NBC's 'Book of Daniel' Sparks Fire-and-Brimstone Reaction

Conservative Christians are gearing up for a holy war of sorts over NBC's forthcoming show "The Book of Daniel," airing the first week of 2006.

The American Family Association (AFA), a leading group in the Christian right movement, has called for a boycott of the series about a self-medicating Episcopalian priest whose son is gay, whose daughter deals pot and whose wife is a midday martini-lover.

The program "is an example of that network's anti-Christian bigotry," said the AFA in a press release widely distributed on Wednesday. The group claims that the network has received more than 400,000 e-mails complaining about the show.

NBC executives could not immediately be reached to confirm that statistic or respond to the AFA's threat of a boycott and characterization of "The Book of Daniel."

A day earlier, "Book of Daniel" star Aidan Quinn — who plays the Rev. Daniel Webster — called the series "a pretty down-the-middle, wholesome show."

"I honestly don't think it's going to be nearly as controversial as some people may now be afraid of," Quinn told The Associated Press. "It just has the courage to deal with some of the real issues that go in on people's lives."

Webster is shown having visions of and conversations with Jesus Christ in the flesh and has such a bizarro extended family that his priesthood and parish are in jeopardy of forging a relationship with the mafia.

"I'm an Episcopalian priest who struggles with a little self-medication problem, and I have a 23-year-old son who's gay, and a 16-year-old daughter who's caught dealing pot, and another son who's jumping on every high school girl he sees, and a wife who's very loving but also likes her martinis," Quinn told the AP.

"I can't tell you how many people have said to me, 'Hey, that sounds like my family.'"

The AFA begs to differ, blasting NBC and the show.

"The decision by NBC to air the series reflects the anti-Christian bias which exists at the highest levels of the network," AFA chairman Donald Wildmon said in the press release. "Christian-bashing is in style at NBC."

"The Book of Daniel" premieres Jan. 6 at 9 p.m. EST with two back-to-back episodes, before moving to its regular 10 p.m. slot the following week.