PBS this morning unveils plans for its winter/spring TV season including a week of programming about the Vietnam War era, and Antiques Roadshow‘s first million-dollar sports memorabilia find, and an expanded Sunday night drama lineup in 2015 that means 20 new hours of Masterpiece, including Grantchester, Wolf Hall, a new Poldark, Indian Summers, and a new season of Mr Selfridge. Ditto Call The Midwife and Vicious. And, of course, Downton Abbey‘s fifth season, debuting January 4.
Phylicia Rashad is sure to take/deflect a question or two about Bill Cosby when the former The Cosby Show star participates in PBS’ Winter TV Press Tour 2015 in Pasadena to promote PBS’ new lineup. She’s one of the stars of PBS’ new August Wilson: The Ground On Which I Stand, in which she is among those sharing stories about the late playwright and his works. Also promised for the press tour: Damian Lewis, who plays Henry VIII in Masterpiece’s Wolf Hall.
This spring, PBS will premiere First Peoples on April 29; the five-part series features the latest research exploring how early humans evolved. Highlights of anchor programs in the schedule this season include the broadcast premiere of award-winning filmmaker Rory Kennedy’s Last Days In Vietnam, presented by American Experience on Tuesday, April 28, and timed to the 40th anniversary of the fall of Saigon.
From PBS’ announcement:
WEEKDAYS AT A GLANCE
Sundays remain PBS’ anchor of appointment television with the start of an expanded commitment to Sunday night drama that adds 20 hours of new MASTERPIECE episodes through 2015, funded by sole corporate sponsor Viking River Cruises. In addition to Season Five of the international phenomenon “Downton Abbey,” a Carnival Films/Masterpiece Co-Production premiering Sunday, January 4, at 9:00 p.m. ET, MASTERPIECE adds two major new dramas, “Grantchester” beginning January 18 at 10:00 p.m. ET, and “Wolf Hall” on April 5 at 10:00 p.m. ET. The premieres of additional new MASTERPIECE titles, “Poldark” (a swashbuckling new adaptation of the hit 1970s drama) and “Indian Summers,” occur later in the year.
Another returning Sunday night drama is Season Three of the popular MASTERPIECE series “Mr. Selfridge,” beginning March 20 at 9:00 p.m. ET, with Jeremy Piven as the flamboyant American entrepreneur of London department store fame.
Returning for Season Four is the critically acclaimed CALL THE MIDWIFE, on March 29 at 8:00 p.m. ET. Inspired by the beloved memoirs of nurse Jennifer Worth, the series relates heartwarming stories of the nuns and midwives in London’s Poplar neighborhood. And back this summer is VICIOUS for a second season.
One of PBS’ most-watched series, ANTIQUES ROADSHOW, is back for its 19th season with a million-dollar find! Premiering on January 5 at 8:00 p.m. ET, ROADSHOW kicks off with its first trip to New York City in 13 years, showcasing an archive of early Boston baseball memorabilia appraised for a record-breaking $1,000,000, the largest sports memorabilia find in the show’s history. Also on the schedule is INDEPENDENT LENS, offering a new season of original documentaries from some of the best independent filmmakers working today. “Evolution of a Criminal,” executive produced by Spike Lee and airing January 12 at 10:00 p.m. ET, features filmmaker Darius Clark Monroe’s return to the scene of the crime to explore what led him to rob a bank as a teenager in Texas. In A PATH APPEARS, airing in three-parts beginning January 26 at 10:00 p.m. ET, Nicholas Kristof, Malin Ackerman, Mia Farrow, Jennifer Garner, Ashley Judd, Blake Lively, Eva Longoria and Alfre Woodard uncover gender oppression and human rights violations in the U.S. and around the world.
PBS will air several programs in late April beginning Monday, April 27 related to the Vietnam War. THE DAY THE 60’s DIED, premiering April 27 at 9:00 p.m. ET, chronicles the nation’s upheaval during May 1970, the month in which four students were shot dead at Kent State, and DICK CAVETT’S VIETNAM on April 27 at 10:00 p.m., will feature a look back at the thought-provoking conversations Cavett had about the war with a range of public figures including Muhammad Ali, Billy Graham and Henry Kissinger.
Tuesdays on PBS are steeped in heritage and history as AMERICAN EXPERIENCE presents the broadcast premiere of Rory Kennedy’s documentary LAST DAYS IN VIETNAM on April 28 at 9:00 p.m. ET. The film chronicles the chaotic final days of the Vietnam War and tells the story of an unlikely group of heroes who took matters into their own hands. LAST DAYS IN VIETNAM follows the 8:00 p.m. ET premiere of THE DRAFT, a vivid, contemporary and probing look at the history of the military draft in America, including its turbulent Vietnam War peak and the searing stories of people who lived its realities. LAST DAYS IN VIETNAM and THE DRAFT are part of the PBS Stories of Service initiative .
