The new CBS sitcom follows a middle-aged man who decides to live strictly by the Good Book--with some hilarious consequences.
- Posted on Feb 9, 2018
What if you committed a year of your life to living strictly by the Bible?
A new CBS comedy series, Living Biblically, sets out to answer that question, proving that there’s plenty of heart and humor to be mined from the Good Book. Premiering on Feb. 26th, the show, based off of the book by author A.J. Jacobs, follows a middle-aged man named Chip (Jay Fergson, The Real O’Neals) who promises to begin modeling his life off of Biblical principles, much to the shock of his wife, Leslie (Lindsey Kraft, Grace and Frankie), and his coworkers.
Chip is going through a mid-life crisis after losing his best friend and finding out he’s about to become a father. Leslie is a sharp physician’s assistant who believes in science more than she does Scripture, but who supports her husband’s new passion nevertheless. Chip builds himself a “God Squad” comprised of a witty priest named Father Gene (Ian Gomez) and an easy-going Rabbi Gil Ableman (David Krumholtz) to help him interpret the Word.
In 2001, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I wasn’t a good candidate for chemo. I took tamoxifen instead and gave my trouble to God—just as Dr. Peale suggested in his book, "Thought Conditioners". Since then I’ve remained cancer free. -Guideposts Magazine reader
What follows are hilarious, well-intentioned mishaps that end up teaching Chip more about life and faith than he could have ever imagined.
For Ferguson, who signed onto the show thanks to his friendship with producer and Big Bang Theory star Johnny Galecki, the idea that the sitcom might have something more to offer than just a few laughs was what convinced him to take the role.
“I'm a very big proponent of people in our business using their platform to not just entertain but also inspire, encourage, and lift up and I feel like there's not enough of that,” Ferguson tells Guideposts.org.
“Yes, it's a comedy show and our main objective is to make people laugh, but I really appreciate the core of the show, which I think is taking an opportunity to point out to people that we have a lot more in common than we [think]. I know this may be too deep for a little comedy show, but it's finding the things that bind us all together as human beings and no matter what you believe or don't believe when it comes to religion, things like not stealing, loving thy neighbor, better to give than to receive; these are all things that most of us can get behind.”
The premise of the show held different appeals for its main stars.
For Kraft, who specializes in comedy, starring in projects like 2 Broke Girls, Modern Family, and Veep, the idea that a husband and wife would actually like and support one another on a primetime sitcom seemed revolutionary.
“This is not your typical sitcom where the woman is annoyed at her husband and she's the nagging wife,” Kraft says. “It felt so modern and real. All the people that I know who are married seem to be best friends with their partners and I felt like that's what I saw in this relationship.”
Though Leslie is often confused by her husband’s desire to live by strict Biblical principles, she’s never critical or dismissive of his beliefs, even when they lead him to “stoning” an adulterous coworker in a crowded restaurant.
“She’s definitely learning things along the way,” Kraft says of her character’s journey on the show. “There are some things that she questions and some things that she's not okay with, some things she thought she wasn't okay with and is now okay with.”
Her character might be learning new things on the show but Kraft took those lessons to heart in her own life. The actress, who admits she’s not particularly religious, became fascinated by some of the subject matter on the show.
“It’s cheesy, but I feel like I became a better person by making this show,” Kraft says. “For me, every time we did any episode, whichever [lesson] Chip learned, I was thinking about that [lesson] all week long. During the week we did an episode on false idols, I left my phone in the dressing room. I felt like I was just talking to people more and I kind of loved that. When we did a ‘love thy neighbor’ episode, I would be thinking about it so hard. How great would that be if, as people start to watch the show, everyone were thinking and learning too?”
For Ferguson, the experience of filming the show felt less eye-opening, more reaffirming. The actor grew up in a strict Southern Baptist home where, as he says, he was “in the thick of it.” Vacation Bible School, church camps, faith-based elementary schools, he did it all, but playing Chip reminded him how religion and faith can unite people.
“I was already feeling this way but it just reinforced what I was already believing which was we're all in this together,” Ferguson explains. “To me, this whole show is about bringing people together.”
His upbringing is partly why he was so critical of the idea for the show when he was first approached for it.
“I, like most people, probably when they hear about a show like this, have a pre-determined opinion without reading it or watching it,” Ferguson says. “But, as I think people will find out when they see the show, as I did when I read the script the first time, it goes the other way and is able to pull off this really sweet story that's also really humorous.”
The show’s writing team has a priest and a rabbi consult on every script and, at least from the premiere screened for critics, the show has been able to find a happy balance between the serious and the light-hearted.
A scene in the pilot involving Chip confronting a co-worker who’s been cheating on his wife is a perfect example of how the writers fuse heavy themes with well-timed laughs.
“The last thing we're trying to do is offend people,” Ferguson says. “If anything, outside the conventional boundaries of a comedy show, we're trying to do the opposite.”
And because comedy can sometimes serve as the best vehicle for change, compassion, and understanding, Ferguson and Kraft both hope that viewers will give their show a chance. They might walk away with something more than they expected.
“We're trying to do a show that's funny, obviously, and entertains people but at its core, we're trying to do a show about people trying to be good people,” Ferguson says. “It's unfortunate that trying to be a good person is a source of comedy, but in this day and age it seems to be. So we'll take full advantage of that and hopefully not disappoint.”