Sleeper Picks: March to May 2018
There are so many great features coming out this spring! Lucky for us, our Chief Programming Officer Jim Wiener made a list of some hidden gems coming to CET and ThinkTV.
Rise and Fall of the Brown Buffalo
Friday, March 23, at 9pm on CET
Saturday, March 24, at 10pm on ThinkTV16
Chicano lawyer and author Oscar Zeta Acosta… Never heard of him? He was a countercultural icon who ran with Hunter S. Thompson, and was immortalized as Dr. Gonzo in Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. In the movie version of the book, Benicio del Toro played Acosta to Johnny Depp’s Thompson. In Where the Buffalo Roam, Peter Boyle played Acosta to Bill Murray’s Thompson.
But Acosta was also known as a prominent activist attorney in the Chicano movement, and wrote Autobiography of the Brown Buffalo and The Revolt of the Cockroach People. He disappeared in 1974 and was presumed dead.
Women Outward Bound
Saturday, March 24, at 9pm on ThinkTV16
Tuesday, March 27, at 8pm on CET
This profiles the first group of young women to participate in an Outward Bound survival school course in 1965, and chronicles their experiences in the wild over a month’s time. They forged a bond in their time together in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in northern Minnesota, and reminisced about the lessons they learned in a reunion 47 years later.
Today, it’s nothing to see commercials portray men and women rock climbing or hiking in wilderness areas, but in the 1960’s, the backcountry was still regarded as a place fit only for men. These women helped to change all that.
Sunday, March 25, at 6:30pm on CET
Saturday, March 31, at 9pm on ThinkTV16
PBS has made this series available again, and it will be helpful for fans who didn’t really discover the series until its second or third season. Start times on CET will vary with the length of each episode (timed to lead into Call the Midwife at 8pm). So the first episodes are each 90 minutes and will start at 6:30pm. Downton will then air the following Saturday at 9pm on 16.
They were all so young at the start! Maggie Smith looked like she just came off the set of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie… Okay, maybe not.
Thursday, March 29, at 11pm on ThinkTV16
Follow the fascinating story of a forerunner of Liberace in the early days of television. He was a keyboardist from India named Korla Pandit. He was dark, mysterious, impeccably dressed with a white turban, and his music was New Age decades before the term was invented.
But Korla Pandit was really John Roland Redd, an African American from Columbia, Missouri. He migrated to Hollywood in 1939, and passed himself off as Indian when he learned the local musicians union didn’t accept black members. Redd’s true identity wasn’t revealed until after his death in 1998.
Saturdays, starting March 31, at 10:30pm on ThinkTV16
A plot device in the movie Shakespeare in Love was how events seemed to trigger ideas for the bard to later incorporate into plays still to be written.
That is the same idea in this British comedy. Will Shakespeare toils in relative obscurity in a household with his wife and dysfunctional family. Events seem to trigger ideas to be worked into future plays, or bad ideas that made first drafts, but should be taken out.
This is a series that will hold appeal for those who prefer the younger, edgier Britcoms. Fans of Blackadder and the original Office (starring Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant) will appreciate sly references to those series. The young, hip English teachers will tell their Shakespeare students to dissect these episodes for extra credit.
Meet the Lords
Thursdays, starting April 5, at 10pm on CET
This is a cheeky look at Britain’s House of Lords. Now in America, the Senate is considered a bit more upper crust than the House of Representatives. In Britain, they crank that up a few notches as the House of Commons is all elected officials while those in the House of Lords are appointed based on their nobility. So the Lords are more like Supreme Court justices, appointed for life. And what we see are members who are 1) very old, 2) entitled—literally, and 3) eccentric to the degree that resembles cast members in various old British comedies. This three-part series is short on the civics and long on the country club atmosphere.
Ganges with Sue Perkins
Mondays, starting April 16, at 8pm on ThinkTV14
British documentary filmmakers are big on their “presenters.” They love to have someone getting plenty of face time telling you the story. So this succeeds or fails depending upon the presenter’s personality.
GANGES succeeds because Sue Perkins is a pistol. She’s a comedian, actor and writer, and now a witty traveler following in the footsteps of Stephen Frye and Billy Connolly. In short, you want a Sue Perkins to be a part of your travel group.
Here she goes on a 1,500 mile journey from the source of the Ganges River high in the Himalayas down to the Bay of Bengal. Her sleeping quarters up in the mountains is Spartan to say the least, but Sue is a trooper.
