October 2018 Sleeper Picks
Ready to set that DVR? Here’s what Public Media Connect Chief Programming Officer Jim Wiener has on his watch list:
POV: Dark Money
Monday, October 1, at 10pm on CET
Thursday, October 4, at 10pm on ThinkTV16
Anymore it seems like 60 Minutes gets softer in its old age, preferring celebrity profiles over investigative pieces. FRONTLINE has really taken the lead there and now POV takes its turn. Here’s a real-life political thriller that makes you think House of Cards was merely being tame. An investigative reporter exposes the shadowy world of unlimited campaign contributions from anonymous sources… in this instance an effort to upend Montana’s state government.
Thursdays, October 4 through October 25, at 9pm on CET
This British series investigates art works that are either the real deal, or — as the detective would like to intone to a gasping group of the upper crust: “This painting… is… a… FORGERY!”
The original British Antiques Roadshow always liked to make the day of some little old lady who bought a painting at a yard sale… only to learn “… and I’d say this would now be worth around 20 THOUSAND POUNDS!” (“My word” came her response). But the series also loved to stick it to the haughty MP proud of his seascape, and the art expert would say in an apologetic tone “Well, I’m afraid this JMW Turner is an imitation — albeit a very well done imitation, and here’s why…” He’d then in a matter of fact way outline all the telltale signs, and the cutaway of the owner captured a barely concealed slow burn.
Art Detectives spares owners of this little tweak. But it’s fun to predict their findings.
Margaret Mitchell: American Masters
Wednesday, October 10, at 9pm on ThinkTV14
Wednesday, October 10, at 10pm on ThinkTV14
Well, fiddle-dee-dee! It’s a southern culture double-header with the celebrated author of Gone with the Wind, followed by a documentary about a summer camp in Columbia, Tennessee, where the antebellum South attempts to rise again. Young women 14-18 sign up to transform themselves into southern belles with instruction in etiquette, art, music, dance and social graces (no peeking at the smart phone). It all culminates in a ball attended by the Jackson Cadets. Is it all so much esteem building and living in history, or does it reinforce divisions in race, gender and geography to this day? From viewer responses to this in the past, don’t assume the answer is obvious.
New Orleans: The First 300 Years
Thursday, October 11, at 10pm on ThinkTV16
History is relative to geography. No, not like a second cousin or anything. In Los Angeles, any building built pre-1960 is regarded as worthy of being put on the National Register of Historic Places. Those in Dayton and Cincinnati see buildings dotting their downtowns, and anything pre- WWII might be viewed as historic.
But get in the car, drive over the Ohio River into Kentucky, and many small towns up the ante on buildings dating well back into the 19th century.
There’s old, and then there’s N’awlins old.
John Goodman narrates this look at New Orleans from its first years as a French colony, then later under Spanish rule, and its eventual purchase on eBay (so says the Internet) by America around the time Ohio became a state. It was a major center of the slave trade, and we get the Reconstruction era and the advent of Mardi Gras. And we thought it was a big deal when Covington turned 200? They’re a spring chicken next to N’awlins!
Fridays, October 12 through October 26, at 9pm and 10pm on CET
Saturdays, October 13, through October 27, at 9pm and 10pm on ThinkTV16
The high school English teachers will remind their students every day starting two weeks out about this series, but you don’t have to be the English major to be entertained by it. This is the third season of celebrity actors, each talking about their favorite Shakespeare play.
Great production values plus footage from hit movies plus older British adaptations. Helen Hunt, not the first name to come to mind regarding Shakespearian actors, loves Much Ado About Nothing, and sits in a theatre admiring the Brannaugh version shot in Tuscany (“… one sexy man on a horse after another”). We also get F. Murray Abraham touting Merchant of Venice and Brian Cox talking Julius Caesar.
BTW, on a slow day, search for “Brian Cox Scotch Pronunciations” on your smart phone or tablet. He is the go-to source for brands with way too many consonant s in their name.
Thursday, October 18, at 10:30pm on CET
Little known history of a Florida legislative committee in the 1950’s and ‘60’s whose aim was to not only root out suspected Communists from state universities, but also homosexuals. Under chairman Charley Johns, the committee was successful in firing or expelling more than 200 suspected gay and lesbian citizens. We also see a 50-year reunion between those who were expelled… and one of their interrogators.
Overcoming Depression: Mind Over Marathon
Thursdays, October 25 and November 1, on CET
This may be as close as public television gets to Big Brother-type reality shows. Ten people afflicted with anxiety, depression and PTSD find therapy in the form of training for one of the world’s most famous endurance races. Prince William, Prince Harry, Kate and the Duchess of Cambridge have made it their mission to open the conversation around mental health, and they play key roles in supporting these runners making it to the finish line.
Thursdays, starting October 26, at 10pm on ThinkTV16
This has been an exclusive on our Passport streaming service and it’ll be available through your regular TV service.
In 1619, three women get off the boat in the men’s only colony of Jamestown, and it appears Jocelyn the courtier, Alice, the farm girl, and street smart Verity will keep their dance cards full well into their 70’s.
Consider this “It’s Raining Men” in the 17th century. Problem is that life in the colonies is cold, muddy, miserable. The women are, of course, beautiful, and a smudge of dirt on the cheeks is what passes for historical authenticity. The rank and file settlers are not exactly Aiden Turner look alikes. But the women are in a position to play Bachelorette, and that’s what made this a member favorite over this past year. Now everybody can enjoy this six-part series.
We Knew What We Had: The Greatest Jazz Story Never Told
Thursday, October 30, at 11pm on ThinkTV16
This is a terrific story of how Pittsburgh produced an incredible number of standout jazz musicians. Among them were George Benson, Stanley Turrentine, Billy Eckstine, Art Blakey, Billy Strayhorn (Duke Ellington’s principal composer), Mary Lou Williams and Ahmad Jamal.
And to me, maybe the most unlikely and least known member of this group was Johnny Costa.
I worked in Pittsburgh and knew him only a little bit. He was short and looked like the guy they’d call out with the chalk to measure the suit the customer was still wearing in front of the mirrors. But, as a pianist, he was nicknamed “the white Art Tatum.” Costa was jaw-droppingly fast and could go places other pianists couldn’t even comprehend. But he had no big ambitions to record or tour and was content to be the musical director on Mister Rogers Neighborhood. Fred Rogers often had famous musicians on his kids show and they probably came to Pittsburgh for two reasons:
- They wanted to impress their kids that they met Mister Rogers.
- They wanted to play with this Johnny Costa guy they heard about.
This film has lots of great performance clips and also looks at the social conditions and events that conspired to make Pittsburgh a huge contributor to America’s jazz legacy.