The two-hour live, musical event The Passion kicked off Sunday, one week before Easter, and it was unlike any you've likely seen on TV before.
This retelling of the Passion of Jesus Christ was set in the modern day, included renditions of modern pop songs, featured biblical dialog, was hosted by Tyler Perry in front of a huge audience and even included a procession of believers who carried aloft a giant illuminated cross through the streets of New Orleans, picking up followers as it moved along. ET's Nischelle Turner was live on the route, speaking with those who had joined in on the procession.
With a surprising cast of biblical characters -- including Jencarlos Canela as Jesus, country singer Trisha Yearwood as Saint Mary, rocker Chris Daughtry as Judas Iscariot and Seal as Pontius Pilate, just to name a few -- the music (both in the live and pre-recorded segments) was impressive, if not a bit unconventional. Needless to say, the TV event was full of wholly surprising moments.
Let's take a look at seven of the most unexpected moments from Fox's The Passion.
1. Not Everything Was Live
Unlike many of the large-scale network spectacle events in recent years, The Passion decided to prerecord many of the segments and then play those scenes on giant televisions for a massive live audience gathered in New Orleans, where Tyler Perry narrated.
It made the entire production all the more impressive when the pre-recorded segments caught up with the narration, and Jesus (Canela) appeared on stage -- with Perry and Seal -- as a prisoner, set to be crucified. The divergence from the all-live productions we've seen in past months could encourage other networks to try their hand at half-live/half-pretaped productions in the future.
2. Judas Sings Evanescence
After deciding to sell out Jesus to the Romans, Judas (Daughtry) contemplates his life. However, given the modern setting, he does so in an abandoned industrial warehouse while singing Evanescence's 2003 hit "Bring Me to Life." If you're wondering, the surrealism of bible characters living in modern day America singing emo pop would be a recurring motif.
3. Comparing the Police to Roman Soldiers
With the story set in modern day, the creators decided that the police would be the modern analog to Roman soldiers. Following the logic, does that imply that Pontius Pilate (Seal) would be working for the U.S. Government, and therefore America would be the be equivalent of the Roman Empire? Those feel like some strong (and yet accidental) insinuations.
That's a sentence most people probably thought they would never read. But yes, after Jesus is arrested by paramilitary police, Peter the apostle (Prince Royce) flees to avoid being caught. As he wanders the streets of some modern-day inner city, he sings Hoobastank's 2004 hit "The Reason." To be fair, it's a good choice in terms of the story's narrative.
5. Seal Sings "Mad World"
Much later in The Passion, Jesus has been judged by Pontius Pilate -- these scenes taking place in front of the huge assemblage in New Orleans -- and the Roman prefect sings the perfect song to exemplify his inner conflict: Gary Jules' deeply soulful version of "Mad World." Again, the song is great, the performance is spot-on, but who could have guessed they'd be watching Seal playing a Roman politician and singing a song from the Donnie Darko soundtrack?
The one thing missing from this re-telling is all the horrifying torture, violence and eventual execution. If you've ever seen Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, you know that the pain Jesus suffers is a big part of this story, and it was entirely glossed over, because of how graphic and unpleasant it is.
So, Perry did the next best thing: He gave a medically sound and disturbingly detailed account of what a crucifixion was, where the nails were hammered into Jesus' body, and how it lead to his eventual, horrifying death, during which time he was in constant agony. But at least we didn't have to watch Canela get crucified on stage.
7. Jesus Teleports and Sings Katy Perry
At the end of The Passion, after the resurrection, Perry directs the cameras to the top of a large building across the street where Jesus suddenly appears, like something out of a David Blaine magic show, singing Katy Perry's emotional hit "Unconditionally."That happened.