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PBS Press Day One Announcing New Upcoming PBS Shows at TCA-Langham Hotel, Pasadena

By: Judy Shields

Pasadena, California (The Hollywood Times) 2/2/2019 – “Good morning, everyone, and welcome to the PBS portion of Press Tour.” Lesli Rotenberg, Chief Programing Executive and General Manager of Children’s Media and Education at PBS told journalists at TCA PBS Press Tour. 

The morning started off with “Mollly of Denali” (PBS Kids) press Conference and sneak peek of the new animated kids series.  “Molly of Denali” is the first nationally distributed children’s series to feature a Native American lead character.  One of the goals of the series is to bring Alaska Native voices into all aspects of the production, both on and off camera.  The show follows Molly Mabray, a feisty and resourceful 10-year old Alaska Native, who will take young viewers along sweeping adventures that introduce them to new cultures, places and experiences. WGBH Boston is developing the series with a working group of Alaska advisors and consultants, as well as Alaska Native voice talent and producers. Target age group is 4-8 and Premiers July 15, 2019.

“It’s critical that our characters are relatable to our viewers because the more they can relate to them, the more they can learn from them. That’s our hope with shows like MOLLY OF DENALI, which stars Molly Mabray, a feisty girl who will take viewers ages 4 to 8 along with her on adventures through the incredible Alaskan landscape.

The series is grounded in a pioneering curriculum focused on informational text, a foundational aspect of literacy education. That means that in every episode Molly interacts with a variety of texts to convey information, like books and maps and charts, indigenous knowledge from elders, and her very own vlog. Now, navigating via informational text is critical for most jobs and careers. We all know that. And yet schools have not traditionally taught how to do this, and especially there’s a gap among schools in low socio-economic communities.

To ensure authenticity, the entire series is imbued with Alaskan Native voices both on and off camera, from actors to screen writers to producers. We partnered with an Alaskan native working group on the development of the series, and they continued to weigh in on every episode and detail.

MOLLY OF DENALI also highlights important Alaskan native values, like knowing who you are, accepting what life brings, and honoring your elders. While these values are specific to the Alaskan Native community, they’re also universal.

MOLLY OF DENALI will debut on PBS KIDS on July 15th,” said Lesli Rotenberg.

Part of the panel was Lorne Cardinal, actor, “Grandpa Nat”; Princess Johnson, creative producer; Dorothea Gillman, executive producer; Linda Simensky, Vice President, Children’s Programming, PBS.

Lorne Cardinal said “The show is a great blend of learning oral traditions passed down and also incorporating this new technology called the Internet and teaching kids how to learn about the good information from the bad information.  So it’s really helpful that way, that they’re learning from their elders, which is carrying on the tradition within Native people all across Turtle Island.”

Princess Johnson said “also, you know I grew up without seeing anyone that looked like me represented in the media, in film and television, and oftentimes, when I did see a depiction, it was negative. It was a negative stereotype.  Any you know, my kids are the audience. I have a 4 year old and an 8 year old at home.  Any every once in a while when I’m looking at clips, my 8 year old will come along and he’ll say something like, ‘Mom, that’s our Native food.’ Or there’s a scene where she’s cutting with ulu. He’s like, ‘you have on of those.’ I’m like ‘I know’ I live for those moments, because we get to see ourselves represented in this beautiful, positive light, and we are informing what our image looks like.  Like we have a saying, ‘Nothing about us without us,’ right? And so this is the way I feel like it should be done in this respectful manner where we are partners and we get to really have input and say on how we want to be presented to the world and our value shared with the world.”

Press conference about PBS show “Country Music.”

I’m the writer and producer of Country Music. I first want to say how much Ken wishes he could be here. He had family obligations.  It’s been my great pleasure for the last more than 25 years to write and produce films with my best friend, and this one has been a real joy for me to do the reserach, to write and to produce aas all of them have been, but this one for a kid who sang Marty Robbins songs at age eight in a church basement in Iowa.  It’s a pleasure to get to know the story of this great American art form better and to try to bring it to a large audience,” Dayton Duncan said.

