After airing only two episodes of its racy biblical saga “Of Kings and Prophets,” the ABC television network has decided to cancel the big-budget series because of low viewership and dwindling advertising dollars.
In what was conceived to be a sort of Game of Thrones meets David and Goliath, ABC executives thought they could mix titillation with religion, but found instead that people seem to prefer to keep their sex and devotion separate.
In their pre-series hype, ABC spokespersons gushed with enthusiasm over the project. “We’re going to go as far as we can,” said showrunner Chris Brancato, who said that the Old Testament is “violent” and “sex-drenched.”
“It’s one of the world’s first soap operas,” he said.
“From my experience, faith-based people like sex as much as anybody else,” Brancato said. “I don’t know that that will necessarily be an impediment.”
Despite the hype, “Of Kings and Prophets” premiered March 8 with only 3.3 million viewers and that number dropped to 2.4 million during the second episode, an outcome that Christian protesters took as a victory for decency.
The series had come under fire from various Christian groups, and the Parents Television Council (PTC) appealed to 200 top television advertisers to stay away from the show because of its graphic sex and violence.
PTC president Tim Winter was elated with the outcome and considers the cancellation a triumph, saying that people of faith “rejected” the attempt to wrap graphic sex “in the cloak of a Bible story.”
“We’re very delighted in that decision made by ABC,” Winter said. “We certainly question why they would ever put it on the air to begin with, but the good news is it has received a death sentence just two weeks in.”
Winter called the series an “epic failure” in terms of both production and marketing, and attributes the show’s demise in part to his council’s “direct private conversations” with some of the biggest backers.
“Some of them had actually sponsored the first show, and we showed them the clips and they backed away from the second episode,” Winter said. “So when those ad dollars leave, the TV network is faced with a very difficult choice. It was an embarrassing decision for them, I believe.”
Winter said he felt it was important to protest the show especially because of its presence on network television. “If you want to see something really explicit, you have all the premium pay channels you could possibly want,” he said.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter Follow @tdwilliamsrome