New, From The Network That Brought You Manimal…

How desperate is NBC for a hit? Desperate enough to go for the Hollywood version of a Hail Mary.

BURBANK, Calif. (Reuters) – NBC, praying for new hits as it weathers a post-“Friends” ratings slump, may soon be bringing Jesus to prime time — not as a biblical miracle worker, but as a modern-day private savior for a pill-popping priest.

That’s the scenario for “The Book of Daniel,” one of several pilot dramas developed at NBC as possible additions to its 2005-2006 schedule and showcased on Thursday for a gathering for advertisers. “Daniel” is one project that NBC Entertainment President Kevin Reilly said he is particularly excited about, citing it as a prime example of his big new watch word in program development — “fresh.”

“I like that it’s slightly provocative,” he told Reuters. “We did realize that we’re in uncharted waters. … It certainly stirs people’s passions and stirs opinions, and if we do it right, with quality, I think there’s millions and millions of people who would say, ‘Hey, that’s what I’ve been looking for on television.”‘

According to NBC’s promotional materials, its pilot drama depicts Jesus as a “contemporary, cool” figure who appears as a personal confidant to an Episcopal minister named Daniel Webster (Aidan Quinn), who in turn is wrestling with family issues and a dependence on prescription pills. The cast co-stars Oscar-winner Ellen Burstyn as Daniel’s church superior and newcomer Garrett Dillahunt as Jesus.Jesus, that’s not exactly Must See TV now is it…

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