"56 Up" sees class barriers fade ... even in England

From the beginning, the "Up" films have been fascinating looks at changing lives. Every seven years, they've returned to the same people.

Now "56 Up" reaches PBS on Monday. Here's the story I sent to papers:


Shakespeare and jogging: A perilous combination

Epic in scope, steep in ambition, PBS' four-week Shakespeare project has been impressive -- and varied. "Richard II" was terrific; the two "Henry IV" films nearly drowned in Falstaff overload.  Now comes the excellent "Henry V" finale (Friday, Oct. 11). Here's the updated version of the story I sent to papers:

Somewhere in that blur, Billie Jean King saved the world

The official start of the TV season is still two weeks away and we already have the first truly outstanding special. That's an "American Masters" profile of Billie Jean King, at 8 p.m. Tuesday (Sept. 10) on PBS. Here's the story I sent to papers:


For Billie Jean King, the 1970s were a
grand blur.

She was winning tennis titles, starting
projects, creating a league. She was changing the world.

The march at 50: A dream persists

Yes, summer TV can be strange and loopy. On Thursday, some semi-lucky viewers will catch a double-feature of "Sharknado" and "Ghost Shark."

Still, it also has strong dramas -- "Broadchurch" and "The Bridge" on Wednesdays, lots of shows on Sundays -- and, occasionally, key documentaries.

Jenkins soars beyond her comfort zone

This is a week for great voices on PBS. Friday has Audra McDonald; see previous blog. And Sunday has Katherine Jenkins and more, on the Capitol lawn. Here's the story I sent to papers:


Katherine Jenkins has strayed so far
from her comfort zone that she's probably fogotten where it is.

For Audra McDonald, the New York dreams came true

Amazing things happen when Audra McDonald steps to the microphone. She flawlessly ranges from Broadway to classical, from whimsical or deeply emotional. Now she has a PBS concert special Friday; here's the story I sent to papers:


Growing up a continent away, Audra
McDonald was sure she wanted to be in New York. She wanted to be on
Broadway and on the Lincoln Center stages.

A joyous journey through Mel Brooks' life

PBS' "American Masters" Monday is a joyride through a busy life.Here's the story I sent to papers:



You learn a lot, hanging out with
comedy masters. You also learn by hanging out a hotel window.

Mel Brooks – the focus of a jaunty
PBS profile Monday – has done both. He loved the writers' room of
Sid Caesar's TV shows; he was less happy with a writing session on a
top floor of the Palmer House in Chicago.

Culture clash makes a fine drama ... and an interesting life

Life does this sometimes: A British farmgirl becomes a London celebrity ... while playing a gutsy midwife in a crowded neighborhood. That's what has happened -- quite quickly -- to Jessica Raine, the star of PBS' well-crafted "Call the Midwife." Here's the story I sent to papers:


Show business thrives on culture
clashes and fish-out-of-water tales.

"Central Park Five": A rush to judgment; a slow exoneration

Yes, cable is still wrapping up its big week. Tonight (Sunday, April 14), National Geographic starts its richly detailed "The '80s" (see previous blog) and Showtime starts a new season for its lush "The Borgias."

Soon, however, it will be PBS' turn. "Central Park Five" on Tuesday is a compelling portait of a rush to judgment. Here's the story I sent to papers:


In one of New York's darkest moments, a
single mindset seemed universal.

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.