In this month's round-up, CBS picks up a surprising pilot and reboots a beloved cult hit; Jonathan Roumie and Kelsey Grammer join the Jesus Revolution; and megachurch Hillsong gets the docuseries treatment.
Unplanned in Akron and Early Edition on CBS
CBS has ordered a pilot from actress Schuyler Helford (Call Me Kat), daughter of writer/producer Bruce Helford (The Drew Carey Show, Roseanne, Kevin Can Wait, The Connors).
Written by Helford with Emily Wilson (“The Conners”) supervising, the multi-cam project follows two teenagers navigating parenthood in the best way they know how. With a little help from their friends and parents, they’ll learn that mistakes in life don’t have to derail your life – that no matter what age you are, taking care of a child is no joke – but sometimes, you just gotta laugh (or cry) your way through it.
CBS Studios is producing Unplanned in Akron, one of four comedy-pilot orders during this series-development season. We'll have to wait to see if it makes it onto the CBS fall schedule.
The same is true for another CBS pilot order, this time for a reboot of the 1996-2000 fantasy series Early Edition.
It starred Kyle Chandler as a divorced stockbroker who starts getting an early copy of the Chicago Sun-Times (and a ginger tabby cat) from a mysterious entity, which expects him to prevent a future tragedy and change the headlines.
DeVon Franklin (The Star, Breakthrough) is one of the executive producers of the reboot, along with writer Melissa Glenn, and Bob Brush, who originally developed the series.
Franklin's company, Franklin Entertainment, joins CBS Studios, Sony Pictures Television, and AFFIRM Television, Sony's faith-based division.
The initial blurb doesn't give a lot of hints, other than, as is common these days, the male lead is now female.
In the rebooted version, an ambitious but uncompromising journalist starts receiving tomorrow’s newspaper today. She then finds herself in the complicated business of changing the news instead of reporting it.
If this sounds a bit like an analog version of CBS' 2018-'20 God Friended Me -- about an atheist solving problems based on prescient messages from an omniscient and possibly divine Facebook account -- you're not entirely wrong.
While it was heartwarming and family-friendly, Early Edition was not an overtly faith-based show (but the subject did come up in the first season). But with the current crop of producers, that may change.
But they're really going to have her receive a paper paper? We'll see.
Jesus Revolution Features Kelsey Grammer and The Chosen Star Jonathan Roumie
Kingdom Story Company (The Jesus Music, American Underdog), in partnership with Lionsgate, is producing Jesus Revolution, inspired by a 1970s Christian movement that began among hippies in Southern California.
In the 1970s, young Greg Laurie (Joel Courtney) sets out to redefine truth through all means of liberation, and instead, meets Lonnie Frisbee (Jonathan Roumie), a charismatic hippie street preacher.
Laurie and Frisbee, along with Pastor Chuck Smith (Kelsey Grammer), open the doors of Smith’s languishing church to an unexpected revival by way of rock and roll, newfound love, and a twist of faith leading to a Jesus Revolution that changed the world.
Laurie went on to start Harvest Christian Fellowship, one of the largest churches in America, and the Harvest Crusade events, which have been attended by over six million people.
Jon Erwin (I Can Only Imagine, American Underdog) and Brent McCorkle (Unconditional) direct from a screenplay by Erwin and Jon Gunn. Producers are Kevin Downes, Jon and Andrew Erwin, Josh Walsh and Daryl Lefever.
Veteran TV/stage actor Grammer is best known for playing Dr. Frasier Crane in the TV series Cheers and Frasier.
Said Grammer in Deadline:
“Jesus has been a profound influence in my life. I am proud to be a part of this film."
Discovery+ Takes on Hillsong
On March 24 -- part of showbiz's annual drop of religion-related content during Lent -- Discovery+ premieres Hillsong: A Megachurch Exposed.
The three-part documentary investigates the Australia-based megachurch, which is known for such celebrity adherents as Justin Bieber.
Pentecostal and Charismatic by nature, Hillsong employs contemporary music and staging in its worship services, often held in theaters and arenas.
Strangely, though, the trailer employs traditional Christian imagery and music, and some interviews are conducted in traditional church buildings -- all of which is not part of the Hillsong aesthetic.
Hillsong songs are part of the repertoire at some Catholic parishes.
But, as the trailer indicates, scandal has allegedly hit the worldwide Hillsong empire.
From Discovery+, as quoted in Variety:
“With more than 150,000 global members, Hillsong has recently been entangled in scandal. ‘Hillsong: A Megachurch Exposed’ will profile numerous ex-members of the church who have come forward to share harrowing allegations of the trauma, abuse, financial and labor exploitation that created a culture of chaos within the church. The series will also examine how Hillsong was able to grow into a global brand, while uncovering the truth behind the headlines of recent scandals and shining a light on the fine line between culture, corporation and cult.”
Image: Adobe Stock
Kate O’Hare, a longtime entertainment journalist, is Social Media Content Manager at Family Theater Productions.