Catty Christian comedy
GCB stars Miriam Shor as Cricket Caruth-Reilly, Mark Deklin as Blake Reilly, Jennifer Aspen as Sharon Peacham, Brad Beyer as Zack Peacham, Leslie Bibb as Amanda Vaughn, Annie Potts as Gigi Stopper, Kristin Chenoweth as Carlene Cockburn, David James Elliott as Ripp Cockburn and Marisol Nichols as Heather Cruz. Picture: ABC/Bob D'Amico.

Once upon a time there was going to be a TV show called Good Christian Bitches, based on the novel of the same name by Dallas native Kim Gatlin. But the name caused complaints, leading to it being renamed Good Christian Belles.

"Well, I think there's a thing when you have the word Christian and the word bitch - a reaction," said Leslie Bibb, who stars in the comedy drama as Amanda Vaughn, a mother of two forced to return to live with her estranged mother in Dallas after her scoundrel husband's untimely demise.

"I think it's, like, a knee-jerk reaction that people have. Sometimes I feel like people miss the irony of it. I grew up Baptist and then I went to Catholic high school and in the south I was always fascinated with people who would be one way in church and then one way outside of church. I think that happens in life where you sort of say one thing but you do another."

The show's new name didn't stick either, explained executive producer Robert Harling, who is best known for his play and subsequent movie, Steel Magnolias.

"When we were shooting the pilot in Dallas, everywhere we went, you know, when you shoot things, there's all these signs that say the trucks go this way, the talent goes this way," he said.

"They'd come up with this GCB logo and I always looked at it and thought, that's really cool."

Emmy and Tony award-winning star Kristin Chenoweth was happy when the name changed, feeling belles didn't reflect the show.

"Belles is not exactly accurate for the Texas environment," she told media at the Television Critics Association this year.

"I'm from the south. I live there still. Belles is more of skirts and Mississippi and Alabama and Georgia, and not so much Texas. And so GCB just kind of stuck and we all thought it was cool."

Chenoweth plays Carlene Cockburn, upstanding pillar of society, churchgoer and a woman hell-bent on making Amanda's homecoming anything but happy.

Amanda seems to have forgotten she was a "mean girl" in high school but Carlene has not. Now she's the leader of the pack and is determined her friends, Sharon (Jennifer Aspen), Heather (Marisol Nichols) and Cricket (Miriam Shor) make Amanda's life just as hard as she did for them when they were teenagers.

"I think we are having fun with this role and if we can't laugh at ourselves, then we have a bigger problem," she said.

"I'm liberal in a lot of ways and conservative in a lot of ways but just because you are a Christian doesn't mean you don't like sex. It doesn't mean you don't have a drink. It doesn't mean you don't say something catty.

"I think the main thing is showing the humanity of Christianity and having fun with that instead of making fun of it."

Chenoweth, who originated the role of Glinda in Wicked on Broadway, is also known for her long and varied TV career, including roles as Annabeth Schott in The West Wing, April Rhodes in Glee and her Emmy-winning part as Olive Snook in Pushing Daisies. With GCB not being given a second season, she has since started work on season four of The Good Wife.

She was recording in Nashville when she first heard about GCB, which, like her role in Glee, allows her to sing. "I was very interested in Carlene because I knew this woman very well," she said.

"And I think Bobby (Harling) is really smart on how he uses the music in the show. And, yeah, you know, I get to sing, but a lot of people get to sing and we are singing as our characters."

Chenoweth said growing up in Oklahoma meant she was familiar with the types of characters portrayed in GCB. She said the key to saying mean things and getting away with it was all in the delivery.

"I think, honestly, less is more because if you say 'Bad hair, honey', that's on the nose. But if you whisper it, it's different.

"And also remember, again, I grew up in this world, and I know exactly how people would say things, and it's a lot of times under the breath.

"You can say the meanest thing but if you whisper, if you say 'I'm sorry', at the end of it or 'Bless your heart', it makes it null and void.

"She looks like she's been beat with an ugly stick; bless her heart."

The West Australian

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