Tuesdays this winter also bring the Season Two premiere of GENEALOGY ROADSHOW, January 13 at 8:00 p.m. ET, with a diverse new cast of participants who take emotional journeys to explore genealogical mysteries. Participants hail from St. Louis, New Orleans and Philadelphia and their surrounding regions. THE ITALIAN AMERICANS, premiering February 17 at 9:00 p.m. ET and tracing the evolution of a vibrant population from the late 19th Century through today, features notable Italian Americans Tony Bennett, John Turturro, U.S. Representative Nancy Pelosi, U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia and more, narrated by Stanley Tucci. PBS announced today the three-part MIRACLE BABY UNIT (w.t), which takes an intimate look at the groundbreaking scientific frontier of fetal medicine. Never-before-televised procedures and experiments range from surgeries on the world’s smallest patients (some only six inches long) to experiments testing the potential of maternal/fetal stem cell transplantation. The miniseries premieres March 31 at 8:00 p.m. ET.
PBS’ lineup of great nature, science and technology programming — “Think Wednesday” — returns with “event programs” such as the five-part series EARTH A NEW WILD, hosted by leading conservation scientist Dr. M. Sanjayan, who takes a fresh look at humanity’s relationship to the wild places and fascinating species of our planet. The series premieres February 4 at 9:00 p.m. ET. A Ken Burns-produced adaptation of the best-selling book, CANCER: THE EMPEROR OF ALL MALADIES debuts March 30 at 9:00 p.m. ET. The program traces the disease from its first documented appearance thousands of years ago to the present day, when scientific breakthroughs have put a cure within reach. FIRST PEOPLES premieres April 29 at 10:00 p.m. ET featuring the latest research to uncover how the mixing of human genes in prehistoric times helped us survive and ultimately thrive globally.
Also on Wednesdays this winter, NATURE returns at 8:00 p.m. ET with “Animal House Hunters,” (w.t.) a three part series that investigates just how animals build their amazing homes, and the intriguing behaviors and social interactions that take place in and around them. “The Nest” explores how birds carefully select their materials, and craft their homes for the all-important task of protecting their eggs and raising their young, April 8. “Location, Location, Location,” on April 15, shows animated blueprints and tiny cameras that chart the building plans and progress of beavers, tortoises, hummingbirds and woodrats, examining layouts and cross sections as they evaluate the technical specs of their structures. “Animal Cities” explores how some animals find that living in the midst of huge colonies of their own kind is sometimes a matter of necessity and sometimes the most secure and rewarding housing arrangement, April 22.
NOVA returns at 9:00 p.m. ET with a new season featuring three shows in its BUILDING WONDERS series: “Mysterious Miracle Building” studies Istanbul’s resilient architectural symbol, Hagia Sophia, February 11; “Petra – Lost City of Stone” recounts the daring experiment now underway to uncover how the ancient metropolis was built, February 18; and “Secrets of the Colosseum” (w.t.) features a journey into one of the ancient world’s most iconic structures, February 25. Another NOVA special, “The Great Math Mystery” sheds light on the way math works in our brains and ponders the ultimate mystery of why it works so well when decoding the universe through sub-atomic particles.
PBS’ commitment as America’s home for the best arts on television continues unabated on Fridays. Highlights include Season Two of SHAKESPEARE UNCOVERED, bowing January 30 at 9:00 p.m. ET with celebrity hosts including “Downton Abbey” star Hugh Bonneville, Christopher Plummer, Morgan Freeman, Kim Cattrall, David Harewood and Joseph Fiennes exploring the Bard’s greatest works. GREAT PERFORMANCES offers audiences several new programs this season including “La Dolce Vita: The Music of Italian Cinema” on February 27. Josh Groban, Renée Fleming and Joshua Bell perform with the New York Philharmonic, led by music director Alan Gilbert, in selections from film scores by composers like Nino Rota and Ennio Morricone for groundbreaking movie classics by directors such as Frederico Fellini, Franco Zeffirelli and Sergio Leone. Featured films include Amarcord, Once Upon a Time in the West, Cinema Paradiso, Life Is Beautiful and more. AMERICAN MASTERS brings four new shows, including “August Wilson: The Ground on Which I Stand,” February 20 at 9:00 p.m. ET, with film and theater luminaries Viola Davis, Phylicia Rashad, Laurence Fishburne and others sharing stories of the late African-American playwright’s rich theatrical canon. AMERICA’S BALLROOM CHALLENGE features all four of the major styles of competitive ballroom dancing. Finalists compete across dance styles in a grand finale, striving to be named America’s Best. The three-part series begins April 24 at 9:00 p.m. ET.