(Photo: Hachette Book Group)
Joel Osteen, a bestselling author and pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston, is teaming up with the producer of shows like “Survivor,” “The Voice” and “The Apprentice” to develop a new reality series.
"It's not going to be cameras following Joel or Victoria around the house all day,” said Donald Iloff, a spokesperson for the Osteens, in an interview with The Christian Post on Wednesday. He says Osteen's show will be more like “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” than “Jersey Shore,” in that its focus will be on helping people.
TMZ broke the news about the reality TV venture on Tuesday, saying Osteen and television producer Mark Burnett had reached an agreement to work on a new show together.
Burnett told TMZ the concept of the series is to show regular people going on mission trips around the United States with Osteen in an attempt to “start fixing things.”
Iloff said the specifics of the show have not been confirmed, but says that viewers can expect to see “people being a blessing to other people.”
This isn't the first time Osteen has considered doing a television show, Iloff noted. He claimed that many different studios have tried to get the popular pastor to do a TV series over the last five or six years.
"We have been approached ... by just about every studio in Hollywood over the years to do something,” he said. “We just never felt it was right, the different ideas that came our way.”
In some cases “the ideas were good but the time constraints were wrong,” he added. 20th Century Fox, for example, contacted Osteen about doing a daily talk show, but the amount of time he would have to dedicate would have been too demanding.
Burnett's show is a much better fit, Iloff said, because he understands both the Osteens and their ministry well. Burnett and his wife, Roma Downey, were close friends with Joel and Victoria Osteen even prior to their work together on the reality show.
But why are Hollywood producers so interested in building a show around a pastor anyway?
"To a great degree it's mathematics,” Iloff said. "They look at the Nielsen numbers, and they see the kind of numbers ... that his weekly broadcast garners, and they're big numbers. I think that for many of them, they kind of put two and two together and they realize there's a tremendous audience out there for something that he would do."
It might not seem like Osteen needs any more media exposure, but Iloff said the increased influence from the reality show will help Osteen and Lakewood Church spread its message.
"My hope would be that they would truly see the heart of this ministry. It's not just Joel and Victoria and this church, it was Joel's father and mother before them. This is a legacy of really caring about people,” he explained.
According to the website for Lakewood Church, Osteen preaches to a crowd of 38,000 on a weekly basis and reaches seven million Americans through his television broadcast each week. His sermons are also broadcast to nearly 100 different countries worldwide.
Osteen's book, Your Best Life Now, has sold 4 million copies and stayed on The New York Times' bestseller list for over two years.
Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research, told CP via email that he doesn't see a problem with a pastor taking on a reality show, but says it should be done under certain conditions.
"I see no problem with a pastor in a reality show if it shows pastors as real people, the church on a real mission, and the pastor can point to the real Gospel,” he wrote.
Osteen signed the agreement with Burnett sometime before Thanksgiving Day, though the idea for the series has not yet been pitched to any networks.