'The Mormons' is big at PBS

Published: Thursday, July 27 2006 12:00 a.m. MDT

PASADENA, Calif. — How big a deal is "The Mormons" to PBS? The two-part, three-hour documentary scheduled to air next April will mark the first-ever collaboration between two of public broadcasting's big guns — the award-winning series "Frontline" and "American Experience."

"It will be a very big deal for us," said new PBS president and CEO Paula Kerger.

"The Mormons" (a working title that may change) will air Part 1 on a Monday night as that week's installment of "American Experience"; Part 2 will air a day later as that week's installment of "Frontline."

"It's a look at one of the fastest-growing and most influential religions," said John Wilson, PBS's senior vice-president of programming.

Details are sketchy at this point, but the "American Experience" segment of the program is expected to deal with the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, while the "Frontline" installment is expected to deal more with the contemporary church and its influence in Utah, the United States and the world.

"The Mormons" is currently in production, but Wilson said that filmmaker Helen Whitney (whose credits include "Faith and Doubt at Ground Zero" and "John Paul II: The Millennial Pope") is working on a film that will "explore the richness, the complexities and the controversies of the Mormons' story."

Whitney has already spent a considerable amount of time in Utah doing research, conducting interviews and shooting film footage. The project is not expected to be completed for several months.

The documentary will include interviews with church leaders and members, writers and historians as well as critics of the LDS faith.

"The Mormons" is slated to air in April 2007 and will be paired with three episodes of "Antiques Roadshow" culled from the show's visit to Salt Lake City in June — episodes that will feature "memorabilia from the West and the early days of the Mormon church," according to PBS.


E-mail: pierce@desnews.com

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