Discovering previously unknown parts of one’s family tree is akin to being a detective.
Finding Your Roots premiered on PBS in 2012. Hosted by Henry Louis Gates Jr., each episodes focuses on two or three well-known personalities as they learn about their family trees. The cumulative research of genealogists, historians and genetics experts is then compiled into a book of life. As the subject of each episode follows along, Mr. Gates either reveals their family history or answers questions to long-held family secrets.
Genealogy is a fascinating subject, at least from my perspective. It’s more than knowing where your ancestors came from. It’s about connecting the past to the present and revealing that the human experience is a universal one.
I recommend it.
Period pieces, especially BPD’s (British Period Pieces) are known pretty formulaic. As much as I enjoy a good BPD, it’s nice to watch one that steps out of the box.
On Sunday, the first episode of the three-part miniseries, The Miniaturist (based on the book of the same name by Jessie Burton), premiered on PBS.
Petronella Brandt or Nella as she is known (Anya Taylor-Joy) is a young woman who has just married Johannes Brandt (Alex Hassell), a mysterious older man who earns his living in trade. Her treats her well, but keeps her at an emotional arms length. His unmarried and religious sister, Marin (Romola Garai) rules the household. Nella’s wedding present is a dollhouse that looks too much like the real thing. Somehow, the dollhouse is telling Nella the truth about her new life and the people in it, but what message is being sent and by whom?
I loved the first episode. It was tense, suspenseful and pulled me in immediately. If I had a time machine to move ahead to this coming Sunday, I would. But I don’t, so I have to wait.
I absolutely recommend it.
Episodes 2 and 3 of the The Miniaturist air on Sunday, September 16th and Sunday September 23rd at 9pm on PBS. The first episode is available online on the PBS website for a limited time.
Queen Victoria has the rare distinction of being one of the few female rulers in human history. Last year, the television series Victoria (based on the book of the same name by Daisy Goodwin, who is also the series’ show runner ) hit our small screens.
Last night, the second series of Victoria premiered on PBS. The second series starts a month after the first series ended. Queen Victoria (Jenna Coleman) is a new mother and has been on resting since giving birth. Prince Albert (Tom Hughes) has stepped into his wife’s shoes while she recovers from bringing their daughter into the world. But Victoria is eager to get back to work and like many mothers, has to find the life/work balance that is sometimes akin to walking on a tightrope. While Victoria is trying to balance family life, her marriage and her job, Albert is trying to find his own identity outside of his marriage.
I really enjoyed last night’s episode. Not just because creator and writer Daisy Goodwin brings these real life people into our modern lives, but also because Victoria and Albert’s marriage seems so ordinary, despite their extraordinary status in society. Like any married couple, they love each other, but they disagree quite fiercely. I also very much appreciated that Victoria’s dilemma is quite modern. She is working in a man’s world, but at the same time, she is a wife and a new mother. Any woman trying to maintain the same delicate balance will tell you that it is not easy.
I recommend it.
Victoria airs at 9PM on Sunday nights on PBS.
Tonight, PBS aired Memory Of The Camps.
This documentary is the unedited and unflinching newsreels recorded by the Allies as they liberated Europe from Nazi control and were confronted by the horrors of the Holocaust.
Even for someone who is well versed in the Holocaust, I found myself torn. I needed to watch, but I had to look away at moments.
Man’s inhumanity to their fellow man was obvious to all.
This program is not for the faint of heart and not for young eyes. But it is very necessary to watch. If we are to say never again and back those words up with actions, we must remember those who were were murdered. One of the quotes that has come up very recently with this year’s Holocaust Remembrance Day (which is tomorrow) is that is if we do not back up our words with actions, it is as if the victims were killed twice.
My heart is breaking tonight and it will break tomorrow. When I wake up, I will say never again and I will continue to say never again (and back up those words with action), until we do not have to say never again anymore.
PBS has become a staple of my Sunday night television viewing, thanks to Downton Abbey.
