After taking in more than $360 million at the box office, Mel Gibson's ''The Passion of the Christ'' now seems no more controversial than ''The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King'' or ''Finding Nemo.'' Still, the film may remain too much of a hot potato for TV outlets, both broadcast and cable. So far, the Associated Press reports, Gibson has been unable to find any takers for the TV rights to air his blockbuster. Both ABC and Showtime have turned the film down (though execs at those channels have not said why), and other outlets are also likely to pass, AP reports.
Part of the difficulty may stem from Gibson's insistence that the violent, R-rated movie air unedited. That wouldn't be unprecedented for such a film; ''Schindler's List'' has aired uncut on network TV. But that was before Janet Jackson's ''wardrobe malfunction'' prompted a crackdown on adult content on broadcast TV. Also, ''Passion'' may still carry the taint of controversy over its unrelenting violence and the opinion of some moviegoers that it traffics in anti-Semitic stereotypes. Plus, networks may think their viewers won't want to read the subtitles.
Even on premium cable, where controversial or adult content wouldn't be an issue, not only has Showtime said no, but so has HBO, claiming that its schedule of movie premieres for the next year is fully booked. Starz execs say they haven't yet made a decision, AP reports. Of course, the balking TV channels could all simply be stalling Gibson in order to get him to drop his asking price -- or submit an English-dubbed version.