'The Mormons' routs the Jazz in TV ratings
Janine Weathers hopes her birth mother in Minnesota this week caught the two-part PBS documentary called "The Mormons."
"I'm hoping she watched it and got a better understanding," the North Ogden Mormon said of her birth mother, who is not LDS. "Because it's something we can't talk about face to face."
If national and local ratings of the highly-touted ''American Experience''/''Frontline'' documentary are any indication, her mother might have tuned in.
The two-part, four-hour documentary about the history and current state of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which aired Monday and Tuesday, broke local PBS ratings records and also was a hit nationally.
In fact, more Utahns tuned into KUED Channel 7 and KBYU Channel 11 for the first episode of "The Mormons" Monday night than watched KJZZ Channel 14 and cable's TNT simulcast of game 5 of the Utah Jazz playoffs.
"It's the highest [ratings] we've ever had," said KUED General Manager Larry Smith. "This is very phenomenal and very unusual." He said KUED likely will re-run the series in mid-summer.
According to Nielsen Media Research, Monday's episode on the history of the LDS Church drew a 17.9 rating and Tuesday's segment earned a 17.7. Normally, KUED's weekly nighttime ratings are between 1.8 and 2.
Ratings refer to the percentage of Utah's 839,000 television households that are watching a particular program.
Nationally, the series also was a relative hit. At a 3 rating, the documentary captured nearly double the viewers of a normal PBS weeknight, said KBYU spokesman Jim Bell.
The documentary explores the history of the church, including such controversial events as the Mountain Meadows Massacre and the Haun's Mill Massacre. The second episode examines the state of the church today, it's tremendous growth in the past 100 years, as well as church leaders' attempts to curb criticism and keep financial and disciplinary records secret.
"Among the people I've talked to, I've gotten a positive reaction, and overall they found it fair and balanced," Bell said.
The LDS Church, which rarely responds to television accounts of the Mormon faith, called the program "thought provoking" in a statement issued Wednesday.
"At a time when significant media and public attention is being turned to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and when news media is so often accused of superficiality in its coverage of religion, this serious treatment of a serious subject is a welcome change," the statement read.
Weathers said the documentary "got it right," even when it explored the church's most criticized aspects.
"It's a good representation and not too touchy-feely. It really humanizes it," she said. "It really gives a human face to the Mormon religion."