The Chosen: Season One (2019) 

Reviewer: Charity Bishop

Have you ever wished for a television series where Bible figures felt real? The Chosen is a crowd-funded, earthy show full of humor, touching moments, and likable characters from the past.

On a visit outside Jerusalem, Nicodemus (Erik Avari) visits the red quarter on the behest of the local Roman authorities to try and exorcise a demon-possessed woman, Lilith (Elizabeth Tabish). Her many demons deny his authority and he leaves the task unfinished. Meanwhile, in the same town, the scrappy fisherman Simon Peter (Shahar Isaac) is trying to come up with a few coins to avoid losing his boat in the Roman taxes to the collector, Matthew (Paras Patel). His brother Andrew (Noah James) does not approve of all his money-making schemes and fears one of them may backfire, when it involves the Romans.

Tormented and without hope, Lilith walks to a cliff to commit suicide, but follows a dove back into the city where she meets a man who calls her by her true Jewish name, Mary, and heals her. But he does not identify himself by name. Not yet. For “my mission has not yet begun.” His name is Jesus (Jonathan Roumie) and he weaves in and out of all their lives, always making an impact.

This is the first biblically based series I have seen funded by believers (your purchase of the first season contributes to crowd-funding the second) that is not afraid to flesh out these characters, take its time in establishing them, or make the setting of ancient Israel seem tangible and real. Some of their creative choices made me smile, such as Mary working in a hairdresser’s, or Simon, Andrew, John, and Thaddeus gathering together at the end of the night in a local tavern to cast lots and drink wine, but it makes these people seem not that much different from us, just in another time period. Another touching choice is the decision to make Matthew autistic.

The scripts are witty and have a sense of humor about them, as does Jesus, who winks at a man who makes a bad joke at the dinner table, but He also seems “true.” This Jesus takes the time to show up to Mary’s first Sabbath dinner in support of her new life. He tells Simon, “Get used to different,” when Simon objects to him calling Matthew (and adds “You didn’t understand it when I called you, either”). It’s a meaningful and enjoyable first season whose only misstep is episode three. It’s only half an hour long, called “Jesus and the Children,” and while touching, if you watch it between the other episodes, you may grow impatient to return to the main plot. (It’s mostly a sweet, and lovely interaction between Jesus and a local group of children, but you can just as easily use it as a supplemental episode, since it’s hard to sit through it when the previous cliffhanger left Simon in peril!) I appreciated them using ethnicities in the series -- for once, Jesus is not a blue-eyed blonde man!

I expected a far less enjoyable series when I watched the first episode, but that was enough to convince me to purchase the set. Try it out for Easter. You may find it an enjoyable diversion in troubled times.
 

Sexual Content
The first episode alludes to a woman having been raped by a Roman soldier (he shoves her into a dark room, we see him walk menacingly toward her, and then see her fear, before it fades). This episode never directly specifies that she is a prostitute, but a man does flirt with her in a tavern. Mentions of the "red district." The final episode has a woman arguing with her husband about living in sin with another man.
 
Language:
None.
 
Violence:
Mild. Simon Peter and his brother-in-law fight for money (he is knocked down and punched several times). A Roman knocks a man unconscious with a blow to the head. We see Matthew cleaning dog poop off his robes and nursing a cut on his cheek (presumably from having stones thrown at him in the street).

Other:
Various characters show typical but immoral attitudes; some gambling in taverns, a man thinks about turning in other Jews to the Romans to get out of his taxes.