But with the American premiere of Downton Abbey several months away, PBS still keeps rolling out great programming to keep their audience entertained until January.
Tonight, PBS aired the first episode of The Roosevelts: An Intimate History. This multi part miniseries follows the lives of former Theodore Roosevelt, his niece Eleanor Roosevelt and her husband, former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Using a single narrative as the structure of the documentary, Ken Burns and his team start with the birth of Theodore in the 1850’s and will end with the death of Eleanor in the 1960’s.
It is more than a stiff and predictable documentary. Using pictures, archival footage, newspaper accounts of the day and personal letters and diaries, these three giants of American history are brought back to life. Another stroke of genius was to use notable actors to record the personal writing of the three subjects. Paul Giamatti is the voice of Theodore, Meryl Streep is the voice of Eleanor and Edward Hermann is the voice of Franklin.
I was so enthralled that I thought it was a fictional Shakespearean drama, not a real life story of one of the greatest political families that this country has ever seen. I highly recommend it and I am looking forward to the next chapter tomorrow night.
The full trailer for series 5 for Downton Abbey is out.
The only thing that would make the trailer better is hearing that ITV and PBS will air Downton at the same time on both sides of the pond.
Dear PBS And ITV
Thank you for bringing Downton Abbey into our lives. The fifth season premieres in the US on January 4th, 2015. The lives of the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants have become part of our general cultural lexicon, in addition to being must see TV.
However, it is still 5 months in between the premiere in the UK and the premiere in the US. I am writing to tell you why Downton Abbey should air on both sides of the pond at the same time:
- All important ratings. I have a feeling that PBS is slightly afraid to complete with the major networks in the US who will premiere new shows and bring back current shows in the fall. It’s easier to have a mid-season premiere when the major networks have had their fun in the fall. To be honest, I don’t think they have anything to worry about. Even if PBS aired Downton at 3am on a Tuesday morning, the fans would still find a way to watch it.
- Spoilers. We live in an internet age spoilers are everywhere. Two examples of this:
- When Sybil died in season 3, I was home when the episode had it’s initial run in the UK. The fans on twitter were not shy about sharing their grief and the news about the loss of a beloved character.
- In the spring, when Mr. Selfridge was nearly done in completing the second season, one of the British newspapers spoiled the end of the series in regards to Agnes’s romantic choices. I was not happy.
- The actors and producers only have to do press once. Instead of doing press twice ( the UK in the fall and the US in December), they only have to do it once. I’m sure they enjoy traveling and meeting overseas fans (I know I would in their shoes), but as fun as traveling is, it is exhausting.
I’m aware that ITV is a commercial cable channel and PBS is a public channel that relies on donations to survive. There are issues when it comes to rights and editing, I understand that. It’s not like BBC who has their own American affiliate channel and can air Dr. Who on both sides of the pond at the same time.
That being said, I believe that it would help, not hurt Downton Abbey if it were to air on both sides of the pond at the same time.
A Downton Abbey Fan
Last night, PBS and Masterpeice added a new series to their lineup, Mr. Selfridge.
The series tells the story of Harry Gordon Selfridge (Jeremy Piven), an American businessman who opens the first modern department store in 1909 London.
Harry is brash, bold and optimistic against all odds, a retail showman battling against a traditional world where modernity and new ideas are not always welcome.
Harry is married to Rose (Frances OConnor), but is flirting with Ellen Love (Zoe Tapper), a stage actress and Lady Mae (Katherine Kelly), his aristocratic backer.
Harry’s employees include Anges Towler (Aisling Loftus), Mr. Grove (Tom Goodman-Hill) and Miss Mardle (Amanda Abbington), each with their own personal drama.
The writer of Mr. Selfridge is Andrew Davies. Mr. Davies has written many well known series, including one of my personal favorites, the 1995 Colin Firth/Jennifer Ehle Pride and Prejudice.
Mr. Selfridge is compelling and interesting. Masterpiece has added another gem to it’s lineup and I once again look forward to filling my sunday nights with Masterpiece and PBS.