Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

About American Masters



American Masters, THIRTEEN’s award-winning biography series, celebrates our arts and culture. Launched in 1986, the series has set the standard for documentary film profiles, accruing widespread critical acclaim. Awards include 76 Emmy nominations and 28 Emmy awards — 10 for Outstanding Non-Fiction Series and five for Outstanding Non-Fiction Special — 14 Peabody Awards; three Grammys; an Oscar; two Producers Guild Awards for Outstanding Producer of Non-Fiction Television; and the 2012 IDA Award for Best Continuing Series. Now in its 34th season on PBS, the series is a production of THIRTEEN PRODUCTIONS LLC for WNET.

One of the most durable and worthwhile jewels in public television’s crown.TV Worth Watching

American Masters enjoys recognition from film events across the country and international festivals from London to Berlin and Toronto to Melbourne. Other honors include The Christopher Awards and the Chicago International Television Awards as Outstanding Documentary Series, and the Banff Grand Prize and the Television Critics Association Award for Outstanding Movies.

When it comes to biography, no one’s doing it better than American Masters. — Wall Street Journal

American Masters has produced an exceptional library, bringing unique originality and perspective to illuminate the creative journeys of our most enduring writers, musicians, visual and performing artists, dramatists, filmmakers and those who have left an indelible impression on our cultural landscape. Balancing a broad and diverse cast of characters and artistic approaches, while preserving historical authenticity and intellectual integrity, these portraits reveal the style and substance of each subject.

It’s like the Pulitzer for this business. — Don Hewitt

The series’ individually crafted films reflect the specific attention deserved by American Masters subjects, including such great talents as Arthur Miller (the series’ first subject), Georgia O’Keeffe, James Baldwin, Diego Rivera, Martha Graham, F. Scott Fitzgerald, I.M. Pei, Leonard Bernstein, Sidney Poitier, Judy Garland, John James Audubon, Bob Dylan, Andy Warhol, Johnny Carson, Zora Neale Hurston, Albert Einstein, Rod Serling, Bill T. Jones, Lucille Ball, Paul Simon, Richard Avedon, John Cassavetes, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Gehry, Woody Guthrie, Jimi Hendrix, Edward Curtis, Julia Child, Walter Cronkite, Toni Morrison and Billie Jean King, as well as influential cultural institutions and eras such as the Actor’s Studio, the Algonquin Round Table, the Negro Ensemble Company, the Juilliard School, 60 Minutes, the Joffrey Ballet and a century of Chinese American cinematic history in Hollywood Chinese.

…one of the greatest cultural storytelling franchises in American life. — The Baltimore Sun

Fascinating in their individuality as well as in the aggregate, American Masters has become a cultural legacy in its own right, producing and presenting the extraordinary mosaic of our creative heritage and broadening viewer appreciation of our nation’s traditions and character. An artist’s work can capture, reflect and even shape a society’s experience. Without art, we would lack an identity, a soul and a voice. American Masters exists to give life to that voice.

…the kind of PBS program even a die-hard congressional critic of PBS can love. — Variety

For media inquiries about American Masters, please refer to the THIRTEEN pressroom. To learn more about the history of American Masters, see this interview with series founder Susan Lacy.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Schedule?

American Masters does not have regularly scheduled programming and its premiere dates are national, but may vary in time and date by local PBS station. See schedule at the top navigation of our site to log-in your local station and see what programs are available in the next two weeks.

Do you email newsletters?
We do have a newsletter, and we’d be very pleased if you would like to subscribe. Weekly newsletters share inspiration and stories about American icons, and include updates on our latest premieres and web exclusives.

Where can I purchase a film DVD?

To purchase DVDs of AMERICAN MASTERS episodes, please visit ShopPBS or call 1-800-531-4727. The icon of a shopping cart on this site’s top navigation bar leads to ShopPBS.

Do you have Classroom materials?

PBS LearningMedia regularly creates educational materials to accompany American Masters episodes. Please see in the top navigation of this site to see the resources available.

Series Funding

Support for American Masters is provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, AARP, Rosalind P. Walter, Seton J. Melvin, The Blanche & Irving Laurie Foundation,  Vital Projects Fund, Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family Foundation, Lillian Goldman Programming Endowment, The Philip and Janice Levin Foundation, Judith and Burton Resnick, Ellen and James S. Marcus, The André and Elizabeth Kertész Foundation, and public television viewers.

Major Awards Print

Emmy Awards

Outstanding Non-Fiction Series


Outstanding Achievement in Directing

  • W. EUGENE SMITH (1989)
  • MEL BROOKS (2013)

Outstanding Sound Mixing

  • BOB DYLAN (2006)
  • TONY BENNETT (2008)
  • JIMI HENDRIX (2014)

Outstanding Non Fiction Special

  • BUSTER KEATON (1987)
  • LILLIAN GISH (1988)
  • The GROUP THEATER (1989)
  • EDWARD R. MURROW (1990)

Outstanding Achievement in Writing

  • BUSTER KEATON (1987)
  • JUDY GARLAND (2004)
  • ANDY WARHOL (2007)

Outstanding Sound Editing

  • JONI MITCHELL (2003)

Outstanding Picture Editing

  • JUDY GARLAND (2004)

Outstanding Musical Composition in a Non-Fiction Special

  • JOHN MUIR (2011)

Academy Awards

Best Feature Documentary


Nominations Best Feature Documentary

  • WALDO SALT (1991)
  • AL HIRSCHFELD (1997)
  • PAUL TAYLOR (1999)

Peabody Awards

  • BUSTER KEATON (1987)
  • JOHN HAMMOND (1990)
  • PAUL SIMON (1994)
  • BOB DYLAN (2005)
  • ANDY WARHOL (2007)
  • JOHN LENNON (2010)
  • ELIA KAZAN (2010)
  • CHARLES & RAY EAMES (2012)
  • MAYA ANGELOU (2018)

Grammy Awards

  • LOU REED (1998)
  • BOB DYLAN (2005)
  • THE DOORS  (2009)

Producer’s Guild Award

  • Outstanding Producer of Non-Fiction Television (2012)
  • Outstanding Producer of Non-Fiction Television (2013)

Chicago International Film Festival Television Gold Hugo Award

  • Educational Documentary Series (2015)

Series Credits Print

Broadcast Credits

Executive Producer
Michael Kantor

Series Producer
Julie Sacks

Associate Broadcast Producer
Cristiana Lombardo

Multimedia Producer
Joe Skinner

Series Production Coordinator
Hailey Rozenberg

Digital Lead
David Polk

Associate Digital Producer
Aisha Amin

Audience Engagement Specialist
Ava Tews

Series Budget Controller
Jayne Lisi

Music Services
Rosie Fishel
Sue Sinclair

Series Music Composed By
Thomas Wagner

Series Title Design By
Brian Whitehill

Brian Santalone

Technical Director
Brian Lee

Creative Director
Nick Miller

Chief Digital Officer
Daniel Greenberg