A Look Ahead With WPT’s Director of Programming

February 4, 2013 Wisconsin Public Television Leave a Comment

Garry Denny previews new Pioneers of Television, Frontline, David Suchet and more.


Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore on-set

Pioneers of Television
I’ve mentioned in previous blog entries that I’m a huge television geek. I love, loath and otherwise appreciate all things TV. Even really bad television can be useful in that it helps to build true appreciation for good television. It’s for these reasons that I am a big fan of our Pioneers of Television series, now entering it’s third season on public television.

In the premiere episode titled, “Funny Ladies,” we are treated to some wonderful clips from classic television comedies, including I Love Lucy, The Mary Tyler Moore Show and, of course, The Carol Burnett Show. But, it’s more than just a clip fest as the producer (Milwaukee native Steve Boettcher) has captured some really wonderful interviews with the actresses and actors who brought us so much hilarity over the years. The interviews with Joan Rivers, Carol Burnett, Margaret Cho, Mary Tyler Moore,

Watch Pioneers of Television online

Tina Fey, Marla Gibbs and many more give viewers so much insight into television comedy and the people who made it all possible. Simply put it’s just plain fun to watch this show and the series. The other new episodes in the series are “Primetime Soaps,” “Superheroes,” and “Miniseries.” Ryan Seacrest, who is stepping up in class from the mediocrity of American Idol, narrates the series. Pioneers of Television premieres 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 5.

Preview: Carol Burnett describes her first nervous meeting with Lucille Ball.


Frontline “Raising Adam Lanza”
I don’t usually write about shows that I have not seen entirely, but this is a special case. In the wake of the horrific event at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn. the country and the world is left struggling for answers and meaning in the massacre. In “Raising Adam Lanza” Frontline examines the life of the young man and the town he changed forever. Lanza had no known friends, left behind no diary, and destroyed his computer and any evidence it might have contained. Lanza’s life and motives remain largely a mystery. Working with Hartford Courant, Frontline goes to Newtown to look for answers to the central, and so far elusive question, “who was Adam Lanza?” Frontline “Raising Adam Lanza” premieres at 9 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 19.

David Suchet in the Footsteps of St. Paul
Public television and mystery fans everywhere know David Suchet simply as Poirot. Not that Suchet has been forever typecast as the smart, fussy, exacting, and stylish detective, but his role as Poirot will likely be his lasting impression with most viewers familiar with his work. Fortunately, Suchet on occasion steps out of his Poirot hat to host specials for public television – last year we aired his tremendous travel documentary David Suchet on the Orient Express.

Now, in his new two-part series we’re fortunate to travel along with Suchet as he traces the footsteps of St. Paul. In the hands of most hosts this documentary could have been dry, dull and painful to watch, but Suchet’s enthusiasm for the subject and his approach to the story makes this a joyous two hours of television. Suchet has long held a great deal of interest in St. Paul and has always wanted to play him in film or on stage. For him this documentary is the next best thing and Suchet’s presentation is just plain fun to watch. Sure, you’ll learn a lot, but you’ll also be entertained. David Suchet in the Footsteps of St. Paul premiers at 7 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 10 and part two airs the following Sunday, Feb. 17 at 7 p.m.

Independent Lens “The Powerbroker: Whitney Young’s Fight for Civil Rights”
When I was a kid, I grew up in household where Civil Rights leaders were equivalent to superheroes. Many of my heroes were known for marches, speeches, civil disobedience and organizing the African American community into a force to be reckoned with.

But there was another kind of Civil Rights hero, like Whitney M. Young, Jr. Young took a different, some would say controversial, route to fighting for Civil Rights. He went directly to the white power structure and challenged racism at the corporate and political levels.


JFK, Whitney Young and Henry Steege

As the Executive Director of the National Urban League Young took a small fledgling organization and turned it into a major player in the Civil Rights Movement, while managing to maintain the support of influential white people and businesses. Young worked closely with Presidents Johnson and Nixon, and managed to have major influence over national programs, including the War on Poverty.

Whitney M. Young, Jr. may not be a household name, but I guarantee he was an important figure in the Civil Rights Movement, and this film is both a joy and sobering reminder of just how far we’ve come in this country. Independent Lens “The Powerbroker: Whitney Young’s Fight for Civil Rights” premieres at 9 p.m. Monday, Feb. 18. Learn more about the film and watch an extended preview.

Battle for the Elephants
I’ve already established in this blog that I’m a big time animal lover. So it should come as no surprise that I’m recommending this show to anyone who will listen to me. It is estimated that nearly 50,000 elephants were illegally slaughtered in 2012 for their tusks to satisfy the disgusting ivory trade. In this important and sobering National Geographic special we meet five people who have devoted their lives to saving elephants. These wonderful people are fighting a war of sorts to end both the supply and the demand for ivory, and to put systems in place that will protect the lives of elephants all across the African continent. Read more from National Geographic Magazine.

When I watched this film I was deeply saddened, profoundly angry, but at the same time hopeful that the dedication of animal conservationists can make a difference and save the lives of these beautiful creatures. If you love animals, care about animal welfare or just love watching elephants, please tune in to this special. Battle for the Elephants premieres 8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 27.

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