The file, which will chronicle the history of a uniquely American art form, rising from the experiences of remarkable people in distinctive regions of our nation.  From southern Appalachia’s songs of struggle, heartbreak and faith to the rollicking Western swing of Texas, from California honky tanks to Nashville’s Grand Ole  Opry, Ken Burn’s latest film will follow the evolution of country music over the course of the 20th century, focusing on the biographies of the fascinating characters who created it-from the Carter family, Jimmie Rodgers and Bob Wills, to Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, Charley Pride, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Merle Haggard, Emmylou Harris, Garth Brooks and many more-as well as the times in which they lived.  Like the music itself, Country Music well tell unforgettable stories-stories of the hardships and joys shared by everyday people. This documentary will premiere Sept. 15th

Panel included Sally Williams, general manager, Grand Ole Opry Ryman Auditorium; Dayton Duncan, writer and producer and Jane Dunfrey, producer

From the screener that was shown, this reporter can say this: This documentary is one for every country music fan to watch and for anyone that appreciates any type of music should watch.  I cannot wait to see it.

Press Conference with Emilio & Gloria Estefan: The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song.

“Good morning. I’m Tim Swift, producer of THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS GERSHWIN PRIZE FOR POPULAR SONG, this year, honoring my dear friends Gloria and Emilio Estefan. I’ve had the privilege of working with the Estefans since 1994, and on their last PBS special, titled “Standards.” This year’s Gershwin Award Prize will tape on March 13th, in Washington, D.C., and premiere on the network on May 3rd.”

“I would like to acknowledge the partners that make this show happen. First, The Library of Congress, whose commitment to excellence has made this award one of the highest honors in the field of music. WETA, the co producer of the GERSHWIN PRIZE, and under the leadership of Sharon Percy Rockefeller, one of the premiere content providers for the PBS system. Latino Public Television, and the entire Gershwin series would not be possible without the long time support of both PBS and the Corporation of Public Broadcasting. And I know some of you are here today, as well as Greg Field, who is my co producer and music director for this show,” said Tim Swift.

A Question asked by the Hollywood Times:

QUESTION: Hi. In the 1930s and before the Castro regime, Cuba had a musical culture, big band, jazz, that truly was every bit as vibrant and creative as the American counterpart. Do you think the new relations between Cuba and the United States will maybe inject some new energy into the scene here, stateside?

GLORIA ESTEFAN: “The thing that was able to flourish still under Castro was jazz, because it didn’t have lyrics, and they really clamped down on any opportunity for artists to express any anti government sentiment. And now we’re seeing a lot of Yoruba music, rappers, that are being jailed for expressing themselves through rap. But they’re softening a little bit there. There is a very rich musical tradition in Cuba, with very deep African roots. As a matter of fact, I have got an album that’s coming in May, where we reinvented a lot of our songs in Brazil, with Brazilian musicians, and the Yoruba tribe went to Brazil, and also to Cuba. So we have very unified roots in that way. I think music continues to thrive in Cuba. It’s how people get by. Even in neighborhoods, you hear amazing music. It’s just that they really clamp down with censorship, and that, of course, is going to squash anything.

The relations between Cuba and the United States is not the problem. It’s the Cuban government that is squashing the creativity. So until that changes somehow and expands, you’re still going to have a lot of artists that can’t express themselves like they’d like to.”

Another question asked by The Hollywood Times:

QUESTION: Cha-Cha music and the Mambo enjoyed a lot of mainstream popularity in the U.S. in the ’50s and the early ’60s. Do you think the influence of American pop music has been ignored, or under appreciated?

GLORIA ESTEFAN: “You want to take that, babe?”

EMILIO ESTEFAN: “Well, I think definitely. I mean, I got the owner to produce Cachau, who invented the Mambo, the dance song. You know, we won the Grammys for them. But you know something? Definitely, you know, a lot of things, including Santana, with “Oye Como Va.” There’s a lot of things, including Descarga, what he did, you know. A lot of the Cuban music. But I think based on, you know what I love about the Mambo, that they brought to the world a different sound, and that was something that was incredible to a lot of people. Not only that, but even Cachau invented the Mambo, he created, too, the dance song, and some of the traditional Cuban music. And working with him was one of my big I mean, feelings about music, and I learned so much from him, including Celia Cruz, from Cuba. It was, for me, one of the big honors, because, you know, be privy to the Cuban music because we was born there. Growing up in Miami, of course you have a different culture, so, you know, in order to work with them, for me, was an incredible honor.”

