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The Baxters (TV Review) 

About the Show 

Romance and drama are plentiful on streaming platforms, but watching a story unfold from a Christian perspective remains a novelty. Apart from The Chosen, the faith-based TV show landscape is largely uncharted territory. Producer Roma Downey (Touched by an Angel) is attempting to chart that terrain with The Baxters, an Amazon Prime series based on the bestselling books by Karen Kingsbury. The show follows Elizabeth (Roma Downey) and John (Ted McGinley) Baxter and their five adult children as they navigate various trials and relational challenges.    

I have only screened the first 8 episodes Amazon made available for critics, so I can’t speak to the season’s final two episodes. But it is clear from the beginning what audiences can expect—for better or worse. Let’s start with the positive. During a time when some faith-based entertainment seems to shy away from the faith elements to be “more accessible” to mainstream audiences, The Baxters takes an unapologetically Christian perspective.   

Each episode begins with a scripture passage, and scenes of prayer and church attendance are frequent. Audiences yearning to see an emphasis on traditional family values will find plenty here to appreciate. The show’s creators have their hearts in the right place (see my chat with Downey and Kingsbury here). Unfortunately, the show’s craftsmanship cannot keep pace with these good intentions.   

Setting aside the “faith-based” component and evaluating The Baxters on artistic merit leaves much to be desired. Saturated with tired cliches, hokey dialogue, stilted acting, and heavy-handed messaging, the show embodies many of the characteristics that have given faith-based entertainment a less-than-favorable reputation. The amateurish quality of the lighting, framing, and editing suggests that the creators focused more on the wholesome themes than on the fundamentals of filmmaking.   

The show’s tagline is “find your way home.” Audience enjoyment will likely hinge on how much (or little) audiences connect with the central family. Classic sitcoms like Full House depicted an imperfect but loveable family to which audiences wanted to belong. Unfortunately, the Baxter family is not much fun. They lack the quirks or humor necessary to endear themselves to viewers unfamiliar with the source material. They serve as cogs in the script, defined almost entirely by their narrow role in the plot.   

Speaking of the plot, despite being a soap opera jam-packed with drama, it’s seldom gripping or even compelling. There are extramarital affairs, creepy stalkers, car crashes, talk about abortions and miscarriages, alcoholism, predatory romances, and more. The show covers a lot of ground but is uninventive in how it manufactures these tensions. The showrunners mostly just put two characters in a room and have them talk. The plot unfolds almost entirely through dialogue rather than action. Characters rarely do anything beyond moving from one melodramatic conversation to the next. Is watching characters attend marriage counseling sessions or church services wholesome? Of course. But that doesn’t make it exciting.      

Admittedly, I fall outside the target audience for this show (my bookshelves are a little sparse on Christian romance novels). Even so, it’s hard to find much to commend here outside of its positive messaging. This is a show you watch not because it’s good but because it’s agreeable. If the Baxters were atheists, I’m not sure if many people would be compelled to tune in past the first few episodes—but, of course, they’re not atheists; and for many audiences, that makes all the difference.   

I suspect The Baxters will find an audience. I hope it does. I want faith-based stories to succeed. But faith-based entertainment shouldn’t get a free pass on quality simply because it aligns with our worldview. I believe stories of faith deserve better vehicles than what this show offers. Still, during a time when Hollywood is cranking out a lot of filth, there is something inspiring about watching an imperfect family of believers sit around a kitchen table and pray together. The Baxters may not be a well-made show, but it’s a comforting one. And for some viewers, that’s all it needs to be.    

On the Surface

For Consideration

Testing of Faith Produces Perseverance     

There is a sense in scripture that deep faith is forged in the fires of life.  Each episode of the show begins with a scripture passage that captures its main themes. For Episode 1, the verse is James 1:3, “Because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” That verse is a good encapsulation of The Baxters as a whole.      

The family is forced to weather a lot of storms. As the hits keep coming, the difference between the Baxter family and most other TV families is the way they navigate these challenges. Faith in God and love for each other is the anchor that binds them together. In recent years, it has become trendy for movies and shows to highlight the dangers and abuses of faith and religion. To see characters desperately clinging to faith as the solution rather than the cause of their afflictions is a welcome change of pace.   

Perhaps unsurprising for this genre, the relative ease with which characters overcome these problems requires some suspension of disbelief. For example, the central plotline of an unfaithful husband appears to resolve itself (barring any twists in the final episodes) in a simplified and expedited way. The show is more effective at painting inspirational messages of faith, forgiveness, and reconciliation with broad brush strokes rather than exploring the nuanced hurt and grief that color the trials characters experience. Nevertheless, the central message that strength comes from God and from family is one Christians can affirm.   

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1 Comment

  • by Jacqueline Finch
    Posted April 2, 2024 8:23 pm 0Likes

    I am a Christian who was completely connected to The Baxters! It was real life and not made by Hollywood standards. I watched the three seasons in 2 1/2 days. I want more! It has encouraged me and fulfilled me and blessed me beyond any conceivable expectations.

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