Can a rabbi, a priest, and a TV writer known for edgy comedies like It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia make a network sitcom about the Bible that everyone will want to watch?

That’s what CBS is betting with the new half-hour sitcom Living Biblically, which premieres tonight.

The show is based on A. J. Jacobs’s The Year of Living Biblically, the 2007 bestseller that journaled the author’s experiences interacting with religious communities and attempting to follow scriptural prescriptions in a modern-day context.

The book was a hit with Christians when it debuted more than a decade ago. Books & Culture reviewed the release, and Jacobs was interviewed multiple times in Christianity Today about how the experiment—which he called “an ethical makeover”—taught him about faith and showed him more of the evangelical world.

There was a little something for everyone in Jacobs’s endeavor: some Christians appreciated his interest in understanding and obeying the Bible, others applauded him for recognizing where legalism can fall flat, and nonbelievers saw him as calling out the seemingly ridiculous aspects of some Old Testament rules.

The creators of the Living Biblically TV adaptation wanted to keep religious viewers interested in their project too. Clearly Christians will go for shows like The Bible miniseries and movies like War Room, but will the “faith audience” get behind a program with a looser approach to Christian themes?

“If you’re not religious, [the fear is], ‘I’m going to be preached at. What is this doing on my TV?’ and if you are religious, it’s, ‘Oh, you’re going to make fun of me and my beliefs,’” Living ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.