GLORIA ESTEFAN: “And I think it comes in waves, you know. I used to watch Desi Arnaz singing in Spanish on an American TV show, “I Love Lucy,” and nobody found it strange. It was quirky and funny. And to see him sing “Babalú” and a lot of Cuban classics on that show that had the eyeballs of the majority of the television audience at the time was incredible. And then of course, you know the greats of music that continued in pieces, and now recently you see “Despacito” blew up worldwide. We had, in the ’80s, our stuff breaking through. But I think what allowed us to do it was the fusion, and that I was singing in English. But it’s still there in waves. Now it just becomes a more world influence, because people have access you’re able to choose radio or satellite, or anything from all over the world.”

Question asked by a journalist:

QUESTION: Speaking of song writers, when you did your “Standards,” what are some of your favorite Gershwin tunes that you just embrace more than anything?

GLORIA ESTEFAN: Well, I actually recorded them on that album. There’s so many. I think it was such a unique thing that the brothers had combining their amazing spirits, and it’s hard to pick one because they were, like I said, creating the pop music of their time, and to me, their lyrics just reached through and break my heart, and I did several of those songs on that album. And it’s mind blowing to me the amount of work they did. And one of them passed young, so they, I’m sure, would have done even more so.

QUESTION: Emilio, do you have a favorite Gershwin tune?

EMILIO ESTEFAN: “Oh, my God. Like Gloria said, there are so many of them. I loved their music. It’s unbelievable, and I think songs, like Gloria say, it’s really hard to say what’s your favorite song that you wrote.”

GLORIA ESTEFAN: “I introduced him to the Gershwins, too, because when I joined the band, we covered a lot of those songs as ballads and did unique things with them, because Emilio was working from the minute he came into this country, so he hadn’t even gone he didn’t go to a prom. He didn’t go anywhere. He had to switch to go to night school because he was working during the day. So when I came into the band, I actually introduced him to a lot of pop music in the United States and to the old standards that I used to love to sing.”

EMILIO ESTEFAN: “I loved the one you sing to me.”

A PBS Music special honoring Emilio and Gloria Estefans’ receipt of the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song.  The Estefan’s are musical auteurs who have created a unique sound of Latino rhythms that transcends cultural boundaries. The event, taping on March 13, 2019 at the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C., will feature performance of Gloria Estefan and a star-filled lineup. During the event, the Estefan’s will be presented the Gershwin Prize by Carla Haden, Library of Congress, and a delegation of Members of Congress.  This will be the first time the Gershwin Prize will be awarded to a married couple or to musicians-songwriters of Hispanic descent. Premieres Friday, May 3, 2019.

Panel included Emilio Estefan, recipient; Gloria Estefan, recipient and Tim Swift, producer.

The next press conference was from Independent Lens “Charm City.” A meeting a group of Baltimore citizens, police and government officials as they cope with the consequences of three years of unparalleled violence. With grit, fury and compassion, they’re trying to reclaim their city’s future. Premieres Monday, April 22, 2019.

“Thank you for being here. I’m Lois Vossen, the executive producer of INDEPENDENT LENS.”

“Brandon Scott was born and raised in Baltimore and was elected to the city council in 2011 at the age of 27, making him the youngest person ever elected to the Baltimore City Council. He began his career as a site program specialist for Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Central Maryland. He has served as a community outreach liaison, as neighborhood liaison in the mayor’s office, and he currently serves as vice chair of the city council’s public safety committee.

Major Monique Brown is a 16 year veteran of the police force and was recently promoted to major. Those of you who have seen the film see how this mother and grandmother is working to restore the image of police officers with the citizens she serves and with the officers that she mentors,” said Lois Vossen.

Panelist: Major Monique Brown, Baltimore Police Dept., film subject; Alex Long, film subject; Brandon Scott, Baltimore City Councilman, film subject; Marilyn Ness, director and Lois Vossen, series executive producer.

The Hollywood Times had a question to ask:

QUESTION: Two part question. The tourist dollars and incentivizing large companies to relocate can help drive a city’s economy and lower crime. What does Baltimore have to offer to its visitors or businesses who live elsewhere and who are not familiar with the city? And you have a high murder rate. Is that statistic trending upward or downward?

BRANDON SCOTT: Councilman Scott. So I think that the violence is trending downward in Baltimore. We still have a significantly high murder rate, but it’s trending downward. But Baltimore is known as Charm City because the best thing about Baltimore is its people. We are a lot more than murder and crime in Baltimore. We have a great, growing business community in Baltimore. We’re the home of Under Armour, who is looking to expand. We have some of the best hospitals in the country, Johns Hopkins, University of Maryland Medical Center. But also we have a growing tech industry. And with our closeness to DC, many businesses like to move to Baltimore, and we like to talk about not just large businesses, but growing our small businesses as well.

