TCA Summer 2017 Tour: Quick Takes from PBS Presentations

TCA Summer 2017 Tour: Quick Takes from PBS Presentations

Twice a year, various cable and networks attend the Television Critics Association’s Press Tour where they promote new and returning television shows through a series of daily panels and exclusive preview clips spanning over a two week period.  The tour presentations provide a way for television shows to get traction and attention of the hundreds of TV critics who then in turn will hopefully write about and promote those shows to their various audiences via online and print media outlets.

This Summer’s TCA tour included presentation from PBS who presented on the 7th day of the tour.  Here are some of the featured television shows and specials that caught our attention:


PBS special “Eclipse Over America” premieres August 21, 2017.
PBS special “Death Dive To Saturn” premieres September 2017.
PBS special “The Farthest – Voyager In Space” premieres August 23, 2017 at 9:00 p.m. on PBS.

The sneak peek of Season 3 of POLDARK revealed a lot more steamy, dreamy scenes and definitely increases the sizzle factor. Mark your calendars, POLDARK Season 3 premieres October 1, 2017 on PBS.

PBS series “Finding Your Roots” returns October 3, 2017 at 8:00 p.m. on PBS.

PBS series FRONTLINE will move to Wednesdays in the Fall, starting on October 4, 2017, to make room for Ken Burns’ documentary series THE VIETNAM WAR.

“I Am Not Your Negro,” which delves into black history examining the various civil rights movements, premieres January 15, 2018 on PBS series “Independent Lens.”

PBS’ first theatrical film “The Chaperon” stars Elizabeth McGovern who reunites with Julian Fellowes in his first post-DOWTON ABBEY project.  “The Chaperon” will be released in theaters in 2018 then will make its television debut on PBS afterwards.

PBS is producing a new 3-part limited series based on the Louisa May Alcott book “Little Women” and it is scheduled to premiere in Spring 2018. “Little Women” is co-produced with the BBC, starring Angela Lansbury and Michael Gambon.


For the PBS presentation for its drama series VICTORIA, stars Jenna Coleman and Tom Hughes appeared via satellite as they discussed Season 2 — and, as always, were perfectly delightful.  Jenna Coleman revealed that she is currently filming a Christmas scene with geese, toys and snow, and Tom said he was working on ADR for the show.  From a sneak look at the first episode of Season 2, it is fascinating to see that VICTORIA readily addresses the true cost that the British-Afghan war had and how that devastation reverberated though Queen Victoria’s reign.  In addition, it is very impressive and relatable watching Victoria struggle with simultaneous demands of being a queen, a mother, and a wife – all roles highly valued by her.

Then racketing things up in the drama, not all will be smooth sailing between Victoria and Albert as he wants her to focus more on her motherly duties and he positions to be in charge of the British military.  Jenna Coleman described that tension as “tectonic plates” as Victoria and Albert strive to make their marriage and the monarchy work.  But despite those tensions, romance, love and respect are still at the core of VICTORIA, so be prepared to be swept of your feet again in Season 2. Then as a fun treat for GAME OF THRONES fans, Dame Diana Rigg joins VICTORIA for Season 2. Like on GAME OF THRONES, she is an amazing force on screen.  (As a point of PBS pride and interest, Season 1 attracted over 16 million viewers, which is more than DOWNTON ABBEY Season 1.)

As revealed during the panel Q&A, during that first year of marriage, Victoria had two babies in under a year by age 21 — all while being the queen of an empire.  Executive producer Daisy Goodwin noted that Victoria had what is now known as post-natal depression after her second child was born. Adding to that, was the fact that Victoria and Albert had 5 kids in 4 years. However, Jenna insightfully noted that while Victoria did not enjoy being pregnant, she fiercely loved her children. Daisy chimed in to add that despite their issues, Victoria and Albert’s marriage was noted as being the first royal marriage in 500 years where the man  did not have a mistress on the side. To help get into Victoria’s unique mindset, Jenna revealed that when she reviews each script in the series, she refers to Victoria’s sketchbooks and diaries that Victoria kept throughout her life. 

As for Albert, Daisy revealed that Albert was known to be an inventor and, in fact, in addition to the bedroom door lock he designed to work without leaving the bed, Albert installed indoor plumbing in the palace and had an armored, chain-mail parasol.   Tom sheepishly admitted that he did not know how to ride a horse when he was cast in the role of Albert and, while he was initially daunted by idea of filming with Albert’s horse which stood 17 hands tall, he has now has bonded with his horse Jasper.  To which, Jenna chimed in that her horse Alonzo is a bit of a “diva,” but he can do tricks like bow down to kneel.  Also when queried about the fact that Albert died young, Tom Hughes laughingly pretended to be alarmed and said, “No one told me about that!”

