ARLINGTON, VA, MAY 10, 2011 – Building on a year of audience growth on-air and on digital and mobile platforms, today, PBS announces a new slate of fall programming, including a celebration of the arts, in advance of its Annual Meeting with PBS stations. At the May 16-19 meeting in Orlando, PBS will preview additional new content and digital and children’s initiatives.
PBS Arts Fall Festival On-Air, Online, Local and in the Classroom
Along with PROHIBITION and NOVA “The Fabric of the Cosmos,” a centerpiece of the fall is the first-ever PBS Arts Fall Festival, offering full-length performances, artist and performer profiles, behind-the-scenes documentaries and mini-films about the art scenes in Miami, San Francisco, Cleveland, Chicago, the Blue Ridge Mountains and other areas of the country. The festival kicks off Friday, October 14, 2011, at 9:00 p.m. ET and airs on Fridays through December with all-new broadcasts of classic and contemporary performances, including WOMEN WHO ROCK, inspired by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum’s exhibit of the same name; GIVE ME THE BANJO, narrated by Steve Martin, a banjoist himself, exploring the roots of American music; and GREAT PERFORMANCES “The Little Mermaid From San Francisco Ballet.” Plans call for immersive online exhibits that extend the broadcast specials and innovative educational tools that connect to the programs and help fill gaps in arts education. In addition, PBS member stations will have the opportunity to enhance their own local broadcasts with additional arts content from their community.
“For four decades, PBS has been a passionate proponent and participant in the arts, giving millions of Americans their first glimpses at dance, theater, opera and music. The PBS Arts Fall Festival will bring unparalleled access to the arts from multiple media platforms and in the classroom,” said PBS President and CEO Paula A. Kerger. “More audiences have been tuning into PBS on television, visiting PBS.org online and streaming PBS content on mobile devices over the last two seasons. We hope to continue to delight fans by offering windows into the worlds of culture, history, science and so much more this fall season.”
Kicking off the PBS fall season on October 2-4, 2011, at 8:00 p.m. ET, Ken Burns and Lynn Novick discover the true story of America’s “Great Experiment” with PROHIBITION. They go beyond the oft-told tales of gangsters, rumrunners, flappers and speakeasies to experience the rise, rule and fall of the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The series features music by Wynton Marsalis and the voice talents of Tom Hanks, Jeremy Irons, Paul Giamatti, Oliver Platt, John Lithgow, Samuel L. Jackson, Patricia Clarkson, Adam Arkin, Sam Waterston, Josh Lucas and others with narration by Peter Coyote.
Physicist and acclaimed author Brian Greene returns to NOVA with “The Fabric of the Cosmos,” Wednesdays, November 2-23, 2011, at 9:00 p.m. ET. The four-part miniseries takes us to the frontiers of physics to see how scientists are piecing together the most complete picture yet of space, time and the universe, revealing that just beneath the surface of our everyday experience lies a world that is far stranger and more wondrous than anyone expected.
Building on the successful move of NOVA to Wednesday nights in January (NOVA’s ratings have increased 31 percent this season), this fall, PBS will pair NATURE and NOVA on Wednesday nights to expand on audience affinities. Other schedule changes include the debut of the PBS Arts Fall Festival on Friday nights at 9:00 p.m. ET and a new format and focus for PBS’ public affairs series NEED TO KNOW. Re-launching Friday, September 16, 2011, from 8:30-9:00 p.m. ET, NEED TO KNOW will focus its investigative lens on issues related to Election 2012, with commentary from a range of guests, including former co-anchor Jon Meacham. FRONTLINE continues its expanded year-round presence with weekly in-depth investigations — including post-9/11 intelligence and national security, urban gangs and those who are fighting against them, and AIDS within the African-American community — and its monthly newsmagazines featuring hard-hitting investigations and newsmaker interviews. PBS’ fall season will continue to see ongoing coverage of top stories from PBS NEWSHOUR, CHARLIE ROSE, INDEPENDENT LENS, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT, TAVIS SMILEY and WASHINGTON WEEK WITH GWEN IFILL AND NATIONAL JOURNAL.
“Over the last year, PBS has seen a steady upward trend in viewership, including a banner season for MASTERPIECE, which saw viewership increase 54 percent compared to last season. We’ve also expanded our content offerings on digital platforms for viewers to watch when and where they want it,” said John F. Wilson, PBS Senior Vice President and Chief TV Programming Executive. “Along with Ken Burns’s and Lynn Novick’s PROHIBITION, the PBS Arts Fall Festival and NOVA “The Fabric of the
Cosmos” with Brian Greene, PBS and its producing partners will be announcing even more great content in the days ahead, including additional miniseries, ongoing series premieres and special programming to commemorate the anniversary of 9-11.”
Information on additional specials and ongoing episode premieres will be announced throughout May and June and at the PBS/TCA Press Tour, July 30-31 in Los Angeles.
PBS Arts festival preliminary line-up (in alphabetical order): PBS Arts from Chicago: AMERICAN MASTERS “Bill T. Jones: A Good Man” – Follow award-winning director/choreographer Bill T. Jones’s intense creative journey as he leads his company in the creation of Fondly Do We Hope... Fervently Do We Pray, an original dance-theater piece in honor of Abraham Lincoln’s bicentennial. “Bill T. Jones: A Good Man” is a co-production of A Good Man Film LLC, Kartemquin Films, Independent Television Service (ITVS), THIRTEEN’s American Masters for WNET, and Media Process Group, with the cooperation of the Ravinia Festival. The evening’s presentation is in collaboration with PBS member station WTTW.
