The official word: The runaway British hit CALL THE MIDWIFE, a new drama that depicts midwifery in 1950s London, kicks off the PBS 2012 fall season with a six-part Sunday-night run that begins September 30.
A production of BBC Worldwide and Neal Street Productions, MIDWIFE further strengthens PBS’ hold on quality Sunday night programs and launches a fall full of drama — both fictional and real — anchored by Ken Burns’s new documentary THE DUST BOWL, PBS ELECTION 2012 coverage of the presidential campaign including FRONTLINE’s award-winning “The Choice,” and the season two return of MASTERPIECE CLASSIC “Upstairs Downstairs.”
Sundays continue to be a source of captivating drama for PBS, while strong Wednesday “Exploration” nights feature new episodes of the science series NATURE, NOVA and an updated NOVA scienceNOW, hosted for the first time by tech guru and New York Times reporter David Pogue. Monday nights open with a series of ANTIQUES ROADSHOW specials that lead into the first fall season of MARKET WARRIORS. The award-winning film series INDEPENDENT LENS moves to Mondays at 10 p.m. beginning October 29, creating a new space for independent film that will also be the home for POV’s 2013 season. Friday night PBS ARTS programs include the four-part series VOCES, which highlights Latino and Hispanic arts, and AMERICAN MASTERS “Joffrey: Mavericks of American Dance.”
“PBS’ fall schedule, one of our strongest in years, builds on the knowledge that our programming approach is working, bringing in new viewers throughout the week,” says Paula Kerger, PBS president and CEO. “Our incredible Sunday night schedule sets the stage for enhanced weeknight viewing, too. Mondays are poised to bring in a diversity of new voices and perspectives with independent films; popular Wednesday nature and science programs will continue to build with a revamped NOVA scienceNOW; and our nightly politics and election coverage will grow as we move toward Election Day and give viewers new perspectives on the issues they care about.”
High-profile specials dot the fall schedule, led by the star-studded four-hour documentary HALF THE SKY, based on the acclaimed book by The New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof and Pulitzer Prize-winner Sheryl WuDunn, about courageous individuals fighting female oppression around the world. In addition to “The Choice” from FRONTLINE, PBS ELECTION 2012 covers four debates — three presidential and one vice-presidential — and provides an in-depth look at healthcare, among other issues. BROADWAY OR BUST follows the build-up and the heartbreak, the drama and the disappointment of the National High School Musical Theatre Awards. AMERICAN EXPERIENCE’s “Death and the Civil War,” by Ric Burns, shows the impact of Antietam on Americans’ relationship with their government.
PBS will present highlights of the fall schedule at TCA Press Tour, July 21 and 22, including sessions on CALL THE MIDWIFE, THE DUST BOWL featuring Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan, HALF THE SKY with Nicholas Kristof, Sheryl WuDunn and others (TBD), PBS ELECTION 2012 coverage, AMERICAN MASTERS “David Geffen,” with the media mogul himself on stage, NOVA “Mars Rising,” which will cover the upcoming August 5 landing of NASA’s “Curiosity” rover, and many others.
Fall 2012 Highlights
BROADWAY OR BUST
Sundays, September 9-23, 2012, 8:00-9:00 p.m. ET
PBS is bound for Broadway with a new three-part documentary series that tracks the real-life stories of America’s top high school musical performers, vying in the ultimate competition to find the nation’s best young theater stars. Part competition, part performance and part non-fiction drama, the series starts in regional theatrical programs, then moves to New York City, where the “best of the best” compete in the National High School Musical Theatre Awards (a.k.a. The Jimmy Awards).
CALL THE MIDWIFE
Sundays, September 30 to November 4, 2012, 8:00-9:00 p.m. ET
Based on a best-selling trilogy by the late Jennifer Worth, CALL THE MIDWIFE is a fascinating portrayal of birth, life and death in a world drastically different from ours. This six-part series offers an unconventional twist to Sunday-night British dramas and brings mid-20th-century London to life, focusing on the joys and hardships of a group of midwives working in London’s East End.
