NBC will air a drama allegedly centered around the religious doctrine of the “immaculate conception.” But the creative team behind the program may be a cause of concern for potential viewers.
According to the news website Deadline: Hollywood, NBC has made a commitment to show Conception, which it calls a “supernatural mystery drama.” The movie, which may spin off into a subsequent series, will “track a modern-day immaculate conception on a large scale,” then follow the experiences of the various children and “show how they’re destined to change the world.”
It is unclear whether producer David Janollari and his collaborators realize that the phrases “Immaculate Conception” and “virgin birth” are not synonymous. “Virgin birth” refers to the belief that Jesus was conceived by the Virgin Mary, a belief held by nearly all Christian denominations. By contrast, the “Immaculate Conception” is the belief that Mary was born without the stain of original sin, a doctrine held almost exclusively by the Roman Catholic church. Presumably, Conception will be about children born without human fathers, not about a group of sinless children. Regardless, both concepts are fraught with significance for Christian believers – a fact which Janollari seems fully prepared to exploit.
Prior to tackling the subject of “Immaculate Conception” (or “virgin birth”), Janollari was responsible for MTV’s abortive attempt at producing teen drama programming. Janollari’s MTV resume includes The Hard Times of RJ Berger, an entire series about the size of a teenage boy’s genitals (the show also featured scenes of a teenage girl’s menstrual blood splattering a boy’s face); I Just Want My Pants Back, about young twentysomethings having sex in refrigerators and attending partner-swapping sex parties; The Inbetweeners, a group of sex-crazed, foul-mouthed, incompetent teenage boys; and most notably, Skins, a grotesque program which portrayed teens as brainless, drug-addicted sex fiends, and which the Washington Post called “a repugnant, irredeemably nihilistic viewing experience [and] a new frontier in phoniness and filth.” So explicit was Skins that concerns were raised it might violate child pornography laws. Every series named above was cancelled, and the failure of Skins alone was said to have lost MTV $2 million per episode. Unsurprisingly, Janollari and the network parted company last year.
However, the fact that Janollari’s “immaculate conception” program has already received a commitment from NBC is also unsurprising, given his friendship with NBC Chairman Robert Greenblatt. Despite Janollari’s disastrous tenure at MTV, Greenblatt immediately gave his old crony a three-year “development” deal with NBC. Nor are Greenblatt’s own sensibilities likely to clash with those of his pal; in his own career, Greenblatt has helped bring to TV such fare as Weeds (about a housewife who grows and sells marijuana), Nurse Jackie (a tantrum-ridden, drug-addicted nurse), and Dexter (a “charming,” psychotic serial killer) for premium cable network Showtime. At NBC, Greenblatt’s first move was trying to foist The Playboy Club on America – a show which portrayed women being exploited by a pornography empire as somehow empowering. Greenblatt has gone on to push other extreme content into every living room, including a TV show about serial killer Hannibal Lecter.
While it is unknown how former teen sex impresario Janollari and serial killer-loving network boss Greenblatt will treat the concept of “immaculate conception”, given both their track records in entertainment and network TV’s sensitivity to people of faith, viewers may have reason to be wary.