PBS Fall 20/13: Shakespeare, Superheroes, The Great American Hoax and More!


PBS has set a very different fall season with a unique combination of literature, pop culture, and history. Great Performances takes four of William Shakespeare’s ‘history plays’ – Richard II, Henry IV, Parts I & II, and Henry V – and folded them into a single narrative; Superheroes is a three-part documentary miniseries that examines the growth of superhero comics from from their ten-cent-an-issue originals to the multi-billion-dollar, multimedia industry it has become, and American Experience: The War of the World’s looks at the elements that made America ripe to accept Orson Welles’ infamous radio production of the H.G. Wells novel as reality.

These programs barely scrape the surface of the diversity and quality of PBS’s fall schedule. Follow the jump for dates and times of the network’s complete line-up.


Season Highlights Include Commemoration of President Kennedy, Heritage Specials, PBS Arts and Showcase of Independent Film

Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs (Credit: AP); President John F. Kennedy; Brooklyn Castle group trophy (Credit: Rescued Media)

ARLINGTON, VA; MAY 9, 2013PBS announced today a fall primetime line-up featuring a strong roster of wide-ranging programs. New highlights of the season include a series of specials commemorating the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s death; programs exploring American heritage from diverse viewpoints; the first PBS Independent Film Showcase; and captivating new dramas. Fall also marks the second PBS Arts Fall Festival, as well as the return (and a premiere) of acclaimed science programs.

PBS pays tribute to President Kennedy on the eve of the 50th anniversary of his assassination with intriguing new takes on the president’s life and death, anchored by “JFK,” a new four-hour, two-part special from AMERICAN EXPERIENCE. A new episode from the science series NOVA, the history-focused SECRETS OF THE DEAD and other specials to be announced complete this special anniversary coverage.

A collection of programs focuses on the diversity of Americans’ ancestries and cultures, including the new unscripted, interactive series GENEALOGY ROADSHOW, which uses history and science to connect participants nationwide to their individual and family histories; LATINO AMERICANS, the first major documentary series for television to chronicle the rich and varied history of Latinos across 500 years; and from executive producer — and Harvard scholar — Henry Louis Gates, Jr. THE AFRICAN AMERICANS: MANY RIVERS TO CROSS, which chronicles the full sweep of black history in the United States.

The arts remain a staple of PBS programming, with the PBS Arts Fall Festival returning for a seven-week run celebrating music and Broadway classics, including NASHVILLE 2.0, a tribute to legendary country stars, a star-studded version of Stephen Sondheim’s musical Company and GREAT PERFORMANCES “Barbra Streisand: Back to Brooklyn,” the superstar’s first Brooklyn concert since her childhood years. The PBS Independent Film Showcase airs this fall with documentaries from INDEPENDENT LENS and POV. GREAT PERFORMANCES premieres its ambitious four-part miniseries “The Hollow Crown,” combining Shakespeare’s Richard II, Henry IV (Parts I & II) and Henry V into a single chronological narrative.

PBS continues to stake out Sunday nights with enthralling dramas from MASTERPIECE, including “Foyle’s War, Series VII” for MASTERPIECE MYSTERY! and “The Paradise,” an adaptation of the beloved French novel by Emile Zola.

Science remains strong this fall, delving into how things are made wilder, faster, colder and safer with the new multi-part NOVA series, “Making Stuff With David Pogue,” and the new four-part series RAW TO READY (w.t.), which takes viewers inside factories to learn how basic ingredients are transformed into powerhouse machines.

AMERICAN MASTERS premieres “Billie Jean King” (w.t.), a film about the tennis great on the 40th anniversary of the tennis world’s 1973 Battle of the Sexes and King founding the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA), as well as “Jimi Hendrix” (w.t.) with never-before-seen performance footage, photos, drawings and more. In addition to “JFK,” AMERICAN EXPERIENCE premieres “War of the Worlds,” revisiting the infamous radio dramatization on its 75th anniversary.

“It promises to be an exhilarating fall on PBS, with a vast array of attention-grabbing programming designed to entertain, educate and inspire audiences,” said Beth Hoppe, PBS Chief Programming Executive and General Manager, General Audience Programming. “Among our many new and returning programs and specials are exceptional programs on President Kennedy, in the 50th year following his assassination, from AMERICAN EXPERIENCE, NOVA and SECRETS OF THE DEAD; comprehensive, specials on American heritage that closely examine the rich cultural tapestry of America; and a vibrant slate of arts programming. Our strong fall season covers topics that will be attractive to viewers across all of the genres that made PBS great in the first place.”

