The heralded, award-winning 28-year-old franchise will begin to chronicle not only American masters but also “emerging American masters,” Michael Kantor said in a New York Times interview — industry speak for “targeting younger viewers.” The franchise will stop emphasizing important cultural figures important to the baby boom generation, Kantor told NYT, which got first crack at the news. The series will redefine the word “masters” to include profiles of people in industry. Ditto science. That said, the series already has profiled Albert Einstein, as well as I.M. Pei, Billie Jean King, Walter Cronkite, etc. — in addition to more traditional subjects such as Arthur Miller, Georgia O’Keeffe, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Leonard Bernstein, Sidney Poitier, Judy Garland, John James Audubon, Bob Dylan, Ella Fitzgerald, Woody Guthrie, Jimi Hendrix, etc.
Under Lacy’s watch, American Masters earned 26 Emmy Awards — including nine for Outstanding Non-Fiction Series since 1999 and five for Outstanding Non-Fiction Special — as well as 12 Peabodys, an Oscar, three Grammys, and two PGA Awards. PBS and production station WNET describe American Masters as having “produced an exceptional library, bringing unique originality and perspective to exploring the lives and illuminating 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.”
In today’s announcement, Kantor is described as a longtime producer and filmmaker for PBS who has “also worked on programs for HBO and other cable networks.” Among his credits, six-part series Broadway: The American Musical, which won the Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Non-Fiction Series. Kantor has produced two programs for PBS’ Great Performances series. In announcing the hire, Stephen Segaller, VP Programming at American Masters producing station WNET, noted the 53-year-old Kantor’s “deep knowledge of American culture,” but also his “ability to get projects funded and filmed” as reason for the hire; Kantor begins his new duties April 30.