PBS takes two days to cover all their programming at the Television Critics Association summer press tour. Vast and diverse in subjects, the lineup was a fascinating look at science to culture, news to children’s entertainment.
Here’s a brief rundown of PBS’ two-day presentation of upcoming shows which resonated strongly with us from the cold, dark recess of the Beverly Hilton ballroom:
Amanpour and Company
CNN correspondent Christiane Amanpour will anchor the show from London. Joining her from New York will be four journalists: Walter Isaacson, the best selling author; Michel Martin, the host of NPR’s weekend All Things Considered; Alicia Menendez, contributing editor at Bustle and the host of the Latina to Latina podcast; and Hari Screenivasan, the anchor of PBS Newshour Weekend.
On panel were Christiane and WNET’s Stephen Segaller.
About her outlook overall, Amanpour said: “I am an incredibly optimistic person. And throughout my entire career of being a war correspondent, where I’ve literally seen the worst that life has to offer and the most inhumane and the most barbaric, and I’ve covered it in an intimate way viscerally since 1990. But in those instances, I’ve also found the greatest hope that I’ve ever seen and the greatest dignity and human resilience.
So I always offer hope. I don’t believe my job as a journalist is to just be relentlessly negative. And if you look at the program that we’ve been doing over the past seven months, eight months, and if you look at my reporting over the last several decades, there is always that focus on the human being and on the hope of what can happen. Because, no, I’m not a cynic.”
Amanpour and Company premiere is on September 10th, with special episodes airing at 10:00 and 11:00 p.m., and will run weeknights at 11:00 p.m.
AMERICAN MASTERS Itzhak
From Tel Aviv to the world’s finest venues, Itzhak Perlman has dazzled and enraptured audiences with his virtuosic violin playing. This documentary explores Perlman’s passion for music, his history and approach to his craft. The son of Holocaust survivors, afflicted with polio as a child, he overcame so much and is known for his generosity and humor.
During the panel, Monsters and Critics asked the iconic violinist about his appearance on Ed Sullivan’s show. Itzhak Perlman said: “Well, you know, I was in Israel. I was 13 years old, and they said that Sullivan wanted to have a show made only of Israeli performances, Israeli acts, so to speak. And I’d never heard of him. I didn’t know who was Ed Sullivan. As a matter of fact, in Israel they called him “Ed Soolivan,” because you don’t have the accent. “Soolivan. Who’s Soolivan?” And so he came, and they held auditions. And I was chosen to represent, if you will, the violin department, you know, the young, chubby fiddle player walking in with crutches and so on.
“So I was very excited. But it was in retrospect, especially in the beginning, when I just first came to the States, I was very depressed because I left all my friends in Israel, so on and so forth. But he was very sweet. He was a real gentleman. And it was an interesting experience, especially playing with the “Ed Sullivan” orchestra, which was not exactly your great symphony orchestra.
(Laughter.)But they did the best they could.”
AMERICAN MASTERS “Itzhak,” premieres Sunday, October 14th at 10:00 p.m. on PBS
INDEPENDENT LENS Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World
The documentary Rumble was an award-winner at Sundance. It swept the Canadian Screen Awards wining best feature doc, best cinematography, and best editing.
American popular music, in fact, the history of rock and roll itself, wouldn’t be the same without the contributions of Native American performers. Indigenous performers Charley Patton, Mildred Bailey, Link Wray, Jimi Hendrix, Jesse Ed Davis, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Robbie Robertson, Randy Castillo, and others are featured. The doc shows how these talented Native musicians helped shape the soundtracks of our lives.
Stevie Salas, who originated the idea for the film and was one of the key creative forces behind the making of the film, said of the American icon of rockabilly and guitar, Link Wray: “I’m a guitar player, and I knew about Link Wray. I just never knew he was a Native American. And not only did I not know that, Jimmy Page Jeff Beck told me stories about he would play air guitar when he was 17 years old with Jimmy Page, if you can imagine this, at Jeff Beck’s mom’s house jumping around playing air guitar to “Rumble.”
“And Jeff Beck is also a massive fan of Native American heritage. That’s why he always wears the chokers on stage all that. But he had no idea that Link was Native American. When I told him, he flipped. So, we all knew Link. We all thought he was super cool, because he was kind of like the kind of punk rock. He’s the king of the power chord. He’s the king of heavy metal. He’s sort of the birth big bang of that.”
“But none of us knew he was Native American, and we were all pretty surprised. Most people have known him from “Pulp Fiction,” because that’s what really brought him back, when Tarantino put him in “Pulp Fiction.” So, people were amazed to find out he was Native American. And he ended up dying a few years ago. I can’t remember the exact year, sorry to say, but he was still around touring right up until the end.”
RUMBLE: The Indians Who Rocked the World premieres on INDEPENDENT LENS Monday, January 28, 2019, on PBS – Online streaming starts January 29
PBS – MASTERPIECE “The Miniaturist”
The Miniaturist is a three-part miniseries produced by Kate Sinclair. It’s based on a book by Jessie Burton. The clip reveals a gorgeous production, like a Vermeer painting that has come to life. The story takes place during the Golden Age of Amsterdam in the 1600s.
It is the story of a young girl played by Anya Taylor Joy (The Witch), from a noble family in the country who comes from the city and is married to a very wealthy merchant. As a wedding gift, he gives her a very detailed lovely dollhouse.
