TV Worth Blogging
by David Thiel, Program Director for WILL-TV
An insider's view of public television programming and the issues that help determine what and how you watch
Sharing memories on the occasion of my silver anniversary at WILL.
It was 25 years ago today (April 21) that I joined the WILL team. So much has changed since then...for me, for WILL, for the broadcast industry. It's my anniversary, and since there's unlikely to be cake, please indulge me in a look back!
Inaccurate attribution creates false perceptions about public TV.
Previously I wrote about how people misuse “PBS” and “public television” as interchangeable terms. Most of the time it’s a form of shorthand, or perhaps a misunderstanding of the crazy quilt of stations, producers and distributors that make up the U.S. public television industry. Sometimes, I suspect, it’s done on purpose by those with an agenda to pursue.
FOX enters a Cosmos we explored...34 years ago.
Last night, the FOX network aired the first installment of its much-ballyhooed remake of Cosmos, the PBS science miniseries co-written and presented by astrophysicist Carl Sagan. It received decent audience numbers, averaging 5.79 million viewers according to Nielsen’s overnight measurements and coming in third among the broadcast networks. It was simulcast across nine other Fox-owned channels, so the final viewership should be higher, especially once DVR watching is factored in. (Updated: Hollywood Reporter wrote that the overnight ratings across all 10 channels came to 8.5 million, which they term "a modest haul, given the scope of the launch." Still, that should increase further over the week given repeat airings and DVR usage.)
So, good for science. Good for FOX. My question for the latter is this: what will you do next?
What we often call "PBS" is actually a variety of programming sources.
Among my (many) pet peeves: journalists who can’t tell the difference between “PBS” and “public television.” Every once in a while, I read a news article that cites “PBS officials” when talking about people who in no way work for the Public Broadcasting Service. I get that the U.S. public broadcast industry is complex, and that PBS is its most well-known brand, but it’s the job of reporters to clarify, not to further confuse. So, allow me to give it a whirl.
Unlike Disney, Comcast or Fox, the U.S. public television system isn’t a megalithic media conglomerate. It’s not even a network. It’s a loose collective of noncommercial, educational licensees operating more than 350 stations. And while the familiar “P-head” PBS logo is for many the face of that system, PBS is only part of the picture.
New PBS shows include comedy, kids and Ken Burns.
There truly has been a lot of excitement surrounding PBS programs these past few weeks. Not only was the January 5 season premiere of Downton Abbey the highest-rated drama premiere in PBS’ history, the the 10.2 million viewers initially reported swelled to 15.5 million once DVR watching was factored in!
That buzz carried over to this month’s PBS Winter Press Tour, at which President Paula Kerger introduced both returning favorites and new shows. Read on for news about Last Tango in Halifax and more!
Why did we put this Britcom classic on hiatus?
It's difficult to correctly anticipate the reaction I'll receive to a change in our regular program lineup. Sometimes a single night's pre-emption is enough to spur an audience member to call and demand the return of their favorite show. Sometimes weeks--or, in extreme cases, months--go by before I hear from anyone.
In the case of the British comedy Keeping Up Appearances, three Saturdays off the air was what it took. I've received perhaps a dozen calls and e-mails about it.
So, why did we send Hyacinth Bucket off on holiday?
A spoiler-lite review of the season premiere of Sherlock.
Good detectives won’t stay dead. That’s what Sir Arthur Conan Doyle learned when he killed off his most famous literary creation, Sherlock Holmes, in his short story "The Final Problem." Fans demanded Holmes’ resurrection from the waters of Reichenbach Falls, but it was ten years before Doyle provided him an escape hatch in “The Adventure of the Empty House.”
Happily, fans of the modern Sherlock TV series haven’t had to wait nearly as long. Despite series star Benedict Cumberbatch being contractually obliged to appear in every movie released in 2013, it took only two years for new adventures of our favorite bromantic investigators, Holmes and Watson.
Last Tango in Halifax joins an exciting night of British drama, but there's also music, history, science and much more!
In May, public broadcasters gathered in Miami Beach for the PBS Annual Meeting, a four-day work conference and preview of the new programs we’ll see on WILL-TV in fall 2013 and beyond. Highlights included a new drama, Last Tango in Halifax, premiering this September. Read on for more about what's coming to PBS in the months ahead!
Remember when PBS was going to be replaced by cable? Next up: Mermaids.
Look, I try not to be one of those people with holier-than-thou attitudes about television. People watch TV for all sorts of reasons: information, enlightenment, entertainment...or background noise. it's not like I go home at the end of the day and plop down on the couch for a ten-part history of the Merovingian dynasty. My DVR is set to record every new episode of E's pop-culture snark-fest The Soup.
But, but...every once in a while, a show comes along that makes me ruefully recall those days when this or that pundit or lawmaker would declaim that PBS was no longer necessary, as cable would serve our needs for news, arts, and science. This week, Animal Planet debuted its highest-rated special ever...Mermaids: The New Evidence.
No worries, Downton will return. It'll just be later than you may have hoped.
U.S. fans of Downton Abbey already feeling the absence of new episodes will have to wait a bit longer, I’m afraid.
Yesterday PBS announced their fall lineup, and Downton was noticeably absent. While there’s absolutely no doubt that Series Four will be coming to WILL-TV, it’s now looking likely to be in January 2014. (UPDATED: The premiere has been announced as January 5, 2014.)
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