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Inside TV – May 2010

BACK FROM AUSTIN-NOTES FROM THE ROAD

Austin City Limits Pic of Tucson's treasure playing on Austin's treasure--Austin City Limits!

I just got back from Austin, TX. I was there for two conferences. The first order of business was attending the Public Television Programmer’s Association (PTPA) meeting in which I’m a member of the board and one of the planners of the daylong meeting. My session featured David Pogue, the personal tech columnist for the New York Times. If you are unfamiliar with his writing, I strongly encourage you to check out Pogue's Blog and videos. He is also the writer of several “For Dummies” books on magic, Macs, opera and classical music. He is the creator and writer of the "Missing Manuals" series and I wouldn’t doubt if you or someone you know lives by his manuals. He is the new host of a NOVA mini-series that is in production and it was great to have him as a guest to hear his thoughts on public media, social media, technology and his catchy music. I could go on about David but he was just one of the many highlights from my meetings. When the new series approaches, you can bet that my blog will be about DP.

The second meeting was PBS Showcase. Showcase provides an opportunity for PBS affiliates from around the country to come together, share best practices and get face time with PBS HQ. TV programmers, producers, PR folks, General Managers, Online folks and development people convene for a few days to get the latest news.

PBS reported that ratings were up for children’s programming and primetime. It’s the first increase the network has had in 5 years. Some of the best new kids programs last year were on PBS, so I’m not surprised that the kid's lineup saw improved ratings with the new Electric Company and Dinosaur Train launching! Nationally, the network had a 19% increase for kids programming!

I'm also not surprised that primetime went up--in Tucson, viewers loved the last season of Masterpiece films, Faces of America by Henry Louis Gates, independent docs like Food Inc and Ken Burn’s America’s National Park. The rest of the country loved those shows too.

Showcase offers producers the time to present their trailers of upcoming PBS series like Nova, Independent Lens, POV, Antiques Roadshow (Miami and DC are on their summer tour!), Masterpiece and American Experience (Billy the Kid!), to name a few. We also get introduced to new projects in the works like Circus from the team that brought us Carrier. Ken Burns is bringing us two new specials later this year. BTW, we are repeating the Baseball series in June and July in preparation for The Tenth Inning, one of Ken’s specials coming this Fall.

The state of Public Affairs programming was the big topic of the meeting (besides what’s going on in Arizona). I was particularly interested in meeting Alison Stewart, one of the new hosts of Need to Know. I had watched her before on MTV and like many of you, watched the new series with curiosity and concern. She's very smart and takes her role as a PBS host very seriously. The series is getting its legs and the online reporting is great. I read it every day and dig it. (On a personal note, Ms. Stewart has family that lives in Tucson. Next time she’s in town, I hope we get her in the studio for an interview.) Hari Sreenivasan from Newshour hosted a session on the state of public affairs. Frontline and Need to Know where at the table. Important issues were discussed mainly on how to deliver the news to the masses on every platform available and to be timely.

The PBS World channel (Channel 27.3) is being relaunched in July and the enhanced lineup and new website looks promising. I’m on the content and online committee for that channel. Look to this blog for more updates on the relaunch. I am very attached to the concept of the World channel and hope many of you have had the time to experience the content. It’s going to get more international, present more public affairs and have pop culture programs.

Now I’ll admit my favorite upcoming shows: The Cat in the Hat is coming featuring the voiceover talents of Martin Short! The newest Nature season made me weepy. Get out your handkerchiefs, folks. There's lots of lovable animals coming up in the Fall! One of the episodes is about an elephant named Echo and you will become attached to her. This elephant went through quite a bit! History Detectives is not one of my favorites but I'm excited that the new season has some local Tucson connections in a few of the episodes. History Detectives has a new way for you to participate in their show. You can now submit your own mystery on the History Detectives site! Nova Science Now with my beloved Neil DeGrasse Tyson looks super fun. POV’s season that starts this summer looks incredible. Check out POV's trailers from a few of the films coming up on the POV website!

The most important news is the latest online service that PBS and her stations can provide to all Americans. Arizona Public Media’s PlayPBS was just one of the few stations that launched a player on their site. Our results have been impressive and now more stations will be using not only PBS content but AZPM’s local productions on their newly launched video player.

Two non-meeting highlights:

As I was boarding my plane in Tucson, Amy Grant was getting off the plane!

