PBS premieres documentary Billy Graham, about the life of the influential religious leader, May 17. “From modest beginnings on a North Carolina farm, Graham rose to prominence with a fiery preaching style, movie-star good looks and effortless charm,” said PBS. “His early fundamentalist sermons harnessed the apocalyptic anxieties of a post-atomic world, exhorting audiences to adopt the only possible solution: devoting one’s life to Christ.”
Director Sarah Colt has previously tackled documentaries on Henry Ford and Walt Disney. A film about religion, she said, is a tricky proposition. “It was a combination of excitement and, ‘Oh God, how are we gonna do this?’ ” she said.
There is tons of publicly available resource material on Graham, according to Colt. The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in Charlotte, she added, is “a treasure trove.”
Some viewers of Billy Graham will be people of deep faith. Others will be atheists. The challenge for the project, Colt said, was finding the middle ground in the storytelling.
Billy Graham runs for a little less than two hours. Graham died in 2018, but evangelism continues to have substantial sway in American society. Said Colt, “It’s a great story for understanding the role of religion in 20th-century politics.”
The Chicken Squad has begun on Disney Junior, a show about a trio of chicken siblings, Coop, Sweetie and Boo, fixing problems and solving mysteries in their backyard. The Chicken Squad is inspired by Doreen Cronin’s children’s books.
Tom Rogers is executive producer and showrunner. He read the Cronin books and “fell in love with them instantly,” he said. “They took me back to stories I used to love when I was a kid.”
The voice cast includes Yvette Nicole Brown, Ramone Hamilton, Gabriella Graves, Maxwell Simkins, Tony Hale and Jane Lynch. The Chicken Squad targets kids 2-7 — and their parents as well. “We don’t write down to our audience,” Rogers said. “We try to write up to the parents.”
The show offers a funky soundtrack that touches on pop, R&B, country and electronica. Rogers mentioned a Devo-inspired song later in the season called “Practically Paleontologists.”
The Chicken Squad reminds kids, and their parents, for that matter, to be kind. “Maybe even more than ever, we need to remember to see beyond the things that separate us,” said Rogers, “and find the things that connect us.”
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Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.