A Look Ahead with WPT’s Director of Programming

January 5, 2012 Wisconsin Public Television Leave a Comment

Happy New Year from the programming staff at Wisconsin Public Television! Now that we’ve had a little time off it’s back to the fun and frustration of putting together monthly schedules. Some months are fairly easy and some are real bears. January usually falls somewhere in between.

January is usually a welcome schedule month for us because we have a fair amount of new episodes from our favorite series and a handful of great specials that show why public television is the best channel on the dial. This January is no exception.

Billy the Kid on American Experience
Billy the Kid on American ExperienceEvery season the producers at American Experience produce what are unarguably the best history programs on television. For the past couple of seasons they have been cranking out awesome biodocs on significant figures of the Old West, including Wyatt Earp and Annie Oakley. This season we get a rare look at the infamous outlaw Henry McCarty, a.k.a. Billy the Kid. Known for his charm and rugged good looks (by Old West standards, I guess), Billy the Kid began a career of crime at the tender age of 15. The reason I like watching this documentary is because it does a great job of dispelling the many myths about Billy the Kid while also revealing so many things I never knew. Not only is this documentary informative in the way we’ve come to expect from American Experience, but it’s also just good fun. Watch the gunslinger do his thing 8 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 10 or watch the encore at 11 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 11.  For now, enjoy an advance screening of the first chapter of Billy the Kid: American Experience, and check out some scenes from the making of the film on American Experience’s Facebook page.

Let Me Down Easy on Great Performances
Great Performances Let Me Down EasyAnna Deavere Smith may not be a household name, but odds are you know her from her many roles on television and in movies. Anna is a wonderfully, multi-talented performer whose career includes reoccurring roles in The West Wing and Nurse Jackie, and a great turn as press secretary in the film The American President with Michael Douglas. Despite a thriving TV and film career Anna’s true love is performing live on stage. In her numerous one-woman shows Anna has demonstrated an amazing acting range and uncanny ability to portray a wide variety of characters, including men, children and people from all walks of life. Her performances are moving, dramatic, funny and insightful. In Let Me Down Easy Anna tackles the many facets and faces of health care, and the relationships we have with our bodies and spirits. During the course of the performance Anna takes on the persona of everyday people and well-known celebrities, including cyclist Lance Armstrong, writer Eve Ensler and former top model Lauren Hutton. See a preview here. Throughout, Anna speaks the real words of these characters, as culled from in-person interviews, and manages to find the humor, sadness, drama and hope in the myriad of stories. I know that one-woman shows aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but if you give Let Me Down Easy a chance you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Watch Anna 9 p.m. Friday, Jan. 13.

Nuclear Aftershocks on Frontline
Frontline Nuclear AftershockIt doesn’t happen often. In fact it’s just plain rare. But, I got an early screener of this new Frontline episode about the state of nuclear energy in the aftermath of the tsunami in Japan that destroyed the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex. While the episode does not dwell on the actual tsunami, it does include stunning and chilling footage of the devastation. The true focus of this riveting program is what lessons other nations have learned from Japan’s nuclear disaster, and the future of nuclear energy throughout the planet. For example, Germany has abandoned its entire nuclear energy program. We’ve all seen the news about the nuclear emergency in Japan, but Frontline does a brilliant job of explaining and showing lasting consequences. As always, Frontline reports it well and Nuclear Aftershocks is an absolute must see at 9 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 17. Catch the encore at 11 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 19. Sadly, I can’t share the whole program, but here’s a quick preview.

Special Schedule Note About Tuesday, January 24
From the “heads up” category, please take note that the prime time schedule for Tuesday, Jan. 24 has completely changed. Due to our live coverage of the president’s State of the Union Address and Republican Response at 8 p.m., the new episode of American Experience “Geronimo” will now air an hour earlier at 7 p.m. The episode of Frontline “The Meth Epidemic” scheduled for 9 p.m. has been moved to 11 p.m. Thursday, January 26. I know schedule changes can be frustrating, but it is a necessary part of being in broadcasting. You can see the updated schedule at wptschedule.org.

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