Pros: Unintentional comedy makes the comedic quality of the programming even funnier.
Cons: Paul and Jan Crouch. Tasteless. Constant pleas for $$$$!
Well... maybe that title is a little harsh, but goldarnit, I'm not usually inspired by the Holy Ghost when I watch TBN. Usually, I'm just inspired to laugh my hiney off for a good long while. Why do I watch it? Usually because there's nothing else on and I'm tired of watching Fox News or 7th Heaven on ABC Family Channel. I hate to admit it, but TBN is darn funny sometimes... although I do think that it does occasionally teeter on blasphemy. The network uses God and religion to squeeze people for money. Love gifts? Yeah right... do love gifts go to pay for those ugly monstrosities of furniture that sit on the stage? Tsk tsk tsk...
The first time I ever spent any time watching TBN was in a Microtel motel room (see my review) last Labor Day weekend. I was lying in the sweltering, stinky room, drinking a Red Stripe beer, and watching some Christian musical group sing some sappy song about Jesus called "That's Him". At the bottom of the screen was a telephone number. I noticed that the number was NOT toll-free. The camera was panning over the audience, which was staring at the singing group, dreamlike. I expected to see someone pull out a lighter and hold it up. It reminded me a little bit of the old Nashville Network back in the 1980s. I was fascinated by the spectacle, but had to turn the channel... only to flip it back later. Superbook was on! For those of you who don't know about Superbook or Flying House, these are cartoons about the Bible. They're both very similar-- Japanese anime, where two little kids, a boy and a girl, find a Bible up in the attic and take trips along with a robot. At least I think that's what happens... Anyway, I found myself watching the stories of Adam and Eve and Cain and Abel. The cartoons were entertaining, but still a little bit creepy! And what was it about them that made me want to watch?
When we got back from our trip to Tennessee last year, I'd find myself flipping to TBN occasionally. And one day, I caught Pastor Paula White on the tube. Pastor Paula has perfectly coiffed blonde hair and wears very expensive suits. Her audience is very multi-cultural and, I have to admit, the woman is quite a dynamic speaker. If I closed my eyes and listened to her, I'd think I were listening to a sister in the 'hood, but Paula looks very much like the classic Barbie doll (with short hair, of course). Her appeal is that she's easy on the eyes, but she relates to the people. She stands up at the pulpit and shouts, "Turn to the woman next to you and say, 'Girl, you been pregnant! You got a dream about to be born!'" And I have to admit, sometimes the woman makes sense. But the sermon lasts about twenty minutes-- albeit an energy packed, hyperactive twenty minutes in which Pastor Paula gets so excited that she sounds like she's about to hyperventilate and maybe pass out. To hear the rest of the sermon and see if she actually does, in fact, faint dead away, you have to order her tapes, which cost an ungodly amount of money. Or you have to send her a "love gift". Do the love gifts pay for those expensive suits or the fortune she must spend on her hair? If you ever catch Pastor Paula during a TBN fundraiser, you'll no doubt be treated to watching her speak in tongues while she lays hands on people! One time she did this and one of her goons (they typically stand behind people to catch them when they inevitably fall backwards from the sheer power of her touch), wasn't paying attention and dropped someone! I hate to admit it, but I had a good long laugh at that one (I'll bet that goon caught some serious hell afterwards)! Paula White mentions in every broadcast that she was molested when she was a little kid and her daddy committed suicide when she was seven. Well, not to belittle her experiences, but must she bring it up in every broadcast? And after she mentions all of these unfortunate events, must she then speak a few words in tongues? It seems a bit contrived to me.
I also enjoy watching when Paul Crouch, who, along with his wife, Jan, is one of the station's founders, comes on to beg for money. He wears these weird looking ties to go along with his funky combed over hair and the extremely tasteless gold furniture on the set. I watched last night while he begged for money to help set TBN up in China! The other night, Paul Crouch claimed that the government of Fiji demanded that TBN set up more stations there. But to do that, they needed more satellites and for that, they need more of your money, so call now, PLEASE! Apparently, TBN is all over the world now, spreading all over the place like a virulent disease! And are these folks in third world countries pledging money to support the TBN kingdom in Santa Ana, California? If they are, is this the best use of their hard earned money? Come to think of it, is pledging money to TBN the best use of anyone's hard earned money?
There were about eight middle-aged guys standing behind Crouch last night, and a couple of guys were in three-piece suits. One guy in a three-piece suit who regularly appears on TBN fundraisers looks just like a big ole Q tip. He has curly white hair that sits atop his head; when he sings, he looks like he's either going to take a big dump or have a heart attack. There's another guy with a goatee and bleached blond hair who always sings a song called "Come On In", which sounds like it was written for Branson, Missouri. The other guys look like they missed out on Nashville and became aluminum siding salesmen instead. They appear to have come fresh from a convention. As I watch them on stage, singing about Jesus, I get the feeling they're all heading for a bar for some bourbon (probably Jim Beam) and soda after they're finished with their musical numbers. The camerapeople never miss panning over the audience, though, to catch folks singing along, or closing their eyes in reverence or powerful swooning as these fools in their suits sing their pseudo country songs about Jesus. Of course, sometimes the songs are more R&B influenced. In my opinion, there's nothing wrong with programming religious music that's more mainstream, but if you're gonna do it, at least invite singers who look like they believe in the words they're singing. Some of these ding a lings look about as sincere as game show hosts.
I was spared the sight of Jan Crouch and her pink hair and flashy, sequined clothes last night, but I've often seen her on other nights. She reminds me a little bit of a warped game show model, sort of hovering by, looking on supportively as her husband wheels and deals for cash. Sometimes I wonder what kind of a life she leads. What was her wedding day like? Yes, I know... I have too much time on my hands. She wears so much makeup that under all those hot lights she looks like a plastic doll that was held too close to a flame. Half her face melts off in the heat. Any day now I expect her pink hair to melt down like a big wad of cotton candy after a summer storm.
The point of all of this ranting? I don't get the feeling that this network is about worshiping God or Jesus at all. I get the feeling that this network is about cheating people out of their money, occasional entertainment, sometimes good, but often pretty laughable and mediocre, and tasteless and tacky behavior. My husband and I were flipping channels one day and we actually caught an extremely garish wedding being broadcast. It must have cost well over $100,000, it was such a production. And despite all of the dancing in the aisles that went on, I didn't get the feeling that the ceremony had anything to do with two people joining together in the presence of God. What's more, it was on cable TV for all the world to see.
For all its money grubbing, though, TBN does have its sterling moments. Sometimes there's a good religious show on with a pastor who has a worthwhile message from the Bible that speaks of something besides tithing. Not only are the messages sometimes good, but the person delivering them is often a pretty good speaker. The Saturday morning lineup is okay sometimes, although I think if I were a kid, I'd probably rather watch another channel. If you're a Davey and Goliath fan though, TBN is the place to be on Saturdays.
Do I recommend TBN? Not if you're serious about wanting to praise or worship God. If you want a laugh, then yes, TBN is fine. Every once in awhile, you might even come upon an inspiring program where a pearl of wisdom will be imparted onto you. Sometimes you'll laugh. Sometimes you'll see some bizarre things that will make you wonder. But I do caution you to be careful. Some of this programming might be dangerous if you don't keep yourself grounded in reality. There are some people who can't seem to do that. Unfortunately, those poor souls are the ones that keep TBN in business.