Mark Burnett and Roma Downey at the couple's meet-and-greet at the Crossroads Centre in Burlington. Their upcoming 5-part TV series, The Bible, debuts on the History Channel on March 3. (Metroland News Service)
Mark Burnett, who's known as a master showman, is now putting his energy into spreading the word about his 10-hour History miniseries "The Bible."
Burnett and his wife and co-producer Roma Downey have been making the rounds of faith communities and are working with a Christian marketing firm to promote their take on the greatest story ever told. "Bible" bows March 3 and will air in two-hour segs over five Sundays, culminating on Easter, March 31.
Given the pair's credentials as devout Christians, "Bible" has enormous potential to draw an impressive crowd and, in particular, reach viewers in the evangelical demo who might not otherwise watch History. And next month's TV premiere in the U.S. and Canada is just the first stop for "Bible," which Burnett and Downey, known for her role in CBS' spiritually themed drama "Touched by an Angel," financed independently and own outright. (The actress appears in the mini in the role of Jesus' mother Mary.)
Burnett is riding high at present in his traditional realm of unscripted TV, with "The Voice" reviving NBC's fortunes, "Survivor" still a pillar for CBS and "Shark Tank" performing well for ABC. But "Bible" has been a passion project like no other.
"I am certain," Burnett told Variety, "that if you took 'Survivor,' 'The Voice,' 'Shark Tank,' 'The Apprentice' and all the other shows I've done, over the next 25 years more people will see 'The Bible' miniseries than all those other projects combined. It is so important to tell these stories, and I believe we have done it well for a new generation."
History has also mounted a big national marketing push for "Bible," complete with a trailer running in theaters and on-air promotion across parent company A+E Networks outlets. History's campaign emphasizes the drama of the seminal Bible stories selected for the mini, which span the Old and New Testaments, starting with Genesis and ending with Revelations. Episodes will also rerun Mondays on Lifetime in an effort to expose it to a different aud.
But no marketing materials can top the emotional pull of Downey asking churchgoers to "keep this special project in your prayers" in a YouTube video released last week. She's expressed this sentiment repeatedly as she and Burnett conduct screenings and make appearances on Christian media outlets.
Reaction to the mini has been overwhelming, Burnett assured Variety.
"We've been getting massive standing ovations," he said of recent screenings in Nashville, Washington, D.C., Toronto and other cities. "There's nothing like being in a stadium with 15,000 people with teardrops falling down their faces."
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