Parents Television Council Blasts ABC's Biblical Drama 'Of Kings and Prophets'

Of Kings and Prophets Still - H 2015
Bob D'Amico/ABC

Of Kings and Prophets Still - H 2015

The Parents Television Council is not happy with ABC's interpretation of the Bible in drama Of Kings and Prophets.

The series, which bows Tuesday, is described as an epic biblical saga of faith, ambition and betrayal as told through the eyes of a battle-weary king (Ray Winstone), a powerful and resentful prophet and a resourceful young shepherd on a collision course with destiny.

PTC president Tim Winter, who noted that showrunner Chris Brancato personally invited the group to screen the pilot, ripped the series as not suitable for children.

"Despite the fact that the miniseries is based on a book that most families in America have at home — that book being the Bible — parents should be forewarned that Of Kings and Prophets will not be appropriate for family viewing," he said in a statement. "While we are grateful that the showrunner, Chris Brancato, personally invited us to preview the first episode, it remains difficult for us to recommend this show to families given the graphic content. And given Mr. Brancato said that he’ll be 'fighting with broadcast standards and practices' and that 'we’re going to go as far as we can' throughout the series, there’s likely to be even more explicit content in upcoming episodes."

He added: "The real question here is, why wouldn’t ABC and the show’s producers want to reach the largest audience possible by making a series based on the Bible able to be viewed by families? Instead it appears that their primary objective was to be edgy and explicit, rather than to entertain with a biblical story. And in so doing, they’re carving away a large percentage of their potential market. This further demonstrates a disconnect between what the entertainment industry wants to produce and what family audiences want to consume.”

Speaking to reporters at the Television Critics Association's winter press tour in January, Brancato said the series — produced by the team behind 2014 Ridley Scott feature Exodus: Gods and Kings — would be "tasteful" but would push the envelope with broadcast standards and practices.

"We’re going to go as far as we can.… This story is an Old Testament [one that’s] violent [and] sex-drenched. It’s one of the world’s first soap operas.… You will watch a show that is tasteful but that also tells the story you can read if you want to pick up the Bible.”

Brancato noted that some of the show's more adult material might not ever make it to broadcast but rather might be included in the online version of the episodes. That includes content in the trailer screened in January that included sexually explicit material. “We have the wonderful ability to put a show on broadcast and then also have an online streaming version, which has less restrictions…on it, so it may be that what you saw in this sexual clip in this trailer would probably be in the online version and not on broadcast,” he said.

Brancato (who exited Netflix's Narcos for the ABC series) stressed that none of the sex or violence displayed in the series is gratuitous. “The love story is essential to this pilot story. We were seeking in that scene to suggest the pent-up passion and sexuality between these two characters.… There is no discussion about trying to add more sex or violence for the simple sake of doing so. We’re trying to tell the story that is in 1 and 2 Samuel, which has plenty of sex and violence on its own.”

Meanwhile, executive producer Jason Reed admitted that the series had to scale back some of the violence as it was depicted in the biblical text in order to meet broadcast standards.

This is the second speed bump for Of Kings and Prophets, which insiders say was a favorite of former network president Paul Lee, who praised the series for "pushing the limits." Picked up straight to series with a 15-episode order, the drama was originally slated to premiere in the fall — in the prime Sunday 10 p.m. slot. The network opted to bump it to midseason after a series of recastings and reshoots on the series, which filmed in Cape Town, South Africa.

Last week, the PTC reached out to more than 200 of the nation's top TV advertisers to warn them about the graphic violence and sexuality included in the series.