TCA: PBS features history in 2012 programming

PBS opened the Television Critics Association Winter 2012 Press Tour with a panel featuring Chef Lidia Bastianich and her program, Lidia Celebrates America, which finds her traveling the United States as she learns about traditions tied to ethnicity and food.  Wedding: Something Borrowed, Something New premieres April 17th and Lidia learns about what goes into a Korean wedding with the help of Yul Kwon, winner of Survivor: Cook Islands and host of PBS' America Revealed.

american experience

American Experience expands the focus from familial to the country's history.  January focuses on the Wild West, covering the likes of Billy the Kid, Wyatt Earp, Geronimo, and Annie Oakley.  Future programs feature William Still and the Underground Railroad and The Amish.  A short preview of The Amish, whose members refused to be photographed but consented to interviews, was gut-wrenching as it dealt with the tragic 2006 Nickel Mines shooting and the community coming to grips with it.     

Barak Goodman, Oscar-nominated filmmaker of Scottsboro: An American Tragedy, wrote and directed the two-part Clinton, the 15th presidential biography of the series.  The former president and his wife had no editorial control and aren't interviewed, a rule for the series, but they gave their blessing to the interviewees taking part.  Goodman was joined by Harry Thomason, television/film producer and friend of the Clintons, and David Maraniss, Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post journalist and author of First in His Class: A Biography of Bill Clinton and The Clinton Enigma.  During a discussion about the president and the program, it was stated the hardest thing in terms of understanding the man is fighting the instinct to resolve his contradictions.  The premiere dates are February 20 and 21.

Finding Your Roots With Henry Louis Gates, Jr. finds the Harvard professor returning with another genealogy series that traces the history of celebrities, including actors, musicians, and politicians.  For example, Gates' team of researchers was able to track Robert Downey Jr.'s 18th great-grandfather.  The 10-part series premieres March 25 and will continue on Sundays. 

Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Slavery By Another Name is a powerful documentary that will change what you know about when slavery ended in U.S.  It turns out there was a loophole in the 13th Amendment that allowed those deemed criminals to be placed into servitude to pay off their debts, a practice that occurred from the Civil War to World War II.  It's another ugly chapter in America's mistreatment of minorities.  The film is a 2012 Sundance Film Festival selection and premieres February 13 on PBS.

The first day ended with a look at two musical programs.  Michael Feinstein’s American Songbook II finds the performer returning with three more episodes premiering February 3 and running subsequent Fridays.  Feinstein's travels the country exploring the history of popular music, from the first music videos known as Soundies to nightclub entertainment.  It will remind viewers of the talents of people like Bobby Short and Liberace.   

Tied to the release of the DVD/Blu-ray, PBS stations will be airing The B-52s With The Wild Crowd! - Live In Athens, GA in March.  This live performance was recorded on February 18th, 2011 in the band’s hometown to commemorate the 34th anniversary of their first-ever live show on Valentine’s Day 1977.  If it was anything like, the infectiously entertaining hour-long set the band played for TCA members, the special will be a huge hit with fans of their quirky timeless tunes.

By Gordon S. Miller

About the author

Gordon S. Miller is the artist formerly known as El Bicho, the nom de plume he used when he first began reviewing movies online for The Masked Movie Snobs in 2003.  Before the year was out, he became that site's publisher.  Over the years, he has also contributed to a number of other sites as a writer and editor, such as Blogcritics, FilmRadar, and High Def Digest.  He became the Editor-in-Chief of Cinema Sentries upon its inception in 2011.

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