PBS is devoting much of its summer programming lineup to celebrate the 50th anniversaries of pivotal moments in U.S. history, with limited series and specials on the lunar landing, gay liberation and Woodstock, among other topics.
PBS, now branding itself America’s home for documentary film, will tell the story of 1969. A special slate commemorates cultural milestones and technological triumphs from half a century ago, including The Lavender Scare in June, a three-part Chasing the Moon in July, and Woodstock: Three Days That Defined a Generation in August. The month of July will be dedicated to the previously announced “Summer of Space” multi-platform experience [complete list of dates below].
“Our summer programming slate celebrates discovery, embraces pioneers and risk-takers, and encourages our viewers to explore new worlds and expand their horizons,” Perry Simon, PBS’s Chief Programming Executive said. “As America’s home for documentary film, we are excited to share 1969’s monumental moments through a creative and thought-provoking collection of new programs.”
PBS’ study of the summer of 1969 begins with a reprise of Stonewall Uprising from American Experience, exploring repercussions of a police raid on the Stonewall Inn in New York City on June 28, 1969, marking a major turning point in the modern gay civil rights movement. The movement’s beginnings a decade earlier are documented in The Lavender Scare, about gay federal workers fired or denied employment in the 1950s.
For some, the crowning achievement of 1969 occurred on July 20, when more than half a billion people watched TV as Apollo 11 Commander Neil Armstrong planted his foot on the moon and delivered the line, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” PBS will offer more than 15 hours of new science and history programming in its “Summer of Space,” anchored by Chasing the Moon on American Experience. The three-part, six-hour film details the space race from its beginning to the first lunar landing, written and directed by Oscar nominee Robert Stone:
The Apollo 11 crew’s mission is the star of 8 Days: To The Moon And Back, a new BBC Studios documentary co-produced with PBS. It blends rare mission audio featuring candid conversations between Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins, with newly shot studio footage, NASA and news archive, and CGI recreation of the historic journey and landing.
Limited series Ancient Skies looks at how our ancestors worked to understand outer space, while the Nova presentation The Planets probes space mission revelations, including Saturn’s 45K mile wide wings, Mars’ ancient waterfalls, and Neptune’s winds that dwarf our planet’s hurricane force.
Summer of Space also features new episodes of several viewer favorites, including Secrets of the Dead’s episode Galileo’s Moon, an Antiques Roadshow look at Out of This World, Nova’s Back to the Moon and encores of popular specials including A Year In Space and its sequel.
Back on earth, the most famous rock festival, held on a dairy farm in Bethel, New York, Woodstock: Three Days That Defined a Generation, on American Experience, brings the three-day concert to life through the voices of those who were present during the defining moment of the so-called counterculture revolution.
Also on PBS’ summer line-up: American Masters will air Terrence McNally: Every Act of Life, looking at the career of playwright and LGBTQ activist McNally; and a behind-the-scenes look at Ken Burn’s sweeping new documentary series Country Music.
Masterpiece delivers all new episodes of two popular mystery series. Season 6 of Endeavour is set in 1969, as the case of the murder of DC George Fancy remains unresolved:
And, James Norton makes his final appearance as Sidney Chambers while Tom Brittney steps in as new vicar Reverend Will Davenport, in Season 4 of Grantchester.
In a first-ever co-production partnership, PBS and Smithsonian Channel will simultaneously debut When Whales Walked: Journeys in Deep Time, a two-hour film tracing the evolutionary secrets of whales and other animals. And a three-part BBC co-production Rivers of Life explores the animals, landscapes and people who live alongside the Amazon, Nile, and Mississippi Rivers.
Tianamen: Seven Weeks That Changed The World uncovers the events of June 4, 1989, when a violent and bloody pro-democracy demonstration ended, leaving thousands dead and laying the foundation for China’s future.
A Capitol Fourth, the country’s longest-running July 4 national broadcast tradition, will again air from the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol that night.
And PBS will round out its summer lineup with new three-part series Family Pictures USA looking at American communities through the lens of the family photo album, and Magical Land of Oz profiling Australia’s wildlife. Closing out the summer, Big Family: The Story of Bluegrass Music is an account of the generational, cultural and geographic reach of bluegrass music, featuring Ricky Skaggs, Alison Brown, Béla Fleck and more.
Here is PBS’s calendar of premiere dates:
JUNE 2019: PREMIERES
AMERICAN MASTERS “Terrence McNally: Every Act of Life”
Friday, June 14, 9:00 p.m. ET
PBS PREVIEWS: COUNTRY MUSIC
Friday, June 14, 10:30 p.m. ET
ENDEAVOUR, SEASON 6 ON MASTERPIECE
Sundays, June 16 – July 7, 9:00 p.m. ET
THE LAVENDER SCARE
Tuesday, June 18, 9:00 p.m. ET
RIVERS OF LIFE
Wednesdays, June 19 – July 3, 2019, 8:00 – 9:00 p.m. ET
WHEN WHALES WALKED: JOURNEYS IN DEEP TIME
Wednesday, June 19, 9:00 p.m. ET
TIANANMEN: SEVEN WEEKS THAT CHANGED THE WORLD
Tuesday, June 25, 9:00 p.m. ET
SUMMER OF SPACE: PREMIERES
SECRETS OF THE DEAD “Galileo’s Moon”
Tuesday, July 2 at 8:00 p.m. ET
ANTIQUES ROADSHOW “Out of This World”
Premiere: Monday, July 8, 8:00 p.m. ET
CHASING THE MOON: AMERICAN EXPERIENCE
Monday, July 8 – Wednesday, July 10, 9:00 p.m. ET
NOVA “Back to the Moon”
Wednesday, July 10, 8:00 p.m. ET
8 DAYS: TO THE MOON AND BACK
Wednesday, July 17, 9:00 p.m. ET
Wednesdays, July 24 – August 7, 8:00 p.m. ET
NOVA MINISERIES “The Planets”
Wednesday, July 24, 9:00 and 10:00 p.m. ET; Wednesdays, July 31 – August 14, 9:00 p.m. ET
JULY & AUGUST 2019: PREMIERES
A CAPITOL FOURTH (2019)
Thursday, July 4, 8:00 p.m. ET
GRANTCHESTER, SEASON 4 ON MASTERPIECE
Sundays, July 14 – August 11, 9:00 p.m. ET
WOODSTOCK: THREE DAYS THAT DEFINED A GENERATION: AMERICAN EXPERIENCE
Tuesday, August 6, 9:00 p.m. ET
FAMILY PICTURES USA
Monday, August 12, 9:00 p.m. ET and Tuesday, August 13, 8:00 – 10:00 p.m. ET
MAGICAL LAND OF OZ
Wednesday, August 28 – September 11 10:00 p.m. ET
BIG FAMILY: THE STORY OF BLUEGRASS MUSIC
Premiere: Friday, August 30, 9:00 p.m. ET