From the panel questions, and answers, and the brief screening of this film, I would have to say this movie was made with heart and compassion with the love of the City of Baltimore.  One to watch!

Press conference Masterpiece “Mrs. Wilson” –

Ruth Wilson (The Affair) stars as her grandmother Alison in this three-hour miniseries based on the true story of Alison’s complicated marriage to MI-5 operative and popular spy novelist Alexander Wilson, portrayed by Iain Glen (Game of Thrones; Downton Abbey). Fact and fiction merge in Alec’s life, when he deceives wives, children and colleagues. They follow Alison’s journey to the truth at the heart of Alec’s lies and deceit.  Kelley Hawks, Patrick Kennedy and Fiona Shaw also star in this extraordinary true-life drama with a plot as tangled as anything by Alexander’s heir in the spy fiction genre. Premieres, March 31 & April 7, 2019.

Good afternoon. I’m Rebecca Eaton, executive producer of MASTERPIECE. So before we talk about “Mrs. Wilson,” I have to talk about somebody else, because 50 years is a long time to be a flagship series, and MASTERPIECE is approaching its 50th birthday. and in anticipation of that, what did we think about? We thought about staying alive and staying vital and staying competitive. So we established a MASTERPIECE trust fund of $20 million, which would give us the necessary money, in conjunction with the generous amounts of money we get from PBS and from corporate sponsors. The trust money would allow us to be the place to go to for costume drama in this country. So we established that, and the first call we made was, of course, to our great benefactor Darlene Shiley. Darlene Shiley answered the call instantly and has agreed to give us a challenge gift. And her challenge gift, in addition to the money that she has given already to MASTERPIECE, is a total of $10 million from one person to one series. Darlene is here today.”

“So “Mrs. Wilson.” The series that we are going to introduce to you today is unlike anything I have ever seen on MASTERPIECE. It is the most personal story because it comes directly from the actress who stars in it, Ruth Wilson. Ruth Wilson discovered in her own family a story which is unlikely to be imagined. It is the story of her own grandmother discovering at the end of her husband’s life Ruth’s grandmother discovered at the end of her husband’s life that he had a completely other life, several other wives and an entire career that she didn’t know about. Ruth is here to talk about it, but before she comes and sits down with Iain Glen, who plays her husband, and Anna Symon, who wrote the screenplay, thought you should have just a little taste of this. It’s about a seven minute clip of what will eventually be a three hour miniseries. “Mrs. Wilson.” Said Rebecca Eaton.

Panelist: Ruth Wilson, actor, “Alison Wilson”; Iain Glen, actor, “Alec Wilson”; Anna Simon, writer; Rebecca Eaton, series executive producer.

WOW. This is going to be a sit on the edge of your seat mini-series.  We were able to see a small clip of this mini-series and what an amazing job Ruth Wilson did portraying her grandmother Alison and Iain Glen as her grandfather Alec Wilson.  The Q&A was one that I believe made all journalist that were in attendance look back on and say, “I was sure glad I was part of this!”

REBECCA EATON: “Oh, good. Okay. So warming up to all of this, the question the first question is this is Ruth’s story Alison’s story that comes to Ruth and then what happened and how did it get to Anna, BBC.”

RUTH WILSON: “Yeah, it’s quite a long story. Well, my grandmother wrote a memoir in two parts, and she gave the first part to us to read probably about 15 years ago. And that was about her growing up, meeting Alec, falling in love with him, and then finding out about his betrayal.”

REBECCA EATON: “Which one”?

RUTH WILSON: “Just one wife she found out about, about Gladys. And she didn’t give us the second part of her memoir until after she died, and that was all about her finding God, which is the second part of the film. But weirdly, a year after she died, we then had correspondence from two other people saying, “I think we’ve got the same dad.” So we worked out that she’s one of four wives, not one of two. And we have an inkling that she might have known the full story, but only chose to write about one of them in her memoir. So the piece then became an amalgamation of the memoir and things we have since found out about Alec and about his life and about my grandmother’s life. So I’ve been talking about it for years. The family have been talking about. We reunited as a family. We had these family reunions where we had nametags and met each other.”


