"One Punk Under God: The Prodigal Son of Jim and Tammy Faye" is probably the first reality show to open with a quote from scripture. The Sundance Channel series takes the higher ground by offering something other than the usual reality TV freak-show parade and affirmation of Jean-Paul Sartre's pronouncement that "hell is other people."
The six-part series follows Jay Bakker, 30 -- son of Praise The Lord founders Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker -- as he engages in much spiritual contemplation (Episode 2: Should the gays be allowed into heaven?), and a fair amount of slacker angst about his life's path from druggie high school dropout to leader of the formerly Atlanta-based alterna-church Revolution, which initially holds its sermons in the dark, dank bowels of the Masquerade nightclub.
As with much reality TV, the stars of "One Punk Under God" prove that reality is indeed stranger than fiction, peopled with life forms such as Tammy Faye, shown weeping over her lunch at a Charlotte Chick-fil-A, and good ol' boy Stu Damron, director of Revolution Church and owner of the Spray Glo Auto Body Shop.
Despite the evangelical gothic family history and the inherently surreal life of a deposed and humiliated daddy and a Baby Jane mom, Jay's dilemmas undoubtedly will strike a chord with many slackers. Jay and wife Amanda, an aspiring doctor lady, are copiously tattooed, fond of Mexican food and politically progressive. And, despite the evangelical-ministry gig, Jay really is no different from any hipster kid recoiling from the idea of a 9-to-5 job and trying to reconcile his own alternative views with his conservative Southern parents.
Tammy Faye is especially engaging -- a real trooper who offers reassurance to needy Jay even as she wastes away of colon cancer and allows you to see the mother beneath the clown make-up.
The most fun for Atlanta audiences amid all the navel-gazing will be Jay's visits to ATL hot spots including Octane Coffee, Mary Mac's and Joe's Coffee, and even the appearance, among Jay Bakker's posse, of art collective Golden Blizzard member Lydia Walls.
"One Punk Under God" 3 stars. Sundance Channel. Premieres Wed., Dec. 13, 9 p.m. Through Jan. 17.
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