Below is a chronological look at PBS’s summer primetime programming:


PBS’ spotlight on America’s diverse cultures and ancestries begins in September, with the premiere of GENEALOGY ROADSHOW and LATINO AMERICANS, which will air in recognition of Hispanic Heritage Month. Arts programming begins on a high note with the premiere episodes of GREAT PERFORMANCES “The Hollow Crown” and the first film from the PBS Independent Film Showcase, “Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey” from INDEPENDENT LENS. “Billie Jean King” (w.t.) from AMERICAN MASTERS airs in conjunction with the 40th anniversary of tennis’ famous “battle of the sexes,” and the anticipated MASTERPIECE MYSTERY! production “Foyle’s War, Series VII” also premieres in September.

AMERICAN MASTERS “Billie Jean King” (w.t.)

This series’ first profile of a sports figure commemorates the 40th anniversaries of the famous Billie Jean King/Bobby Riggs battle of the sexes tennis match and the launch of the Women’s Tennis Association. King presents her own story, with perspective from Rosie Casals, Chris Evert, Venus Williams, Gloria Steinem, Riggs’ son Larry and others. Tuesday, September 10, 9:00-11:00 p.m. ET


Foyle and his loyal friend Sam return in three new episodes of the highly anticipated detective series, set in post-war 1946-47. Foyle (Michael Kitchen) and Sam (Honeysuckle Weeks) adjust to a new era of secrets, intelligence and security. Sundays, September 15-29, 9:00-10:30 p.m. ET


Actor Benjamin Bratt narrates this landmark six-hour series, the first major television documentary series to chronicle the rich and varied history of Latinos, who have for the past 500-plus years helped shape what is today the United States and have become the country’s largest minority group. Episodes include “Strangers in Their Own Land” (covering the years 1565-1880), “Empire of Dreams” (1880-1942), “War and Peace” (1942-1954), “The New Latinos” (1946-1965), “Pride and Prejudice (1965-1980) and “Peril and Promise” (1980-2010). Tuesdays, September 17-October 1, 8:00-10:00 p.m. ET

GREAT PERFORMANCES “The Hollow Crown: Shakespeare’s History Plays”

This ambitious four-part miniseries assembles four of Shakespeare’s history plays — Richard II, Henry IV Parts I & II, and Henry V — into a single chronological narrative. The original “Game of Thrones,” has inspired bold film adaptations with a cast of leading British and Hollywood talent including Jeremy Irons, Tom Hiddleston, Ben Whishaw, Rory Kinnear, Patrick Stewart, John Hurt, Julie Walters, David Suchet, Michelle Dockery and David Morrissey. Fridays, September 20-October 11, 9:00 p.m. ET

· “The Hollow Crown – Richard II”September 20

· “The Hollow Crown – Henry IV, Part I”September 27

· “The Hollow Crown – Henry IV, Part II”October 4

· “The Hollow Crown – Henry V”October 11


With a diverse cast of participants and multiple stories per episode, GENEALOGY ROADSHOW is part detective story, part emotional journey, and will combine history and science to uncover the fascinating stories of Americans. Each individual’s past will link to a larger community history, revealing the rich cultural tapestry of America. Season one will feature participants from four American cities — Nashville, Austin, Detroit and San Francisco — who want to explore a genealogical mystery. Mondays, September 23-October 14, 9:00-10:00 p.m. ET


This opening film of the Showcase tells the unlikely story of an amateur Filipino singer who steps into the role as lead singer of the legendary American rock band Journey. Through chance, an internet video of his vocal similarity to former Journey front man Steve Perry landed him an audition for the band. The rest is history. Monday, September 30, 10:00-11:00 p.m. ET


Science takes center stage on PBS in October. NOVA’s “Making Stuff With David Pogue” returns for a second season and is paired with RAW TO READY (w.t.), an inside look at America’s factories to learn how the most basic ingredients are transformed into powerhouse machines. The PBS Arts Fall Festival officially premieres in October with a special tribute GREAT PERFORMANCES’s 40th Anniversary Celebration, while the PBS Independent Film Showcase spotlights three films. With the NFL season in full swing, FRONTLINE presents “Concussion Watch” (w.t.), a two-part special on the pervasive health problem facing professional football. American heritage programming concludes in October with THE AFRICAN AMERICANS: MANY RIVERS TO CROSS.


This adaptation of Emile Zola’s beloved French novel is a rags-to-riches story of a young woman seduced by the dangerous charms of the modern world set against the Victorian splendor of a British department store. Sundays, October 6-November 17, 9:00 p.m. ET


An inner-city public school has won more than 30 national junior high championships, the most of any school in the country. I.S. 318 boasts so many strong players that Albert Einstein would rank fourth if he were on the team. “Brooklyn Castle” is the exhilarating story of five aspiring players and how chess became an unlikely inspiration for academic success. Monday, October 7, 10:00-11:30 p.m. ET

FRONTLINE “Concussion Watch” (w.t.)

