A new show set to grace Turkish television screens will see a Muslim imam, a Christian priest, a Jewish rabbi and a Buddhist monk competing to turn 10 unbelievers into devotees of their own faith each week.My first question, of course, is this: what's the over/under on how long it takes American TV execs to steal this idea, add washed-up celebrities to the mix, and throw it out there? A year? I'm expecting this on my TV by 2011, assuming I break down and get cable by then. Would there be anyone who works for Fox not salivating over the prospect of having a rabbi, a priest, an imam, and a monk try to convert Marilyn Manson and Paris Hilton? With Morgan Freeman as the host? I can hear them drawing up the ads now.
The show, "Tövbekarlar Yarışıyor," which can be roughly translated as "Penitents Compete," will appear on Kanal T starting in early September. The imam, priest, rabbi and monk will try to convert at least one person in every show.
Second, I'm still trying to figure out whether religious people should be up in arms or embracing the idea. And secular people, for that matter. It's kind of a Rohrshach for your ideas on religion, actually. I can picture secularists enjoying the show because they think it turns religion into meaningless competition, and I can see religious people enjoying it because it's a way for secular people to learn more about their religion. And secularists could hate it because it's flogging religion as better than atheism/agnosticism, and religious people could hate it because it makes a mockery of the idea of religion as a personal, spiritual experience. So there's all kinds of reactions to be had here. I'm more of the opinion that such a show is a great way to introduce people to the complexities of religious belief, and would help spark theological discussions (and I'm a sucker for a good theological discussion). There's the added bonus that a real, honest-to-God rabbi will be broadcast to the people of a majority-Muslim (at least culturally) nation that probably holds some bizarre stereotypes about Jews, so there'll be a little bit of mythbusting there, which is good.
Heaven only knows if this will last. I hope it does, and I hope it can be pulled off in a respectful, intellectually interesting manner... or failing that, I hope it's at least funny as shit.