Mister Rogers will be in the PBS ’hood, Betty White too
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (AP) — A roundup of news from the Television Critics Association summer meeting, at which TV networks and streaming services are presenting details on upcoming programs.
MISTER ROGERS IN THE PBS ’HOOD
With Fred Rogers’ legacy back in the spotlight, PBS wants viewers to remember that public television was the longtime home of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.”
PBS stations will air the acclaimed documentary “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” as part of the “Independent Lens” showcase. The film has earned more than $20 million in its eight weeks in theaters, a blockbuster by documentary standards.
Rogers’ “powerful” approach to children’s programming is an ongoing influence at PBS, said Paula Kerger, president and CEO of the Public Broadcasting Service.
One direct link: The animated series “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood,” from creator Angela Santomero and the Fred Rogers Co.
This year is the 50th anniversary of “Mister Rogers” TV debut. An airdate for “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” wasn’t announced.
BETTY WHITE, FULL STEAM AHEAD
Betty White sees no point in slowing down at age 96, as long as her phone keeps ringing with offers to work.
The actress known for her roles in “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and “The Golden Girls” is marking her 80th year in show business with a PBS special that looks at her life and career.
Moore, Georgia Engel and Gavin MacLeod are among those sharing insights in “Betty White: First Lady of Television,” which debuts Aug. 21. Moore’s appearance in the special was the last interview she did before her death last year, Boettcher said.
The special shows White at work, at home and interacting with friends. She is the lone living star from “The Golden Girls.”
White wasn’t a part of the panel discussion at a TV critics meeting on Tuesday.
“Betty wanted to be here in the worst way,” said Steve Boettcher, the special’s co-director and producer. “She sends her best and she’s doing great.”
Tap dancer Arthur Duncan credits White with launching his career by featuring him on her daily talk show in the mid-1950s. The show received letters complaining about Duncan’s presence as a black performer.
White’s response was to use Duncan every chance she could. He later went on to “The Lawrence Welk Show,” becoming the first black regular on a TV variety show.
“She was probably one of the nicest, grandest, greatest people I’ve had the chance to meet in my life,” said Duncan, now 84. “Whenever she walked into a room, it lit up.”
REP. PAUL RYAN’S ‘ROOTS’ SURPRISE
House Speaker Paul Ryan was surprised and proud to find out he has Jewish roots.
The Wisconsin Republican discovered his family history while filming a segment for the upcoming season of the PBS series “Finding Your Roots With Henry Louis Gates Jr.”
Gates says he traced Ryan’s heritage back to his 10th great-grandfather born in 1531 in Germany. The research showed Ryan is 3 percent Ashkenazi Jewish, and Gates says the news “about knocked his head off.”
Also featured on the show’s fifth season debuting in January is Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii.
Gates says he chose Ryan because he was fascinated by him and not his politics. He picked Rubio because he wanted to include a Cuban and Gabbard because of her Pacific ancestry.
WOODRUFF DESCRIBES ‘LUMP IN MY THROAT’ WHILE FACT-CHECKING TRUMP
Veteran journalist Judy Woodruff says it affected her when she said on air that President Donald Trump had said something that wasn’t accurate.
“The first time I had to say on the air the president had said something that we needed to point out was not accurate, I got a lump in my throat,” she told a TV critics meeting on Tuesday. “It’s not something that journalists are accustomed to doing.”
“PBS NewsHour,” the nightly broadcast anchored by managing editor Woodruff, is careful about using the term lying in regards to Trump and other people in the news, she said.
“When you use the word ‘lie’ you’re saying someone said whatever they said with intention to mislead, to misrepresent,” she said.
“We can’t know what is in someone’s mind, so we are much more comfortable when a situation presents itself, whether it’s the president or someone else who is an important political figure or someone in the news says something that cannot be borne out by the facts, can’t be borne out by evidence, then we say what they said was inaccurate and then we go on to explain what is accurate.”
A LOOK BACK AT WOODSTOCK
A 50th anniversary look at Woodstock and a Ken Burns series on the human genome will be among PBS’ upcoming documentaries, the public TV service said Monday.
The two-hour documentary on Woodstock will air in 2019 and will examine the events that led up to the three-day festival that would become one of the defining moments of the tumultuous 1960s.
The documentary will be part of PBS’ “American Experience” series and is being directed by Barak Goodman, who is teaming up with Burns on the genome series.
“The Gene: An Intimate History” will be a three-hour documentary series based on a book of the same name by Siddhartha Mukherjee.
Burns previously produced a documentary on Mukherjee’s “Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies” book.
PBS says the series will weave science, social history and “personal stories” to explain what we know about human genetics, including disease and the ethical debates over gene editing. It is scheduled to air in 2020.
COMMERCIAL BROADCASTING VET TO LEAD PBS
Perry Simon, PBS’ newly announced programming chief, is a veteran of commercial broadcasting, cable and digital media who said Monday it’s a “privilege” to join public television.
PBS president and CEO Paula Kerger said that Simon will start in September as chief programming executive and general manager, with responsibility for all fare except that for children.
Kerger, speaking to a TV critics’ meeting Monday, lauded the scope of Simon’s career experience and his work in the non-profit arts sector.
The search to replace Beth Hoppe, who left as programming chief in February to join ABC News, focused on someone who understood the changing media landscape and how PBS reaches viewers on different platforms, including digital ones, Kerger said.
An executive committed to the “values and mission of PBS” and who believes in its value was critical in making the selection, she said.
Simon, who held executive positions at Viacom Productions and NBC Entertainment, most recently served as managing director at Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s Vulcan Productions, which makes documentaries, TV series and digital content and has teamed with PBS on projects including the recent documentary “Going to War.”
From 2010-15, Simon was BBC America’s general manager and oversaw production of its first original programs including the Emmy-winning series “Orphan Black.”