MASTERPIECE CLASSIC “Upstairs Downstairs,” Season 2
Sundays, October 7 to November 11, 2012, 9:00-10:00 p.m. ET
The saga continues at 165 Eaton Place, with new characters upstairs and down, in a six-part sequel to the much-loved MASTERPIECE series from the 1970s. Set in 1936, the lives of masters and servants have never been so captivating, as two new arrivals make their mark and Lady Agnes reveals a dark secret. Alex Kingston (“ER,” “Doctor Who”) joins the cast. The six-part series follows MIDWIFE, starting October 7. Viewers can catch up on the first season with a three-hour marathon September 30.
FRONTLINE “The Choice”
Tuesday, October 9, 2012, 9:00-11:00 p.m. ET
The quadrennial election special maintains its reputation for clear, unbiased reporting as it covers the 2012 presidential candidates. “The Choice” provides viewers an in-depth look at President Barack Obama and challenger Mitt Romney, exploring the forces behind their campaigns, voter views on the issues and the projected changes the eventual winner will bring to the White House.
THE DUST BOWL
Sunday, November 18 and Monday, November 19, 2012, 8:00-10:00 p.m. ET
Ken Burns’s new two-part, four-hour documentary THE DUST BOWL chronicles the environmental catastrophe that destroyed the farmlands of the Great Plains, turned prairies into deserts and unleashed a pattern of massive, deadly dust storms in 1930s America. Personal survival stories and rare archival footage tell the story of the country’s worst manmade ecological disaster. In conjunction with the broadcast, PBS celebrates the centennial of Woody Guthrie’s birth with a repeat of his acclaimed AMERICAN MASTERS profile on Friday, November 16, 2012 at 9:00 p.m. ET.
FALL 2012 SCHEDULE
(Listed chronologically by premiere date with multipart series, such as NOVA, listed under first air date.)
PBS ELECTION 2012
Under the umbrella of PBS ELECTION 2012, PBS’ acclaimed news and public affairs shows NEED TO KNOW, PBS NEWSHOUR, WASHINGTON WEEK WITH GWEN IFILL AND NATIONAL JOURNAL and FRONTLINE bring viewers the most trusted and balanced looks at the fall’s biggest election news and events, each with its own unique perspective.
NEED TO KNOW “Campaign 2012”
Fridays, continuing series, 8:30-9:00 p.m. ET
This weekly 30- minute news magazine series, with reporting from across the country, covers political issues from Main Street’s point of view. It profiles up-and-coming political leaders and will report regularly from the road in key states. Essays from Jon Meacham and a diverse group of journalists and big thinkers are a weekly feature. Respected and experienced media professionals, including Scott Simon, Maria Hinojosa, Ray Suarez and Jeff Greenfield, both anchor the program and report from the field.
PBS NEWSHOUR featuring 2012 POLITICAL DEBATES
Monday-Friday, 7:00-8:00 p.m. ET
Election-focused programming continues with gavel-to-gavel coverage of the conventions in Tampa and Charlotte, live web streaming of the political activity and conversations with local delegations throughout the day on the ground. Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff co-anchor live coverage of election specials, including the presidential debates on October 3, 16 and 22 at 9:00 p.m. ET and the vice-presidential debate on October 11, at 9:00 p.m. ET, each followed by a 30-minute analysis. NEWSHOUR covers election night on November 6, beginning at 6:00 p.m., with a full evening of news and analysis.
WASHINGTON WEEK WITH GWEN IFILL AND NATIONAL JOURNAL
Fridays, continuing series, 8:00-8:30 p.m. ET
Gwen Ifill hosts PBS’ longest-running public affairs series, which features Washington’s top journalists analyzing the week’s top news stories and their effects on the lives of all Americans.
