Nothing on TV, you say? Turn on PBS! – Part 1

Note: This post is an addendum to both Jeannette and Abbie’s posts from last week about this Fall’s TV schedule and the Emmy Awards.

There are 2 parts to this post, because there’s simply too much to talk about!

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What do you think when you hear the phrase PBS?

I know, I know. Some of you are groaning right now, saying “Please don’t write a blog post about that boring channel Joni!”

Don’t worry, I would never purposely bore you. That’s why I’m going to tell you why PBS isn’t boring, and why you shouldn’t only think of it as the channel that broadcasts Sesame Street.

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Do you like Drama? Maybe some Romance? Mystery? Murder? Political Thrillers?

Then Sundays at 9pm should be your night and Masterpiece (previously Masterpiece Theater) should be your show!

Masterpiece is divided into three sections: Classic, Mystery, and Contemporary. Masterpiece Classic is broadcast from January through April, Masterpiece Mystery is broadcast in the summer and fall, usually through October, and Masterpiece Contemporary is broadcast in the late fall through December. So, basically, there’s something to watch almost all year-long!

By far, the best program from Masterpiece this past year was Downton Abbey. In fact, if ratings and the Emmy Awards had anything to say about it, it may be the best program in the history of Masterpiece. Broadcast over four weeks in January of 2011, Downton had already been broadcast in the UK (where it was filmed and produced) in the Fall of 2010 to rave reviews.

Downton follows the Crawley family at their home Downton Abbey. The Earl and Countess have 3 daughters, and no sons, so when the Earl’s cousin who is set to inherit the estate and the Earldom dies on the Titanic, chaos ensues. The series explores how the lives and world of the Crawley family and their household staff changes as the new heir descends on the Abbey. A mysterious servant arrives, a maid is keeping a secret, the Countess and her mother-in-law are conspiring against the Earl, a Turkish diplomat dies in a compromising position, and world war looms on the horizon.

Downton’s popularity earned it multiple Emmy Awards last week and has been renewed for 2 more seasons. New episodes air in January.

Other Masterpiece Classic programs to check out:Upstairs Downstairs, Any Human Heart, and South Ridingall broadcast in Spring 2011.

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If you like murder mysteries, then it is “elementary” that you tune in to Sherlock.

Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson are back and better than ever, but this time they’re solving murders in present-day London. Three episodes were broadcast as part of last year’s Masterpiece Mystery season, and more are coming in the future. I highly suggest you check this out!

Masterpiece Mystery is rife with programs, many based on the mysteries of Agatha Christie – Poirot and Miss Marple. But, also check out the Inspector Lewis, Zenand the forthcomingCase Histories.

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Finally, Masterpiece Contemporary rounds out the Masterpiece line-up. Although it features far fewer programs than its counterparts, watching Masterpiece Contemporary is a great way to wile away cold, winter Sunday nights. Check out:

God on Trial –  Broadcast in the Fall/Winter of 2008, this 90-minute production follows a group of Jewish concentration camp prisoners as they place God on trial in absentia for his abandonment of the Jewish people during the Holocaust. This brilliant and profound drama depicts the simultaneous faith and loss Holocaust victims experienced during their horrific imprisonment.

The Last Enemy – Does Big Brother, like George Orwell depicted in 1984, really exist? What if it did? After spending years in China, obsessive-compulsive genius Stephen Ezard comes home to Britain for his brother’s funeral. But not all is as it seems. Mystery and danger abounds as Stephen is roped in to becoming the spokesman for the new government Total Information Awareness program that tracks every citizens every movement. It is supposed to protect you, but is a world where nothing is private and you cannot ever disappear protecting or controlling you?

This Fall, check out Page Eight about a veteran British spy who stumbles across a conspiracy that may destroy the British government. He’ll have to figure out what to do about it though, before he falls victim to it himself.

Also, look for the 50-minute long Song of Lunch starring Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson as former lovers who meet for lunch 15 years after their relationship ended. The production is based on the poem of the same name by Christopher Reid.

Next time, I’ll talk about some of the other programs you can see on PBS.

For now, turn on your local PBS Station – you may be surprised by what you find!