“And there was sort of 55 of us in a room talking about this mysterious grandfather or father. And every time we told the story, it just more things were coming out, but it was just an extraordinary story. It was something that felt it had to be told. And me being in the business, it was sort of down to me to do it. And it just I met Neil Blair and Ruth Kenley Letts. And as soon as we had those two on board, then the ball started rolling. Then the BBC got involved. Anna got involved. Iain then got involved. And the rest is history. And actually, once the BBC greenlit it, it all happened really quite quickly.”

“It’s been an amazing, profound experience and a very difficult, in many ways, experience and something very hard to play, but an amazing privilege to step inside my grandmother’s shoes and tell this story and to tell it for the family. And we had a family screening. We had all 55 members there. And that’s from age 6 months to 96, 97. And there was a four minute silence, and everyone was in tears, and it was an amazing bonding experience. So if anything, that’s the best thing that’s come from this. But, yeah, it’s been amazing. There we go.”

During the Q&A when Ruth was asked a question about her grandfather, a real fire alarm went off in the room and everyone looked around and it stopped Ruth in her conversation.  The alarms continued to go off and no one in the room seemed concerned or showed that they were going to get up and I felt like, wow, no one is alarmed enough about a fire alarm, just sitting around to continue the conversation.  Ruth mentioned it was probably her grandfather.  It was a false alarm and the security had come over the loud speakers, which disrupted the Q&A that continued in spite of alarm sound.

Here was a question that was asked before the fire alarm went off:

QUESTION: You never ever talked to your grandmother about it during those four years in between, but did you talk to your father at that point in time?

RUTH WILSON: Yeah. Yeah. I asked my dad a bit. It’s all funny. I think in some way, they all learned to compartmentalize, all learned to sort of create their own version. I mean, obviously now we’ve talked to them and they’re thinking back and digging back into their memories, which they’re being forced to do by this drama a little bit and thinking about that time. My uncle, who signed the death certificate, remembers the name being different on the death certificate, and him thinking that’s weird. And he went and asked some questions, and which we depict, Gordon asking questions. And he did that in real life, and he just got shut down quickly. And then he never bothered asking again. But there was definitely a sense in the family even when my grandfather was around and alive not to ask questions about his job; not to just don’t. It’s just not said. And so if you’re taught not to ask.

(Fire alarm.)

“My grandfather, cursing it.” said Ruth Wilson.

ANNA SYMON: “Don’t ask any more questions.”

RUTH WILSON: “We’ll be fine. Someone’s having a smoke somewhere.”

REBECCA EATON: “Phil, should we just keep going?”

RUTH WILSON: “I say yes.”

It was comical to say the least!

This is going to be a great mini-series to watch no doubt.  Make it a point to put this on your TV watching list.




Next show up was “Boss: The Black Experience in Business” – This history of business and entrepreneurship lies at the heart of the American story, but often absent are the names and experiences of African Americans who, from the country’s earliest days, have embodied the qualities of innovation, risk-taking and determination to forge a path toward a better life-which is at the heart of the American entrepreneurial spirit. BOSS: The Black Experience in Business, by Peabody and Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Stanley Nelson, seeks to illuminate, educate, and inform, by examining more than 150 years of African American men and woman – from those bound by bondage, to moguls at the top of multi-million dollar empires.  Premieres Tuesday, April 23, 2019.

Panelists included: Marcia Chatelaine, Provost’s Distinguished Associate Professor of History and African American Studios, Georgetown University; Richelieu Dennis, Founder, CEO & Executive Chairman – Sundial Brands

American Masters “Charley Pride: I’m Just Me” press conference-This show will explore the complicated history of the American South and its music through the life of country star Charley Pride. Raised in the brutally segregated Mississippi Delta, Pride’s butter voice, talent and steely resolve led him to the Country Music Hall of Fame. A Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award winner, his journey shows the ways that artistic expression an triumph over prejudice and injustice. Directed by Barbara J. Hall (Patsy Cline: American Masters) Premieres Friday, February 22, 2019

Panelists included Charley Pride, legendary performer; Barbara J. Hall, director and executive producer from Nashville and Michael Kantor, series executive producer.

The Hollywood Times had the opportunity to ask Mr. a question:

QUESTION: Are there any entertainers or country music entertainers, that you would like to sing with, do a duet with? And how do you feel about the new country singers today?

CHARLEY PRIDE: The new black country singers of today?

CHARLEY PRIDE: Well, I have a new CD. It was a CD before the one I got out now. So I’m on stage. And I tell this all the time. My wife says, “Pride” she’s been calling me that for all these years. I can hear that voice through a steel door.