AMERICAN EXPERIENCE “Death and the Civil War”
Tuesday, September 18, 2012, 8:00-10:00 p.m. ET
This documentary from acclaimed filmmaker Ric Burns chronicles the bloodiest war in our nation’s history and explores how the shattering death toll of the American Civil War transformed not only individual lives, but the life of the nation, from its understanding of citizenship to the profound struggle of a deeply religious culture to reconcile these events with a belief in a benevolent God. Presented for the 150th anniversary of Antietam, the bloodiest day of battle on American soil.
Thursdays, September 20 to October 25, 2012, 10:00 p.m. ET
The award-winning POV series, which features America’s best independent filmmakers, premieres five films on Thursdays this fall. September 20: “I’m Carolyn Parker: The Good, the Mad, and the Beautiful” is Academy Award-winning director Jonathan Demme’s intimate account of a woman’s five-year crusade to rebuild her beloved neon-green house, her church and her New Orleans community after Hurricane Katrina. September 27: “El Velador (The Night Watchman)” documents the life of a mausoleum guard in Mexico — a reminder that peaceful existence persists amid the turmoil of Mexico’s deadly drug war. October 4: “Give Up Tomorrow” exposes shocking corruption within the Philippines judicial system and one of the country’s most sensational trials. October 18: “Sun Kissed” shows a Navajo couple’s tragic realization that they continue to face consequences of the Navajos’ Long Walk — their forced relocation by the U.S. military in 1864. October 25: “Nostalgia for Light” presents a remarkable meditation on memory, history and eternity in Chile’s remote Atacama Desert.
Monday, September 24, 2012, 10:00-11:30 p.m. ET: “The Day Carl Sandburg Died” is a panoramic story of the Pulitzer Prize-winning author, his work and his legacy, including contributions to poetry, history, music and children’s literature.
Tuesday, November 20, 2012, 8:00-10:00 p.m. ET: “Inventing David Geffen” is an exclusive and candid look at the legendary Geffen and his far-reaching influence on American popular culture. He launched the early successes of Joni Mitchell, Crosby, Stills and Nash, and Jackson Browne; co-founded DreamWorks; produced Cats and Dreamgirls; and has become an important political and philanthropic voice. Geffen’s life is illuminated through powerhouse friends such as Cher, David Crosby, Barry Diller, Rahm Emanuel, Elton John, Frank Rich, Stephen Spielberg, Neil Young and more.
LIVE FROM LINCOLN CENTER “New York Philharmonic Opening Gala”
Thursday, September 27, 2012, 8:00-10:00 p.m. ET
Itzhak Perlman, preeminent violinist of our time, performs Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto. The New York Philharmonic, under Maestro Alan Gilbert’s baton, illuminates the magic of Rome with Respighi’s glittering showpieces for virtuoso orchestra: Fountains of Rome and Pines of Rome.
Friday nights beginning September 28, 2012 (check local listings)
SOUND TRACKS: MUSIC WITHOUT BORDERS
Friday, September 28, 2012, 9:00-10:00 p.m. ET
This musical adventure series roams America and the world in search of compelling music, telling the stories behind the sounds and the artists who create it. The magazine-format features three stories and a special “global hit” performance. “The Jazz Ambassador” features a concert and an in-depth interview with Wynton Marsalis. “Brave” introduces viewers to the Scottish folk singer who wrote and sings the theme to Pixar’s newest movie. “The Voice of Africa” follows the country’s most famous living singer, Youssou N’dour, as he runs for president of Senegal, ending with a grand concert celebration.
