Skip to main content

PBS jazzes up its slate

Jazz isn't taking center stage until January 2001, but this fall PBS is offering a prime time slate of what it hopes will be another series of must-see shows.

The 10-part, 19-hour Jazz comes from Ken Burns, who is responsible for PBS' highest ratings ever with his 1990 series The Civil War. Literally long-awaited-it has been in the works for at least six years-PBS is hoping for another ratings winner with Jazz, which chronicles the history of the music genre in Burns' trademark documentary style.

Meantime, PBS is hoping to lure viewers with death. Literally. On Our Own Terms: Moyers on Death and Dying is being featured as one of the fall season's most promising offerings. This four-parter, from the meditative Bill Moyers, focuses on more than a dozen dying people, their family members and caregivers. The six hours are scheduled to run Sept. 10-13.

Also coming this fall:

  • Napoleon, presented by David Grubin Productions, a four-hour chronicle of Napoleon Bonaparte airing Nov. 8 and 15.
  • Art critic Robert Hughes casts his eye on his home country in Australia: Beyond the Fatal Shore. The three-part series, a presentation of wnet New York, examines the history and the culture of Australia and is based on Hughes' book of the same name. Australia airs Sept. 5-7.

  • Just how do those skyscrapers stay up? Building Big from David Macaulay, author of The Way Things Work, explores just that over the course of five hours. Produced by wgbh Boston, BB takes the engineers' point of view in examining past and present buildings, bridges, tunnels, skyscrapers, domes and dams. The series runs from 8 to 9 p.m. on each Tuesday in October.
  • After prodding from critics, PBS will kick off the American Collection as part of ExxonMobil Masterpiece Theatre. Langston Hughes' Cora Unashamed, starring Regina Taylor, launches the new series of American-written dramas on Oct. 25. The series is produced by partners including wgbh and ALT Films. Nine American specials are slated to air over the next three years.
  • Meanwhile, Masterpiece Theatre itself will air its first segment on Oct. 8 with a three-part Oliver Twist.
  • Frontline spends four hours on The Drug Wars, running on Oct. 2. The report examines the impact of the 30-year war on U.S. culture. It is produced by Martin Smith and Lowell Bergman, the former 60 Minutes producer portrayed by Al Pacino in the feature film The Insider.

As for holiday specials, PBS presents its first prime-time special from kids' favorite aardvark, Arthur. The character, whose cartoon is stripped weekdays, will star in the hour-long Arthur's Perfect Christmas. Producers are CINAR Corp., wgbh and Marc Brown, the author whose children's books inspired the series.