Austin City Limits threw a party for PBS Showcase attendees in their studios. They are moving to a new Austin location which sounds amazing. Austin's local fave Grupo Fantasma performed for us! The dancefloor was hopping. They will be playing on June 22nd at the Rialto in Tucson folks. I'm going!

Stay tuned, Susie

Meeting PBS,

WHY CHECK FOR LOCAL LISTINGS?

Passing Poston

A viewer looks at PBS’s website and sees that Show XYZ is suppose to be on at 9PM. They tune in to PBS HD Channel 6 and it's not on. This doesn't always happen but when it does, I can see why a viewer would find this annoying. "Check local listings" is necessary when it comes to a local PBS schedule but why?

As many of you know, PBS doesn’t work like a network in the traditional sense. There are affiliates and for the most part, there’s a schedule that is followed. But a local station’s job is to address the needs and interests of their communities. When we aired a “wild west” marathon in February featuring documentaries about Wyatt Earp and Buffalo Bill, only Southern Arizonans were given such a treat. Why did we do that? Rodeo Days was coming up, and we knew rodeo fever would hit Tucson!

This Monday, we aren’t airing The Hurricane of ’38 at 9PM but at 10PM instead. What is airing at 9 PM this Monday is Passing Poston a film about an interesting piece of Arizona history. The headlines for this film in one paper read "When Being Japanese Meant Losing Freedom". When I worked on my May schedule months ago, I saw an opportunity with our sister PBS station in Phoenix, KAET, to do a statewide broadcast of a film that seemed important for Asian American Pacific Islander Month held in May. Our stations have been talking about AZ’s Centennial and our content options. While I was looking around for shows about Arizona that we’ve never aired, this documentary came to my attention and I felt it was important to air sooner than later. Hurricane of '38 has aired before so we agreed that we should both air Passing Poston instead.

Passing Poston is a touching and at times, difficult documentary to watch. The Poston Relocation center, built on the Colorado River Indian Tribes reservation, served as one of ten internment camps built in seven states.

More than ever, citizens want to know what’s going on in their state, including events of the past. It’s for this reason, that Hurricane moved and Passing Poston, an independent documentary by Joe Fox and James Nubile is airing on May 17th at 9 PM. I hope you have the time to watch it.

For more about the Poston War Relocation Center check out the Passing Poston website or review Wikipedia. Fascinating stuff!

Local Schedule,

EMMA REVISITED

Emma

I haven't always loved Masterpiece Theater. It wasn't till a few summers ago, when I was at a national PBS meeting and Masterpiece hosted lunch. They were announcing their new plans for the series. Masterpiece Classic, Contemporary and Mystery were now their own series and MPT Classic was kicking things off with an all Jane Austen season. WOW. I have been hooked ever since.

In January, when MPT Classic announced that a new version of Emma was coming, I was excited. The finale however, was set for February 7th, Superbowl Sunday and figured a Jane fan would be watching the game. Myself and other PBS station programmers across the country feared that folks would miss the finale due to the game. I got special permission from Masterpiece and PBS to air the last two episodes back to back as a 2 hour special one week early so no one would miss a thing.

Recording devices were set but only for one hour so quite a few missed the crucial payoff to all Jane Austen stories--the end! When Superbowl Sunday came, the beers were set down, the dip was put away and our loyal fans tuned in to Masterpiece Theater. Emma was not there. The calls came in. It got ugly!

If you love Jane, then chances are, so do your friends! Folks, I beg you to tell all your friends:

This Friday we are repeating the last two episodes. The finale is here! Emma will air for two blissful hours starting at 9:30 PM, immediately following the new public affairs Need to Know.

Can't get enough of the bachelors of Highbury or the enchanting Emma, played by Romola Garai? Check out Masterpiece Theater's Emma website while watching the finale.

Classic Masterpiece,

IF YOU’VE NEVER WATCHED MI:5, TONIGHT’S EPISODE IS A GOOD STARTING POINT.

If you’ve never seen MI:5, I would describe it as a smarter, slightly more creative version of the Fox series 24. Instead of Jack Bauer, we have Adam Carter, supported by a group of diverse, talented “spooks” that sometimes make questionable decisions.

Tonight is the premiere of series 6, and I say it’s a good place to start because there wasn’t much of a cliff hanger last season. Tonight’s episode sets up a season-long story involving Iran and their journey to become a nuclear power.

For viewers that enjoy smart, action packed dramas, I HIGHLY recommend MI:5.

Find all scheduled episodes of MI:5

About Inside TV

Insider tips on what and why to watch from the programmers who put it on air.