‘Living Biblically’ Delivers a Few Laughs but Needs More Sin

Imagine truly attempting to walk the talk. That’s the premise of “Living Biblically,” a lighthearted sitcom adaptation of a nonfiction book in which a writer does actually try to test the idea of living one’s life strictly according to the Bible. It would be fascinating material for an actual documentary or even feature film, but as a sitcom it is diluted into a warmhearted comedy that plays it safe. There is sin in this show, but not in its bones. Some of the jokes are funny, but they would be funny in any other sitcom. It has simply taken the premise of the book and kept its basic outline for laughs. It’s not an awful time. Some of it is enjoyable as just pure sitcom, as the sort of thing you put on when you get home from work. It could have been much more, but it could also have been much worse.

Chip Curry (Jay R. Ferguson) is a film critic for a newspaper who feels his life is kind of empty. He’s got a good wife and gets along with his co-workers, but there’s something missing. Then his wife Leslie (Lindsey Kraft) announces she’s pregnant and Chip’s life takes on a whole new meaning. One day while strolling through a bookstore he accidentally grabs a Bible and takes it as a sign. He decides that he will try and live biblically, that is strictly by the laws of the good book. He stops wearing different threads, refuses to partake in gossip, stops himself from practicing gluttony and stones an adulterer. But the Bible is not a small book and soon he has to face the actual consequences of applying its every demand and rule on every aspect of his life.

“Living Biblically” sells itself entirely on a concept. The characters are depthless and standard sitcom types. What makes the show different is the way it decides to tackle a religious subject, especially in this supposedly unreligious period in the culture. When the show works is when it veers on satirical glee. The opening scene of the pilot is rowdy fun as Chip announces his intentions during confession to a priest, Father Gene (Ian Gomez). Gene can’t help but burst out laughing at Chip’s announcement. Chip, astounded, asks, “Isn’t this what you ask from your church?” Gene can only honestly reply, “Yeah, but not one hundred percent.” The show is also fun when it cheerfully brings up all of the small, regularly ignored laws in the Bible. Gene warns Chip that even his fashion sense has to change, as Leviticus instructs not to wear different threads together. Chip also warns Leslie he won’t be able to touch her while she’s on her period, yet another bit of Biblical code. One of the better gags in the pilot involves a married yet brazenly philandering co-worker. By Biblical law, Chip realizes he would need to stone the guy to death. It all culminates in a restaurant scene where the show hilariously explores the actual implications of its idea.

But the show never crosses from that line of mere sitcom. It is a lighthearted 30 minutes meant to just make us smile. There’s no actual, serious discussion of theology or attempts at a more in-depth exploration of this premise. Chip isn’t made to face actual moral dilemmas or temptation, because this is a very PG show meant for chuckles. You can imagine what HBO would have done with this material.

This is yet another example of a trend in many new TV shows where a studio will immediately grab on to an intriguing premise, but shape it into a format that will have a tough time lasting for multiple seasons. If “Living Biblically” keeps the tone of its pilot it will run out of gas very soon and seek divine intervention if it wants to keep audiences tuning in.

Living Biblically” Season 1 premieres Feb. 26 at 9:30 p.m. ET and airs Mondays on CBS.