To finish up the panel, Daisy said that the second season of VICTORIA will touch on issues that have modern relevance and noted that given the political entanglements of the British parliament that for some viewers it will feel as if the 1840’s could be happening today.  Mark your calendars, VICTORIA Season 2 premieres January 2018 on PBS.


The PBS panel for its weekly news show WASHINGTON WEEK was perfectly timed as it began just minutes after the announcement that Anthony Scaramucci removed from his White House position. With host Robert Costa appearing for the  WASHINGTON WEEK panel, it seemed an an usual stroke of luck and led to a lively discussion about how the current political situation has invigorated the news industry — specifically, political news. In fact, Robert stated that the WASHINGTON WEEK staff are energized by the change of political news that is erupting right now and are not at all demoralized by the current presidency. He was also quick to note that WASHINGTON WEEK features actual beat reporters and not just “talking head” pundits on TV.  He further emphasized that he tries to try to make sure that WASHINGTON WEEK does not become obsessed with “palace intrigue.”  In addition, he clarified that while the credibility as reporters has been” diminished” due to all the irrational “fake news” claims, that the “fourth estate” (aka free press) should stick up for itself because, “[i]t’s a vital time for journalism.”  Best of all, Robert has increasingly seen from the response of his viewers that people are responding to journalism in a way never seen before.  (However, my personal note: It appears that entertainment television now includes political commentary and political news shows.  In fact, these times we live have shown that how we define “entertainment” is morphing to include politics — and we should be wary of this new trend because: what if politics will now only be seen as entertainment and not as actual discourse about real world issues that need to be taken seriously? And how will real world problems be resolved?) WASHINGTON WEEK airs Friday nights at 8:00 p.m. on PBS.


PBS new documentary series picks up right from where the previous documentary series “A Year In Space” left off with astronaut Captain Scott Kelly and astronaut Jessica Meir.  The new series examines what it is like for Scott to reacclimatize back into his life on Earth after having spent a year in space and the preparations and training that Jessica endure to pre are for her one-way trip into space.  Scott noted that when he was in space for a year, he missed people, weather and the freedom of choice.  Plus, that feeling that you cannot just go outside, and having to constantly see the same people day and night, it is hard to cope with.  So he ruefully noted, “There’s a lot you give up. It’s hard, but that’s why you do it. The harder [it is] — the more accomplishment you feel.” Interestingly, Scott revealed that living in space for 300 days gave him a unique view on the world — such as how he views human activity and the fragility of the planet fragility. He also noted that while Earth looks peaceful, it did not match up with the news he would hear.  He admitted that while in space he got to watch a number of news programs and even binge-watched GAME OF THRONES twice.  “Beyond A Year In Space” premieres November 15, 2017 at 9:00 p.m. on PBS.


The PBS’ panel on NOVA “Black Hole Apocalypse” was made up of three women professors of physics and astronomy from Yale, Columbia and UCLA and a female executive producer. Seeing those four accomplished women on a panel about space exploration was extraordinary — for as we are just beginning to see and realize: the future is female.   NOVA “Black Hole Apocalypse”  premiers January 10, 2018 on PBS.

FRONTLINE “Abacus: Small Enough To Jail”

The FRONTLINE special is about the little-known story of the only U.S. bank that was prosecuted after the 2008 financial crisis and turns the spotlight on a wrongfully-accused family’s 5 year legal fight to clear their name and win back the trust of their banking clientele and community. While the Sung bank was ultimately acquitted of the criminal charges, the cloud of suspicion and damage to the bank, and the family that owned it, was a terrible time.  But the Sung family tenaciously fought their way through the court system and were ultimately acquitted.  Accordingly, FRONTLINE’s special “Abacus: Small Enough To Jail” is about the “unequal application of justice in America.”  Director Steve James said the heart of the story is really about this family, and not just their rage at the injustice they suffered. When he met with the Sungs, he saw immediately that their story was not being covered outside the Chinese community and he wanted to give it a platform to show the injustice they suffered. Heartbreakingly, Chantelle Sung, one of the Sung family members who is a lawyer and who worked at the District Attorney’s office prior to her family’s prosecution, shared that it was her former bureau chief who told her: “No good deed goes unpunished.” What started it all was the Sungs discovered that one of the bank’s employees had been issuing questionable loans.  So the Sungs thought they were doing the right thing by turning over that employee, not suspecting that it would to a snowball-effect of having their family arrested, brought up on charges, and prosecuted. It was that one act of trying to do the right thing opened the door to a legal nightmare that they suffered from as a result. To see how their long legal fight led to vindication, be sure to tune in for the premiere of FRONTLINE “Abacus: Small Enough To Jail” on September 12, 2017 on PBS.

That’s a wrap on the network and studio presentations from Day 7 of the Summer 2017 Television Critics Association Tour.  As a reminder: be sure to mark your calendars for the upcoming new series and specials as you do not want to miss out on the next great TV show that everyone will be talking about.