P.O.V. “Bill Nye: Science Guy”
Wednesday, April 18, at 10pm on CET
Wednesday, April 22, at 3pm on ThinkTV16
The first time I saw Bill Nye, he was promoting his new series, Bill Nye, Science Guy at a PBS meeting, and taught us all about momentum.
Put a ball on a string tied to the ceiling, pull it back three feet, let go, and the ball will swing, but not quite the same distance from its resting place…Its momentum will decrease with each swing back and forth until it comes to a stop.
Bill Nye was so confident in this principal of motion that he set up a considerably bigger and more dangerous demonstration before 800 people in a large auditorium. A rope was tied at one end to the rafters about thirty feet up… and at the other end a bowling ball. Nye then placed the then-PBS President on a stool about 20 feet away from where the ball was hanging, and then proceeded to walk the bowling ball 19 feet past its resting spot. Nye said something to the effect of “If I’m wrong, Mr. Duggan will have his head bashed in, and there goes my series!” He let go of the bowling ball, and the crowd erupted in a panicked laughter. Ervin Duggan didn’t flinch as the bowling ball came racing towards his noggin, started to lose momentum and slowed down… and…“Ooooohhhh!!!” came up a foot or so short of picking up the spare.
And so Bill Nye, Science Guy proved his point, saved himself from a negligent homicide charge, and his series of science-made-fun aired for years on PBS.
But since that series, Nye became concerned with a general lack of understanding-- or willingness to embrace science-- as captured in public resistance to climate change and evolution. He’s made it his mission to engage science skeptics. Well known, especially regionally, was his 2014 debate with Ken Ham of the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky, asking “Is Creation a Viable Model of Origins?”
This POV follows Nye’s new calling as a serious science advocate.
Friday, May 4, at 10pm on CET
Sunday, May 6, at 4pm on ThinkTV16
This film explores how Dizzy Gillespie, Louis Armstrong, Dave Brubeck and the Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman bands went on a world tour during the Cold War to spread jazz as America’s hippest export.
Actually the US government was less interested in spreading cultural diplomacy and more interested in featuring mixed race bands to counteract Soviet propaganda about America’s race problem following school desegregation in Little Rock, Arkansas.
So the jazz icons did their patriotic duty and played great music to enthusiastic audiences. At the same time, they knew full well their country still had a sizable race problem with Jim Crow laws still in effect throughout the south. So like African-American soldiers who finally served in an integrated army during the Korean War, only to come back to a still segregated homeland, the musicians had mixed feelings about the job at hand.
Saturday, May 5, at 10pm on ThinkTV16
The title isn’t a typo. James Corden (yes, the James Corden of Carpool Karaoke fame) and Matthew Baynton star in this darkly funny mini-series. They’re two office drones and general screw-ups…. until Baynton picks up a ringing phone at the site of a car crash… only to hear the caller say that if the ransom doesn’t arrive by 5, the wife dies! Did I say it was a comedy?
Independent Lens “No Man’s Land”
Monday, May 7, at 10pm on CET
Thursday, May 10, at 10:30pm on ThinkTV16
Inside the 2016 standoff at Oregon’s Malheur National Wildlife Refuge between anti-government protesters and federal authorities. This is one of those stories that went on for weeks, and we caught little bits and pieces of it. But this gives you the entire story from start to finish that can fill in the gaps.
Spying on the Royals
Wednesday, May 16, at 11pm on ThinkTV16
Thursday, May 17, at 11pm on ThinkTV16
In the days leading up to the wedding of Prince Harry and Megnan Markle, we look back on Britain’s background check of Prince Edward and his affair with American divorcee Wallis Simpson.
King George V suspected his son was being blackmailed, so put MI5 on the job. Later when Edward abdicated the throne, married Simpson and they honeymooned in America, US intelligence agents took up the surveillance. Edward and Wallis didn’t help themselves later when they flew to Germany in 1937.
With war between England and Germany looking inevitable, the warm greetings with the Fuhrer and Edward giving the Nazi salute didn’t sit well with the British.
Real Sherlock Holmes
Thursday, May 24, at 10pm on CET
Sherlock has been described as “the greatest detective who never lived.” His popularity may even be exceeded by his influence. Interviews, reconstructions and clips reveal the hidden side of Holmes’ legacy. Police departments actually adopted many of Arthur Conan DoyIe’s methods for crime solving, including ballistics, fingerprints, footprints, toxicology and crime profiling.