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Published: Saturday, 1/5/2013

TV series has potential as a guilty pleasure

BY TK BARGER
BLADE RELIGION EDITOR

I’ve avoided the Real Housewives-type of reality shows until now, but TLC premiered The Sisterhood on Jan. 1 and, using the excuse that as a religion editor I should see a TV series about preachers' wives, I started watching.

The premise is that five “first ladies” of Atlanta-area churches interact, and viewers see their alliances, arguments, and relationships. Of course, cameras and producers also impose on the family lives, including the couples’ sex lives and first ladies’ misbehavior — past (one smoked crack) and present (wait for the show’s editors to sensationalize conflict).

This is supposed to give the viewer an idea of the demands on a minister’s family. The premise and real life — as opposed to television reality — are not in close contact. The first episode didn’t show one of my stronger memories from being a preacher’s kid: the Saturday-night “be quiet, Daddy’s writing his sermon” instruction.

In the first episode we meet four of the couples. There are the Murrays: Christina, a Dominican, and Anthony, who is black. They are at what is called “one of the largest and most successful churches in Atlanta,” Oasis Family Life Church in Dallas, Ga.

Domonique and Brian Scott, both black, closed their Good Life International Church where they were co-pastors; Domonique operates a boutique.

Brian Lewis, a pastor who continues to identify as Jewish after his conversion to Christianity, had been fired by a church only six weeks after moving to Atlanta to be minister there; he and his wife, Tara, who is black, said they now feel called to televangelism, and they started the TV show Phenomenal Life Today.

Ivy and Mark Couch are a black couple, and he is pastor at Emmanuel Tabernacle; Ivy had a previous brush with fame as a member of the female singing group Xscape.

The viewers haven’t yet met the fifth couple, DeLana and Myles Rutherford of Worship with Wonders Church, except in previews.

I’d like to ask where the producers find people willing to subject themselves to this process, but I expect the answer is that some folks are too eager to have exposure. Vanity is part of it. So is the thought that a show might put their church in a good light (not likely here) or advance their own longings for fame, even the low-level notoriety that wife-reality programming provides.

I’m not surprised that The Sisterhood didn't follow the ministers’ wives of more prominent Atlanta churches. Creflo Dollar and his wife aren’t in this cast, and they’re accustomed to televised religion.

Admittedly, I have had little experience with “first lady” culture. My mother never told me about fights at the preachers’ wives’ club meetings she attended when I was a child. In my ministerial scrapes, I’ve encountered some congregations and ministers who make trouble, but I don’t think any of those acts were worthy of prime time.

Back to that excuse I had to watch the show. This religion editor doesn't need to follow The Sisterhood through the year — and especially not if it stays on TV for future seasons.

I wasn’t quite drawn in to feel that I must know what happens next.

But its potential as a guilty pleasure is there.

The first episode, “Thou Shalt Not Cross a First Lady,” has one more repeat, Sunday at 3 p.m. The second installment, “Thou Shalt Not Jump to Judgment,” will be on TV at 9 and 11 p.m. Tuesday.

Contact TK Barger at: tkbarger@theblade.com or 419-724-6278.



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