- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 12, 2009

Big Love‘ furor

HBO on Tuesday defended its plans to depict a sacred Mormon temple ceremony in an upcoming episode of “Big Love,” Associated Press reports.

The drama about a polygamous Utah family will show an endowment ceremony in Sunday’s episode, airing at 9 p.m.

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HBO said it did not intend to be disrespectful of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and apologized.

“Obviously, it was not our intention to do anything disrespectful to the church, but to those who may be offended, we offer our sincere apology,” the premium cable channel said in a statement Tuesday. The ceremony is an important part of the “Big Love” story line, HBO said.

In the scene, actress Jeanne Tripplehorn’s character, Barb, goes through the endowment ceremony as she faces losing her membership in the Mormon Church.

On Monday, Mormon Church leaders criticized HBO for its decision to include the ceremony and said airing the material shows the insensitivity of the network’s writers, producers and executives. “Certainly church members are offended when their most sacred practices are misrepresented or presented without context or understanding,” the church statement said.

Only church members in good standing can enter temples to perform or witness sacred ceremonies. The ceremonies are centered on religious teachings and re-enactments of Bible stories to help Mormons prepare an eternal place for themselves - and others by proxy - in heaven.

Members take a vow not to discuss the rituals outside temple walls, although details of the ceremonies are widely available on the Internet. The dramatization of the ceremony was vetted for accuracy by an adviser familiar with temple ceremonies who was on the set during filming, series creators and executives producers Mark V. Olsen and Will Scheffer said.

The church declined an interview request by AP Tuesday. News of the episode sparked an online campaign by individual Mormons, who are calling for a boycott of “Big Love” and cancellation of subscriptions to HBO, AOL and other Time Warner Inc.-owned entities.

The church has not called for a boycott and said in its statement that doing so would just fuel controversy and interest in the program. Church leaders also said members of the rapidly growing faith should not feel defensive about HBO’s characterization of Mormons. “There is no evidence that extreme misrepresentations in the media that appeal only to a narrow audience have any long-term negative effect on the church,” they said in the statement.

BET joins dialogue

BET’s “106 & Park” series will air a two-hour special on relationship abuse at 6 p.m. Thursday, Multichannel.com says. This follows the lead of Thursday’s “Oprah Winfrey Show” program on domestic violence in the wake of R&B singer Chris Brown’s reported assault of his girlfriend, Rihanna.

During the program, “106 & Park” will team with anti-abuse groups Break the Cycle, the Center Against Domestic Violence and the National Teen Dating Abuse Hotline. The special also will feature former “106 & Park” host Free, community activist Kevin Powell, psychologist and relationship expert Dr. Michelle and “America’s Psychologist” Jeff Gardere.

“Relationship abuse has always been present with teens, but recent events have forced tough conversations,” says Stephen Hill, BET’s president of entertainment. “We’ve been very careful to not sensationalize this sensitive issue. BET and ‘106 & Park’ are determined to serve our audience with careful dialogue and direction for those affected.”

Meanwhile, Nickelodeon is under increased pressure to drop Mr. Brown and Rihanna as nominees for the network’s March 28 Kids Choice Awards.

On March 5, Mr. Brown was charged with felony assault stemming from his confrontation with Rihanna on Feb. 8.

EOnline.com is reporting that an online group dubbed Twittermoms has launched an online petition demanding that the network drop Mr. Brown from the ballot because of the incident.

On tap tonight

(10, NBC) - Oscar winner Susan Sarandon joins several of the show’s former stars - including Noah Wylie, Eriq La Salle and Julianna Margulies - for a new episode titled “Old Times.”

• Compiled by Robyn-Denise Yourse from staff, Web and wire reports

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