At first glance “Plant” is an odd name for a series. Both a verb and a noun, it exists as a reference to the more docile life forms on the planet – not something that screams out “interesting” or “exciting.” But don’t let ‘Plant’ sleep on you, this is a show that has a lot going for it.
‘Plant’ is a reference to the idea that churches are not founded, they are planted with the hope that a congregation will grow. This is the story inside the formation of a Christian church by a very well meaning pastor and his wife.
As a mocumentary described by creator Andrew Nielson as “Parks And Recreation” meets “Desperate Housewives” one might expect the show to make fun of Christians or be overly critical. Instead, what “Plant’ finds is a middle ground that is a rather refreshing and honest take on the people who make up the Christian church.
Growing up the son of a pastor who ‘planted’ his church when Andrew was just ten years old, Nielson bases ‘Plant’ off his own experiences, but written in adulthood by a man who chose to become an actor rather than a pastor.
What makes the show work is the fact that these characters are all good, well meaning, genuine people. The stories are told from an honest perspective, warts and all. So often it seems like Christian are portrayed in either a highly negative or highly positive light. They are held to a higher standard for their beliefs, and the ones who fall the most short are the ones who get the most attention.
In ‘Plant’ we see real people. Their level of devotion varies, right along with their ability to make mistakes. We all have our own personal beliefs that grew out of our upbringing and here we see a community of people who likely followed similar paths to the church but who find themselves at different places with their faith.
Most importantly the show pokes fun at the most pious of characters when they show off their humanity. Some of the best moments of the show are when the pastor reminds his wife of their own sexuality. Her mad quest to keep “phallic symbols” like baguettes and missiles from “influencing” her teenage son is an opportunity to show the audience that her and her husband had their first time in the back seat of a car during high school. The moment is rather touching, a little romantic and most importantly it tries to paint a picture of human sexuality as something that is not sinful but rather something capable of being beautiful in the eyes of God.
As the show goes on it continues to become clear that this is not a series pitching itself to just a secular crowd or just a Christian one. ‘Plant’ is the type of show that can be enjoyed by both crowds and anyone in the middle. Still the series seems to have found it’s best audience in the form of Christians who can take a joke – those who are comfortable with someone lifting up a mirror at them, looking at themselves in it and saying ‘hey I’m not perfect, but I’m doing the best I can.’
One the production end, ‘Plant’ runs over an hour and was shot in just a handful of days. I continue to be amazed at how so many of you filmmakers out there are putting together so much content in so little time. ‘Plant’ like a lot of these series, is cutting a lot of corners with the lighting. I personally spent well over an hour rigging a lighting set up last night so I know how much lighting can sap your time budget, but it’s a tradeoff I feel is worthwhile.
On the writing end ‘Plant’ is not so much about the jokes, but more the personalities of the characters. Liz Days, who plays the pastor’s wife Tammy Lawn really steals the show in what is a great ensemble performance. I would like to see more jokes and one liners set up but even without that there is tons of great situational humor here. I’m sure being on set must’ve been a lot of fun.
All in all ‘Plant’ does a fine job of putting a face on life as a Christian in America. It’s a fine example of the web series movement delivering a slice of what life is like in America in 2014. It’s honest portrayal of the Christian lifestyle has an opportunity to appeal to a wide audience. We’ll see what happens.