentecost lives get harder to divine from the sketchy scriptural narratives. And based on the good will that Burnett and Downey have already built up in conservative Christian circles, they’ll probably get away with making up more of the details. But in one early scene in A.D., before Jesus leaves the building, you get a glimpse of what could have been in a straightforward Christ-tale telling. Jesus, popping up at his followers’ hideout, at first spooks them with his ability to forgo niceties such as entering through doors. And then, with a big grin, he asks, “Is there any food?” That’s a Jesus we could still stand to see more of on screen, even after all these tellings: one who is as in touch with his human side–and not even in a tortured way–as his followers are hungry for divine revelations.

A.D., Sundays, 9/8c, NBC