She said, “Now, you’ve got some good gospel records.” She said, “But I tell you what. Why don’t you do this.” She said, “Call Dolly Parton.” And I say this on stage. I said, “No, no.” “And see if she’s got a good gospel song.” I said, “I’m not going to call Dolly.” She said, “Well, I’ll call her.” So she called Dolly, and Dolly said, “Yes, I’ve got a gospel song. Not only will I let him have it, I’ll come do it with him.” And she did. So I recorded with and I don’t know who all has seen the full measure of this documentary here, but I finally got Willie back on that, kissing me in the mouth and all that stuff. That’s another story, but so I got the song, and Dolly and I did it. And so I stand sometimes on stage and tell them I said I asked my guys. I said, “Did she” “she said she’s going to come sing with me one time. Did she make it tonight?” “No, no, no.” So, anyway, I did a duet with her. I did a duet with Willie Willie Nelson. We are getting ready to do a duet album.

Mr. Pride performed two of his iconic songs, one being “Kiss An Angel Good Morning.”  He was accompanied by guitarist Kevin Bailey.  Mr. Pride still has that butter voice.

FRONTLINE “Sex Trafficking in America” press conference.

I’m Raney Aronson Rath, executive producer of FRONTLINE. Thank you so much for being here today.

Sex trafficking happens in every state across America – and many victims are America’s children. In this film FRONTLINE travels to Phoenix, Arizona, where filmmaker Jena Neumann and producer Lauren Mucciolo provide an up-close look at the lucrative industry and efforts to combat it.  With unprecedented access to local law enforcement, the justice system and service providers, FRONTLINE has been following a case through the Maricopa County courts.

Panelist: Det. Heidi Chance, Phoenix Police Dept.; Mariah, trafficking survivor; Lauren Mucciolo, producer; Jessamine Neumann, producer and Rainey Aronson-Rath, executive producer

QUESTION: Marriah, can you talk to us a little bit about getting out? First of all, for you, what was the key factor that was able to let you get out? And, you know, if someone worries about, oh, if I get out, I won’t have anything. I won’t have a school or a job or anything like that. What have you been able to find? Are people able to help you so you could get out and go onto a good life of some sort?

MARRIAH: “So for me, specifically, I was very fortunate in my journey. I escaped on my own. I was sent to Colorado with another girl, just us by ourselves, and when we got there, I decided I couldn’t do it anymore. And she told the guy that I had ran off and went to another state, but I ended up staying there in Colorado, and then I went to a program in Phoenix that helps survivors get back on their feet. It’s a life recovery program, which is where I met Jezza and Lauren. I was there for about a year and a half. And upon completing the program, I was offered a scholarship to Arizona State University, where I now live and go to school. And I was just very blessed and very fortunate to have found people who were in my corner and who wanted to help me have a different kind of life.”

QUESTION: That’s great. What’s your major, and what do you expect to do when you graduate?

MARRIAH: “My major is social work. I want to do art therapy, particularly with other survivors and people who have suffered trauma.”


NOVA “The Planets” – A five-part miniseries, NOVA will explore the awesome beauty of “The Planets” of our solar system, including Saturn’s 175,000-mile-wide rings, Mars’ ancient dried waterfall beds that were once four times the size of any found on Earth and Neptune’s winds-12 times stronger than any hurricane felt on our planet. NOVA will reveal how each of them has affected our own planet in unique ways. Premiering Wednesdays, July 24-August 14.

“So it took a lot of time, human ingenuity and engineering, but we made it. We built these machines. We went to those places. They have cameras. They have sensors. Sometimes they can even sniff the atmosphere of these places and sent that data back to us. And after all that, we’re finally getting to know our neighbors in the solar system. And this year we’re going to introduce you to them in a way you have never experienced before, with a five part series called “The Planets.”

So each of the five hours is a unique story, either an intimate portrait of an individual planet or a section of the neighborhood, and all of them are full of surprises. So, thanks to all the data that’s come back from all these amazing missions and wonderful CGI, you’ll be able to visit these planets not only how they are today, but how they were deep in the past and even into the future. So you’ll see Mars dripping with waterfalls. You’ll see Saturn naked of its rings, but then at the catastrophic moment when the rings were actually created.

So you’re going to find out that the solar system can be a really brutal place. There have been winners and losers. And the survivors are pretty awesome. Also, you’re going to find out we have some really weird and crazy neighbors. You’re going to meet them.” Said Julia Cort, deputy executive producer of NOVA.


