After last week’s press conference at the New York Public Library, Multichannel News programming editor R. Thomas Umstead sat down with Discovery Channel general manager Jane Root to discuss the controversial documentary The Lost Tomb of Jesus.
MCN: Are you concerned about any backlash Discovery might receive, given the controversial nature of some of the show’s findings?
Jane Root: What we want is for people to debate it and we hope that there’ll be a serious, spirited debate about the findings.
MCN: Any expectations on how well the show will perform?
JR: I have a little private hope that it will do well, but how well is well? Who knows. It’s potentially the funeral box of Jesus, so it’s kind of a big thing.
MCN: Maybe the highest-rated show ever on the network?
JR: I wouldn’t want to get into that.
MCN: Will there be a follow-up show or a series of specials on the subject?
JR: We’re talking right now to [Lost Tomb of Jesus director Simcha Jacobovici] about a variety of different projects, and I think this shows that we intend to invest in archeology and science. We’ve got a whole series of other projects in the works — whether they will be as extraordinary as this, you never know.
MCN: How important was securing James Cameron as executive producer for the special?
JR: He’s a big collaborator. For someone who is so busy — he’s taking a day off from the filming of Avatar [the Last Airbender] to be [at last Monday’s press conference]— he’s a man who has an extraordinary ability to focus on many different things. We had lots of discussions about the details, and I think he was sometimes a skeptic and someone who was applying the brakes — if you’re going to have someone playing that role, who better than someone like that?
MCN: Why didn’t Discovery give more time to build the promotion and buzz for the show?
JR: We took extra time to check and recheck the findings with as many analysts and experts we possibly could, so the show was just recently completed.