In this groundbreaking special, FRONTLINE joins with ESPN journalists Steve Fainaru and Mark Fainaru-Wada on a major investigation of the health crisis that threatens the richest, most powerful sports league in the world, the National Football League. Tuesdays, October 8 and 15, 10:00-11:00 p.m. ET


The first documentary to examine the evolution of the heroes who leapt from the pages of comic books over the last 70 years, this three-part miniseries chronicles how disposable diversions that once cost a dime became the foundation for a multi-billion-dollar industry, from 1938 to 2010. Wednesdays, October 8 and 15, 8:00 p.m. ET

· “Truth, Justice, and the American Way” (1938-1958) – October 8

· “Great Power, Great Responsibility” (1959-1977) – October 15

· “A Hero Can Be Anyone” (1978-2010) – October 15, 9:00pm

NOVA “Megastorm Aftermath”

One year after “superstorm” Sandy’s deadly strike, NOVA and producer Miles O’Brien follow up on the 2012 film “Inside the Megastorm” with a fresh investigation of the critical questions raised by this historic storm, including was Hurricane Sandy a freak combination of weather systems? Or are hurricanes increasing in intensity due to a changing climate? And what can we do to prepare ourselves? Wednesday, October 9, 9:00-10:00 p.m. ET


“56 Up” is the eighth film in a series of landmark documentaries that began 49 years ago when a diverse group of 7-year-old children from all over England spoke about their lives and their dreams for the future. Michael Apted, a researcher for the original film, has returned to interview the “children” every seven years since. In this latest chapter, more members of the original group take part than ever before, speaking out on a variety of subjects, including love, marriage, career and class. Monday, October 14, 10:00 p.m. -12:30 a.m. ET

NATURE “Saving Otter 501” (w.t.)
This is the story of the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s 501st attempt to save a stranded orphan otter. Follow Otter 501 from her discovery as a newborn pup through her rehabilitation in roof tanks atop the aquarium and her struggle to learn how to dive, hunt, eat and fend for herself in an artificial environment meant to mimic the “real world.” It is a tale of mysterious threats, persistent failures and small victories, where survival is a long shot at best. Wednesday, October 16, 8:00-9:00 p.m. ET

NOVA “Making Stuff With David Pogue”

Host and New York Times technology columnist David Pogue returns to the acclaimed series, which this time explores how technology makes stuff faster, colder, safer and wilder. Wednesdays, October 16-November 6, 9:00-10:00 p.m. ET


Following “Making Stuff,” this new science series ventures inside America’s factories to explore the innovation and sheer genius that transform the most basic ingredients into powerhouse machines. Wednesdays, October 16-November 6, 10:00-11:00 p.m. ET


In celebration of the venerable arts series’ invaluable legacy, on the occasion of its 40th anniversary on PBS, this program presents a stellar roster of diverse alumni who perform and share personal stories of what the show and public television have meant to them. All-star appearances by Julie Andrews, Audra McDonald, David Hyde Pierce, Don Henley, Josh Groban, Itzhak Perlman, Peter Martins, Patti Austin & Take 6, El?na Garan?a and Michael Bublé. Friday, October 18, 9:00-11:00 p.m. ET


This immersive documentary interweaves several stories that unfold in surprising ways in the ER waiting room at Oakland, California’s Highland Hospital — a facility stretched to the breaking point. The film is an intimate rendering of the story of our health care system at a moment of great change, told through the eyes of people stuck — sometimes for up to 14 hours — in the waiting room. 24 hours. 241 patients. One stretched ER. By Peter Nicks. Monday, October 21, 10:00-11:00 p.m. ET


Written and presented by Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr., this six-part, six-hour series is the first documentary film to air since 1968 to chronicle the full sweep of African-American history, from the origins of slavery on the African continent through more than four centuries of remarkable historic events up to the present day — when America has a black president yet remains a nation divided by race. Tuesdays, October 22-November 26, 8:00-9:00 p.m. ET


This special explores the impact of Lorraine Hansberry’s groundbreaking play, A Raisin in the Sun, in its many iterations and through a staging of two other plays it wrought in recent times, Bruce Norris’s Clybourne Park and Kwame Kwei-Armah’s Beneatha’s Place produced in repertory by Baltimore’s professional resident theater company, Center Stage. Friday, October 25, 9:00-10:00 p.m. ET


Orson Welles’ infamous radio dramatization of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds set off one of the biggest mass hysteria events in U.S. history 75 years ago. The film examines the elements that made America ripe for the hoax. Tuesday, October 29, 9:00-10:00 p.m. ET


PBS airs four new programs commemorating President John F. Kennedy in the weeks leading up to the 50th anniversary of his assassination, including AMERICAN EXPERIENCE “JFK,” NOVA “Cold Case JFK,” (w.t.) a new investigation from SECRETS OF THE DEAD and a special to be announced. A night of science programming is devoted to the study of comets, with NOVA “Asteroids: Doomsday or Payday?” and an independent production. The PBS Arts Fall Festival continues throughout the month, highlighting American theater and music and concludes with GREAT PERFORMANCES “Barbra Streisand: Back to Brooklyn.”


