Jesus coming to CNN (plus Mike Rowe, Lisa Ling)

CNN announced a new prime-time lineup Thursday that includes Jesus, reality stars, and maybe even a little news.

Most provocatively, the network announced at its upfront presentation to advertisers in New York City, The Jesus Code, a series which promises to take viewers on a “forensic and archaeological journey through the Bible” (cue jokes about CNN looking for a ratings miracle). Religious-themed programming has been considered hot since History stunned the industry with its ratings-shattering The Bible miniseries last year. The Jesus Code “will take viewers on a thrilling high-stakes journey through forensics, biblical archeology and forgery in history, exploring the evidence of Jesus’ existence by questioning the authenticity of sacred relics.”

CNN is also bringing Dirty Jobs host Mike Rowe back to cable TV with Somebody’s Gotta Do It, profiling “innovators, do-gooders, entrepreneurs, collectors and fanatics.” Another cross-country docu-series, not yet named, has Lisa Ling “immersing herself in sub-cultures that are unusual, bizarre and sometimes dangerous.” The network has also ordered The Hunt with John Walsh, which promises to “tell stories of ongoing international criminal investigations in which the suspect is a fugitive at large.”

In addition, the network announced Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown has been picked up for an additional four cycles to air in 2015 and 2016, and its Morgan Spurlock Inside Man has been renewed for another cycle in 2015.

All the original series will take turns cycling through the 9 p.m. hour starting this summer. Erin Burnett Outfront will air at 7 p.m. and Anderson Cooper 360 will air at 8 p.m. Live CNN Tonight is at 10 p.m.

What’s interesting about CNN’s originals slate is how many of these shows are new versions of previous hits canceled by other networks starring the same people. The Mike Rowe show is a cleaned-up version of his Discovery dirty Dirty Jobs, Bourdain’s Parts Unknown is essentially a continuation of his Travel Channel hit No Reservations, and John Walsh’s The Hunt sounds very similar to his former Fox show America’s Most Wanted. Presumably, the ratings for what each show was doing when it was canceled on other networks are better than what CNN programming would otherwise do in this slot.

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