A controversial TV movie about Scientology turned into a ratings bonanza for German pubcaster ARD, drawing nearly 8.7 million viewers on its March 31 airing.
“Till Faith Do Us Part” follows a young married couple (played by Felix Klare and Silke Bodenbender) who join Scientology. The husband later leaves the org after losing his money as well as his wife and daughter to the group.
The fact-based telepic was the most-watched TV program of the evening, easily crushing the competition, including the double-episode season premiere of “Grey’s Anatomy” on ProSieben and Sandra Bullock starrer “The Lake House” on ZDF.
The 90-minute Teamworx production, written and directed by Niki Stein, achieved a 27.1% share among all viewers. ARD also led among younger auds, who usually tune in to Germany’s commercial outlets, achieving an impressive 17.3% share in the key 14-49 demo as some 2.2 million watched the much-hyped movie.
The hubbub also translated into record ratings for ARD’s talkshow “Hart aber fair,” which included a Scientology rep on the program, resulting in a spirited debate on the accuracy of the film and the nature of Scientology.
Scientology spokesman Juerg Stettler said the ARD film distorted the facts and propagated lies, while fellow guest Guenther Beckstein, the former state premier of Bavaria, described Scientology as a totalitarian organization that was unconstitutional and comparable to Germany’s radical right-wing NPD party.
Scientology rejects the accuracy of the storyline, saying that the factual custody case on which the pic is based was far different than how it’s portrayed in the film and that the plot present a one-sided story. Scientology also accuses ARD of violating its own guidelines, which call for the support of religious tolerance.
“We are not dealing here with a religion but rather an organization that has far different motives,” counters ARD program director Volker Herres. “Scientology is all about power, business and the expansion of its network.”
Added writer-director Stein: “There are no good sides to Scientology. We did the research.”
Munich-based Telepool is handling international sales for the pic, which is sure to generate plenty of buzz at the upcoming MipTV programming mart in Cannes.