QUESTION: With the success of all the various unmanned missions NASA is trafficking, it seems there’s a new astronomical revelation or discovery every week. When producing this series, do you ever find that events and discoveries overtake your production?


GIDEON BRADSHAW: “Yeah. That’s a big challenge for a series. I mean, something of this scale takes years to build. With the visual effects that we’ve been producing for the series, that takes, you know, immense resources and research efforts to pull all that together and it takes time. But these guys, all that time, continue to work the data and are finding new stories at the same time. So we hope to track that all the way through up until delivery, but we’ve got a few more months to go. So hopefully no big surprises are out there.

What you’ll see in the series is that we concentrate a lot on the past histories of the planets. We’re really delving into their really dramatic, deep history all the way back to the beginning, how they were born and then how they’ve evolved over time. We’re talking at such ancient past here, you know, four and a half billion years ago, that it’s quite hard to be completely specific. You know, it’s not settled science, a lot of this stuff. So what we tried to do in the series is just reach you know, try and talk to people like my colleagues here and try and reach consensus about where the current understanding is. But that’s the joy of science, you know, progress. It always marches on. We learn more the more we look.”

CHRIS SCHMIDT: “I would say that for on the NOVA side, we’re also keeping a really close watch on all these discoveries, and every time I see a headline, I’m thinking, “Uh oh. Is something going to break our series?”

GIDEON BRADSHAW: “He sends them to me.”

CHRIS SCHMIDT:  “And, personally, I’m really grateful to NASA for timing the New Horizons’ flyby of Ultima Thule to come in just before we were finishing the Pluto show or what we’re calling “Ice Worlds” show, because if that had come a little bit later, it might have been a problem for us. So it is an excellent question, because this stuff is happening rapidly.”

Panelist: Dr. Linda Spilker, project scientist, Cassini, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory; Dr. Ashwin Vasavada, project scientist, Curiosity Mars Rover, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory; Chris Schmidt, mini-series executive producer and series senior producer; Gideon Bradshaw, mini-series show-runner, BBC Studios Science.

From the trailer we saw, what an amazing mini-series this is going to be.  Another great PBS show to put on your TV viewing calendar.

MASTERPIECE “Les Misérables”  – Where there is love, there is hope. An epic new adaptation of Victor Hugo’s iconic Les Misérables, coming to MASTERPIECE on PBS.#LesMisPBS.

Rebecca Eaton, executive producer of MASTERPIECE: He may say no; however, things happen in “Les Mis.” Andrew Davis adapted “Les Mis,” as he has done so many great English books and so many that have appeared here on PBS MASTERPIECE. He is our go to guy, Andrew Davis. Next to him, Dominic West, you will recognize behind the beard. He is a man transformed in this miniseries from the guy you see at the beginning to the guy he is in the end, and that’s the story. Lily Collins, Fantine, in the first three episodes of the story, the story of this beautiful young girl who is deeply corrupted by a guy and the times in which she lived. Lily, this is your first time with us. Welcome.

LILY COLLINS: “Thank you.”

REBECCA EATON: “And Lily’s just told me she’s written a memoir. So get on Amazon and order it before the end of the session here.”


“David Oyelowo plays Inspector Javert, and David is also a producer of “Les Mis” with Lookout Point, who is the production company in England who made it for us and for the BBC. And, David, the last time I think you were here or that we talked was when we did “Small Island” with Ruth Wilson and Benedict Cumberbatch”.

“So I’m going to start with Andrew to say whose big idea was it to redo “Les Mis”?”

ANDREW DAVIES: “Well, it wasn’t mine, because it was one of those great classics that I neglected to read.”

REBECCA EATON: “Oh, you hadn’t even read it? You didn’t know.”

ANDREW DAVIES: “I never read it. It was brought to me by Simon Vaughan from Lookout Point, who said, “This is a great title. I could sell it all over the world.”


REBECCA EATON: “So, David, did they come to you first for Jean Valjean?”

