Series Blog

Coming in February 2014


Watch American Experience Executive Producer Mark Samels describe what's coming in February to PBS. The Amish: Shunned centers on seven people who have been shunned as well as voices from the Amish community defending the practice. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were emblematic figures that became legend. The Rise and Fall of Penn Station is about a railroad company's effort to conquer Manhattan.

The Amish: Shunned
In 2012 we aired a program called The Amish, which was actually the highest-rated show we've had on American Experience in ten years. There was one part of the story that had only gotten a light treatment, and that is the Amish practice of shunning. The Amish believe that once you have been baptized as an adult, if you decide to leave, that you should have no contact with the community, and that means your family. So our story centers on seven characters who create different pieces of the mosaic of this picture of shunning as well as voices from the Amish community itself, defending the practice. It's an emotional roller coaster through a set of universal experiences.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Another installment of the Wild West, this is a terrific story about Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. For years, you have Butch and Sundance out there robbing trains. They were lone individuals robbing from these wealthy corporations at the time -- railroads. They weren't redistributing their money. And they become sort of emblematic figures, slightly endearing figures, very flawed figures in some ways, but these are mythological characters because there is something about them that seems to be bigger than themselves. They seem to represent a time and a place and, in some ways, some ideals.

The Rise and Fall of Penn Station
The story of the Penn Station project, which is the story of The Pennsylvania Railroad's effort to, in a way, conquer Manhattan. They were the dominant railroad of the time, but they had no direct route into Manhattan. So The Pennsylvania Railroad and Alexander Cassatt set out to solve that problem. So they built these amazing tunnels underneath the Hudson and the East Rivers to connect with the extension of the line up into New England. They built really one of the monuments of American architecture -- the original Penn Station. This is a story of the people that were involved, from the sandhogs that were underneath the Hudson River, to Cassatt who's pushing this project and envisioning it every step of the way. It's a dramatic story, one that's really, I think, little-known because the original Penn Station was torn down.


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