A few years ago, Deitrick Haddon — son of a preacher, a gospel music star and a preacher himself — fled his Detroit home and ministry for Los Angeles and a “war against God.”
“I was wilding out,” he recalled in a recent interview. “You name it, I did it. Strip clubs, drinking, things that was completely out of my character.”
He’d recently split from his wife and was beginning to feel the sting of backlash from his fellow Christians. His concerts were canceled. “You don’t expect that the same people that you helped and encouraged to treat you that way,” he said. Soon, he’d impregnated his new girlfriend. The wheels were coming off.
Out of the blue, he received a call from an old friend and fellow preacher, Zachery Tims, who had publicly discussed many of his own struggles. “I began to pour out my heart,” Mr. Haddon said.
“People need to know the truth about us men,” he told Mr. Tims. “We need to do a reality show about stuff like this.” Mr. Tims agreed. A few weeks later, Mr. Tims succumbed to a drug overdose in a New York hotel room.
“I was so consumed with my issue that I couldn’t hear him,” Mr. Haddon said regretfully.
The urge toward transparency stuck with him, though, and that conversation eventually gave birth to “Preachers of L.A.,” one of last year’s most invigorating and surprising reality television debuts now in its second season on Oxygen.
Structurally, “Preachers” works familiar territory: a cast of similar but not too similar individuals who experience friction but have little concern about expressing it in front of cameras. But the cast — all men of the cloth — is unique, and the squabbles are usually faith based. As with the most engrossing reality television, everyone believes strongly that his side of the argument is the right one.
Unlike other shows, though, all the stars here believe they come by that position divinely. This automatically raises the stakes of every confrontation. Often, participants on reality shows of this kind only have celebrity as an end goal, but here, the stars are putting their moral standing on the line. It’s riveting to watch, and fascinating to see how these men inhabit similar positions in such varying ways. Clarence McLendon is theatrically smooth and impervious to critique. Noel Jones has what appears to be a long-term girlfriend, but adamantly refuses to discuss their relationship, or to make it official.
Mr. Haddon is by far the least risk-averse of the cast members (and also the only one who is an executive producer). He is at the center of most of the flare-ups, plenty of times happily lighting the match. He is also the one undergoing the most life change, marrying his girlfriend last season and having a second baby this season.
“This is not the Word Network, this is not the Christian Broadcasting Network,” he said, talking about how he described the show to his cast mates. Those channels go out of their way to portray their subjects in a positive light. In most faith-based entertainment, there is little room for dissent, or internal struggle that isn’t neatly resolved by believing hard enough.
But “Preachers” advances the idea that everyone is flawed, even those who are relied on by thousands of followers for divine guidance. “That’s the power of the gospel,” Mr. Haddon said. “Sometimes, you have to bless others as you’re bleeding.”
“I knew that it was going to be a shift in the church culture,” Mr. Haddon said. “It would make people flow with us or buck up against us. Now, people are saying: ‘We can’t beat these guys, we might as well join them. It’s going to release me out of the prison of perfection that these people put me in.’ “
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SOURCE: The New York Times