PBS this morning officially unveiled its fall scheduling plans and a couple newly-announced programs. This being an election year, Frontline’s series The Choice 2016 returns on September 27 with a look at this year’s presidential candidates, while The Contenders – 16 for 16, debuting September 13, will look back at stories of former candidates. (PBS also will, per tradition, go gavel to gavel with the two political conventions in July.)
Not coincidentally, this year’s PBS Arts Fall Festival kicks off with Great Performances’ Hamilton’s America, on October 21.
“It gives us a fantastic opportunity to talk about the hottest show ever, on Broadway,” PBS’ chief programming exec and GM Beth Hoppe said of the play that recently snagged 11 Tony Awards, including best musical. PBS got access to creator Lin-Manuel Miranda and colleagues for two years leading up to Hamilton’s Broadway debut. “We were in a really wonderful position,” Hoppe told Deadline. “David Horne, exec producer of Great Performances has a great relationship with Lin, because he had done a documentary on his earlier show, In the Heights. Through that relationship, he is a Friend Of PBS,” she joked, of Miranda.
With 9/11 Inside the Pentagon, PBS will commemorate the 15th anniversary of the September 11 attacks; the documentary includes interviews with survivors and first responders after American Flight 77 slammed into the Pentagon, killing 184 people. This year, September 11 falls on a Sunday night, which is Masterpiece night on PBS, so the programming service decided to get out ahead of the anniversary with this airing of its Pentagon project, on September 6.
(Masterpiece, meanwhile, includes new seasons of Poldark and Indian Summers, among other titles)
Also newly announced, Royal Wives at War looks at the British abdication of 1936. The royal family crisis is dramatized through the 30-years-later eyes of Wallis Simpson, for whom Edward VIII gave up the throne, and the Queen Mother, who “makes our dowager countess in Downton look warm and fuzzy,” Hoppe quipped. The project, airing September 18, uses the two women’s letters and diary entries to create a dramatized monologue.
A chronological listing of Fall 2016 PBS programs follows, grouped by month and premiere date:
SEPTEMBER ON PBS:
POV “The Birth of Sake” – Go behind the scenes at Japan’s Yoshida Brewery, where a brotherhood of artisans, ranging from 20 to 70, spend six months in nearly monastic isolation as they follow an age-old process to create sake, the nation’s revered rice wine. Monday, September 5, 10-11 p.m. ET
9/11 INSIDE THE PENTAGON – On September 11, 2001 at 9:37 a.m. American Flight 77 slammed into the Pentagon killing 184 people. What happened behind the walls of the Pentagon is a largely untold chapter in history. Fifteen years later, survivors and first responders shed light on that tragic day. Tuesday, September 6, 8-9 p.m. ET
AMERICA BY THE NUMBERS: THE NEW DECIDERS – Learn how Asian-American, black millennial, Arab-American, and Latino evangelical voters are exerting their growing strength and influence in this 2016 election special about power and politics, demographics and democracy. Tuesday, September 6, 10-11 p.m. ET
CHURCHILL’S SECRET ON MASTERPIECE – Michael Gambon (The Singing Detective, Harry Potter) stars as Winston Churchill in this dramatization of Churchill’s life-threatening stroke in the summer of 1953, when he was prime minister for the second time. His illness and battle to recover were kept secret from the world. Lindsay Duncan (Birdman) plays Churchill’s wife Clementine, and Romola Garai (The Hour) is the remarkable young nurse who cared for him. Sunday, September 11, 8-10 pm ET
INDIAN SUMMERS ON MASTERPIECE – It’s 1935 in Simla—an Indian retreat for British colonials set in the Himalayas. An assassination attempt on the Viceroy Lord Willingdon (Patrick Malahide), and the surprise arrival of Lord Hawthorne (James Fleet, Outlander), puts Ralph’s (Henry Lloyd-Hughes) future in the balance. Meanwhile, Cynthia’s (Julie Walters) Royal Simla Club plays host to an important royal guest, the Maharaja Maritpur (Art Malik, Upstairs Downstairs) and his elegant and mysterious mistress Sirene (Rachel Griffiths, Brothers & Sisters). Sundays, September 11-November 20, 10-11 p.m. ET
POV “All the Difference” – Monday, September 12, 10-11:30 p.m. ET
Accompany two African-American teens from the South Side of Chicago on their journey to achieve their dreams of graduating from college.