PBS Arts from Seattle: AMERICAN MASTERS "Pearl Jam Twenty" - In honor of Pearl Jam's 20th anniversary, award-winning director and music journalist Cameron Crowe creates a definitive portrait of the seminal band carved from over 1,200 hours of rarely and never-before-seen footage, plus 24 hours of recently shot concert and interview footage. "Pearl Jam Twenty" chronicles the years leading up to the band’s formation, the chaos that ensued soon after their rise to mega-stardom, their step back from center stage and the creation of a work culture that would sustain them. Part concert film, part insider hang, part testimonial to the power of music and uncompromising artists, the film celebrates the freedom that allowed Pearl Jam a way to make music without losing sight of what mattered most to them — their fans and the music fans that they themselves had always been. "Pearl Jam Twenty" features interviews with original band members Jeff Ament, Stone Gossard, Mike McCready and Eddie Vedder, drummer Matt Cameron, and friend and Soundgarden singer/guitarist Chris Cornell, as well as archival performance and interview footage of Mother Love Bone, Pearl Jam, Temple of the Dog, Kurt Cobain and Neil Young. AMERICAN MASTERS is a production of Thirteen for WNET. The evening’s presentation is in collaboration with PBS member station KCTS.
PBS Arts from Minnesota: GILBERT AND SULLIVAN’S HMS PINAFORE – Delight in this spectacular new production of the beloved Gilbert and Sullivan classic from the Guthrie Theater, directed by the theater’s Artistic Director, Joe Dowling. Infused with fresh musical arrangements of Sullivan’s memorable melodies — ranging from big band swing to classic pop — HMS Pinafore is pure joy and sensational entertainment for everyone. The evening’s presentation is produced by PBS member station Twin Cities Public Television (tpt).
PBS Arts from the Blue Ridge Mountains: GIVE ME THE BANJO (w.t.) – Narrated by Steve Martin, a banjoist himself, the film explores the roots of American music — the minstrel show, ragtime and early jazz, blues, old-time, folk, bluegrass and country. It is a story of America’s quintessential musical instrument from its African slavery roots to the 21st century, featuring performances and commentary from contemporary folk musicians such as Pete Seeger, Earl Scruggs, Taj Mahal, Béla Fleck and the Carolina Chocolate Drops, as well as from leading music historians, instrument builders and collectors. GIVE ME THE BANJO is produced and directed by Marc Fields with Michael Kantor as executive producer. Tony Trischka is co-producer and music director. The evening’s presentation is in collaboration with PBS member station UNC-TV (North Carolina).
PBS Arts from Los Angeles: GREAT PERFORMANCES “Il Postino from LA Opera” – Bask in the beautiful voice of world-renowned tenor Plácido Domingo with the LA Opera in this romantic new opera by composer Daniel Catán based on the Oscar-winning Italian film. GREAT PERFORMANCES is a production of Thirteen for WNET New York Public Media. The evening’s presentation is in cooperation with member station PBS SoCal (Southern California).
PBS Arts from San Francisco: GREAT PERFORMANCES “The Little Mermaid from San Francisco Ballet” – Experience Hans Christian Andersen’s haunting tale of love with San Francisco Ballet’s production of John Neumeier’s inventive ballet. The original score is by young Russian-American composer Lera Auerbach. Part of GREAT PERFORMANCES’ “Dance in America.” GREAT PERFORMANCES is a production of Thirteen for WNET New York Public Media. The evening’s presentation is in collaboration with PBS member station KQED.
PBS Arts from Miami: GREAT PERFORMANCES “Miami City Ballet Dances Balanchine & Tharp” - Witness the grace and beauty of one of America’s finest dance companies, Edward Villella’s Miami City Ballet, in a trio of signature works by George Balanchine and Twyla Tharp. Watch the company’s critically acclaimed performances of Balanchine’s “Square Dance” and “Western Symphony” and Tharp’s “The Golden Section.” Part of GREAT PERFORMANCES’ “Dance in America.” GREAT PERFORMANCES is a production of Thirteen for WNET New York Public Media. The evening’s presentation is in collaboration with PBS member station WPBT.
PBS Arts from Cleveland: WOMEN WHO ROCK – From Bessie Smith to Janis Joplin to Lady Gaga, this performance documentary vibrates with energy as it traces the indelible mark that amazing women musicians have made on America’s soundtrack. Inspired by the “Women Who Rock: Vision, Passion, Power” exhibit at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, WOMEN WHO ROCK reveals new insights into what it means to be female in the male-dominated world of rock and roll, while exploring how those dynamics between the sexes have changed with time. The film is
produced by Susan Wittenberg and Carol Stein with assistance from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The evening’s presentation is in collaboration with PBS member station WVIZ/PBS ideastream®.
The PBS Arts Fall Festival’s ninth program, celebrity hosts and additional airdates will be announced later.
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NOTE: this press release was updated on June 8, 2011.