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'Pulpit': ABC's 'Morning' Sermon

November 12, 1986|JAY SHARBUTT | Times Staff Writer

NEW YORK — During November, one of four key ratings sweeps months, TV newscasts tend to air hard-hitting, five-part series on such things as sex, drugs and even rock 'n' roll.

But you will find none of that this week on ABC's "Good Morning America." Instead, the show is offering that old-time religion--or, more accurately, a look at it in a five-part series called "The Power of the Pulpit."

The series examines the evangelical movement in the United States and touches on various aspects of it, including faith healers, revival preachers and big-time TV ministers like Pat Robertson and Jimmy Swaggart.

Such is the nature of TV that the syndicated program of the Rev. Swaggart--who was interviewed for today's "Power of the Pulpit" segment--competes here at 6 a.m. with "ABC News This Morning," the show that precedes "Good Morning America."

The "Pulpit" series was produced by Jerry Liddell, who said in an interview Tuesday that the series stemmed from live appearances by several top evangelists on "Good Morning America" last year.

Liddell, who at the time ran the show's guest-booking department, said that "we got a lot of response" to the ministers' visits.

From that, he said, came his proposal to go forth this year to do five reports--each is six to seven minutes long--on as many aspects of evangelism, and "to describe what this is, this thing called fundamentalism. . . ."

Friday's concluding "Pulpit" segment examines the big-business side of evangelical endeavor. It focuses on Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker and their books, music, television show and Christian resort, Heritage USA, which Liddell said is the nation's largest theme park--after Disneyland and Disney World.

While the segment asks about the financial side of religion, it isn't an investigative piece, nor was it intended to be, Liddell said. Liddell isn't an ABC News staff member. He works for ABC Entertainment, which produces "Good Morning America."

"I'm not the IRS and I'm not doing a yearlong investigative piece for '20/20,' " he said, referring to ABC's prime-time news-magazine program.

"Good Morning America" was not the only network morning program offering a five-part special report this week. NBC's "Today" show, currently leading in morning ratings, also had a five-parter, although on a topic somewhat less elevated than old-time religion and TV evangelists.

The "Today" five-parter is about character actors.

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