Let’s show some love for the great shows on PBS. In this humble reporter’s opinion, the best shows have always been on PBS. And there are many more to come according to the presentations at the Television Critics Association’s winter 2019 press tour. There was an impressive gathering of producers, performers, writers, musicians, educators, scientists, advocates and PBS executives for interviews with the TV writers. They all paraded through the ballroom at Langham Huntington Hotel in Pasadena on February 1 and 2 to passionately promote their productions.
There were so many highlights from the panels, including hearing Emilio and Gloria Estefan’s joy about receiving the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, which will be a PBS special on Friday, May 3. And producer Dayton Duncan gave a preview of Ken Burns’ documentary that chronicles the history of country music, coming this fall. But sooner than that, country music legend Charley Pride gets the spotlight with American Masters “Charley Pride: I’m Just Me,” premiering Friday, February 22.
The optimistic Pride was a wonderful storyteller and reviewed his life for the TV writers. He was born in Sledge, Mississippi, the son of a sharecropper. “I wanted to become a baseball player and signed with several teams in the Negro Leagues. I moved to Montana and I wound up singing at the games, then my music started taking off,” he said adding that his mother would tell him “good things come to those who wait.” The 84-year-old Grammy winner is a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Grand Ole Opry, and he never let racial overtones distract him from his career as an entertainer. About his success, Pride said, “God had a lot to do with it, I really believe that.” Pride delighted everyone with a mini-concert during his session, and he sang one of his most beloved hits, “Kiss An Angel Good Morning.”
PBS never ceases to amaze.
Among the other music stars appearing to promote their upcoming shows were Josh Groban who has the concert special Josh Groban From Madison Square Garden premiering in March. Plus Live From Lincoln Center will have three solo “Stars in Concert” specials coming to PBS later this year with Tony-winners Annaleigh Ashford, Cynthia Erivo and Megan Hilty. Best-known for starring on Broadway as Glinda in Wicked, and on TV in Smash, Hilty gave an intimate performance showing off her sunny personality and stellar talent.
Also heavenly, science geeks reveled in the presentation of NOVA: The Planets, a five-part mini-series airing this summer that explores the awesome beauty of our solar system with the NASA folks from Pasadena’s Jet Propulsion Lab. Did you know that Mars has ancient dried waterfall beds that were once four times the size of any found on Earth?
Equally fascinating is the space race with the American Experience: Chasing the Moon. From its earliest beginnings to the first lunar landing in 1969 and beyond, the film by Robert Stone premieres July 2019 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first manned landing on the moon. It reimagines the race to the moon for a new generation, upending conventional mythology and showing the Space Age as a fascinating mix of scientific innovation, political calculation, media spectacle and surprising personal drama.
Down to earth, Nature: American Spring LIVE will be an unprecedented event, broadcast over three consecutive days (Monday, April 29 through Wednesday, May 1) from iconic locations across North America showcasing a variety of ecosystems ranging from the Rockies to the Everglades, from inner city parks to remote wilderness preserves. A diverse group of researchers and scientists will investigate in real time how a wide range of organisms respond to the change of seasons. A lot of animals respond to spring by giving birth and at press tour the Nature session was unlike anything the TV writers experience before because via satellite from Washington, Maine, a veterinarian conducted a sonogram of a pregnant ewe. Two in utero baby lambs were seen with the ultrasound. Fred Kaufmann, Nature’s series executive producer, revealed, “During the American Spring LIVE broadcast, we’ll actually be showing a lamb birth.”
PBS never ceases to amaze. Tune in.
Margie Barron is a member of the Television Critics Association and has written for a variety of top publications for more than 38 years, and was half of the husband and wife writing team of Margie and Frank Barron.