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Mormons On TV

Tim - September 25, 2006

One of my advertising clients is a local LDS bookstore owner who has asked that I place his TV spots on programming that would appeal to Mormons. This is a simple request, but one that proves a little more difficult here in the midwest. Other than the periodic BYU or U of U football game on ESPN, it is somewhat a challenge.

I have a tool called Showseeker that lets me punch in a date range, market, and keyword, and then perform a search. So I typed in “Mormons”, just to see what would come up. Here’s what’s on:

Friday 10/13, 9am (CST) and 3pm (CST) on A&E.
City Confidential–A Utah Mormon opens fire after police seize his ranch and evict the polygamists living there.

Tuesday 10/31, 3pm (CST) on Discovery Channel.
“Mother Accused”–A Mormon couple is charged with shaken baby syndrome.

Sunday 10/8, 8am (CST) on Biography Channel.
“The Real West”–Mountain Meadows Massacre–Mormons try to cover up the murders of 128 pioneers in southern Utah.

The programming has been like this for the entire year. I have not found one program that portrays Mormons in a positive light. Why is this, and more improtantly, what does this mean?


  1. It means the same as it has always meant. Anti-religious Liberals control the media – almost all aspects of it. Try doing the same thing for Baptists or Catholics and it won’t be too much different.

    I would actually take a different approach. Instead, ask what kinds of shows (or channels if that is possible) Mormons generally like to watch. That might take a little more grassroots research. Perhaps you can simply change your question here as what do Mormons watch on television?

    Comment by Jettboy — September 25, 2006 @ 7:38 am

  2. I had a dream that you’d post about this today.


    I think it might be a sign that people are more aware of the church than they used to be. You’re starting to see Mormon characters in movies, Mormons on reality shows, now a Mormon running for president. Hopefully we’ll shift from being viewed as that weird religion, like JW’s and the Amish, to something that isn’t quite so foreign to people.

    The only problem there is that we *are* weird.

    Comment by Susan M — September 25, 2006 @ 7:51 am

  3. I must disagree with Jettboy’s first paragraph. Even the most liberal media types would schedule “Music and the Spoken Word” in Primetime (and beg for the show to be extended to an hour) if outstanding ratings showed that was what people wanted to see.

    Be honest, would you really watch a TV show about everyday Mormons doing everyday Mormon things? I can only imagine the scintillating 30-minute version of watching a Webelos leader prepare her lesson.

    Shows like the ones described above are going for the sensational, to be sure. So are all the others in their respective series. Perhaps we’re over-sensitive because it’s our lunatic fringe that showing in these cases.

    Jettboy’s second paragraph is good advice, though. That’s the tack I would take. Perhaps a look into the viewing data of Utah (in general) or Utah County (in specific) might lead you where you’re headed. It won’t be completely accurate, as there are plenty of non-LDS and less-active LDS in that picture too, but it should get you started in a good direction.

    And don’t be surprised if that research shows you should play the bookstore’s ads during “Desparate Housewives.” ;-)

    Comment by Chad Too — September 25, 2006 @ 8:28 am

  4. I like to watch family-friendly fare like Seventh Heaven, Gilmore Girls and Smallville. (Of course, I like to watch a lot of other stuff most Mormons probably don’t watch much, like Ultimate Fighting on Spike TV.) My guess is that the kinds of shows that get picked up by the ABC Family cable channel might be your best bet.

    Comment by Kevin Barney — September 25, 2006 @ 8:38 am

  5. My opinion, on the original question, is that the term “Mormon” is quasi controversial and evokes mystery and the exotic. LDS, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are more mainstream sounding.

    Comment by Jay S — September 25, 2006 @ 9:52 am

  6. The bookstore owner is on a limited budget so there’s not a whole lot I can do. Yes, I’ve placed him in some run-of-the-mill family programs and such, but I thought maybe there would be a good story abut Mormons out there to match him up with. I was wrong–though “Saints and Soldiers” does play quite a bit on the History Channel.

    I’m not too upset about the Mountain Meadows Massacre program–it is what it is. But the baby shaking program seems odd. What does that program have to do with the parents being Mormon?

    I will say that A&E tends to skew a bit on the conservative side, so I don’t buy into the liberal aspect of it.

    I think Susan’s right–we’re just weird.

    Comment by Tim — September 25, 2006 @ 10:30 am

  7. It’s easy to feel “picked on” when these sorts of programs are aired. As you suggest, the religious affiliation of someone who shakes her baby to death shouldn’t be such an issue. Does this mean they are picking on Mormons, and suggesting that all or many Mormons are baby-shakers?

    Consider the alternative. Perhaps the thought behind the words is “this woman shook her baby to death, even though she was a Mormon!” In other words, perhaps the “Mormon” adjective gets thrown into these stories of bad deeds, because the story is in opposition to the reputation of “Mormon” behavior. Looked at in this way, the use of “Mormon” in these descriptions becomes a compliment.

    Comment by Nick Literski — September 25, 2006 @ 12:40 pm

  8. I think “Mormon” is used like “black” or “hispanic” when it isn’t needed. Obviously this is because we are a race and not a religion, hence the horns.

    Comment by Bret — September 25, 2006 @ 10:03 pm

  9. The TV show “Saved” features an LDS character who appears to be portrayed in a positive light, though once again I’m not sure the writers really know that much about the church (he wears a CTR ring apparently, prays with a woman who’s the sister of a wounded guy — but never offers to give him a blessing).

    Every once in a while you’ll see a small positive role showing an LDS person. It’s rare though.

    Comment by Mike — September 27, 2006 @ 5:41 am

  10. Mike,
    I forgot about him. I don’t really think he’s portrayed all that positively, though I haven’t seen the show since the first few episodes. I thought he was portrayed as more of a sheltered idiot. He was also paired with a lesbian partner which was kind of a lame attempt at conflict.

    Comment by Tim — September 27, 2006 @ 6:07 am

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