I’d been praying for some good new reality TV to cover*, when the screener for Lifetime’s all-new docuseries Preach dropped down from heaven (or, more accurately, arrived in my email). It wasn’t quite what I was hoping for, but then again, how often are our prayers answered in a way we’re expecting?
*I didn’t really pray for good reality TV. I’m not that shallow. I’d argue that one or two of the women on this show might be that shallow, though. More on that later.
Preach, premiering tonight (Fri. June 6) at 10pm ET/PT (9pm CT), follows four prophetesses: powerful women who believe that God has given them special abilities. These women claim to have the gifts of prophecy and healing. They work with protégés, younger women who supposedly also have the gift of prophecy, but need special training from the prophetesses to unleash the power of God.
Dr. Belinda Scott, the only major prophetess in her region, claims to speak directly to God. She says she was bestowed with her gift at age 11, and says she’s charged with the mandate to speak directly to God. She seems to be the main focus of the program, and does seem like she’s perhaps the smartest, or most developed in her gift. She’s married to Dr. Darrell Scott, the senior pastor of their church, who makes occasional appearances on the premiere episode (and, I imagine, throughout the season). Dr. Belinda’s protégé, Hadassah, grew up Muslim and is struggling with her relationship with her mother, now that she’s a Christian.
Taketa Williams is somehow both my favorite and least favorite person on the show (I can’t explain it, that’s just how it is). At one point, there’s a mention on the episode of all of the prophetesses being divas, but if that’s the case, she’s definitely the diva-iest. She’s been a prophetess for 17 years and says that many people call her the “Beyoncé of the preaching world.” Um. I’m not sure about that. One does not just compare oneself to Queen Bey. At any rate, Taketa is strict with her protégé, Rebecca, a single mother of three, and, though she sometimes seems a bit crazy, she does seem to put the hammer down when Rebecca goes off the rails at the end of the episode.
Linda Roarck is the “Blue-eyed Soul Sister.” She remarks often that she’s white, but preaches black. She is a commanding presence, and is admired in African-American churches for her ability to get the congregation fired-up and on their feet. Her protégé, Angel, is a former drug addict who has turned her life around.
Kelly Crews, who we meet but don’t focus much on in the premiere episode, is Dr. Belinda Scott’s former protégé, and is building her own ministry. She has a protégé, Stacy (who I don’t recall seeing in the screener), a newly married pregnant woman.
In the first episode, aside from meeting the women, much of the focus is on the deliverance service that the women are putting together. Deliverance services are the best times to test protégés, as these are hotbeds of excitement and activity. (At a deliverance service, people are delivered from things that bind them, such as demon spirits.) Much of the episode focuses on putting the service together (getting the prophetesses together, deciding which protégé will do what – such as being the “armor bearer” or laying hands on congregants, rehearsing, etc.). The service itself isn’t heavily covered, though we do see part of it: lots of loud music, dancing, screaming, shouting, and some falling over. (Taketa does some wizardy arm lightning-throwing thing and bam—man down! She also bestows some power to her protégé through her sweat – but I won’t spoil that). But overall, less of the service is covered than I’d hoped for.
The show is a docuseries, which is really just another way to say “reality show,” and it has a very definite reality show feel. (There’s a pun about these women breaking the stained glass ceiling; that in an of itself was a joke that I could see myself wanting to build an entire TV series around.) I wasn’t expecting a deeply spiritual show, for certain, and while I don’t think this show makes a total mockery out of what’s behind prophesy, I don’t think it casts it in a very glorious light, either. At one point, when Hadassah (Dr. Scott’s protégé) is remarking on her excitement over the fact that Dr. Scott is anointing her with a particularly precious ability, she compares the experience to getting her first pair of red-bottoms (by which she means Christian Louboutin shoes – and that’s where my “shallow” reference from earlier comes in). Doctors Belinda and Darrell Scott have a gigantic home, and while I don’t begrudge them their monetary success, I did find it a bit off-putting to see her training Hadassah in the bedroom of her very large house, amongst what seems like many thousands of dollars worth of clothes and shoes.
It seems like there’s a little more focus on the bling, and a little less focus on the soul, in this show. My heart has warmed a tiny bit to Taketa: toward the end of the show, Rebecca (Taketa’s protégé) starts trying to use her newfound powers to gain material possessions, and Taketa does an ego check.
So, is Preach manna from heaven? Not quite. I’m still waiting for the miracle that’ll make me start loving reality TV, and I don’t think this show portrays women of faith in the light in which they should be cast. Is it lighthearted entertainment, on the other hand? Sure. I don’t take TV too seriously, so I’m nonplussed by this show; however, it looks like it’s already stirring up a bit of controversy. (Will it be canceled as quickly as Neighbors With Benefits was? We’ll see after 2 airings.)
Here’s a sneak peek of the show: