Mark Burnett, the award-winning producer responsible for reality TV hits “Survivor,” “The Apprentice,” “The Voice” and “Shark Tank” as well as “The Bible” miniseries, has announced his new epic television venture.
In keeping with his newfound interest in religious programs following his surprising ratings smash “The Bible,” Burnett says his new show intends to find the next great teacher of Jesus Christ’s messages.
Titled “The Prophet,” the show will follow 24 contestants as they compete in a variety of challenges to see who is the best-ever disciple of Jesus Christ’s teachings. The winner will receive a multi-million dollar contract to “go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation,” according to a news release.
NBC has picked up the show for broadcast in 2014.
Burnett says the idea for the show came to him as he and his wife, actress Roma Downey, were working on “The Bible,” a 10-hour series that is airing on the History Channel.
“I was studying the stories about Jesus Christ and his 12 apostles, and about all the sacrifices they made and the emotions they had regarding Jesus Christ’s teachings,” Burnett says, “and I thought, ‘This would make a great competition show. Who will be the ultimate apostle who understands Christ’s teachings while outwitting and outlasting the others?’
“The great worry among Christians is that Christ’s teachings are being ignored by modern audiences, so what better way to spread his timeless teachings than to find a new modern apostle who can reach a major audience and carry out his messages?”
The show will be filmed on location in Israel in Bethlehem, Jerusalem and at other holy sites mentioned throughout the Bible.
Follow in His Steps
Burnett says the show combines the best elements of his past hits “Survivor” and “The Apprentice” in that the 24 contestants will have to compete in a variety of challenges while trying to live the way that Jesus Christ preached to the 12 apostles.
“We’ve doubled the number of Apostles who are competing just to make it interesting,” Burnett says.
The challenges will be put in context for modern viewers, Burnett says, so technology and social media may be allowed. Repentance for poor performances won’t help as losers will be “cast out” of the group by the host, much like contestants on “The Apprentice.”
Burnett hints one challenge will be comparable to the parting of the Red Sea but declines to provide further details.
Burnett adds that he believes a few betrayers will make it into the competition.
“I imagine a Judas Iscariot will rear his head, much like my other shows had Omarosa, Jonny Fairplay or Richard Hatch,” he says.
Burnett says he wants contestants to represent a wide swath of the world’s Christian population. For that reason, producers will accept video submissions from throughout the world.
“We almost had a black Pope, so the next religious leader could be anywhere in the world,” Burnett said. “Who knows? It could be an American, a Latino, an Asian or an African. Probably not an Arab or Jew for obvious reasons.”
A host for “The Prophet” has not been picked, and Burnett declines to say who he is considering.
However, a source close to the production says producers have been in contact with a number of well-known radio and TV hosts, including Ryan Seacrest, Julie Chen, Mark L. Walberg and Howard Stern.