This week, we turn our eyes and eyes and wallets over to PBS Distribution, who continues to release shows and specials simply not available anywhere today . . . except public television.
On the list of must-sees:
Love and Valor
Based on the acclaimed book, Love and Valor: Intimate Civil War Letters Between Captain Jacob and Emeline Ritner, this film is the deeply moving story of a Union soldier and his wife during the Civil War. Jacob Ritner, a Union captain from Iowa, was a teacher, farmer, and abolitionist before the war. When he was called to duty–participating in a great adventure, seeing new lands–his wife Emeline was left behind to raise four small children and manage the family farm. This documentary explores the couple’s devotion to one another throughout their separation, their patriotism, loneliness and anguish at the death of loved ones, and changing views on the South and slavery.
Tony-winning actor Brian Dennehy narrates the film, and Jacob and Emeline’s great-great-grandson, author and filmmaker Charles Larimer, lends his voice to the documentary, sharing the compelling stories of how he found the letters. Filmed partly in cemeteries by the actual graves of the people mentioned in the letters, Larimer reveals additional information about some of the people mentioned, including a young runaway slave whom Jacob Ritner met in Mississippi in 1862 during the Vicksburg campaign, and the Ice Merchant of Savannah who hosted Jacob Ritner for Christmas dinner in 1864 at the end of Sherman’s March to the Sea.
Spend Will, Live Rich With Michelle Singletary
Singletary is in a unique position to offer advice about how to gain control of your financial life: In addition to her award-winning nationally syndicated columnist for The Washington Post, she relies on the invaluable knowledge learned from the best financial planner she ever met, her grandmother, Big Mama. In a compelling personal narrative, Singletary draws on Big Mama’s wit and wisdom. Michelle explains how her grandmother raised her and her four brothers and sisters on a salary that never exceeded $13,000 a year. Big Mama made every penny count. She owned a home and a car and lived comfortably in retirement. She knew that it’s not how much you make, but how you make do with what you have.
Michelle’s presentation is based on her “Seven Money Mantras,” (If It’s on Your A$$, It’s Not an Asset!; Is This a Need or a Want?; Sweat the Small Stuff; Cash Is Better Than Credit; Keep It Simple; Priorities Lead to Prosperity; Enough Is Enough) which synthesize what she learned from Big Mama with her own financial expertise.
Several NOVA specials are floating out there, waiting for your attention.
NOVA: Forensics on Trial
There is a startling gap between the glamorous television world of CSI and the gritty reality of the forensic crime lab. With few established scientific standards, no central oversight, and poor regulation of examiners, forensics in the U.S. is in a state of crisis.
NOVA investigates how modern forensics, including the analysis of fingerprints, bite marks, ballistics, hair, and tool marks, can send innocent men and women to prison–sometimes even to death row. Shockingly, of the more than 250 inmates exonerated by DNA testing over the last decade, more than 50 percent of the wrongful convictions stemmed from invalid or improperly handled forensic science. With the help of vivid recreations of actual trials and cases, NOVA will investigate the shaky state of today’s crime science as well as cutting-edge solutions that could help investigators put the real criminals behind bars.
Warning! This program contains mature subject matter. Viewer discretion is advised.
NOVA: Space, Tine and the Universe with Brian Greene
This new collection brings together two fascinating programs hosted by Greene, professor of physics and mathematics at Columbia University. Both of these programs are based on outstanding books authored by Professor Greene.
The Elegant Universe illuminates one of the most revolutionary theories in physics, known as string theory or superstring theory, a startling idea that proposes that the fundamental ingredients of nature are inconceivably tiny strands of energy, whose different modes of vibration underlie everything that happens in the universe. Individual episodes include: Einstein’s Dream, String’s the Thing and Welcome to the 11th Dimension.
