Whether you consider it the ultimate rulebook or the greatest work of fiction ever published, there's no denying that the Holy Bible spins a good yarn. As TVB Pearl's epic miniseries The Bible (above), which began last week, demonstrates, the good book is a rich source of material for the small screen. Retelling these fantastical tales of wonderment must be almost impossible without drawing criticism from one faction of the God Squad or another, though. By attempting to cram every story from Genesis to the Book of Revelation into a 10-hour grand narrative, you're simply never going to please every disciple.
Produced by Mark Burnett (a Christian, and the creator of reality shows The Apprentice and Survivor) and continuing this week with Exodus (Wednesday at 10.35pm), the show's faithfulness to the holy tome is not something I am qualified to judge. My religious studies extend little further than watching Monty Python's Life of Brian two or three times a year, so I cannot be sure if sword-wielding angels are a TV addition or not. And didn't something dodgy go down in Sodom?
Even this humble layman can see that The Bible has been sanitised, perhaps to avoid controversy or undermining the faith. Everything has been dumbed down to represent either good or evil, and if something bad happens, it's generally explained away as being the will of The Almighty. Maybe the aim is to keep believers in the dark about the Bible's harsher realities, but preaching to the converted doesn't necessarily make for interesting television. As the cast is made up of predominantly white Westerners and the acting is as stiff as the lumber Jesus was nailed to, you'll probably see a more believable Bible adaptation at any school that stages a nativity play next month. And on the 12th day, God said, "Holy Mother of Mary, please change the channel."
World's Weirdest (TVB Pearl, Tuesday at 8.30pm), the second season of which begins with Strange Love, an episode devoted to the mating rituals of animals, would've been of little educational use to zookeeper extraordinaire and ark enthusiast Noah. The pre-broadcast warning sums up the show: "This programme deals with animal attraction, mating and reproduction. Parental discretion is advised."
Narrated in a way that is obviously meant to balance out the ardour on screen, the episode shows an endless series of animals awkwardly flirting and fornicating, one after another, after another, after another. Most of these bizarre courtship rituals involve a couple of males scrapping over a female and a blink-and-you'll-miss-it finale. The animal kingdom, it appears, isn't too dissimilar to a Lan Kwai Fong Ladies Night; males chase and females choose.
Stranger than a pair of mating millipedes, and far more entertaining, is the farcical black-comedy crime drama Bullet in the Face (FX, Thursday at 10pm). Penned by Alan Spencer, the man responsible for the mid-80s cop spoof Sledge Hammer!, Bullet stars Max Williams as trigger-happy hit man Gunter Vogler, who, during a botched robbery, kills a cop before failing to complete a hit on his double-crossing lover, femme fatale Martine (Canadian Kate Kelton - the face of Tic Tac mints for years in her homeland). The clue to Martine's response is in the name of the show.
Three months later, the master criminal wakes up to find the dead cop's face has been transplanted onto his own, giving him the perfect disguise to exact revenge on his former boss, Tannhäuser (comic Eddie Izzard in full, glorious ad-lib mode), and rival crime lord Racken (Eric Roberts; Heroes).
With its twisted humour, comic-book violence and ridiculously over-the-top acting, Bullet in the Face is a cartoon made real (think Sin City meets Airplane!) and is certainly one of the most original shows of the year. I can't yet decide if it's brilliantly terrible or terribly brilliant, but it should be applauded for its daring tongue-in-cheek approach. Any show that delivers the line, "I will not live my life with someone's face I do not recognise. I am not Mickey Rourke," deserves a fair crack in my book. Williams' manic posturing and crazy German accent will probably drive you mad, but the rapid-fire one-liners will make up for it. And the screen lights up whenever Roberts or Izzard appear.
As with the Lord's novel, approach Bullet in the Face with eyes wide open and a huge grain of salt, and you'll get what you want from it.