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kottke.org posts about PBS

Shakespeare in the Park’s Much Ado About Nothing Streaming Online for Free

posted by Jason Kottke   May 15, 2020

One of many cancellations due to the pandemic is the Public Theater’s annual Shakespeare in the Park performances. But for the next three weeks, PBS is streaming their Great Performances recording of last year’s Shakespeare in the Park production of Much Ado About Nothing for free on their site (embedded above, reviews here).

This bold interpretation of Shakespeare’s comedic masterpiece features Danielle Brooks (“Orange is the New Black,” Broadway’s “The Color Purple”) and Grantham Coleman (“Buzzer,” “The Americans”) as the sparring lovers Beatrice and Benedick. Tony Award winner Kenny Leon (“American Son,” “A Raisin in the Sun”) directs with choreography by Tony Award nominee Camille A. Brown (“Choir Boy”).

To whet your appetite, you can check out some of the highlights of the performance in this short video.

P.S. You can also watch this 2009 production of Macbeth starring Patrick Stewart in the lead role. (via laura olin)

Ken Burns Presents The Gene: An Intimate History

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 08, 2020

From Ken Burns and Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee, The Gene: An Intimate History, a series about the history of genetics based on Mukherjee’s book of the same name. Here’s a trailer:

The series tells the story of the rapid evolution of genetic science from Gregor Mendel’s groundbreaking experiment in the 19th century to CRISPR, and the hope that newfound powers to alter DNA with pinpoint precision will transform the treatment of some of the world’s most complex and challenging diseases. The series also tackles the daunting ethical challenges that these technologies pose for humankind.

This looks great, especially if this clip about Nancy Wexler’s crusade to find a cure for Huntington’s disease is representative of the whole:

In 1968, Nancy Wexler’s mother was diagnosed with a rare genetic disease - Huntington’s. Facing a 50-50 chance of contracting Huntington’s herself, Wexler — a non-scientist — began an odyssey to find the gene that causes the disease. For three decades, Wexler searched for treatments but chose not to get tested. As time passed, she noticed changes in the way she moved. Finally, in early 2020, Wexler decided to face her fears.

Part 1 of the series is now streaming on PBS with part 2 set to premiere next week.

Stream Ken Burns’ Baseball Documentary Series for Free on PBS

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 26, 2020

It would have been Opening Day for baseball here in the US. Since we’re without the actual thing due to COVID-19, Ken Burns asked PBS to allow people to stream his 18-hour documentary series on baseball from 1994 for free (US & Canada). Here’s part one:

(via open culture)

FRONTLINE - Amazon Empire: The Rise and Reign of Jeff Bezos

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 20, 2020

From PBS’s FRONTLINE comes Amazon Empire: The Rise and Reign of Jeff Bezos, a feature-length documentary investigation into Amazon and its founder.

Jeff Bezos is not only the richest man in the world, he has built a business that is without precedent in the history of American capitalism. His power to shape everything from the future of work to the future of commerce to the future of technology is unrivaled. As politicians and regulators around the world start to consider the global impact of Amazon — and how to rein in Bezos’ power — FRONTLINE investigates how he executed a plan to build one of the most influential economic and cultural forces in the world.

One of the 10 key takeaways from the film is how deliberately Amazon attacked the publishing industry:

“Amazon took over a large market share of the publishing industry very, very fast,” James Marcus, a former senior Amazon.com editor, tells FRONTLINE — a situation that he says prompted publishers to realize, “‘Oh, wait a minute, they’re our partner, but they now have the beginnings of a boot on our windpipe’.” Inside the company, the team had launched a strategy that some called “the Gazelle Project,” because they’d heard Bezos wanted them to pursue publishers the way a cheetah pursues a sickly gazelle. “Well, you don’t go after the strongest,” Randy Miller, who ran the European book team, says of the strategy. “He’s like, ‘The cheetah. The cheetah looks for the weak, looks for the sick, looks for the small.’” That way, by the time it comes to take on the publishers at the top, “the noise has gotten back to them. They’re going to know this is coming, and chances are you may be able to settle that without a full-on war.”

Here’s a trailer but the whole thing is available online, embedded above and on YouTube.

How Miles Davis Made “Kind of Blue”

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 20, 2020

From the feature-length documentary Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool that’s debuting on PBS’s American Masters next week, this is a short clip about how Miles’ masterpiece, Kind of Blue, came together in the studio.

Miles Davis didn’t provide sheet music for his musicians during the recording of his iconic album “Kind of Blue.” He said that “I didn’t write out the music for ‘Kind of Blue.’ But brought in sketches ‘cause I wanted a lot of spontaneity in the playing.”

Here’s the trailer and a couple of other clips from the film. (via @tedgioia)

The Civil War, remastered

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 07, 2015

Twenty-five years after its first airing on PBS, Ken Burns has remastered his epic documentary, The Civil War, and PBS will be airing the new version all this week, starting tonight. The remastered series will also be available on Blu-ray in October.

The Roosevelts

posted by Jason Kottke   May 08, 2014

The next Ken Burns PBS long thing will be a seven-part series on the Roosevelts (Theodore, Eleanor, and Franklin).

This seven-part, fourteen hour film follows the Roosevelts for more than a century, from Theodore’s birth in 1858 to Eleanor’s death in 1962. Over the course of those years, Theodore would become the 26th President of the United States and his beloved niece, Eleanor, would marry his fifth cousin, Franklin, who became the 32nd President of the United States. Together, these three individuals not only redefined the relationship Americans had with their government and with each other, but also redefined the role of the United States within the wider world. The series encompasses the history the Roosevelts helped to shape: the creation of National Parks, the digging of the Panama Canal, the passage of innovative New Deal programs, the defeat of Hitler, and the postwar struggles for civil rights at home and human rights abroad. It is also an intimate human story about love, betrayal, family loyalty, personal courage and the conquest of fear.

