Salon‘s Mary Elizabeth Williams throws some cold water on Atheist TV:
… Atheist TV so far looks a little, well, dry. Writing in the Telegraph, Peter Foster calls the nearly three-minute trailer for the network “bombastic,” and I think he’s being far too kind. There is no mention of what the content itself will be, just clips of prominent atheists and quotes about secularism. And if you want to feature a woman saying, “A lot of people, when they talk about atheism, they see it as such a negative thing, but I view it as very positive,” it doesn’t really sell that idea when there’s super-scary music playing underneath. The melody swells as fireworks explode. Atheism! Now it’s going to be in your house! DUN DUN DUN!
The network is also clearly aiming to take a page from the LGBT community, liberally using the terminology of “coming out” being “fully who we are.” Yes, but LogoTV is fun. Even the Christian Broadcasting has cartoons, and Christian Television Network has a music show. Where’s the atheist game show, “Name That Free Thinker”? Where’s the buddy cop show about two secularists solving crimes using rigorously non-abstract concepts? Where’s the travel show, “America’s Best Godless Sodoms”? Atheist TV so far just promises a “righteous fight” and what I imagine will be every clip of Richard Dawkins in existence. That sounds ominous. Worse — it sounds boring. There’s a difference between ideology and entertainment, and you can’t build a brand only on what you stand in opposition to…
I don’t fault her for seeing it that way. A bunch of atheists talking about God? That’s gonna get old real fast…Except I’m sure people said that about atheism-themed books, too, and they’re *still* publishing those babies. It’s all about what angle you take and who the mouthpieces are.
Hell, if you told me Christian television was just a bunch of people talking about Jesus, that would sound pretty dull, too. But there are multiple religious channels that manage to find viewers by pitching Christianity in different ways. They all seem to be doing just fine.
Williams is right, though, that Atheist TV’s programming isn’t very original. That’s because it’s not. The content basically consists of American Atheists’ archives and donated YouTube videos (including my own). They’re not spending any money developing game shows, cartoons, or buddy cop comedies. (Though when they do, may I suggest Starsky and Hitch?) The only money spent is whatever Roku requires to manage the content.
Maybe original shows will come eventually. But the point of this channel is to use a different medium to share the same atheist perspective as always. That’s what I like about it. It’s not like our arguments have changed in a really long time. What’s changed are the people talking about it. It’s not just the grey-haired male academics anymore. And you can’t escape the new voices in a visual medium. I want people to see that — and if they’re not already using books, YouTube, or blogs, maybe there’s a chance they’ll hear something interesting via Roku.
The channel launches Tuesday night.