By Brett Younger
Remember how sad you felt when WJM-TV was sold and Mary Tyler Moore had to find a new job, Hawkeye came home from Korea or “The Sopranos” faded to black? Many are feeling the same kind of loss now that their favorite TV family is done.
The devastating news is that there are no plans to produce more episodes of “Sarah Palin’s Alaska,” despite Palin’s blockbuster ratings — an average of 3.2 million viewers.
No one is caught in the crosshairs. This is no blood-libel vendetta on anyone’s part. Entertainment Weekly — a primary source for in-depth analysis — reported that if Sarah appeared in more shows and then ran for office, The Learning Channel would have to provide other candidates equal time. Apparently TLC does not want to air “Mike Huckabee’s Arkansas,” “Mitt Romney’s Massachusetts,” or “Tim Pawlenty’s Minnesota.”
No matter how fine the other Republicans’ reality shows might have been — imagine the possibilities of “Haley Barbour’s Mississippi” — they would have a difficult time recreating the thrills of Sarah’s show.
The former governor and her family shared the wonders of the state they love. They fished for salmon, hiked glaciers, rafted white waters, panned for gold, climbed rocks, tracked caribou and cooked halibut. Along the way they encountered fascinating characters and lots of bears. For eight episodes, Sarah led viewers to glory in the splendors of the great Alaskan wilderness.
Nature abhors a vacuum and Sarah left an empty space as big as the country’s largest state. The Learning Channel has to be looking desperately, so here is a great idea for their next great reality show — “Brett Younger’s Church.”
Follow me as I lead viewers into the glorious wilderness of church ministry. The former pastor and his family (my children are every bit as photogenic as Bristol and Piper) will share the wonders of churches we love.
Brett will explore churches fishing for new members, hike the halls during Sunday school hunting for Krispy Kremes, raft the treacherous waters of a deacons’ meeting, pan for gold during a stewardship campaign, climb the rocks of church conflict, track wandering youth at a lock-in and cook fish for Wednesday night supper. Along the way viewers will encounter fascinating characters and a few bears.
Picture the first episode, “The Pastor’s Week.” The pastor counsels a couple who shouldn’t get married but has already bought the dress, explains to the finance committee that the preschool rooms can’t go another year without new Lincoln logs, enlightens the Lord’s Supper committee as to why they can go another year without gold-plated serving trays, writes an article about how the church is staying current that he will have to beg a 20-year-old to put on the website, negotiates with the administrator for medium quality beige copy paper for the order of worship, and tactfully suggests the youth minister limit the number of “likes” and “justs” in the prayer of confession.
The audience will follow the preacher into the study and thrill to exegeting the text, parsing the Greek, studying the historical setting, checking commentaries, outlining the sermon, struggling for the perfect key idea and resisting the temptation to click on desperatepreacher.com.
Viewers will delight to watch the minister debrief Sunday’s service with a self-appointed worship consultant, respond to a short e-mail from someone who thinks the pastor is “God’s gift to our church,” and reply to a long e-mail from someone who thinks the church is “going rogue.”
Eight episodes will not be nearly enough to explore the amazing characters who populate this final frontier: Annie Mae who has been teaching Bible verses to third graders for 30 years; Emily who comes every Sunday morning even though her mother is still sleeping off Saturday night; Jim who takes 30 minutes to maneuver his walker from his car to his pew. The audience will be enchanted by these real saints who keep coming to church to give themselves to God.
Since Sarah is not using it any more, her old show’s song, “Follow Me There,” will make a fine theme for “Brett Younger’s Church”:
You need a place to be your sanctuary,
come on, follow me there.
Where love like a river flows,
peace like you’ve never known,
joy never ending is.
A place where faith can find
hope that will never die.
Tell the truth. Doesn’t that sound more like the church than a bear-infested wilderness?