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EIGHT, ARIZONA PBS WELCOMES WINTER/SPRING 2014 SEASON WITH STRONG ROSTER OF RETURNING SERIES AND NEW TITLES IN VARIETY OF GENRES

Lineup includes local productions alongside major PBS drama,
science, and adventure programming

PHOENIX -- (Nov. 1, 2013) Eight, Arizona PBS will kick off its Winter/Spring 2014 season of award-winning, educational and entertainment programs with a slate of new and returning series, including a new season of their Emmy Award-winning dining series Check, Please! Arizona and the highly anticipated new season of Masterpiece Classic “Downton Abbey, as well as the long-awaited return of Masterpiece Mystery! “Sherlock, Season 3.

“Our Winter/Spring 2014 season is especially strong in both our local productions and national PBS programming,” says Eight, Arizona PBS general manager Kelly McCullough. “Beginning in December, we’re pleased to debut the first-of-its-kind documentary Desert Dreams, which will offer viewers a rare look at a vast number of plants and animal species that populate our beloved desert home here in Arizona, as well as new seasons of our groundbreaking show Books & Co., hosted by Arizona’s own Poet Laureate Alberto Rios, and of our viewers’ favorite local show Check, Please! Arizona. Fans can also look forward to the return of ‘Downton Abbey, ‘Sherlock and NOVA with brand new seasons starting in January. And this is just a quick snapshot of the variety of high-quality programming we’ll be offering this coming season.”

Eight debuts its Winter/Spring 2014 season with The Texas Tenors: You Should Dream, Dec. 2 at 7 p.m. The program, recorded live in Phoenix in partnership with Eight, Arizona PBS, smoothly blends country, classical, gospel and Broadway with an appealing touch of humor and charm from popular artists John Hagen, Marcus Collins and JC Fisher.

Then Dec. 4 at 7 p.m., Desert Dreams captures the Sonoran Desert from the inside out, showcasing 182 species of plants and animals through a kaleidoscope of visuals, indigenous music, and natural sounds in a cycle of five seasons, including desert-shaking monsoon storms.

Eight’s original productions Books & Co. and Check, Please! Arizona return in the new year. Books & Co. Season 17 premieres in April with 13 new episodes, welcoming fresh faces on the literary scene, as well as established and prominent writers each week to the Eight studios for a half-hour of wide-ranging conversations with host Alberto Rios, Arizona’s inaugural Poet Laureate. Distinguished guests this season include bestselling authors Bill Bryson and Stuart Woods, with more authors to be announced in the coming weeks.

Season 4 of Eight’s popular restaurant review series Check, Please! Arizona premieres Jan. 2 at 7 p.m. Each episode features a trio of guests who dine at and then review three local restaurants they recommended to each other with host Robert McGrath, a James Beard Award-winning chef and Arizona restaurateur.

Eight, Arizona PBS will continue its “Sensational British Drama Sundays” with the widely anticipated premiere of Masterpiece Classic’s Season 4 of “Downton Abbey, Jan. 5 at 8 p.m. Then, the highly acclaimed Masterpiece Mystery! “Sherlock, Season 3, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as the legendary British sleuth, returns Jan. 19 at 9 p.m. The pairing of hits “Downton Abbey” and “Sherlock also sets the stage for the March 30 return of acclaimed dramas Call the Midwife and Masterpiece Classic’s “Mr. Selfridge,” featuring new seasons of both.

These shows bolster Sunday night as a hallmark of British drama on Eight, with ratings that have grown season over season.

According to Nielsen, PBS’ 2012-2013 primetime programming saw an overall average ratings increase of seven percent season over season (8-11 p.m., 2011-12 season: 9/19/2011-9/23/2012 to 2012-13 season: 9/24/2012-9/22/2013). PBS now ranks eighth among all broadcast and cable networks in overall general audience content, surpassed only by the four major broadcast networks as well as USA, Univision and Disney, and overtaking cable’s ESPN, History and TNT in the rankings. Previously, PBS ranked 11th.

“It’s clear that our 2012-2013 season was a real turning point for PBS, with ‘Downton Abbeyon MASTERPIECE growing in popularity and a rise in overall general viewership, ranking PBS among the top 10 U.S. networks,” says Nancy Southgate, associate general manager of content at Eight, Arizona PBS. “With our upcoming winter and spring schedule, we are enhancing our already popular drama and non-fiction nights, and offering potential new viewers a wide range of exciting, timely and topical programs.”

Wednesday nights on Eight are “Exploration Wednesdays” focusing on science and nature programming. This season will feature:

  • The premiere of Hawking, an intimate portrait of physicist Stephen Hawking’s extraordinary life and career, Jan. 29 at 9 p.m.
  • The debut of the three-part series Chasing Shackleton, in which five intrepid adventurers retrace the death-defying 1914 Antarctic sea-and-land journey of a shipwrecked crew led by Sir Ernest Shackleton, Jan. 8 at 9 p.m.
  • The four-part series premiere of Super Skyscrapers, which displays the dizzying heights of modern buildings, Feb. 5
  • And the three-part miniseries NOVA “Inside Animal Minds” followed by Your Inner Fish, based on paleontologist Neil Shubin’s best-selling book that traces the human body’s development over millions of years, April 9.

Mondays on Eight, Arizona PBS will feature the broadcast premieres of 17 new and diverse films from Independent Lens and POV, including legendary documentarian Frederick Weisman’s “At Berkeley,” which takes a deep look into the public higher education system (Jan. 13 at 11 p.m.), and the rollicking story of an off-beat American music mecca in the Alabama town of “Muscle Shoals” (April 21).

Performing arts take the spotlight on Friday nights with Great Performances, kicking off with superstar Christopher Plummer onstage as the immortal John Barrymore in Great Performances “Barrymore” (Jan. 31 at 8 p.m.), with a variety of music and dance programs scheduled throughout the season.

News, history and public affairs remain a cornerstone for Eight, Arizona PBS with PBS Newshour, Charlie Rose-This Week and new thought-provoking programs such as American Experience “The Amish: Shunned,” premiering Feb. 4, and the five-part epic series The Story of the Jews, March 25.

JANUARY HIGHLIGHTS

MASTERPIECE CLASSIC “Downton AbbeySeason 4” -- Sundays, Jan. 5-Feb. 23, 2014, 8 p.m. -- Season 4 of the international hit finds aristocrats coping with last season’s shocking finale. Change is in the air as three generations of the Crawley family have conflicting interests in the estate. Paul Giamatti appears alongside the beloved returning ensemble that includes Dame Maggie Smith, Elizabeth McGovern, Hugh Bonneville, Michelle Dockery, Jim Carter, Joanne Froggatt, guest star Shirley MacLaine and many others. A Carnival/MASTERPIECE co-production.

MASTERPIECE MYSTERY! “SherlockSeason 3” -- Sundays, Jan. 19-Feb. 2, 2014, 9 p.m. -- Benedict Cumberbatch (The Fifth Estate, Star Trek Into Darkness) and Martin Freeman (The Hobbit, The Office UK) return as Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson in three new episodes, each featured in two-hour blocks, including additional Sherlock-themed material  — “The Empty Hearse” (Jan. 19), “The Sign of Three” (Jan. 26) and “His Last Vow” (Feb. 2) — of the contemporary reinvention of the Arthur Conan Doyle classic, written and created by Steven Moffat (Dr. Who) and Mark Gatiss (Game of Thrones). The Emmy and Golden Globe-nominated “Sherlock” has been a television sensation since the first season aired in 2010.

CHASING SHACKLETON -- Wednesdays, Jan. 8-22, 2014, 9 p.m. -- This new three-part series follows a modern expedition that re-creates Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Antarctic expedition. A crew of five intrepid explorers led by renowned adventurer, scientist and author Tim Jarvis in a replica of the original explorers’ lifeboat, uses only the tools and supplies Shackleton’s team used. When his ship The Endurance was crushed by ice and sank, Shackleton’s heroic leadership in the face of almost certain death saved the lives of 27 men stranded more than 500 days.

HAWKING -- Wednesday, Jan., 2014, 9 p.m. -- Told for the first time in his own words, this is the intimate and revealing story of Stephen Hawking. Viewers join him at home with his nursing team; in San Jose as he wows a packed theatre; meeting a team of technicians who hope to speed up his communication system; and hosting a party for family and friends. HAWKING tells a life’s journey, from boyhood underachiever to Ph.D. genius, from healthy Oxford rowing team member to a prognosis of just two years to live, and surviving several close brushes with death.

AMERICAN MASTERS “Salinger” -- Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014, 8 p.m. -- The series’ 200th episode features interviews with 150 subjects, including J.D. Salinger’s friends, colleagues and members of his inner circle who have never before spoken on the record, as well as film footage, photographs and other material that has never been seen. Famous names of all stripes talk about Salinger’s influence on their lives, their work and the broader culture, including Philip Seymour Hoffman, Edward Norton, Martin Sheen, Tom Wolfe, E.L. Doctorow, Gore Vidal and many more. This film is the first work to go beyond the Catcher in the Rye author’s meticulously built-up wall to reveal his childhood, painstaking work methods, marriages and the secrets he left behind after his death in 2010.

