'Killing Jesus' Nabs Nat Geo Ratings Record With 3.7 Million Viewers

Haaz Sleiman, Killing Jesus
Kent Eanes

Lebanese actor Haaz Sleiman has Jesus' Middle Eastern roots and James Dean's piercing eyes. He tackled the big role in Nat Geo's TV adaptation of Bill O'Reilly's best-selling book of the same name.

The third time was the charm for the National Geographic Channel. The cable network debuted its latest scripted effort on Sunday night, its third adaptation in Bill O'Reilly's Killing book series, and earned its most-watched telecast to date.

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The three-hour Killing Jesus averaged 3.7 million viewers — up 300,000 from the previous pics about Presidents Kennedy and Lincoln. Timing the launch to Easter week, and hoping to capitalize on the overall interest in religious fare, Killing Jesus also brought in a 1.0 rating among adults 25-54.

Killing Jesus will likely gross quite a few more viewers over the course of the week — on corporate sibling Fox News Channel. The home of O'Reilly, it will air the telepic on April 3 (Good Friday) and April 5 (Easter Sunday).

This collaboration was not without its share of controversy. The premiere and promotional ramp-up, coincided with recent shots at O'Reilly's credibility — including the questioning of facts in his 2012 tome Killing Kennedy. Apparently, this didn't put much of a damper on Jesus.