TCA: PBS Turns 50, But Looks Ahead

Pasadena, Calif. — Celebrating its 50th anniversary, PBS is both looking back on its heritage and looking ahead. The public broadcaster is launching PBS American Portrait, which Paula Kerger, president and CEO, called a “digital-first national storytelling project” about “what it really means to be an American today.”

PBS American Portrait will be on broadcast in 2021. Kerger promised an “unprecedented” look at our nation.

PBS has launched a social media campaign to mark its anniversary called PBS50. But Kerger stressed that “we have our sights firmly on the future.”

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Sanditon, based on a Jane Austen novel, debuts Jan. 12.

World on Fire, about World War II, starts in April. PBS calls it “an adrenalized, emotionally gripping and resonant World War II drama that follows the intertwining fates of ordinary people in five countries as they grapple with the effects of the war on their everyday lives.”

This summer, PBS will offer theatrical productions about famed feminist Gloria Steinem and former Texas governor Ann Richards under the Great Performances banner. Kerger mentioned an “effort to highlight trailblazing women this summer.”

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In terms of kids programming, season three of Odd Squad, from Fred Rogers Productions, begins Feb. 17. Toni Collette guest stars. There are 20 episodes.

PBS will also premiere Donkey Hodie, inspired by a Mr. Rogers character. Kerger described “a sweet donkey with the magenta mohawk.” For children 3-5, that puppet show debuts in winter 2021. Fred Rogers Productions produces Donkey Hodie. 

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.