"Masterpiece" is back, amid high expectations

It's always good news when "Masterpiece" returns, with its richly crafted dramas. Now -- after another long pledge-drive pause -- three minisries will air on Sundays, starting with "Great Expectations" and Gillian Anderson's wondrfully offbeat performance. Here's the story I sent to papers:


Sprawling from the marshes of Kent to
the ballrooms of London, Charles Dickens'“Great Expectations” is
a key part of some British educations.

B-52's: the whimsical side of rock 'n' roll


In between "American Idol" blogs, let's pause to remember that rock music needn't always be pitch-perfect. Sometimes, it's just fun.

Here's a story I sent to papers about the B-52s, which have a 35th-anniversary concert that shows up on many stations during pledge drive. Cincinnati, for instance, airs it at 8 p.m. this Saturday, March 10; East Lansing, alas, hasn't yet scheduled it:



Facing crime, eye-to-eye

I have to admit I'm really not a fan of verite-style documentaries.

Those are the ones that simply have a camera follow around, hoping to capture something. They have their moments, but can't compare to the crisp power of the great documentaries of PBS' "American Masters," "Frontline" or "American Experience."

Black History Month remains big

Black History Month starts today, bringing a fresh cascade of shows. Here's the story and list I sent to papers:



Each February, two strong forces –
PBS and cable – propel Black History Month.

This year's shows range from the upbeat
and uptempo – a Cab Calloway profile (Feb. 27), a vibrant
production of the Tony-winning musical “Memphis” (Feb. 24) – to
the dead-serious.

Tony Bennett still thrives at 85

There are some veteran singers, I'm sure, whose voices are just a fraction of their prime.

Not Tony Bennett. When he sang to the Television Critics Association recently, everything -- his voice, his phrasing, his back-up quartet -- was precise. At 85, this guy remains a strong talent.

Many people can sample that on Friday, when Bennett has a "Duets" special on PBS' "Great Performances." Here's the story I sent to papers:




One-woman play lifts us up easy

In the vast wasteland of Friday-night television, PBS has inserted a rich variety of concerts. This week, there's "Let Me Down Easy," Ann Deavere's one-woman show about life and death and health care and more.  Here's the story I sent to papers:


As Anna Deavere Smith crafts her shows,
one fact stands out: People are VERY different.

It's know-your-Downton time

As the "Downton Abbey" sequel nears (see previous story), you're forgiven for not remembering who's who and who does what.

No problem; here's a handy guide I sent to papers:


Life can get tangled inside a grand
estate in 1916 England. As the second round of PBS' “Downton Abbey”
begins, here's a guide to the characters:

The Crawleys

"Downton Abbey" brings TV elegance

You're first duty now is to watch the season-openers of the IFC (Independent Film Channel) comedies, at 10 and 10:30 p.m. tonight (Friday, Jan. 6).

They're both odd and funny; there's a preview two blogs ago. The blog that I sent after that has newsy bits about NBC's makeover.

That leaves your next duty, to catch Sunday's elegant "Downton Abbey" season-opener. Here's the story I sent to papers; later, I'll also put a handy guide to the characters:


TV in 2011: Comedy came back, Oprah struggled

Earlier, I put my TV top-10 list here (see previous blog) and promises to add an overview of the TV year. Here's the the story I sent to paper:


For TV viewers, the new year started
with a new network and new hopes.

A dance master at his peak

Imagine you're at a "Transformers" movie and you realize that America's dance master is sitting nearby.

It's possible. Bill T. Jones admits a fondness for action adventures and more. He's an amiable guy in conversation; a fiercely imposing one at work. Now he's featured in a PBS special tonight; here's the story I sent to papers:


Rich contrasts ripple through the world
of Bill T. Jones, the dance master. He's: