The View

By Paul Willingham

It has been said that “Imitation is the sincerest of flattery.” Nowhere is this more evident than in the television industry. A successful TV series, whether it be a comedy, reality show, police procedural, talent competitions, etc., is soon facing competition from an army of clones and knockoffs. In the 60s it was westerns, today it is talent contests and housewives.

Over the years I’m sure that there have been numerous brain-storming sessions (brain may be giving them too much credit here) by TV program producers and their creative specialists. Close your eyes and imagine that you are hiding behind the flip chart at one of these creative meetings.

The VP in charge of new programming sets the tone of the meeting. “With the demise of many of the Daytime Soaps, we need to come up with some new content to fill those time slots. The daytime talk show, ‘The View’ has proven to be quite popular and the food folks have already adapted the format to their new program, ‘The Chew.'”  They have even traded on the name.

“In the next 20 minutes, I want each person in this room to come up with one concept that builds on the successful format of ‘The View.’ The clock starts now.”

Twenty creative minutes later, here are some ideas that came out of that meeting:

THE ACHOO – Sneezy and the dwarfs test anti-histamines with help from Speedy and the Mucinex ogres.

THE BREW – Jim Koch and Jake Leinenkugel discuss craft beers with host Norm Peterson.

THE GLUE – Mr. Ed and Francis discuss the afterlife with host Elmer Borden.

THE FLUE – Guest Mary Poppins models her new soot suit for host Santa Claus.

THE DOO – Hair stylists compare styling gels chemically formulated from Mellow Yellow and Mountain Dew.

THE HEW – Woodsmen test the age old qeustion, “If a yew falls in the slough . . . ”

THE KLEW – Spelling dropouts try to determine who slew Col. Mustard.

THE MOO – Guernseys, Jerseys, Brown Swiss, Simmental, Holsteins, Black Angus, et al, debate the pros and cons of segregation.

THE QUEUE – Apple aficionados and Star Wars fans discuss techniques and survival tips while waiting in line for days just to be first.

THE SUE SHOE SHOO – Cobblers and chefs with law degrees square off to debate legitimate recipes for the classic southern pie. Live from the “Depot” in Chattanooga

THE U – Politicians from both sides of the aisle discuss flip-flops, fence sitting, ambivalence, hesitation, double-speak, hypocrisy and other non-absolutes inherent in campaign promises.

THE ZOO – The keepers concede they have lost control and walk off the job. In congress and state legislatures across the country, nobody notices.

I know, I know, it’s silly and inane but then much of TV is silly and inane. When Charles Caleb Colton wrote in 1820, “Imitation is the sincerest of flattery,” he was just refining the words of Joseph Addison who earlier wrote in the English newspaper, The Spectator, “Imitation is a kind of artless flattery”.

The gist of the proverb is even older. Marcus Aurelius biographers Jeremy Collier and Andre’ Dacier included this quote from Aurelius:

You should consider that imitation is the most acceptable part of worship, and that the gods had much rather mankind should resemble, than flatter them.

James 1:22-27 was the text for this past Sunday’s sermon.

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. (ESV)

Pastor Ryan posited that when we look into that mirror, we should see our real self, the person that God created, or put another way, we should see Jesus.

I think Marc, James and Pastor Ryan are all pointing us in the same direction. God doesn’t need us to stroke his ego. He knows who He is. His self-esteem is intact. We need to be more than good listeners. We have been created in God’s image and we need to be working harder shaping our lives into his image or as Aurelius says, resembling that image.


What do you think? Where is the intersection (or distinction) between flattery and worship, imitation and image bearing?

And for some fun, let’s say you’re in that creative meeting. What other show ideas can you propose?


Paul Willingham is frequent delight in the comment box, and an occasional guest writer here at A Different Story, always challenging me with his reflections when he’s not making me snicker with his word play. He’s also my dad. You can read more of his posts here.

Linking Dad for the first time to Michelle’s Hear It – Use It community:

7 responses

  1. Way to go, Paul. Laughing my way right out of the proverbial ball park. Started to quote a few of your Sunday funnies, but there were too many. Really well done.

    I don’t think I could come close to matching your ideas for a show, but for now… as a worship leader, I share a quote that describes, for me, a life changing perspective on worship… the one where I began to understand that having been made in the image in Christ, the act of worship meant entering into this image/reflection you speak of … in part:

    In worship, “I am transported to a place where I touch the stamp of deity within me; a place where worship is the closest in this life I come to union with my beloved; a place where I encounter my very identity; a place where I am being like my Father-God; a place where I come the closest to his character.”
    I Am (The Unveiling of God) by Steve Fry

    2012/03/18 at 7:57 PM

    • well… I meant to say, I was laughing my way out of the ball park as I chased the ball you just hit. Did it come across that way? Or did it just sound as though I was laughing “at” you? egad.

      2012/03/21 at 9:35 PM

      • Paul Willingham


        I took it the way you intended. And I appreciated your comments on worship leading. I’m so old that I remember that worship leader meant the Pastor led the singing. In fact, in one of my career phases, I took a course in Evangelistic Song Leading the primarily involved knowing the hand/arm motions for the various times/tempos/beats of hymns and choruses.

        Leading worship today is much more involved (and more important) with the advent of CCM, worship bands, words without music scores, etc. It starts with what you put so well in your comments.


        2012/03/22 at 8:14 AM

  2. No, God doesn’t need our flattery. His allowing us to know Him so that we CAN imitate Him–it’s a blessing. As scary as the world is today, it’s scarier scary to imagine what the world would look like if He hadn’t provided Himself as a template for us to look like.

    2012/03/18 at 8:23 PM

  3. Okay, I’m getting the picture here. Lyla’s amazing way with words comes oh-so-naturally, so I can give up even trying to come close to her (or your) level. :>) This is terrific fun and also important truth. Thanks for it, every last play-on-words and rhyme.

    I will add that, in my experience at least, ‘trying harder’ just ends up frustrating, defeating or sometimes even distracting me. It’s been more like this for me: when I go deeper rather than when I try harder, that’s when I begin to get occasional flashes of that family resemblance we bear to our elder brother. Weird how that works. I pondered that a little tiny bit at my place today with the Ephesians 2 text for this 4th Sunday in Lent. For me, it has meant stopping a lot of things I used to ‘do’ to please God and discovering that being still, quiet, patient (as much as it is possible for me to be patient!) is how I find my way to image-bearing. Not a LOT of bearing – but little bits, once in a while.

    How about CLUE [spelled correctly] – a gathering of dingbats, techno-phobes, blogger-users and there’s-no-fools-like-old-fools trying to catch one once in a while (most particularly about the strange behavior of wordpress commenting systems these days)

    2012/03/19 at 12:41 AM

    • Paul Willingham


      I considered the word CLUE and who to list that didn’t have ‘a clue’ but the list got way to long.


      2012/03/19 at 5:29 AM

  4. Nancy

    Well, good morning, Lyla’s dad. I sure do hear her voice, her sense of humor, coming through in your words. And maybe that’s just the way we learn to imitate one another–simply having spent time in one another’s presence. My daughter’s telephone voice and mine are virtually indistinguishable. Few people can tell which of us has answered the phone. I adopted my daughter as an infant–we share no DNA. Yet she has picked up on every subtle inflection in my voice even, sadly, the nagging, screeching ones.

    So I think, the more time we spend in God’s presence, hanging out in his voice, the more my mannerisms and the tone of my voice begin to reflect his. At least I hope so.

    2012/03/19 at 6:13 AM

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