This is a filmed version of composer Jake Heggie and librettist Gene Scheer’s acclaimed adaptation of the classic Herman Melville novel. Friday, November 1, 9:00-11:00 p.m. ET

PBS ARTS FALL FESTIVAL: GREAT PERFORMANCES “Stephen Sondheim’s Company with the New York Philharmonic”

Legendary composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim’s groundbreaking musical Company, about a confirmed bachelor celebrating his 35th birthday with his 10 closest friends, gets a dream cast including Neil Patrick Harris, Patti LuPone, Stephen Colbert, Anika Noni Rose, Martha Plimpton and many more. Friday, November 8, 9:00-11:00 p.m. ET


A series of four new programs offering fresh perspective on the life and death of President John F. Kennedy airs in observance of the 50th anniversary of the president’s assassination.

· KENNEDY Special to be announced. Monday, November 11, 8:00-9:00 p.m. ET

· AMERICAN EXPERIENCE “JFK” This new four-hour portrait offers a fresh assessment of the enigmatic man, his accomplishments and his unfulfilled promise, featuring interviews with Kennedy family members and historians Robert Dallek, Robert Caro and Evan Thomas. Monday, November 11 and Tuesday, November 12, 9:00-11:00 p.m. ET

· NOVA “Cold Case JFK” (w.t.) – For decades, the assassination of John F. Kennedy has fueled dark rumors of conspiracies and mishandled evidence. Now, 50 years later, NOVA asks: Could modern investigators do better? Wednesday, November 13, 9:00-10:00 p.m. ET

· SECRETS OF THE DEAD “One o’Clock” (w.t.) – This special chronicles minute-by-minute the assassination of President Kennedy as it was revealed, from the moment the president was shot until Walter Cronkite’s tearful pronouncement of his death one hour and eight minutes later. Features rarely seen archival footage from the CBS newsroom and local broadcasts in Dallas. Wednesday, November 13, 10:00-11:00 p.m. ET


Rodgers & Hammerstein’s landmark American musical Oklahoma! is reborn in this film version of the Royal National Theatre of Great Britain’s award-winning, record-setting and Tony-winning production directed by Trevor Nunn, choreographed by Susan Stroman and starring  Hugh Jackman as Curly.  Friday, November 15, 9:00-11:00 p.m. ET


Forensic scientists, crime historians and Sherlockian experts reveal for the first time the astonishing impact Arthur Conan Doyle’s creation had on the development of real-life criminal investigation and forensic techniques. Tuesdays, November 19 and 26, 9:00-10:00 p.m. ET

NOVA “Asteroids: Doomsday or Payday?”

From the width of a football field to the size of a small city, the space rocks called asteroids have the potential to be killers. But some asteroids may be loaded with billions of dollars’ worth of iron, nickel and even platinum. Will asteroids turn out to be our economic salvation — or instruments of extinction? Wednesday, November 20, 9:00-10:00 p.m. ET


To be announced


This one-hour documentary/performance program feature young Americana artists paying tribute to the legendary country stars who have inspired them. Friday, November 22, 9:00-10:00 p.m. ET

AMERICAN MASTERS “Jimi Hendrix” (w.t.)

Presented as part of a year-long celebration concluding in what would have been his 70th year, this is the rock legend’s definitive story, with rare footage and interviews illuminated with commentary by Paul McCartney, Noel Redding, Billy Cox, Eddie Kramer and others. Tuesday, November 5, 9:00-11:00 p.m. ET


The legendary Barbra Streisand makes a historic homecoming back to Brooklyn at the new Barclays Center arena, marking the superstar’s first Brooklyn concert since her childhood years. Joined by special guests Il Volo and Chris Botti, Streisand performs an extensive selection of songs from her five-decade career, including a touching duet with her son, Jason Gould. Friday, November 29, 9:00 p.m. ET


This month, PBS presents a selection of new holiday specials, including LIVE FROM LINCOLN CENTER “New Year’s Eve with the New York Philharmonic” (w.t.) and AMERICAN MASTERS “Marvin Hamlisch: The Way He Was.”

AMERICAN MASTERS “Marvin Hamlisch: The Way He Was”

By age 31, Marvin Hamlisch had won four Grammys, an Emmy, three Oscars and a Tony. His famous singles and scores made him the go-to composer for film and Broadway and the go-to performer for every president since Reagan. When his unprecedented streak ended, he fell into despair. With a rich archival legacy, collaborators from Liza Minnelli to Steven Soderbergh and complete cooperation from his family, this documentary has a wealth of material to tell Hamlisch’s rich, bittersweet story. Friday, December 27, 9:00 p.m. ET

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