But then creepy thing start to happen. Packages appear at the door, and they contain objects that seem to foretell the future and reveal some very dark secrets about what’s happening in the house.
The Miniaturist, a three-part miniseries premieres September 9, 2018, on PBS.
This series presents a new perspective that challenges everything we thought we knew about the Americas. Combining Native American knowledge and traditions with modern science, the series reveals that ancient people across North and South America were connected by social networks, lived in massive cities aligned to the Heavens, and shared a foundational belief system with a diversity of cultural expressions.
They filmed throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, and Peru, collaborating with Native communities across the two continents.
Monsters and Critics asked panel participants Jim Enote and Havard professor David Carrasco how Native Americans communicated amongst various tribes across the continent.
Colorado Plateau Foundation CEO Jim Enote said: “Sure. They were shared. In the series, there were cities like Chaco Canyon, Teotihuacan, some of the mound building in other parts of the Americas. It’s incredible that people actually had heard of those places, had been all the way to the East Coast. Some had been from what is now New Mexico all the way to the oceans of the Pacific.
“We think they’re so far away, but in the old days, people would say, “Yeah, it was four months’ walk.” But it can be done. It was done. So there was definitely a tradition of exchange. Of course, you know, there was trade, but there was definitely exchanges, and people were knowing about each other. We knew that there were fishing people in the northwest somewhere. We knew there were people that lived in jungle places far, far away. We knew of people that were over the horizon. We did know these things, and this series starts to bring that out.”
Native America is a four-part series from Providence Pictures premiering Tuesday, October 23rd, at 9:00 Eastern on PBS.
PBS – The Great American Read
The first episode of The Great American Read premiered on May 22nd, and since the premiere, PBS has launched a multi-platform nationwide initiative. The series resumes in September with six episodes, grouped into themes, such as love, heroes and villains, and fantasy.
All of this builds to the final episode in October when PBS will announce America’sbest-lovedd novel, as chosen by the audience.
The TCA panels consisted of Meredith Vieira, executive producer, Jane Root, from the company Nutopia, and Harry Potter superfan Eliyannah Ysrael. A second panel included Diana Gabaldon, author of the award-winning Outlander series, Nicholas Sparks, the author of 21 New York Times bestsellers, over half of which have become major motion pictures, and the actor and writer, Wil Wheaton.
When asked what her favorite book was, Outlander author Diana Gabaldon said: “Well, trying to pick one favorite book out of the universe of books is impossible. Trying to pick one off of a list of 100 is difficult but maybe not impossible. It’s a dead heat between ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ and ‘Lonesome Dove.’
“And having made that decision, I was thinking what do these books have in common? You know, why do I like them both so much? I finally decided that it’s because they share what my husband refers to in reference to my work as the ‘One damn thing after another’ school of fiction.”
We’ll Meet Again
Bring tissues. Heartwarming real stories of people being reunited with a person that changed their lives, and many times who literally saved their lives.
Ann Curry was on hand for two panels (she also was on Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.), appearing first in We’ll Meet Again, where people are reunited with their special person from momentous times in history.
Curry’s concern expressed was getting those precious stories before it was too late, citing Korean war veterans getting older, and children who endured and survived the Holocaust.
Monsters and Critics asked the two men on the panel who had reunions, Robert Wagner and Dave Johnson, what went through their minds and what they were feeling.
Wagner said of his savior in the Vietnam war who had a doctor [Dr. Katz] who saved him from certain amputation based on his leg injury: “I didn’t believe they’d find him [Dr. Katz]. You know, first of all, you start to question, after 50 years, ‘Did I really remember his name correctly? Did I spell it correctly?’
“I could never find somebody like that. So these people are going to I watched the previous stories. I wrote in. That’s how I got on the show. I thought, ‘Boy, if they could help, that would be great.’ But I never believed that they could find him. I really didn’t. It shocked me.
“Every day, they’d build me up, and then they’d let me down because they’d say, ‘Well, we’re not going to show’ ‘we don’t have him yet.’ And I don’t know when they found him. I’ve asked the question several times, ‘What day did you find him?’ It was a week process. No one’s ever told me what day they found him. I think they maybe had him up front, but they built me up, and then they let me down. Fabulous journey.”
Plucked out of certain death in a Vietnam battlefield by a pilot, Dave Johnson added: “I thought they had him all along. I thought when Rosie called me from England and wanted to develop a story, I said, ‘Why would they be doing this if they didn’t find the pilot?
“Then I thought, “Well, even if he’s not around anymore, maybe his wife is still alive or his children.’ And I thought that if I couldn’t get to meet Bruce Grable, perhaps I could talk to someone from his family. And I was confident that they could do that. And all I wanted to do in this whole episode was to honor Bruce Grable. I told Ann, I said, ‘I was a passenger on two helicopters that day. One was shot down, and one came in and saved our lives. That person I hope to honor by all this interviewing and so forth is Bruce W. Grable.'”
We’ll Meet Again airs Tuesdays beginning October 30 through December 25 on PBS.
The only thing you can’t recover from is death. Pain is a common human affliction. People of every age have it, but how you medicate is a life and death decision.
The opioid crisis is examined as NOVA bring producer, director and writer Sarah Holt’s chilling look at our most dangerous public health issue. Dr. Rahul Gupta, the West Virginia commissioner and state health officer, says: “Part of this is about curing the isolation individuals have…It’s important to not neglect the social aspects of this in communities.”
NOVA Addiction premieres Wednesday, October 17 on PBS.