Politics and religion tend to universally be the topics forbidden at the dinner table, and for good reason. There are many a family feud and fight begun at a Thanksgiving dinner as your militant liberal, douchebag cousin flings a helping of yams across to your staunch, Republican Uncle, who also happens to be an extreme racist. Meanwhile your younger sister has made her way up to her bedroom with her newfound Druid boyfriend, Malachi, as she goes to explore her sexuality. And all it is your independent thinking mother wanted was a quiet Thanksgiving. Thanks for bringing up the price of textbooks, asshole.
In any case, these topics just aren’t approached in polite contexts, no one wants to be stressed out and fighting after they get home from work- but television is in no way polite. Whether it is drawing a racist character based from militant Christians, or a militant liberal that happens to think that all men are scum, television will cover it. However, of all the rather controversial issues- religion, abortion, politics- in the realm of television there seems to be a pretty definitive lack in God. Surprisingly, in the science fiction and fantasy categories.
Now obviously, there tends to be religion and supernatural elements in fantasy television, and science fiction does dabble here and there. But even so, even in entire made up universes where writers can definitively say, there is a God here- they never really do.
Other than Joan of Arcadia, (which hardly counts in the same type of genre fiction of science fiction and fantasy), no series whether or not they deal with demons or laser beams asserts that a God, an all knowing creator, is part of their universe.
Most writers tend to circumvent this by introducing hierarchies- Charmed had The Elders, the Buffyverse had The Powers That Be, Dead Like Me had middle management- there is an ever increasing degree to which that writers go out of their way to make the subject of God as open ended as it is in life. As opposed to saying that there is this specific creator, this maker of all things- most television just inserts the intelligent design scenario. In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Buffy fought a hell-god, Cordelia received messages from Powers That Be, Buffy even believes that she had died and gone to heaven, but in the end the characters even admit to the jury still being out on “God”, a creator.
One of the only series that comes close to saying there is a grand creator with a plan would be the children’s, science fiction series Animorphs with the introduction of the Ellimist who flat out says at certain points that the entire universe is one big game that he is playing.
None of this is necessarily a bad thing- on the contrary it is probably within a show’s best interest to leave the Creator bit ambiguous for the sole fact it won’t polarize an audience as well to allow more creative freedom. After all, by confining your fictional world as something created with a creator who had something in mind could become taxing for the writer. After all, if there is a creator in their universe, it sort of creates limitations and a necessity to pay attention to at least some logic on their part. As well, it causes a dissociation with the characters and audience of the show- the audience would know, but most likely the characters would be in the dark. It would become uncomfortable, to say the least.
But, if done correctly, a television show where a God is prominent, where there is a creator, he or she or it is a main character of the series or in the plot, it could make for some good television. As well, if this God was not benevolent or kind or sympathetic, it could be the start of something new. Television that pushes borders tends to either be a great hit, or cancelled.
But who would cancel a series about god? Well…CBS would. But in these series there would be lasers or demons and little emotional cop drama.
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- TV PREP: The Leftovers – “B.J. and the A.C.”
- Under the Dome: Season Two, Episode Four – “Revelation”
- Extant: Season One, Episode Three – “Wish You Were Here”