Ray Richmond is contributing to Deadline’s TCA coverage.
PBS’ president and CEO Paula Kerger sounds optimistic about the future of the pubcaster. During PBS’ portion of the TCA summer press tour she indicated that the government funding crisis that was exploding the last time she faced critics in January was somewhat less severe now as the political football has been tossed elsewhere. “At this critical moment,” Kerger said, “the American people reached out to their elected officials and were responsible for preserving federal funding for public broadcasting.” What also helped was the fact that there is no other TV network devoted to the arts as cable networks like A&E and Bravo, once covering the same space, have moved on to reality fare like Storage Wars and The Real Housewives. “Some of the cable networks have moved in a slightly different direction,” Kerger said. “Bringing arts programming to the American public is how A&E started. The ‘A’ in A&E once stood for “Arts.” Bravo (at the beginning) was very much focused on arts content instead of the kinds of programs they’re doing now — which are also about creativity but again a different type of creativity. So for us to be focusing on the arts gives us a unique vantage point that no other media organization has.” Kerger later responded to a question by noting that one way for PBS to easier deal with Washington is to grow more consistent in its programming focus and not showcase different offerings for pledge times vs. non-pledge. “We need to bring the two categories together,” she stressed. “We also want to continue to showcase work that’s not being seen other place, like musical television.”
In terms of announcements, Kerger noted that PBS will be premiering new projects under the Masterpiece franchise:
—Page Eight, premiering on Masterpiece Contemporary on Nov. 6, at 9 PM: Stars Bill Nighy, Michael Gambon, Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz in the story of an aging spy who stumbles onto an international scandal that could bring down the British government.
—The Song of Lunch, premiering on Masterpiece Contemporary on Nov. 13 at 9 PM: Stars Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson as former lovers who meet for a nostalgic lunch 15 years after their breakup. A dramatization of the acclaimed narrative poem from Christopher Reid.
Also announced today:
–PBS will present seven new short films as part of an unprecedented PBS Arts Fall Festival beginning Oct. 14 that focuses on the cultural aspects of seven American cities: Seattle, Chicago, Miami, San Francisco, Cleveland, Minneapolis and the Blue Ridge Mountain region.
–The Andrea Bocelli Live in Central Park free concert at Central Park’s Great Lawn on Sept. 15 will be recorded and presented on Great Performances on Dec. 2 as part of the PBS Arts Fall Festival.