Shopping and history link masterfully

After a zillion or so March pledge breaks, PBS is suddenly on top of its game. On Friday (see previous blog), it has a superb profile of Philip Roth. On Sunday, it follows the "Call the Midwife" season-opener with a large and lush "Masterpiece Classic" miniseries, "Mr. Selfridge." Here's the "Selfridge" story I sent to papers:


“Masterpiece” has lingered in
life's finest settings.

Philip Roth: A happy guy creates tortured souls

Now for something completely different.

My previous blog dealt with "penny can," which is ... well, the art of throwing pennies into a can. This one deals with writer Philip Roth, who exercises the art of exploring the human soul. Stories can cover quite a range, I guess.

Anyway, Roth is the subject of a superb "American Masters" special, Friday on most PBS stations. Here's the story I sent to papers:


Lots of readers figure they know Philip

Women's-movement history was made in Congress ... and in coal mines

A PBS documentary Tuesday is impressive in its size, its scope and its fairness. "Makers: Women Who Make America" captures a half-century that changed our society.

There's no way to catch it all in one story, so I focused on one small portion. Barbara Burns only gets a few minutes of these three hours, but her life is the sort that forged change. Here's the story I sent to papers:



Henry Ford: A life of fierce contrasts

Lots of lists came out last month, offering TV's 10 best shows. They had the usual suspects -- cable dramas, mostly, plus (on the wiser lists)  "Big Bang Theory." What they overlooked, however, were three PBS shows that are consistently top-quality -- "American Masters," "Frontline" and "American Exprience."

For good or bad, drones rule the sky

I'm back from Hollywood now and stuffed with interesting information.

One good thing about the Television Critics Association sessions is that it lets us meet all the key people in a hurry. This year's Hollywood (well, actually Pasadena) sessions were fascinating. Here's a story I sent to papers, about a PBS documentary Wednesday (Jan. 23):


As “drones” patrol our war zones –
and non-war zones – people have mixed emotions.

"Downton" is back; alert your VCR

"Downton" Abbey returns Sunday, as elegantly tangled as ever. Here's the story I sent to papers:


For the once-cozy folks in “Downton
Abbey,” life is almost normal again.

The war is ending, a marriage is
beginning. “This season, in a way, is about the recovery from the
war,” said Julian Fellowes, the “Downton” creator.

Iranian Americans? TV offers opposite views

Think of them as two relatives -- the fun uncle and the serious one, the noisy party guy and the one who paid for the party.

That, roughly, is "Shahs of Sunset" (10 p.m. Sundays on Bravo) and "The Iranian Americans" (9:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 18, on most PBS stations).

Geffen: This Brooklyn kid has a boat, a billion and a bundle of memories

So David Geffen flew in one day from Sardinia, talked to reporters for an hour, then flew back. Subsequently I learned: a) Where Sardinia is. (It's a long ways away and he has a boat there); b) Geffen has had key roles in the history of music, movies and more; and c) It's sometimes nice to be a self-made billionaire.

"The Dust Bowl": A potent look at a dark decade

"The Dust Bowl" is everything you expect from a Ken Burns documentary -- intelligent, passionate, beautifully crafted. Here's one of the stories I sent to papers; right after this, there's a box and then a second story, viewing that dark decade through the eyes of one former cowboy kid:



For a decade, dust storms in the
American mid-section blackened farms, destroyed crops, ruined lives.

Growing up amid dust and dismay

What was it like to grow up amid the dark dismay of the Dust Bowl? This story tells it from the viewpoint of a former Colorado kid, now a retired teacher at 88. It's one of two stories I sent to papers about Ken Burns' "The Dust Bowl," Sunday and Monday (Nov. 18-19) on PBS. The other story and the box should be right above this one:



He was a cowboy kid on the Colorado
prairie, living the only life he knew.