FRONTLINE “The Diploma Mill” (w.t.) – Tuesday, September 13, 9-10 p.m. ET
In a one-hour special, FRONTLINE presents two films that build on its education reporting. “The Diploma Mill” (w.t.), a fresh look at the troubled for-profit college industry, examines reports of predatory behavior and fraud and the implosion of the education chain, Corinthian Colleges; and “Omarina’s Story” shows how an innovative program to stem the high school dropout crisis has affected one girl’s journey, from a public middle school in the Bronx to an elite New England private school, and now on to college.
TED TALKS “Education Revolution” – Tuesday, September 13, 10-11 p.m. ET
Explore innovative approaches to education with hosts Baratunde Thurston and Sara Ramirez. Speakers, including Anna Deavere Smith and Sal Khan, discuss the school-to-prison pipeline, the impact of micromanaging kids, and transforming struggling students into scholars.
NOVA “School of the Future” – Wednesday, September 14, 9-11 p.m. ET
In a new age of information, rapid innovation and globalization, how can we prepare our children to compete? Discover how the new science of learning can help us reimagine the future of education for all children.
CRAFT IN AMERICA “Teachers” – Thursday, September 15, 8-9 p.m. ET
Follow artists committed to passing on their skills and passion for craft to new generations. Featured are Barbara Teller Ornelas, Lynda Teller Pete, Therman Statom, Mark Mitsuda at Punahou School and Linda Sikora at Alfred University.
TIME FOR SCHOOL – Thursday, September 15, 9-10:30 p.m. ET
An update to the award-wining documentary project visits seven classrooms in seven countries and offers a glimpse of seven extraordinary children struggling to get what all Americans take for granted: a basic education. The film will catch up with these children, who are now adults, to see how their lives have turned out.
AMERICAN GRADUATE DAY – Saturday, September 17, 2-6:00 p.m. ET
Many PBS stations will extend Spotlight Education by airing the fifth annual American Graduate Day live from Tisch WNET Studios at Lincoln Center in New York City. American Graduate Day is a live, four-hour multiplatform broadcast that leverages the power and reach of public media to focus on those organizations and individual Champions keeping kids on the path to graduation.
PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND – Saturday, September 17, Check Local Listings
A special edition of the show with Hari Sreenivasan from Nine Network in St. Louis focuses on the various ways schools and teachers are trying to improve student performance and engagement.
THE CONTENDERS – 16 FOR ’16 – This eight-part series reveals the humanity, the twists of fate, and the surprising mistakes behind 16 of the most compelling and tumultuous presidential campaigns in modern history. The Contenders will revisit the past 50 years of presidential election history and show how previous campaigns are still influencing politics in unexpected ways. Tuesdays, September 13-November 1, 8-9 p.m. ET
FORCES OF NATURE – Forces of Nature is an epic blue-chip science series that explores the fundamental forces that shape our very existence. This stunning 4-part series co-produced with BBC tells compelling and emotional human and animal stories that illustrate the mysterious forces that shape the universe itself. One episode explores the ways that gravity manifests itself; another delves into the weird and wonderful properties of light and color and how they make life possible. Also examined are the very nature of the Earth, and the internal motion that drives our bodies, our weather and some of the most dramatic events on the planet. Wednesdays, September 14-October 5, 8-9 p.m. ET
ART IN THE 21ST CENTURY – Join ART21 and host Claire Danes for unparalleled access to creative minds at work in four exemplary contemporary art locales: Chicago, Los Angeles, Mexico City and Vancouver. Each program, set in a different city, presents four artists creating works that deeply engage with the world around us and allow us to see it in new ways. The eighth season features a new production team that includes award-winning directors Stanley Nelson, Deborah Dickson and Pamela Mason Wagner. Fridays, September 16-23, 9-11 p.m. ET
POV “Kingdom of Shadows” – Emmy®-nominated filmmaker Bernardo Ruiz takes an unflinching look at the hard choices and destructive consequences of the U.S.-Mexico drug war. Witness the human side of the conflict through the eyes of a U.S. drug enforcement agent, an activist nun in Mexico and a former Texas smuggler. Monday, September 19, 10-11:30 p.m. ET
