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NBC closes The
Book of Daniel

NBC closes The
Book of Daniel

A new television show about a pill-popping priest who talks to Jesus has been pulled from the NBC schedule for igniting little faith from viewers after just three weeks on the air, network sources said on Tuesday. The Book of Daniel, starring Aidan Quinn as a conflicted Episcopal minister with a Vicodin habit, debuted to mediocre ratings January 6 and sank steadily in the Nielsens in its two subsequent broadcasts. NBC has scheduled no further episodes beyond last Friday's telecast, and the drama, originally slated as an eight-part limited series, is not expected to return to the airwaves, network insiders said.

Besides proving to be a ratings dud, the show spooked some advertisers and sparked objections from the conservative American Family Association and several of NBC's smaller affiliate stations over its portrayal of Christian themes. A total of nine affiliates, including stations in Nashville, Tenn., Little Rock, Ark., and Terre Haute, Ind., refused to air at least some episodes of the show.

NBC Entertainment president Kevin Reilly told a gathering of TV critics on Sunday he was disappointed with Daniel's ratings and that "it's been tough sledding on the advertising front." Controversy can cut both ways in the TV business, making some advertisers reluctant to sponsor a show while sometimes generating publicity that helps build an audience.

Last spring Reilly told Reuters that NBC's development of the show was inspired in part by the success of religion-themed novels like the Left Behind series and Mel Gibson's movie The Passion of the Christ. Daniel, however, was a far cry from Passion or the conventional Easter-season TV specials that portray Christ in a biblical context.

On the NBC show--from gay creator Jack Kenny (Titus, Wanda at Large)--Christ, played by newcomer Garret Dillahunt, appears as an imaginary confidant to the Reverend Daniel Webster, an Episcopal rector beset with a host of family intrigues and pressures. His daughter sells marijuana, his teenage son sleeps with the daughter of a church elder, his brother-in-law embezzles church funds, and his sister-in-law has a penchant for sexual threesomes. Perhaps the sanest member of the family is his older son, a gay Republican.

Airing in a Friday night time slot that has proven especially difficult for NBC, a unit of the General Electric Co., the show averaged just 7.6 million viewers overall in its first three weeks. By comparison, NBC's most watched show this season, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, draws about 14.6 million viewers. (Steve Gorman, Reuters)

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