Roma Downey & 'Women of the Bible' to help set up 'The Red Tent'

by Karen L. Willoughby |

(LifeTime)Red Tent Trailer for Lifetime

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. (Christian Examiner) – The Red Tent, a "top ten" best-selling novel about biblical times, is coming to the small screen as a two-part mini-series Dec. 7-8 on Lifetime Television.

Apparently not quite sure the mini-series will draw the massive audience they wish for, Lifetime has ordered a two-hour special – The Women of the Bible – from the Christian media power team of Roma Downey and her husband Mark Burnett, to air in the time slot immediately before the Dec. 7 premiere of the first half of The Red Tent.

The Women of the Bible, narrated by Downey, "will retell stories from the Bible and feature interviews with 'high profile women in the faith community,' the network said," according to deadline.com, an industry online publication.

"The special will tell the stories of prominent women in the Bible, blended with interviews of contemporary femme faith leaders," according to Variety, an industry print publication. These include Eve, Sarah, Rahab, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Jesus, interspersed with comments from Priscilla Shirer, Victoria Osteen, Kay Warren, Eva Rodriguez, Joyce Meyer and Christine Caine.

"There's no one better than Mark Burnett and Roma Downey to create this special, which is the perfect complement to Lifetime's miniseries event, The Red Tent," Rob Sharenow, executive vice president and general manager of Lifetime, told Variety.

Television producer Mark Burnett and his wife Roma Downey arrive at the 2014 People's Choice Awards in Los Angeles, California January 8, 2014. REUTERS/Kevork Djansezian

The Red Tent follows Dinah, the daughter of Leah and Jacob, as she learns about the world of women during Old Testament times. Amazon.com provides several glowing reviews of the sweeping epic written by Anne Diamamt that was published in 1997 and went on to become a huge international best-seller translated into 28 languages.

Lifetime's Red Tent miniseries, produced by Sony TV and executive-produced by another female film powerhouse, Paula Weinstein, got a go-ahead signal about the same time Downey/Burnett's The Bible miniseries aired on the History Channel to blockbuster appeal. Its feature film offshoot, Son of God, also did well in theaters.

"The Red Tent brings premium and popular elements to a unique and timeless story," Sharenow said in another Variety article. "It perfectly articulates our vision for Lifetime as the destination for epic movie events."

As for Downey and Burnett, their list of partners and Christian projects just keeps growing.

Earlier this fall, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer paid $343 million for a 55 percent stake in a joint venture with Burnett/Downey and Hearst Entertainment, according to the company's quarterly earnings report. As part of its push into the "faith and family" genre, MGM revived the United Artists brand and installed Burnett at CEO of the newly-created United Artists Media Group.

In mid-October, Burnett shook hands with Canada's Bell Media to develop programs for worldwide audiences, according to several news reports.

The newly-formed United Artists Media Group will work with Highway Entertainment in developing a range of programs and formats for the Canadian market, with potential for global release.

Downey/Burnett's success with The Bible, a 10-hour series watched by more than 100 million people in the U.S. alone, led to more offers. The series was compressed into the 2.5-hour Son of God feature film released in February.

NBC announced in July 2013 a six-part series – A.D. – to be produced by Downey/Burnett. The series will follow the spread of Christianity after the death and resurrection of Jesus.

CBS announced that Downey/Burnett are to produce a miniseries called The Dovekeepers, about the siege of Masada in 73 A.D., which is to air in 2015.

TLC, The Learning Channel, announced a Downey/Burnett reality show on prayer is to air next year.

And a remake of the movie Ben-Hur is to air in Feburary 2016.

And among the highest priorities for Downey/Burnett is the launch of a "faith and family digital" channel. It's been in the works for more than a year. Now that MGM is involved, a "working group" of executives are focusing on getting it off the ground within months.

Not content to just produce film and television blockbusters that honor God, Roma Downey and her husband Mark Burnett recently plowed $1 million of their own money into their newest creation: the Cradle of Christianity Fund, in partnership with www.globalengage.org.

Their goal is to raise $25 million to help displaced Christians and others in war-torn Syria, Iraq and nearby nations.