According to Entertainment Weekly on March 20, “The Passion” hosted by Tyler Perry received mixed reviews after it aired on Fox on Sunday night. Entertainment Weekly stated, “The live musical could have been better, but it also could have been worse.” “The Passion” was a contemporary retelling of the story of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection, set on the streets of New Orleans. Many people prefer the biblical version more so than what Fox presented.
“The Passion” was appropriately timed on Palm Sunday which was the beginning of Passion Week. The two-hour live primetime special was a musical showing the final hours of Jesus’ life. “The Passion” was hosted by Tyler Perry, and it was staged in his hometown of New Orleans. Perry narrated the drama and shared his faith but not in a preachy way that could have turned people off. Using pop songs was a risky move because some Christians might have been offended by the secular music.
At its best, the show was an uplifting and memorable account of Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection. At its worst, it contained pop rock ballads about generic love and breakup that didn’t do justice to the story about Jesus’ death. Jesus died naked between two criminals. No bands were present, and the cross didn’t light up.
The New York Times didn’t give the “The Passion” a good review. It said the Fox network took the greatest story ever told and turned it into a halftime show. The newspaper compared “The Passion” to a Super Bowl halftime show, “American Idol,” and New Year’s Eve broadcasts. Besides, Trisha Yearwood stood up in the New Orleans twilight and sand a song she wasn’t really suited for. It was much like a shopping mall grand opening.
Time reported that “The Passion” was a pep rally version of Jesus’ death with pre-recorded scenes, using actors in modern dress and sets like coffee houses, city parks, abandoned warehouses, and a cemetery. There was some humor in “The Passion.” For example, Jesus was seen buying bread and fish for his last supper from a food truck owned by Carla Hall of “The Chew.”
Critics concluded that the production might have been quite appealing for the thousands of people in New Orleans gathered around the Woldenberg stage, but it made for bad television. Early ratings for “The Passion” were not as good as those of previous live musicals such as NBC’s “The Wiz” and “The Sound of Music” and Fox’s “Grease Live” last January. “The Passion” had only about 6.6 million viewers compared to about 12 million viewers for “Grease.” NBC’s “Little Big Shots” dominated the time period with 13.2 million viewers, more than doubled for “The Passion.”