DAVID OYELOWO: “No, no, it was always Javert. And for the exact reasoning behind the question is why it was attractive to me, because we have seen the reverse of that dynamic numerous times, as you say. And the truth of the matter is, you know, contrary to some popular belief, not every black man living in Europe in the early 1800s was some kind of slave or subservient in some way. Napoleon had black generals in his army. And, again, little known fact. But I am always looking for ways to shake things up for myself. And so what was actually of more interest to me was I had had the opportunity to play a number of virtuous, good men in my career, and I was kind of fascinated by this character who is so obsessed in his pursuit of another human being, down to what he deems to be his own moral compass in a sense. He is not, in his own mind, a villain. In fact, he is the hero of his own story. And that’s kind of what fascinates me about Javert, is that, in relation to Jean Valjean, I’m the righteous one. I’m the one doing God’s work. I’m the one who is the law keeper, the law abider. And that was a very fascinating thing for me to get to play, knowing, as David the actor and the fan of the book, that that’s not necessarily how everyone else would perceive it. But how do you stick to that for six episodes? And that’s the opportunity that Andrew afforded in that you have so much more context around that over the six episodes than you could ever have with the musical, as it were.”

QUESTION: Do you think the core of the story as it relates to the inequities of class ring truer today? And I’d like to hear from the cast on that as well.

ANDREW DAVIES: “Yes, I do. I think it rings as true today as it did then.”

LILY COLLINS: “I think it was interesting when we were doing press for this before Christmas in England, wasn’t it the day before or the day of there were the riots in Paris? And there were all these images on the cover of newspapers of fire and riots going on in Paris. And in the trailer we have a quote that says, “Paris is a tinderbox.” And it just felt bizarre to be talking about this story at a time politically that it felt very similar to today. The trailer happened to come out the day that that happened in Paris now in what was 2018. So I think that in itself really resonated strongly with me that although times have changed, times have not changed in that sense.”

DOMINIC WEST: “And Victor Hugo said this story will have meaning so long as there is poverty. And he probably didn’t think, 150 years later, that there would be so much. But the gap between rich and poor, which was so obvious then and in the French Revolution and that led to the French Revolution, is now, I think, much it’s a much bigger gap that we have now. And therefore and, obviously, poverty is still very prevalent. And the idea of centering the weak, the dispossessed, and writing a novel about the people who are not the strong leaders, the fortunate, is still quite revolutionary. We don’t do it much on television, even now. And I think, for Valjean anyway, the journey is a realization that the weak are the people that give us our humanity. They’re not people to be despised, and that nobody is illegal.”

QUESTION: I think there is a sense in some circles that this story has been so totally and thoroughly co opted by the musical to the point of which some people I saw a couple British reviews go, “Oh, look. They’re doing ‘Les Mis’ without songs,” as if it was some grand thing you discovered. I’m curious if you had any concept in your mind of kind of reclaiming the text for this, as opposed to with the songs?

ANDREW DAVIES: “Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. I hated the musical. I just wanted to rescue it.”


ANDREW DAVIES: “You can be in the musical if you want to be.”

I just wanted to rescue this great book from this pathetic virago. I’m sorry. You know, I like to be more frank.”

DAVID OYELOWO: “Don’t worry. All you need to do is look at the picture.”

LILY COLLINS: “Yeah, look at the photo.”

DAVID OYELOWO: “Of Andrew Davies.”

Dominic West (The Affair, The Wire) stars as Jean Valjean, David Oyelowo (Selma, A United Kingdom) as Javert and Lily Collins (Rules Don’t Apply) as Fantine in this epic retelling of Victor Hugo’s classic novel, Les Misérables.  They are joined by a host of Britain’s  most talented actors, including Olivia Colman (The Favourite, The Crown) as Madam Thenardier and Josh O’Connor (The Crown, The Durrells in Corfu) as Marius. The six-part drama was written for the screen by Andrew Davies (Pride & Prejudice, War & Peace) Premieres Sundays, beginning April 14, 2019

Panelist: Lily Collins, actor, “Fantine”; David Oyelowo, actor, “Inspector Javert,” and executive producer; Dominic West, actor, “Jean Valjean”; Andrew Davies, screenwriter and Rebecca Eaton, series executive producer.

The three actor spoke about their portrayal of the iconic charters from Dominic West speaking about the two hour hair and makeup and the difficult part about his hair. Lily Collins spoke about her not having teeth and wearing a retainer and green screen of her mouth.  The funniest part was screenwriter Andrew Davies saying he did like the play Les Misérables, which made actor David Oyelowo open his mouth wide and cover his face, then do a Matrix type movement with his hand and mouthed “Oh no”.  Hilarious moment.

The scenery of the film looks amazing and the character costumes are exceptional.  This too will be another great show to watch on PBS MASTERPIECE.

PBS has so many great shows, mini-series and movies coming up in the next several months. So make it a point to check them all out here:  PBS