BOUNCE TV a digital broadcast network recently debuted its original drama series “Saints & Sinners” shattering ratings records for the digi-net. The show centers on a Southern Baptist church and its relationship with its surrounding community. But, don’t let that description fool you, “Saints & Sinners” is not about bake sales and prayer circles. This show is filled with crime, lust, deceit, and passion. The beauty of the show is that each character is written as fully rounded human beings, with not a real saint among them.
When I first heard Bounce was developing this project I was fearful that because the action was set in the black church, the writers would feel obligated to give the show an overly earnest tone but fear not because “Saints & Sinners” is anything but earnest. Pastor Evan Johnson is quickly revealed to be stealing money not only from the church but from his wife Ella’s political campaign as well. The Johnson’s lost their son years earlier when he was the unintended target of a gang shooting. It’s quite evident in early moments of the first episode that the family hasn’t recovered from the loss. Their daughter Christine is a now a doctor running a neighborhood clinic named after her late brother. Christine has two male admirers that is being set up as a potentially explosive love triangle. The least interesting story revolves around Levi, played by Christian Keyes, who returns to town under a cloud of suspicion for insider trading at his firm in New York City. Levi is a solid character but hopefully his New York set story will wrap quickly and allow him to move into more interesting story with Christine and Ella.
The star of “Saints & Sinners” is Vanessa Bell Calloway as Ella Johnson. Aside from being the first lady of the church, she’s an aspiring politician who has a big secret of her own. I’ve been a fan of Calloway’s since she played bad girl Yvonne Caldwell on “All My Children” in the mid-80’s. Most recently in addition to stage work, she’s had a recurring role as Carol, Veronica’s mother on “Shameless.” I’ve been screaming for years that a show needs to cast Calloway as a series regular and Bounce was smart to sign her as the lead in “Saints & Sinners.” She expertly plays the heartbroken wife, mother and stately first lady of the church. But Lady Ella is so much more than that. She’s sultry, sexy and knows how to get what she wants. I’m excited to see how her story unfolds. She commands every scene she’s in and has no problem selling each story twist that comes her way. Another noteworthy cast member is Gloria Reuben who came to fame on in the 90’s on NBC’s “ER.” She and Ella share a complicated professional and personal relationship.
“Saints & Sinners” is the only original drama series on a broadcast digital network. Because BOUNCE is a small network, I expected to be underwhelmed by the writing and production values. But I was once again pleasantly surprised. The show’s writing is stronger than expected and the production is better than the Tyler Perry offerings on OWN. “Saints & Sinners” is more subdued than “Empire” on FOX, but that’s a plus for this show. The storytelling is “edge of your seat” without being over the top, a trait that serves “Empire” well but would be too much for the tone set by the writers of this show.
Season one kicks off with a murder mystery setting up all the players, including local loan sharks, drug dealers, church personnel and the Johnson family themselves for so much drama, there might be little time for prayer. This is a juicy show that’s brave enough to pull back the curtain of the politics and corruption that can occur in the church.
“Saints & Sinners” airs Sundays at 9pm ET. If you don’t have BOUNCE TV in your local market, the network has launched a free app that allows you to watch the episodes on your computer, tablet or phone.
Here’s a look at the show: