PBS 2013 Programming Will Include Mel Brooks Special, "Shakespeare Uncovered," "Downton Abbey" and More

By Michael Gioia
06 Dec 2012

Mel Brooks
Mel Brooks

PBS has announced programming for its 2013 winter/spring season, which will include an intimate portrait of Tony Award winner Mel Brooks, Jeremy Piven's portrayal of Harry Gordon Selfridge and the return of "Downton Abbey," among others.

The third season of "Downton Abbey," the hit series created by Julian Fellowes that stars Maggie Smith, Elizabeth McGovern, Dan Stevens and Hugh Bonneville, will air Sundays at 9 PM ET from Jan. 6-Feb. 17, 2013. In the third season, according to PBS, "The Great War is over and a long-awaited engagement is on, but all is not tranquil at Downton Abbey as wrenching social changes, romantic intrigues and personal crises grip the majestic English country estate."

PBS will also air the third season of the Emmy-nominated series "Pioneers on Television" — featuring interviews with legendary stars and never-before-seen images about iconic television shows and programming genres — on Tuesday nights (Jan. 15-Feb. 5, 2013) from 8-9 PM ET.

The Jan. 15 episode, entitled "Funny Ladies," will feature the first standup comediennes to appear on television, including Mary Tyler Moore, Betty White and Marla Gibbs. The episode covers Lucille Ball's breakthrough on "I Love Lucy," television's most enduring variety star, Carol Burnett, and features interviews with contemporary actresses including Tina Fey and Margaret Cho.



The Feb. 5 episode, entitled "Miniseries," surveys programs that rank among the top-rated episodes in television history. Interviewees include LeVar Burton, Louis Gossett Jr., Leslie Uggams, Ben Vereen, John Amos, Georg Stanford Brown, Ed Asner, Peter Strauss, Susan Blakely, Richard Chamberlain, Rachel Ward and Bryan Brown.

"Shakespeare Uncovered" will air on Friday nights at 9 PM ET from Jan. 25-Feb. 8. This series, according to PBS, "tells the stories behind the stories of Shakespeare's greatest plays. Six episodes combine history, biography, iconic performances, new analysis and the personal passions of celebrated hosts Ethan Hawke, Jeremy Irons, Derek Jacobi, Trevor Nunn, Joely Richardson and David Tennant."

Episodes include "Macbeth With Ethan Hawke" (Jan. 25); "The Comedies With Joely Richardson" (Jan. 25), which explores why two gender-bending plays, Twelfth Night and As You Like It, remain among the most popular; "Richard II With Derek Jacobi" (Feb. 1); "Henry IV & Henry V With Jeremy Irons" (Feb. 1); "Hamlet With David Tennant" (Feb. 8); and "The Tempest With Trevor Nunn" (Feb. 8).

On May 20, 2013, American Masters will present a special on Tony-winning The Producers writer Brooks from 9-10:30 PM ET. The special profiles the "larger-than-life, yet very private comedy giant. He has never authorized a biography and has requested that his friends not talk about him, making his participation in this American Masters film a genuine first. [The special] features new interviews with Brooks, Matthew Broderick, Nathan Lane, Cloris Leachman, Carl Reiner and Joan Rivers."

"Mr. Selfridge" will air Sundays from March 31-May 19, 2013, at 9 PM ET. It is described as a "dramatization of the real-life story of Harry Gordon Selfridge, the flamboyant and visionary American founder of the famous London department store that revolutionized the modern shopping experience. Created by Andrew Davies ('Little Dorrit'), the program features Jeremy Piven in his first television role since the hit series 'Entourage.'"

The 2013 PBS Great Performances series will include "From Vienna: The New Year's Celebration 2013," with host Julie Andrews (Jan. 1); "Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy," exploring how and why the Broadway musical has proven to be fertile territory for Jewish songwriters (Jan. 1); "Paul Simon's Graceland Journey," following Simon on his return to South Africa to reunite and perform with several of the musicians involved in the original Graceland album (Jan. 4); and "The Paul Taylor Dance Company in Paris," with two of Taylor's masterworks — Brandenburgs, first performed in 1988 to music from Bach's Brandenburg concertos no. 3 and no. 6, and his 2008 ballet Beloved Renegade, set to Francis Poulenc's "Gloria" and inspired by the life and work of poet Walt Whitman (May 3).

For more information and a complete list of programming, visit PBS.org.