Fridays, September 28 to October 19, 2012, 10:00-11:00 p.m. ET
Latino Public Broadcasting presents this new primetime showcase of outstanding documentaries celebrating the rich diversity of Latino life. September 28: “Tales of Masked Men” takes a colorful look at the fascinating phenomenon known as “lucha libre” and its role in Latino communities in the United States and Mexico. October 5: “Escaramuza: Riding from the Heart” is the story of Escaramuza Charra Las Azaleas, a team of first-generation Mexican-American horsewomen on a two-year journey to represent the United States at the National Charro Championships in Mexico. October 12: “Unfinished Spaces” is set 50 years after the Cuban Revolution, when three architects resume work on Cuba’s National Art Schools, a project left unfinished in 1965 when their creative vision came head-to-head with the revolution. October 19: “Lemon” [description will be available at pbs.org/pressroom]
Friday, December 28, 2012, 9:00-10:30 p.m. ET: “Joffrey: Mavericks of American Dance” relates how the Joffrey Ballet revolutionized American dance by daringly combining modern and traditional techniques, merging art with social statement and setting ballets to pop and rock music scores.
HALF THE SKY
Monday, October 1 and Tuesday, October 2, 2012, 9:00-11:00 p.m. ET
A two-night, four-hour PBS national and international special event introduced by George Clooney, HALF THE SKY follows incredible stories of challenge and triumph, traveling with New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof and celebrity advocates America Ferrera, Diane Lane, Eva Mendes, Meg Ryan, Gabrielle Union and Olivia Wilde on a journey to ten countries, where they meet inspiring individuals and discover how the oppression of women and girls is being confronted. In association with the Independent Television Service (ITVS) as a special presentation of Independent Lens
Wednesdays, beginning October 10, 2012, 8:00-9:00 p.m. ET
The benchmark series returns with latest stories of the wild from international wildlife filmmakers.
October 10: “Siberian Tiger Quest” (w.t.) joins filmmakers Chris Morgan and Sooyong Park to find and film the elusive Siberian tigers in remote Russia. October 24: “Magic of the Snowy Owl” (w.t.) features a bird made popular by Harry Potter’s Hedwig, revealing how these raptors survive in one of the most inhospitable places on the planet. November 7: “Animal Odd Couples” (w.t.) investigates unlikely cross-species relationships and how these special bonds relate to animal emotions. November 14: “Ducks: Wings on Water” (w.t.) gets an insider perspective from a wood duck family on an epic migration spanning thousands of miles.
Wednesdays, beginning October 10, 2012, 9:00-10:00 p.m. ET
From cutting-edge police science and space exploration to ancient structures and evidence of ancient technology, NOVA brings viewers stories of intriguing mysteries from this planet and beyond. Go back in time on “Secrets of the Viking Super Sword” (10/10), “Mystery of Easter Island” (11/7) and “Ancient Computer” (w.t.) (11/21) to discover some of science’s best-kept secrets from ancient cultures. See the gritty reality of the forensic crime lab and why forensics in the U.S. is in a state of crisis on “Forensics on Trial” (10/17) and experience exhilarating moments with the team of scientists and engineers responsible for the new Mars rover on “Mars Curiosity” (w.t.) (11/14).
Wednesdays, beginning October 10, 2012, 10:00-11:00 p.m. ET
Renowned tech reporter David Pogue of The New York Times debuts as host of six new fast-paced and fun episodes of this science magazine series, bringing enthusiasm and knowledge to the most intriguing stories and breakthroughs of our time. The upcoming season explores six science questions: “What Are Animals Thinking?”; “Can Science Stop Crime?”; “What Makes Us Human?”; “How Smart Can We Get?”; “What Will the Future Be Like?”; and “Can I Eat That?”
Mondays, starting October 29, 2012, 10:00 p.m. ET
The acclaimed Emmy Award-winning independent documentary series moves to Monday nights at 10 p.m. next season. New episodes include “As Goes Janesville,” a story following two years in the lives of laid-off workers, business leaders and elected officials trying to reinvent their lives and their town amid economic crisis, and “The Waiting Room,” a cinema verité portrait of a California city's public safety-net hospital as it struggles to handle patient overload in a swooning economy and a constantly shifting landscape of health care policy.