DEFYING THE NAZIS: THE SHARPS’ WAR – With narration taken completely from the couple’s journals, this documentary, co-directed by Ken Burns and Artemis Joukowsky, tells the previously untold story of Waitstill and Martha Sharp, an American minister and his wife from Wellesley, Massachusetts, who left their children behind in the care of their parish to boldly commit to a life-threatening mission to save imperiled Jews and refugees in Nazi-occupied Europe. Tuesday, September 20, 9-10:30 p.m. ET
ROYAL WIVES AT WAR – A revealing new look at the British abdication crisis of 1936 through the eyes of the two women at its heart. In a series of dramatized monologues set in 1967, Elizabeth the Queen Mother and Wallis Simpson look back at the dramatic events that led to Edward VIII’s decision to give up the throne for the woman he loved. Sunday, September 18, 8-9 p.m. ET
FRONTLINE “The Choice 2016” – FRONTLINE’s acclaimed series “The Choice” returns this fall with a two-hour film investigating what has shaped the two presidential candidates, where they came from, how they lead and why they want to take on one of the most difficult jobs imaginable. From veteran FRONTLINE filmmaker Michael Kirk, “The Choice 2016” will investigate formative moments in the candidates’ lives through interviews with those who know them best, providing in-depth, trustworthy reporting and powerful new insights at a moment when voters are being bombarded with conflicting partisan stories about each candidate. Tuesday, September 27, 9-11 p.m. ET
OCTOBER ON PBS:
Willie Velasquez: Empowering the People – With his rallying cry of “Su Voto es su Voz” (“Your Vote Is Your Voice”), Willie Velasquez started a grassroots movement that would change the nation’s political landscape and pave the way for the growing power of the Latino vote. October 3, 10:30-11:30 p.m. ET
NOVA “Great Human Odyssey” – Walk in the footsteps of our ancient ancestors as scientists trace the paths that led us out of Africa and around the world. From snowy Siberia to remote Pacific islands, discover how humans survived and thrived in every corner of the planet. October 5, 9-11 p.m. ET
POV “From This Day Forward” – When Sharon Shattuck’s father came out as transgender and began living as Trisha, Sharon was middle school. Her father’s transition to female was difficult for her mother, Marcia, to accept, but her parents stayed together. As the Shattucks reunite to plan Sharon’s wedding, she seeks a deeper understanding of how their family survived intact. Shown with the short film Pink Boy, about a gender-nonconforming boy growing up in conservative rural Florida. Monday, October 10-11:30 p.m. ET
NATURE “Super Hummingbirds” (w.t.) – Though high-speed camerawork and breakthrough new science, enter the fast-paced world of hummingbirds as never before. Speed is their middle name. They possess natural super powers that enable them to fly backwards and upside-down and float in mid-air. And for the first time, see them mate, lay eggs, fight and raise families in intimate detail. They are great athletes, tender mothers and brave combatants, up for any challenge. They are the smallest, most brilliant birds on earth. Wednesday, October 12, 8-9 p.m. ET
TESLA: AMERICAN EXPERIENCE – Meet Nikola Tesla, the genius engineer and tireless inventor whose technology revolutionized the electrical age of the 20th century. Although eclipsed in fame by Edison and Marconi, it was Tesla’s vision that paved the way for today’s wireless world. Tuesday, October 18, 9-10 p.m. ET
POV “Hooligan Sparrow” – The danger is palpable as intrepid young filmmaker Nanfu Wang follows activist “Hooligan Sparrow” and her band of colleagues to southern China to seek justice for six elementary school girls allegedly sexually abused by their principal. Named enemies of the state, the activists face interrogation, harassment and imprisonment. As Sparrow champions girls’ and women’s rights, the filmmaker becomes a target, too. Monday, October 17, 10-11:30 p.m. ET
NATURE “My Congo” (w.t.) – Vianet Djenguet has lived half his life in Europe, yet his heart still lies in his homeland, his Congo. As a successful wildlife cameraman, Vianet is returning to his roots to reveal the beauty and majesty of his country and the people within. His journey will be one of self-discovery as he travels up the Congo River toward his ancestral home, meeting an abundance of weird and wonderful characters along the way, both animal and human. Finally, Vianet is able to give his beloved homeland the glorious spotlight it deserves and discovers an even deeper connection with this place than he could have ever imagined. “You haven’t really travelled until you experience a place like the Congo,” says Vianet. Wednesday, October 19, 8-9 p.m. ET
PBS ARTS FALL FESTIVAL – Fridays, beginning October 21.
