Gag-merchants Matthew Mark and Luke N. John booked themselves a place in comedy heaven with Jesus and his 12 Apostles. This startlingly inventive story of a loony carpenter and his rag-tag bunch of followers was the Word in event television. By the end of the show's 34 year run, families up and down Christendom were tuning-in every Sunday to enjoy the antics of the 'Son of God' and his pals, as they attempted to preach the Gospel in the face of persecution and wide-spread scepticism.
Episodes such as 'Blessed are the Meek' and 'Ash Wednesday', together with catch-phrases such as Thomas' "I don't be-lieve it", had audiences in stitches. Say "verily, verily" to anyone of a certain age, and you can bet your thirty pieces of silver they'll shoot a prompt "I say unto thee" right back at you. Verily. Try it.
Who can forget Jesus' side-splitting rant against the money-lenders in the episode where he tries to take out a mortgage? Or watching Bartholomew son of Talemai try to wallpaper his front room?
Of course, like most successful sitcoms, it wasn't all laughs. The writers could pluck at your heart-strings as well as tickle your funny-bones. 'The One Where Jesus Is Crucified', left nary a dry-eye in many an house. Neither, for significantly less tragic reasons, did the episode where Jesus and Mary Magdalene finally get-together*.
We all know that Jesus finished the series ascending to heaven on God's right hand. But what became of some of his co-stars after the network pulled the plug, back in the first century AD? Ironically, just as what had begun as a word-of-mouth hit was beginning to enjoy steadily increasing ratings.
*Due to a contractual dispute, this episode was produced by an alternative writing team, leading some viewers to dismiss it as non-canonical.
Peter: Jesus' best friend, and depending on how serious a Trinitarian you are, right-hand guy. Simon Peter, better known by his nickname, 'Peter', is fondly remembered for the catch-phrase, 'No!', delivered in a thick Galilean accent, which as a matter of fact, only featured three times during the show's run. After appearances in popular franchises such as The Mummy and The Fast and The Furious, Peter found further success as Pope in long-running soap opera, The Catholic Church. A successful career came to something of a tragic end, when at an unknown date, he was crucified upside down.
Bartholomew: Very much the quiet one of the group. When asked whether Batholomew was the "best Apostle in the world?", Jesus replied that he wasn't even the "best Apostle in the Beatles". When then asked what he meant, Jesus said "what, don't you know?", and glided off over some water. In the years following the show's cancellation he indulged his interests in amateur archaeology and cheese-brewing, tragically dying as the result of a freak accident, in which he was skinned alive by heathens, and crucified upside down.
James, son of Zebedee (or James the Greater): Famous for his fiery temper, and substance abuse. His yo-yoing weight during the show's run was put-down to an addiction to prescription drugs. Cameo appearances on The Cosby Show and a relocation to Spain did little to break the cycle, and he was eventually beheaded in tragic circumstances.
Thomas: Your archetypal straight-man, always raising a tired eyebrow at some of his boss's wackier antics. He gave the impression of not taking the show's success too seriously. Thomas presented the biggest stumbling block in the way of plans to resurrect the show for one last Easter special, making no secret of his doubts regarding the idea's viability. He went on to find fame as bassist in supergroup Wings and the voice of Nala in Disney's The Lion King. He was tragically speared to death whilst on holiday in India.
Judas: The most controversial member of the group. Many fans and fellow Apostles consider him to have betrayed Jesus in an attempt to cash-in on his memory, although supporters argued that he was the most crucial figure in the show's success. His attempt at a spin-off series, The Gospel of Judas, achieved disappointing ratings at the time of its release, subsequently developing into a cult classic. Despite sitting on a considerable personal fortune, he became something of a reclusive Howard Hughes-type figure, struggling with mental-health problems, and in and out of rehab . Reports vary as to whether he died tragically by hanging himself, or by tragically exploding in a field.