Scientology may be a mystery to a lot of us, but there’s one thing we’re pretty sure about: The controversial church seems to have a thing for show business. Whether it’s playing up its famous members like Tom Cruise or advertising its programs in a flashy Super Bowl spot, The Church of Scientology tends to do its thing with a dash of glitz. And now, the people behind the church are channeling that penchant for all things Hollywood through the small screen with their very own TV channel.
The Scientology Network officially launches on Monday, March 12th at 8 p.m. EST on DirectTV, Roku, Apple TV, Google Play, iTunes, Fire TV, and Chromecast.
The church announced the new platform on social media this Sunday, March 11th, with a countdown kick-off and a few promos. The clips, like the church’s Super Bowl ad, are vague and don’t give a lot of context about what viewers should expect, but they do promise at least *six* original series. They show scenes of people people, solar flares, swanky-looking celebrations, a few quick peeks at what appears to be the famous Scientology E-meters (those showed up in the Super Bowl commercial, too), the sprawling church headquarters, and the late church founder L. Ron Hubbard.
The explainer-style series advertised and the opening tagline in these teasers —”The only thing more interesting than what you’ve heard…is what you haven’t” — all seem to suggest that Scientology’s belief system is misunderstood. These new shows, the ads suggest, will clear things up for viewers. One series will give people an inside look at the church, one will profile Hubbard’s life and teachings, one will focus on the church’s humanitarian efforts, one will introduce viewers to real Scientologists.
Yes, churches are generally interested in attracting and educating potential new members.
But the fact that all this is coming to our TV screens in the wake of several high-profile movies and shows that have painted Scientology as extreme and abusive in recent years doesn’t seem like a coincidence. The A&E docuseries Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath, for example, won an Emmy in September. Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief won a Peabody Award, three Emmys, and nominations for several other awards. The church is known for aggressively fighting back against bad press, and the new network’s original series look like they could be aiming to do just that.
Entertainment has been part of Scientology’s DNA since its founder, Hubbard, started publishing sci-fi pulp fiction in the ’30s. (The church continues to promote his books via its publishing arm). With that kind of background and some famously deep pockets, the church seems to have big plans for its new platform. It’ll be interesting to see how it all goes over, starting in a matter of hours…