Fall 2014. (via @tcarmody)

Llectuals

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 08, 2008

‘Llectuals is like Gossip Girls or 90210, except it’s on PBS and for English majors. Girls Gone Wilde! (thx, matt)

Set thy TiVos: 49 Up, the latest in

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 09, 2007

Set thy TiVos: 49 Up, the latest in a series of documentary films in which the same group of people are interviewed every seven years, is on PBS tonight.

It’s a cruel trick to confront people with the cold reality of the past. Despite that, some enjoy being in the film and claim it as a thing to treasure; others take part under sufferance, persuaded that the films are unique and we should finish what we started. I thank them all for their generosity and courage in making these films possible.

Watch the trailer. (thx, mark)

As those of you who love slow

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 06, 2007

As those of you who love slow pans over black and white photography are already aware, Ken Burns has a new documentary coming out on PBS on Sept 23. The War “explores the history and horror of World War II from an American perspective by following the fortunes of so-called ordinary men and women who became caught up in one of the greatest cataclysms in human history” in 7 episodes spanning over 15 hours. A 26-minute video preview is available on the PBS site and the DVD is already available for pre-order on Amazon.

I love YouTube. This is a video

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 05, 2007

I love YouTube. This is a video clip of a chef pulling noodle dough, doubling it over 12 times until the noodles are unbelievably fine. The clip is from a 1987 PBS science show that I watched once when I was 14[1] and I’ve remembered it ever since as one of the simplest, coolest, and most concrete illustrations of mathematics I’ve ever seen. (via seriouseats)

[1] Ooh, watching science shows on PBS at 14….how popular was I in school?

Caught the first episode of Wired Science

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 05, 2007

Caught the first episode of Wired Science on PBS last night and it wasn’t so bad. It’s like Wired magazine, but on TV. If you missed it, the entire show is available online.

“The Mpemba effect is the observation that,

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 14, 2006

“The Mpemba effect is the observation that, in some specific circumstances, hotter water freezes faster than colder water.” I remember hearing about this on an old episode of Newton’s Apple, but I think they never really got to the bottom of it on that show, which was highly disappointing to me at the time.

Eyes on the Prize

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 03, 2006

I posted a link to this earlier, but after watching the first two hours earlier this evening, I must strongly caution against missing Eyes on the Prize on PBS this month. Using nothing more than archival film footage, on-camera interviews, period music, and a narrator’s voiceover, the stories of Emmitt Till, the Montgomery bus boycott, and the desegregation of southern schools riveted me to the couch like few viewing experiences have. As compelling as the history of the civil rights movement in America is, the production of the film deserves some of the credit for its power. To hear the stories of these momentous events told by the participants themselves, without embellishment, is quite extraordinary. From a media perspective, watching Eyes on the Prize gives me hope that we can survive the era of the crescendoing musical scores and 20-cuts-per-minute editing and still tell powerful, engaging stories without worrying about window dressing. I won’t soon forget the calm determination in the look and voice of Moses Wright or Mississippi governor Ross Barnett thundering away about segregation.

(For me, Eyes is also a nice companion piece to my twin obsessions of late, The Wire and The Blind Side, both of which deal with contemporary race relations in their own way. The PBS web site for the film lists dozens of resources for further exploration of the topic…does anyone have any specific recommendations for books about the civil rights movement? Lemme know.)

Update: Thanks for the recommendations, everyone…I posted a listing of them here.

Must see/TiVo TV: for the first

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 02, 2006

Must see/TiVo TV: for the first time in years, PBS is airing Eyes on the Prize, a 14-hour series on the American civil rights movement. (via steve)

The American Masters episode on Woody Guthrie

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 13, 2006

The American Masters episode on Woody Guthrie is worth a look.

Design: e2 is an upcoming 6-part PBS

posted by Jason Kottke   May 12, 2006

Design: e2 is an upcoming 6-part PBS special on the environment and the economy.

You can watch the entire program of

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 01, 2005

You can watch the entire program of Frontline’s The Last Abortion Clinic online. “With states across the US passing regulations limiting access to abortion, does Roe v. Wade still matter?”

PBS has put up a companion web

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 18, 2005

PBS has put up a companion web site to the Nova program on Einstein airing in October. Features include audio clips of several physicists describing e=mc^2 to non-physicists.

PBS will be offering an online-only show

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 14, 2005

PBS will be offering an online-only show called NerdTV starting this fall. The series will feature “PBS technology columnist and industry insider Robert X. Cringely’s interviews with personalities from the ever-changing world of technology”.

Television documentaries are slow, repetetive, and information-poor

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 14, 2005

Television documentaries are slow, repetetive, and information-poor. The Brian Greene series on string theory had the same problem.

Jared Diamond’s Gun, Germs, and Steel three-part

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 10, 2005

Jared Diamond’s Gun, Germs, and Steel three-part series starts Monday on PBS.

WSJ: we should fund PBS, but remove anything remotely liberal

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 16, 2005

WSJ: we should fund PBS, but remove anything remotely liberal. “But real history, meaning something that happened in the past as opposed to the recent present, with which PBS, alas, cannot be trusted.”

Great list of favorite memories from Sesame Street

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 07, 2005

Great list of favorite memories from Sesame Street. I’d completely forgotten about the noo-ne-noo-ne-noo typewriter. I’m gonna be humming that all day now.