New Orleans becomes BBC West this week


It’s that time of year again, where Tellyspotting, along with 100+ colleagues from PBS stations around the country, descend upon New Orleans to work very, very hard on your behalf.

Ordinarily, as television programmer’s, we like to say that our main function in life is to watch bad television so you don’t have to. However, with the annual BBC Syndication Showcase, this is definitely not the case as there will not be a hint of bad television anywhere for the next couple of days.

Karen Parks, Director Sales Admin, TV Sales & Coproduction, BBC Worldwide Americas, is usually a permanent fixture at BBC Showcase bringing a steel-trap mind filled with knowledge of the entire BBC catalogue, past, present and future. Unfortunately, Karen will not be with us this year to hand-hold throughout the screenings but she has generously filed this report, in advance, to give everyone a sense as to what you, as avid viewers of KERA and other PBS stations around the United States, can be on the lookout for in the coming year.

As the screenings progress, I will add a few more notes later in the week on what is being screened and what viewers can look forward to in 2012. Can you say final season of MI-5, new season of New Tricks or new comedies such as Rev or Lead Balloon?

Coming to a PBS Station Near You?

It’s that time of year again. Once a year, BBC Worldwide Americas presents a specially selected ‘menu’ of programming to PBS station buyers from across the country. I’ve been fortunate enough to co-present this Showcase for the last few years. This year, due to a scheduling conflict, I’m unable to attend – but I am very excited about the titles on offer this year to local PBS Stations, and as an avid consumer of BBC programming (it’s a useful interest to have if you work here!), there are a couple of shows in particular which I’d like to share with you.

Over the last few years, my viewing habits have changed a bit. While my original introduction to BBC programming was primarily through dramas and Britcoms – and I still do adore both – my tastes of late have been moving towards factual programming, in particular history and science. I have found that the best TV series in these genres bring topics alive in a way that school never seemed to manage, so I’ve suddenly become intrigued by all sorts of subjects.

Take British history, for example. Previously a world that I had been interested in, yes, but could never quite get excited about… lists of kings, battles and dates. Occasionally a great drama would come along – remember Six Wives of Henry VII? – and it would peak my curiosity. Factual programming is now doing much the same thing for me, so a series like Country House Revealed is right up my alley.

Presented by Dan Cruickshank over the course of six episodes, the series does a wonderful job of drawing 500 years worth of history, architecture, sociology and beautiful landscapes all together, using a specific British country estate as the fulcrum in each episode. If you’re a fan of Antiques Roadshow UK, I’m betting you’ll like this series, which has never been seen in the US until now. Since any trip of mine to the UK usually involves a visit to National Trust properties and a stay in a Landmark Trust property, the series has special appeal to me because each house visited is not open to the public. In addition, you get to see details of the houses up close that you’d never be able to see yourself, even if you could visit in person.

Combine that with Dan’s presenting style, and all the intrigue, scandal, feuds and social climbing that are the real history behind those boring lists of facts and dates come to life – modern day constructed ‘reality’ shows pale in comparison to what these titled landowners got up to!

Science is another area where I feel TV – and the right presenter – can do a great job of grabbing viewers and get them interested in what can be a complicated subject matter. In The History of Science, presenter Michael Mosley takes an unusual approach to science, exploring the timeline of various scientific advances as not just a series of ‘ah-ha!’ moments, but as the direct results of power plays, changing social mores, rivalry and blind chance. Over the course of six episodes, this series looks at the big questions of life (e.g. How Did We Get Here?), and examines how people used science at different historical periods to investigate the answers.

This series, also new to U.S. audiences, does a great job of showing how connections between the ‘big names’ of science, plus a load of people you’ve probably never heard of, brought the world new insights, and how those insights lead to new technologies, wealth, and the rise and fall of nations. It also successfully captures the excitement that surrounded new discoveries, both from the discoverers and the general public.

So – if you’re curious about ‘stuff’, these are two great series to check out, and I’m hopeful the buyers at PBS Showcase will feel the same!

Thanks, Karen. You will certainly be missed this year. Keep your mobile phone switched on the next couple of days, just in case we need your brain….

  • jt

    Both of these sound great!!! By the way, Bill, I really enjoyed the recent Fabric of the Universe. Very thought provoking, as I am sure these two new Brit produced programs will be. Man does not live by comedy and drama alone. : )