I admit it -- I love Veggie Tales. When I first saw some of their videos for sale in a Christian book store about 10 years ago, I thought, "here's a loser idea." I mean, come on, who wants to watch a bunch of armless, legless vegatables preaching sermons at me? Well, it didn't take too much longer before I actually saw one, and I became hooked. While directed to kids, there's enough literary and movie references for adults that anyone can sit back and enjoy these animated works (unless, of course, they are television snobs). As a result, the Veggie Tales chain has been very successful (even if Big Idea apparently was unprepared to handle success and filed bankruptcy at one point) selling more than 50 million DVD and videotapes.
50 million DVDs and videotapes? Adding those numbers to the Veggie-related promotional products such as plush toys and books, and television naturally took notice. Thus, beginning this Fall there will be Veggie time on Saturday mornings on NBC during the children's cartoon time. Details can be found on the official Big Idea web site here. All's right with the world, right? Well . . . there seems to be this minor . . . uh, God problem.
According to "Sliced and diced 'Veggie Tales'" by L. Brent Bozell, III,
The early word from producers is that NBC has grown increasingly fierce about editing something out of "Veggie Tales" -- those apparently unacceptable, insensitive references to God and the Bible.
So NBC has taken the very essence of "Veggie Tales" -- and ripped it out. It's like "Gunsmoke" without the guns, or "Monday Night Football" without the football.
Think about this corporate mindset. NBC is the network that hired a squad of lawyers to argue that dropping the F-bomb on the Golden Globe Awards isn't indecent for children, but invoking God is wholly unacceptable. Or, as one e-mailing friend marveled: "So, saying [expletive] you' is protected First Amendment speech on NBC but not 'God bless you.'"
I suppose I should be surprised, but I'm not. After all, to think that it would be considered okay for our favorite vegetables to mention Jesus or the Bible on NBC is simply wishful thinking in today's society. Still, I have to agree with Mr. Bozell that Veggie Tales without its Biblical basis has been emasculated -- stripped of its very core. Big Idea is about bringing Sunday morning values to Saturday afternoon fun. NBC is, apparently, not interested in the values part.
Mr. Bozell continues:
This is one of those moments where you understand networks like NBC are only talking an empty talk and walking an empty walk when it comes to the First Amendment, and "creative integrity," and so on. They have told parents concerned about their smutty programs like "Will and Grace" that if they're offended, they have a remote control as an option. The networks have spent millions insisting we have a V-chip in our TV sets. Change the channel. Block it out.
But when it comes to religious programming -- that doesn't even mention Jesus Christ -- just watch the hypocrisy. Instead of telling viewers to just change the channel if they don't like it, or put in a V-chip for Bible verses, they demand to producers that all that outdated old-time religion be shredded before broadcast.
It's truly sad this anti-religious hypocrisy would emerge. Today, no one in network TV fears what the children are watching -- unless it makes them think about God.
Perhaps the most apt comment comes from Phil Vischer, the creator of Veggie Tales, in his blog entry entitled "It's Showtime for Veggie Tales" where he discusses the demand by NBC to strip Veggie Tales of its Christian content and his decision to proceed with airing the show anyway:
By the way, last week it was announced that NBC would allow Madonna to perform, on the air, the song in her current tour the she sings while suspended from a mirrored crucifix. I know the audience and time of day is completely different, but it is a bit ironic that telling kids God loves them is "not okay," but singing a song while mocking the crucifixion is fine and dandy. Let us Christians never forget that we are strangers here. We don't fit in.