GREAT PERFORMANCES “Hamilton’s America” – The feature film documentary Hamilton’s America brings history to vivid life through the contemporary perspective of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s revolutionary hip-hop musical, Hamilton. The story of Alexander Hamilton is most remembered for its dramatic conclusion, in which Hamilton was killed in a duel by Vice President Aaron Burr, but his immeasurable contributions to modern society have largely been forgotten by today’s general public. Just in time for election year, Hamilton’s America will provide a primetime audience with intimate access to Miranda and his colleagues during the two years leading up to the Broadway opening of the Tony Award-winning smash hit musical. This “hip-hop-historical” documentary features a young, dynamic cast of actors as our guides, along with commentary from some of today’s most notable thinkers and artists, brushing the dust off America’s fascinating early history. The most buzzed-about show in years and the hottest ticket in decades, Hamilton is redefining how audiences learn about history, but also how they engage with these timeless issues. Produced by Academy Award® and Emmy®-Winning producers RadicalMedia. Friday, October 21, 9-10:30 p.m. ET
POV “Thank You for Playing” – When Ryan Green, a video game programmer, learns that his young son Joel has cancer, he and his wife begin documenting their emotional journey with a poetic video game, “That Dragon, Cancer,” which evolves from a cathartic exercise into a critically acclaimed work of art. The film is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the unique ways that art and technology can help us share profound experiences. Monday, October 24, 10-11:30 p.m. ET
AMERICAN MASTERS “Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You” – Largely responsible for the explosion of bold American television in the 1970s, writer/producer Norman Lear’s name is synonymous with the sitcom. With unprecedented access to Lear, his work and his massive personal archives, the program combines stories from his turbulent childhood and early career with his groundbreaking TV success (“All in the Family,” “The Jeffersons,” “Good Times,” “Maude”) and social activism. The documentary also features colorful stories from Lear’s family, friends and collaborators, including John Amos, Mel Brooks, George Clooney, Alan Horn, Bill Moyers, Carl Reiner, Rob Reiner and Russell Simmons. Lear proved that social change was possible through an unlikely prism – laughter – and created some of the greatest moments in television history. Tuesday, October 25, 9-10:30 p.m. ET
NATURE “The Giraffe Ark” (w.t.) – What does it take to relocate a herd of wild giraffes in Africa? One man, his family and a band of enthusiastic helpers are about to find out. Their journey will take them across the wild heart of Uganda, crossing the mighty Nile River. The size of this operation cannot be underestimated, particularly when the cargo is so precious. That’s because these are no ordinary giraffes; they are, in fact, the world’s rarest. Any mistake could be costly, not only for the giraffes being moved but also for an entire species. Wednesday, October 26, 8-9 p.m. ET
POV “What Tomorrow Brings” – Step inside the very first girls’ school in a small Afghan village. Never before have fathers here allowed their daughters to be educated; now the Taliban threatens. The film traces the interconnected stories of students, teachers, village elders and parents. While the girls learn to read and write, they discover the differences between the lives they were born into and the lives they dream of leading. Monday, October 31, 10-11 p.m. ET
NOVEMBER ON PBS:
THE BATTLE OF CHOSIN: AMERICAN EXPERIENCE – Revisit this pivotal 1950 Korean War battle through the eyewitness accounts of participants. A harrowing story of bloody combat and heroic survival in the first major military clash of the Cold War. Tuesday, November 1, 9-11 p.m. ET
NATURE “The Story of Cats” – Cats are among the most feared and revered creatures on the planet. They’ve dominated human culture since the dawn of civilization. They are one of the most studied mammals in the world, yet only now is their real identity being understood – from their incredible hunting abilities to their unique physiology and remarkable behaviors. With nearly 40 different species thriving in almost any environment, the cat is the greatest predator since the dinosaurs. Join NATURE in an epic two-part event to journey across the globe tracking down the origins of these diverse creatures. Get an in-depth look at this unique species and the evolutionary tricks and adaptations that truly make a cat, a cat. Wednesdays, November 2 & 9, 8-9 p.m. ET
