The Search for Jesus

JEANMARIE CONDON: One day I said to Peter, "Why don't we do a documentary about Jesus?" never thinking that he would say yes. I thought, they are never going to do a documentary about Jesus. Peter went to our bosses and he said, "I'm doing a documentary about Jesus."

PAUL FRIEDMAN: When I heard about Peter's interest in doing a long-form documentary treatment about the life of Jesus, I thought to myself, "There he goes again. You know, one of his enthusiasms." Nobody else would do this on commercial television, but good for him. It was one of the ways he used—but did not abuse—the power he gained as an anchorman.

DAVID WESTIN: Long before he came to me with the idea of doing "In Search of Jesus," he and I had talked about the need for us to find ways of covering religion and faith. Now, I had thought, "Okay, we'll do more reporting on the Southern Baptists, or we'll do more reporting on conservative Jews, or we'll do more reporting on the Catholic Church." It never occurred to me to take his penchant for being a reporter and say, "Well, what would a reporter do if he were reporting on the subject of Jesus?" When I went to the network and said, "Oh, by the way, we'd like to do, not one hour, but two hours, in search of Jesus"… that was tricky.

TOM YELLIN: No one warmly embraced in the corridors of power at ABC. What they said was, "I find that really interesting, but no one's going to watch." That's the kind of thing that drove Peter crazy. You couldn't say that to Peter because he believed that if you found something interesting, and he found it interesting, that's two people, so there have got to be millions more.

JEANMARIE CONDON: When Peter would read some of the stuff we'd written, where we'd really got into why we were doing it and what was important about it, he would have a hard time actually reading it without his voice cracking. I remember there was the conclusion of one act of our "Search for Jesus" show, he tried it five or six times. Every time he read it, looking at the pictures, hearing the music, he would start to cry. If you listen to the show as it aired today, you can still hear his voice cracking.

TOM YELLIN: The first program we did about Jesus got huge numbers. Millions and millions of people watched it, many more than anyone thought.

JEANMARIE CONDON: When Peter got on fire with a topic, he would not let it go. He would grill anyone and everybody about what they thought about it. And even when the cameras were turned off, he kept going. Imagine you're standing on line in the airport and this guy turns around and it's Peter Jennings. He's in your face and for some reason he's saying to you, "What do you think Jesus really looked like?"