An LA priest’s new book takes an in-depth look at the meaning and legacy of Father Bud Kieser’s syndicated anthology TV series “Insight.”
“Insight The Series: A Hollywood Priest’s Groundbreaking Contribution To Television” (BearManor Media, 234 pages, $25) by Father Mark Villano contains a synopsis of all 231 existent episodes acquired by The UCLA Film and Television Archives and made available on YouTube.com through Paulist Productions.
The book’s release earlier this summer came as the acclaimed documentary “Hollywood Priest: The Story of Fr. Bud Kieser” aired this month on Los Angeles’ PBS SoCal and KCET.
“Insight” ran from 1960 to 1983, created and driven by Father Kieser, a Paulist priest who also served at St. Paul the Apostle Church in Westwood. Some of Hollywood’s most-recognized actors, writers and producers worked and appeared on it. LA’s CBS radio affiliate, KNXT, aired the episodes on Sunday afternoons.
“When Paulist Productions started putting the shows online a couple years ago, I started watching and was amazed at what the series was trying to accomplish,” said Father Villano, who as a USC Film School student once worked as a development director with Father Kieser just prior to his passing in 2000.
For Father Villano, who currently works as a campus chaplain at UCLA, “Insight” represented a “well-written and well-acted series that dealt with personal, social and spiritual issues.”
“It’s so interesting to see how the show tried to address the issues and anxieties that people were dealing with during that long period in American history: from the Cold War to the Civil Rights movement, from addictions to personal growth, from spiritual crises to the meaning of love,” said Father Villano. “There’s really been nothing like it before or since.”
Father Villano said his “fan book” is intended to “compliment the documentary in many ways.”
God often showed up as a recurring character in “Insight,” played in the series at times by Ed Asner and Bob Newhart. Father Villano notes Kieser also wrote several episodes himself. One that stands out to him is called “God in the Dock,” starring Della Reese and Richard Beymer, where he imagines humanity putting God on trial.
Reviews at the time included the LA Times’ Charles Champlin, who called it “very funny and savagely pointed, imaginative, provocative, and entertaining.” The L.A. Herald Examiner’s James Bacon referred to it as “some of the best experimental drama on television.”
The final air date for “Hollywood Priest” on KCET is Tuesday, Aug. 30, at 2:00 PM PDT.