In 2007, A.J. Jacobs charmed believers and doubters alike with The Year of Living Biblically — the Esquire editor’s hilarious, insightful attempt to follow the Good Book’s 700-plus edicts right down to the letter. And the single-fabric robes. And the sheep. And the impressive, if sort of yucky, beard. And the amused trepidation of a patient Mrs. Jacobs.
Ten years later, The Big Bang Theory’s Johnny Galecki and screenwriter Patrick Walsh (2 Broke Girls, Crashing) have mined Jacobs’ book to create the warm and genuinely funny sitcom Living Biblically. The series stars Galecki’s pal Jay R. Ferguson (Mad Men) as Chip Curry, a 40-ish newspaperman who is inspired to seek a more meaningful existence when, in mere days, his best friend dies and he learns his wife (Grace and Frankie’s delightful Lindsey Kraft) is expecting.
Then a Bible mysteriously lands in his shopping basket at the bookstore, and Chip decides it’s a celestial sign.
Enlisting guidance from his bemused “God Squad,” Father Gene (a scene-stealing Ian Gomez) and Rabbi Gil (David Krumholtz) — interfaith besties who discuss their flocks over cocktails at the neighborhood pub — Chip gets down to the business of being unerringly devout. Beginning with knocking off the gossip. And “stoning” his adulterous coworker with a decorative pebble.
“On a deeper level, what interested me about the show is the opportunity to do something like it at a time where I think people want to watch characters that are just trying to be good people and find a way to be kinder,” the merry-faced Ferguson explains of stepping into Chip’s seeker skin. “People are thirsty for that right now, and that’s what we try to accomplish.”
Still, the actor admits, the Biblically gang — which includes Camryn Manheim as Chip’s no-nonsense, gay boss and Tony Rock (yes, Chris’ brother) as his workplace pal — fully accepts that some folks might roll their eyes when Chip immediately reaps the benefits of his newly divine life.
“[Faith] is a very delicate topic,” Ferguson offers. “Certainly, we’re not out to offend anybody. We’re getting stuff from the Bible, yes, but it’s also very fundamental rules and values that all people — regardless of whether they are Christians or subscribe to a different religion or to no religion at all — can get behind. The notion of loving thy neighbor and not coveting and ‘it’s better to give than to receive’ are basic, human, life principles that everybody, I believe in their hearts, wants to be practicing.”
And while you won’t catch Ferguson shepherding in his own backyard, he says that the show’s “do good, feel good” message has afforded the cast an appealing self-awareness.
“Lindsey has told me that, since we’ve been doing the show, it’s actually had that effect on her in her real life — and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t have an effect on me, as well,” Ferguson says. “It’s good to be reminded of these things that are so easy and simple to do and could have such a huge impact on everybody. The feeling that it gives you, it’s nice. To simplify it and wrap it up in a nutshell, start just by simply being kind. If you whack away at it and whittle it down to one word, that would be it for me.”
Living Biblically > CBS > Mondays beginning Feb. 26