I am one of those folks who enjoy television since the advent of the DVR and TIVO machines. I am always looking for new shows to check out. My first impression upon seeing advance trailers for ABC’s GCB was quite promising. I thought, “Wow a series with Kristin Chenoweth that deals with life in the church in the South!” Then I started hearing rumblings about the show from within Christian media sources. The GCB originally stood for “Good Christian Bitches,” but it was later changed to “Good Christian Belles” and eventually shortened to just GCB.
The Christian press tore the show apart; they seemed to make a lot of sense. I got sucked in and decided to boycott and not watch the show. I expressed gratitude when it was eventually cancelled, thinking, “Ha! Goes to show them they shouldn’t mock Christianity!” Then something strange happened. I got the chance to review the DVD prior to release of the first and only season of the show. I then realized how I had been duped and influenced; what I had read, heard, and observed was in fact, not true. It was instead, in many ways, another ‘Christian’ effort to manipulate and get involved in things with an apparent lack of understanding of the real world, and real world perceptions of Christianity in regards to what was actually going on.
GCB is the story of a young mother and wife from Dallas who lives in Los Angeles. Her husband is involved in a patsy scheme and is killed along with his mistress (his wife’s best friend) in a car wreck while running away from an apparent investigation involving his crimes. After his death and the eventual Federal Investigation and national news reports his wife, Amanda Vaughn, played beautifully by Leslie Bibb, moves to Dallas to live with her mother, ‘Gigi’ Stopper, played by well-respected Annie Potts. Across the street lives an active church and choir member, neighborhood gossip and antagonist, Carlene Cockburn, played to the tee by Kristin Chenoweth. Chenoweth and her husband Ripp, played by David James Elliott (JAG), are extremely wealthy and have their hands in all kinds of financial ventures. These two, along with friends and others, are actively involved in their church and in the process haven’t forgotten about the past sins of Amanda. They will stop at nothing to make life for her a living hell. It is here one could also come up with another reading of the GCB title, one which I think describes the show best: Gossiping Christian Bitches.
This midseason replacement series only aired ten episodes. It didn’t take long for the press to mount against this controversial show and prior to the conclusion of the series it was canceled by ABC. I couldn’t help but wonder, how many had cast their judgment on the show based only on the short clips they had seen and on what others had told them about the show, including many in the “Christian press?” What I found was quite different than what I had heard or seen.
GCB was actually a very well-acted and cast program with a funny, entertaining, yet thought-provoking story line. Th storyline does a good job, even in the short period of time, of developing character and also getting us thinking. While the church is the single most used set in the film, what happens there isn’t that much different from what I have personally seen and observed in many churches. We see a pastor who clearly loves God and wants to represent the things of God to his church. This is important, because it helps deflect much of the criticism of the show. This pastor has a hard time with some in his congregation, yet wants the best for them in his desire to see them actually become Christ like. The show does have Christians who are sincere in their life and example. What many don’t like though is that the show focuses on the hypocrisy of some in the church.
The viewer sees this through various choir performances, disingenuous prayers, church programs used for the wrong purposes, fund raisers, and to name the extreme example, a funeral. It was clear in the way the show is edited, narrated, and presented, that the show isn’t trying to mock Christianity but instead, those who are hypocritical about their beliefs and the way they practice their faith. At the risk of many devaluing me as a person, I found the show in regards to the actions of many to be quite accurate. I have seen these characters many times before but unfortunately, with real people, in real-life situations.
I am going to say something again that many will have a hard time with. I want to publicly apologize for forming an opinion of this program prior to seeing it. I have rallied in the past against that type of behavior and yet, I’m sad to say, I was drawn into it myself. If some are offended by that, they will really be offended by my next comment: I truly wish ABC would reconsider the cancellation of this program because this show, in its satirical, humorous, yet realistic way, had the potential to help change these attitudes within many churches.
Public awareness and public ridicule of these types of behaviors and hypocritical life styles would help bring awareness to the actions of some through embarrassment—more so than most any sermon a pastor could preach. I consider the episodes of this show to be mini-sermons, sometimes outlandishly done and containing some embellishment; the episodes, typically based on a Bible Verse, were in reality, modern day parables. In episodes like “Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing,” “Turn the Other Cheek,” “Love is Patient,” and “Pride Comes Before the Fall,” we have numerous sermon illustrations that help drive home the true meaning of those Biblical and Christian concepts.
I truly and honestly suspect that many non-Christians loved this show because of the humorous way it showed the hypocrisy of many within the church, not from a distasteful perspective of Christianity on the non-Christians’ part, but from an appreciation and understanding of the way many Christians say it is and the way they really act. I also suspect much of the uproar directed against the show came from those who accept the lifestyle and mannerisms presented. That isn’t to say that all of the criticism comes from these circles, but I can’t help but believe much of it does or did. I still wonder; how much of the criticism came from those who actually saw the show?
There are times GCB goes overboard. I am okay with that as it was still clear to me, the intent of the show was not to mock Christianity, it was to address the unfortunate actions of some of those who claim to be Christian and use the Bible and Church at times to promote their own agenda, in an inappropriate, selfish way as opposed to the way they were intended. The product I reviewed, while not a Blu-ray, had surprisingly good visual quality, excellent sound (which was nice for the nice soundtrack included), and a nice array of special features including program commentaries and deleted scenes.
There are also other nice features, including the making of, the appreciation of Gospel music by the directors and producers and much more. The only thing I didn’t like is that the series ended up being only one season, but I blame myself in part for passing judgment based on the gossip of certain groups prior to actually seeing the show. I am a follower of Jesus, a Christian if you will; I truly wish that many within my faith group could laugh at ourselves or those who represent us and see the potential for good, as opposed to the negative. I believe this program could have done good within the church by getting those in the church, including myself, to recognize our faults and moments of hypocrisy.
On the issue of hypocrisy, it wouldn’t just help those in the church; it could have been a seed to get all of us, despite our beliefs, to see the negative aspects of gossip and hypocrisy. At this point, we can hope that at least the lone season of the program is purchased, rented, downloaded, and viewed. Hopefully those who share my faith, who maybe cast judgment on the show unseen, will now through this review give it a chance. It will be interesting to hear what people have to say if they do. As for me, I highly recommend this one. I figure it is like this, it will likely either confirm what you already believe, or convict you to consider your own actions; either way, I see it as a good thing.
If you look at this from the perspective of the characters, their lives, and actions, and look at the underlying meaning of the storylines, I honestly believe you will see it much like I have, a program worth thinking about or if you will, a sermon to learn from and apply to our lives.