HBO (Sun., Feb. 19, 9 P.M. ET)
Glory! Glory! bravely goes where no show has gone before and for that I shout: Hallelujah! As this musical miniseries begins, a televangelist suffers a stroke on the air in the middle of performing a healing. His pathetically sincere and naive son-played by Richard Thomas, wonderfully cast—must take over the pulpit, the show and the business. But as a preacher, Thomas is a sleeping aid. Down under the temple, where the money changers work—where one lady can perform the miracle of counting stacks of bills while reciting the Lord’s Prayer—the bucks don’t pour in after his sermons. So to rescue his church, Thomas recruits Ellen (Talk Radio) Greene, a sexy, foul-mouthed, drugged-up singer. “I do rock and roll,” she protests, “not ‘Rock of Ages’…. I mean, God and me, we don’t hang out.” James Whitmore as the church’s old financial genius is equally dubious. “If rock and roll is the music of the devil,” he says, “then he ain’t just evil incarnate—he’s tone deaf.” Yet Greene trades her coke spoon for a cross and becomes an instant hit, putting out albums (one titled Satan Sucks) and starring on prime-time network TV. And along the way, she weathers some serious crises of faith. My only quibble with Glory! is that it’s sometimes hard to tell just how sincere or satirical the show wants to be. At those times, Glory! comes uncomfortably close to being sympathetic or at least ambivalent about religious hucksterism. But there’s wonderful imagination at work here. Greene gives the show so much energy she’s almost dangerous. Thomas, Whitmore and Winston Rekert as a TV reporter balance her power with nice restraint. And best of all: This is like nothing you’ve ever seen on TV. Praise be to cable.