The Fabric of the Cosmos is a mind-blowing, new exploration of space, time, and the very nature of reality. Discover why empty space is not empty, at all; how our perceptions have misled us and time may be an illusion; why a hidden realm, where the seemingly impossible is possible, lies just beneath the surface of the everyday world; and how other universes–even copies of you–may exist. Individual episodes include What Is Space?, The Illusion of Time, Quantum Leap, and Universe or Multiverse?
NOVA: Secrets of the Viking Sword
Feared throughout Europe, the Vikings were the most ferocious warriors of the Middle Ages. Especially fearsome were the select few who wielded a formidable weapon: a light, razor sharp, virtually indestructible sword with its maker’s name, ULFBERHT, inlaid along the blade. But who Ulfberht was, where the sword came from, and how it was made remained secrets for more than 1,000 years.
NOVA launches an epic scientific detective story to discover the answers. Under the microscope, the ULFBERHT emerges as a stunning technological breakthrough unequaled until the advent of 19th century steelmaking. Challenging a master modern-day sword smith to reproduce the weapon using the original recipe, NOVA grants viewers a stage-by-stage look at the extreme demands the process places on its maker.
Arthur’s Perfect Christmas
PBS never leaves out the small ones, who can join the world’s most famous aardvark, 8-year-old Arthur Read, and his family and friends, for an hour-long special about the holidays.
Plans are underway in Elwood City for the best holidays ever. Arthur, D.W., and their family and friends are frantically making preparations for the “perfect holiday season,” including perfect gifts, perfect parties, and perfect family traditions for Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa.
But, just as in real life, Arthur soon discovers that perfection is hard to come by and that the joy of the holidays isn’t found in an artificial vision of the “perfect” holiday, but in the wonderfully messy, imperfect world he lives in.
Festive fun, quite animated.
The Art:21 Collection–Art in the Twenty-First Century Season 1-6
Meet the most dynamic visual artists of our time in this award-winning documentary series. Unparalleled in its access to today’s artists, this unique series invites viewers into artists’ studios, homes and communities to provide an intimate view of their lives, creative processes and sources of inspiration.
The 24 one-hour programs present groundbreaking artists of the new century at work and speaking in their own words–direct, accessible, unfiltered–about how, why and what they create. Art21 travels across the nation and the world to profile some of our era’s most iconic artists–including Richard Serra, Maya Lin, Sally Mann, Martin Puryear, Jeff Koons, Ai WeiWei, Marina Abramovic–who showcase the breadth and diversity of artistic practice today. Compelling and thought-provoking, this six-disc set takes viewers behind the scenes–and beyond the museum or gallery experience–to reveal how contemporary art can change how we see the world around us.
Gourmet’s Dairy of a Foodie Season Two
Combining international travel with a passion for food, this program delivers a unique cultural look at the world, food first. From spicy biryani in South India and bustling farmers markets in Mexico, to soy sauce factories in Hong Kong, self-professed food lovers across the globe are bursting with new culinary tales to share. These food lovers are serving up edgy and provocative commentary about the local cuisines explored in places from Vietnam and France to Chile and Morocco.
Over the course of 20 episodes, the second season of this James Beard award-winning series promises to unearth an all-new feast of fabulous food trends, exotic ingredients, and in-the-know food players. Back in the test kitchen, Gourmet Editor-in-Chief Ruth Reichl and her expanded team of seasoned epicurean experts show viewers how to bring these internationally inspired dishes into their own homes.
John Leguizamo: Tales From a Ghetto Klown
The program profiles award-winning actor and playwright Leguizamo’s unorthodox rise to success and his struggles to mount his latest one-man show on Broadway and beyond.
Starting with a survey of his Colombian and “NuyoRican” roots and building to his high-profile career in Hollywood, Leguizamo bares his soul (as do his colleagues, family members and celebrity friends) in this behind-the-scenes glimpse of one of the industry’s most versatile actors. After the Broadway success of his latest show, Ghetto Klown, Leguizamo goes on the road to his native Colombia and performs it in Spanish. The film, directed by Ben DeJesus, documents the entire journey, including such bumps along the way as his struggles to translate the show and his insecurities over his rusty language skills.