Saturday, December 31, 2005

A new (additional) direction at EWTN?

Over at (a site that truly aims to bring the full gospel message to its readers, not only in terms of liturgy and doctrine, but also in terms of Catholic social teaching) Stephen Hand was commenting on a conversation he and a friend were having about EWTN:

"...we both agreed EWTN is too lopsided toward the pedagogical at present and needs to seek the funds and ways to become a full Catholic based television network. A network in the sense of including, in addition to Mass and religious programming, a full schedule of wholesome shows, excellence in entertainment and movies (which need not be explicitly religious), music, comedy, documentaries, and news which represents the full spectrum of Catholic and ecumenical thought in an objective fashion as it surveys the great issues and events of our day."

At first, when I read this my reaction was a defensive one, knowing the incredibly good work that EWTN does. However, upon thinking about the basic premise, I realized that they are onto something here.

I'd like to contribute my own voice to the discussion.

I believe this is a good idea because Catholic families need viable alternatives to mainstream television programming which is, at best, a mixture of acceptable and morally offensive programming. That mixture is a problem.

I can envision a line-up which includes programs specifically created for a Catholic audience on the one hand; perhaps a comedy, for example, set in a parish setting, but unlike programs like "Father Ted" which make priests look like drunks, bumbling fools, etc. However, in addition to this kind of specialized programming, I can also see the inclusion of programs which aren't specifically Catholic, but which fall into the corpus of Western literary classics. For example, BBC produced dramas such as "Horatio Hornblower", or others which put classic novels to film would be a wonderful bit of programming on such a channel.

This also has a practical dimension to it as expecting one small network to come up with an entire slate of original shows is simply too much to ask. Eventually, if this ever really got going, wouldn't it be wonderful to see Catholic classics like Chesterton's "The Man who was Thursday" put to a BBC like production? Or a weekly mystery series which uses the Father Brown mysteries (or Dr. Ralph McInerny's spin on that as well) as its basis.

All this being said, EWTN presently provides a much needed service. For many Catholics, the catechetical and liturgical programming they currently receive there is their only contact with genuine Catholic liturgy and catechesis in the vacuum that is the present Latin rite parish. Because of that, I think it would not be a good idea to lessen this, at least not substantially. This is the centre from which all else flows.

To that end, I think the ideal would be the creation of "EWTN 1" and "EWTN 2" much like "BBC 1/2/3". EWTN 1 could thus be maintained as it is, and "EWTN 2" could orient itself more as a general programming alternative for comedies, dramas, mysteries, documentaries, kids programs in the vein of public television, but with a distinctively Catholic twist.

Now, this is all fine and good, but this is easy to say and not so easy to do, as it takes time, money and resources which may not at present exist. The idea is worth floating out there however.

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