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PBS Primetime Programming for the Week of January 17

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We are, somehow, rapidly approaching the Super Bowl.  Now, I don't want to go out on a limb and suggest which team might win it, but I do know.  You would, if I gave you the name, be a little quizzical about how I might have insight into such things, and I would, understandably, not be willing to divulge my sources.  And that, my friends, is why we are at something of an impasse.  I do, however, have a solution.

 

Sunday, January 17:

8:00 – 9:00PM

Nature – "Clash:  Encounters of Bears and Wolves.”  Two men enter, one man leaves.  Or, in this case, two predators enter, one predator leaves.  The predators in question, as the title here indicates, are a bear and a wolf.  Sit back, break out the popcorn, and watch these animals enter the Thunderdome!

9:00 – 10:30PM

Masterpiece – "Return to Cranford – Part Two".  The original Cranford mini-series went so well, that they decided to go back to the well once more.  Again based on the writing of Elizabeth Gaskell, the Cranford contingent returns to give us another slice of life in the small Cheshire Town.  Plus, Laura Linney hosts.

10:30 – 11:00PM

PBS Previews: National Parks. Soon, but not yet, PBS will airing a Ken Burns special all about our national parks. Apparently he thinks they were one of America’s best ideas. I know that because “America’s Best Idea” is the subtitle for the series. I’m like Sherlock Holmes.

 

Monday, January 18:

8:00 – 9:00PM

Antiques Roadshow - "Raleigh (Hour Three)."  Ah, North Carolina, or, as I like to call it Tobacco Town.  Yes, I know it's a state, but if I were to call it a state then there would be a complete lack of alliteration, and I’m all for alliteration.  I'm not sure that there will be alliteration in North Carolina's trip to the Roadshow (or even the Roadshow's trip to North Carolina), but that doesn't mean that I'm not willing to try to make it happen.

9:00 – 10:00PM

Influenza 1918:  American Experience.  After the First World War ended, something called "Spanish Flu" broke out.  It actually killed more people than the War did.  Many thought that the H1N1 virus would prove just as deadly.  It hasn't.  I'm not saying that the fear of H1N1's deadliness is why PBS chose to re-air this piece from almost 12 years ago, but it may have influenced it.

10:00 – 11:00PM

Benjamin Latrobe:  America's First Architect.  It is not that Latrobe invented architecture.  It isn't even that Latrobe was the first architect in this country.  It is the fact that many feel as though Latrobe invented an American style of architecture.  He's the kind of guy, therefore, that Ted Mosby would love, and if Ted Mosby would love him, shouldn't we all?

 

Tuesday, January 19:

8:00 – 9:00PM

Nova - “Riddles of the Sphinx.”  The Sphinx is awesome.  It is awe-inspiring, it is wondrous.  The Sphinx is also shrinking, ever so slowly, but ever so surely.  Apparently there is a whole lot of sand in Egypt, and sand that flies really fast has the effect of, well, sand-blasting things.  In this case, the Sphinx is getting sand-blasted and disappearing.  Learn about its history and future tonight.

9:00 – 10:00PM

Frontline  – "The Dancing Boys of Afghanistan."  There was an ancient tradition in Afghanistan of taking young boys away from their family with a series of lies and then training them to sing and dance in order to trade them for sexual favors.  The Taliban actually did away with this practice, but with them gone, the practice is reemerging.  Frontline is investigating the practice tonight.

 10:00 – 11:00PM

Independent Lens  – "Copyright Criminals."  This isn't an episode about your local downloader, although illegal downloading is criminal.  This is an episode about the "creative and commercial value of musical sampling."  Is it artistic expression?  Is it illegal?  Is it, possibly, both?  It might just depend on where you're standing… or, it might not.

 

Wednesday, January 20:

8:00 – 9:00PM

The Human Spark – "Brain Matters."  Alan Alda – one of my all-time favorite actors ever – has reached the last leg in his attempt to find out exactly what makes us, well, us.  Perhaps it has something to do with precisely how our brain is wired.  Perhaps not.  But, Alda will explore that possibility today.

9:00 – 11:00PM

Great Performances at the Met  – "The Audition."  This episode is less about a single great performance, it is much more about the Metropolitan Opera's National Council Auditions.  In these auditions those who compete are competing for both a cash prize and the chance to sing on the Met stage.  It is, as the kids say, a documentary.

 

Thursday, January 21:

8:00 – 9:30PM

Live From Lincoln Center – "Joshua Bell with Friends @ The Penthouse."  The violinist Joshua Bell plays some songs tonight, but he doesn't do them alone.  No, instead, Bell plays with folks like Kristen Chenoweth, Frankie Moreno, Nathan Gunn, and Marvin Hamlisch.  Oh yes, it's true.

9:30 – 10:00PM

PBS Previews: National Parks. Soon, but not yet, PBS will airing a Ken Burns special all about our national parks. Apparently he thinks they were one of America’s best ideas. I know that because “America’s Best Idea” is the subtitle for the series. I’m like Sherlock Holmes.

10:00 – 11:00PM

Soundstage – "Tim McGraw."  Tim McGraw's 10th studio album is entitled Southern Voice.  Probably that has something to do with McGraw being from the South and therefore having a Southern voice.  He's going to be singing songs from that 2009 release tonight.  Will he sing more stuff than just songs from Southern Voice.  Uh-uh, that would be telling.

 

Friday, January 22:

8:00 – 8:30PM

Washington Week with Gwen Ifill and National Journal #4929. Another whole week has gone by and good old Gwen Ifill and National Journal are here to fill us in. For the record, I like to pretend the National Journal is a sidekick, like Robin to Batman, Starsky to Hutch, or chocolate sauce to Double Dutch Chocolate ice cream.

8:30 – 9:00PM

NOW on PBS #604.  It’s the Emmy award-winning weekly news magazine. It looks at issues facing our democracy. The show is hosted by David Brancaccio. And, even better, they still send me e-mails (I think that makes me cool and them nice). Thanks, Now, you guys are awesome!

9:00 – 10:00PM

Bill Moyers Journal #1339.  It’s Bill Moyers. It’s his 1,339th journal (not really, but I’m not going to explain to you the way in which TV shows are numbered at this point in time, maybe later if you’re nice). He’s a good journalist so I assume this will be good journalism (at least the odds are it will).

10:00 – 11:00PM

Looking for Lincoln. Henry Louis Gates Jr. takes some time and explores the man, the myth, the legend. In my mind, this whole think unravels a lot like Looking for Richard (or Looking for Richard Crenna, but that's been seen by far fewer people). It probably doesn't, but I definitely think it would be great if it did.

 

Saturday, January 23:

9:00 – 10:00PM

Austin City Limits – "Avett Brothers/Heartless Bastards."  I'm not saying that the Avett Brothers are heartless bastards.  I'll tell you what, I'll even take that one step further – I'm going to say that the Avett Brothers are not Heartless Bastards.  How's that?  Does that provide for you some sort of quantum of solace?  Well, I should hope so.

 

My answer to the above conundrum is, exactly, what I said it would be – I won't be telling you who will win.  I know, you should accept that I know, and we should just move on.  In the weeks after the Super Bowl I will tell you who I thought would win the Super Bowl and who actually did win the Super Bowl.  I will also ask you to accept that when both names are the same you believe that I did have foreknowledge of the events.  Sound good?

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About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.
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