NOVA “Treasures of the Earth” – Explore how precious gems, metals and energy resources are forged under extraordinary circumstances deep within the Earth, and discover how their unique properties have helped lift humanity from the Stone Age to the stars. November 2, 9 and 16, 9-10 p.m. ET
PBS NEWSHOUR: ELECTION NIGHT – Watch live coverage of election results, co-anchored by PBS NewsHour’s Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff. November 8, live coverage starting at 8 p.m. ET
SOUNDBREAKING: STORIES FROM THE CUTTING EDGE OF RECORDED MUSIC – This eight-part series takes an in-depth look at the art of music recording and how it’s evolved, from The Beatles’ groundbreaking use of multi-track technology to the synthesized stylings of Stevie Wonder, from disco-era drum machines to the modern art of sampling. The last project of legendary Beatles producer Sir George Martin, the programs feature more than 150 exclusive and original interviews, including Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Joni Mitchell, Roger Waters, Linda Perry, Elton John, Debbie Harry, B.B. King, Annie Lennox and more. November 14-23; Weeknights 10-11 p.m. ET
BLACK AMERICA SINCE MLK: AND STILL I RISE – Henry Louis Gates, Jr. looks at the last 50 years of African-American history — from Stokely Carmichael to Barack Obama, James Brown to Beyoncé — charting the remarkable progress made, and raising hard questions about the obstacles that remain. Tuesdays, November 15-22, 8-10 p.m. ET
ANNE OF GREEN GABLES – A new adaptation of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s classic novel tells the story of Anne Shirley, a precocious orphan placed in the care of uptight Marilla Cuthbert and her brother Matthew, played by acclaimed actor Martin Sheen. Neither the adventurous Anne nor the conservative Marilla could anticipate the profound effect they’d have on each other’s lives. Thursday, November 24, 8-9:30 p.m. ET
DECEMBER ON PBS:
DEAD RECKONING: JUSTICE IN THE AFTERMATH OF WWII (w.t.) – Since World War II, war crime investigations and prosecutions have played a major role in the quest for international justice and worldwide diplomacy. Following particular case studies in places such as the Balkans and Rwanda, Cambodia and Argentina, Germany and Syria, DEAD RECKONING presents a no-holds-barred examination of this new feature of international relations. The three-part series traces the evolution of these political power struggles from past to present and reveals how punishment has been meted out and which crimes have been cynically ignored. Mondays, December 5-19, 10-11 p.m. ET
GREAT PERFORMANCES “The Hollow Crown: The Wars of The Roses” – Following the four-part “The Hollow Crown,” “The Wars of the Roses” continues the epic saga with three more lavish film adaptations of Shakespeare’s history plays: Parts I and II of Henry VI (shown in two parts) and Richard III. Together, they span rebellion in France, the rise and fall of Joan of Arc, the terror of England’s Civil War and the deceitful dynastic murders culminating in the infamous reign of Richard III.
“Henry VI, Part 1” − England is in crisis. War rages and divisions within the English court threaten the crown. Young Henry VI causes outrage by marrying Margaret of Anjou; the scene is set for civil war. With Tom Sturridge, Sophie Okonedo and Hugh Bonneville.
“Henry VI, Part 2” − Bitter rivalries erupt. The feeble King Henry is overshadowed by Queen Margaret. Edward IV takes the throne, but youngest brother Richard has his eyes on the crown. With Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Sturridge, Sophie Okonedo and Keeley Hawes.
“Richard III” − In his quest for the crown, Richard plans the murder of his brother George. After the death of Edward IV, Richard’s path to the throne is clear, except for the princes in the tower. With Benedict Cumberbatch, Judi Dench and Phoebe Fox. Sundays, December 11-25, 9-11 p.m. ET
EGYPT’S TREASURE GUARDIANS – Egypt is home to many of the most famous archaeological treasures on Earth. But over the last five years, Egypt has suffered a tumultuous revolution and tourist numbers have plummeted. This program follows a select cast of individuals determined to bring Egypt back from the brink: to discover more of Egypt’s history, to keep its heritage safe and to persuade tourists to visit the country again. Wednesday, December 21, 10-11 p.m. ET
CALL THE MIDWIFE HOLIDAY SPECIAL – Join the Nonnatus community to celebrate the holidays in a new special. Sunday December 25, 7:30-9 p.m. ET