Church Ladies, Cops, And Doctors: Institutions On ‘GCB’

One of the more interesting lines of questioning about GCB (formerly Good Christian Bitches) at the Television Critics Association press tour has been whether “Christian” is a bigger hurdle for the show than “Bitch.” There’s one way in which that makes sense: this would hardly be the first time that practicing Christians felt like Hollywood hadn’t portrayed them accurately or fairly. (It would make less sense to suggest that Christians are not a market.) In response, series creator Robert Harling* suggested something that shows an appealing degree of structural awareness. Apparently, we should think of the church in GCB the same way we think of a precinct office in a cop show or an emergency room in a hospital, and expect that the show will be bounded by the internal rules and expectations of the church.

“There are rules. And you have to be respectful of those rules,” he said. “Even if it’s a temple or a mosque or whatever, you have to be aware and respectful of faith systems. And, you know, the joy of it is watching these people try to function within these rules. And the rules remain the same. The respect for the faith remains the same…the goal is to watch people try to be good.”

Long-time readers will know that I’m a freak for stories that are driven by bureaucracies, whether it’s a police department, a branch of the federal government, or a school. We have a lot of cop and hospital shows because we’re very familiar with the Hollywood version of how those bureaucracies work and what the dramatic beats exist in those spaces. But expanding the kinds of organizations we’re familiar with and that characters can work in is a worthy goal. Kristin Chenoweth joked of gay men, for example, that “There’s one in every church,” an idea I’m certainly familiar with but which I’m not sure is obvious to non-churchgoers. Establishing that kind of thing and getting folks familiar with it (though not to the point of boredom) and doing similar things for synagogues and mosques could make for some pretty fun storytelling in a new environment.

*Who wrote Soapdish, which I adore. If you have not watched it, you should check it out.