INDEPENDENT LENS “At Berkeley” – Monday, Jan. 13, 2014, 11 p.m. -- Legendary documentarian Frederick Wiseman goes back to school for this intimate and sprawling film. “At Berkeley” is a revealing documentary about the University of California at Berkeley, the oldest and most prestigious member of a ten-campus public education system and one of the finest research and teaching facilities in the world.

GREAT PERFORMANCES “Barrymore” -- Friday, Jan. 31, 2014, 8 p.m. -- In “Barrymore,” 83-year-old stage and screen legend Christopher Plummer portrays another titan of theater and film from an earlier age, the illustrious — and notorious — John Barrymore. This acclaimed film adaptation of William Luce’s 1997 play is set in 1942 during the final months of Barrymore’s life. On the stage of a Broadway theater, the famously combative star struggles to recreate his performance in Shakepeare’s Richard III, recalling the highs and lows of his remarkable life and career in the process.

FEBRUARY HIGHLIGHTS

SUPER SKYSCRAPERS -- Wednesdays, Feb. 5-26, 2014, 9 p.m. -- As urban space shrinks, we build higher and faster than ever before, creating a new generation of skyscrapers. Super skyscrapers are pushing the limits of engineering, technology and design to become greener, stronger, smarter and more luxurious than their predecessors. This four-part series follows the creation of four extraordinary buildings, showcasing how they will revolutionize the way we live, work and protect ourselves from potential threats.  

AMERICAN EXPERIENCE “The Amish: Shunned” -- Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014, 7-9 p.m. -- Filmed over one year, “The Amish: Shunned” follows seven former members of the Amish community as they reflect on decisions to leave one of the most tightly knit communities in the U.S. Estranged from family, ex-Amish find themselves struggling to make their way in modern America. Interwoven through the stories are voices of Amish men and women who remain staunchly loyal to their traditions and faith. They explain the importance of obedience, the strong ties that bind their communities together and the pain they endure when a loved one falls away.

MARCH HIGHLIGHTS

CALL THE MIDWIFE, Season 3 -- Sundays, March 30-May 18, 2014, 7 p.m. -- The third season of CALL THE MIDWIFE takes viewers back to East London. It’s now 1959, the eve of the Swinging Sixties. The winds of change are sweeping through the country and the residents of Nonnatus House face some momentous changes of their own.

MASTERPIECE CLASSIC “Mr. Selfridge, Season 2” -- Sundays, March 30-May 18, 2014, 8 p.m. -- Season two of the popular series starring Jeremy Piven as the flamboyant American entrepreneur who founded London’s famous Selfridges department store picks up in 1914, as the store celebrates its fifth anniversary. The acclaimed cast includes Frances O’Connor, Aisling Loftus, Katherine Kelly, Gregory Fitoussi, Amanda Abbington and Tom Goodman-Hill. The series is based on Shopping, Seduction & Mr. Selfridge by Lindy Woodhead. An ITV Studios and MASTERPIECE co-production.

STORY OF THE JEWS -- Tuesdays, March 25, 7-9 p.m. and April 1, 2014, 7-9 p.m. -- This epic five-part series follows noted historian, author and critic Simon Schama as he explores the Jewish experience from ancient times to the present day in this new five-part series. Episodes focus on biblical times (“The Beginning”); medieval times (“Among Believers”); the enlightenment (“A Leap of Faith”); shtetl culture and its mark on the modern world (“Over the Rainbow”); and the post-holocaust era (“Return”). Co-produced by WNET/Thirteen and the BBC.

APRIL HIGHLIGHTS

In April, PBS lines up several new NATURE episodes, NOVA “Inside Animal Minds” and YOUR INNER FISH for three weeks of block-buster science and nature programming.

NATURE -- Wednesdays, April 9, 23, 30, 2014, 7 p.m. -- NATURE this month covers animal prosthetics, Japanese macaque monkeys and wild mule deer. “Bionic Animals” (w.t.) (April 9) reveals that prosthetics made possible by the latest engineering and technology are enabling disabled animals to survive. “Snow Monkeys” (w.t.) (April 23) profiles the Japanese macaque, or snow monkey, an intelligent species known for unusual behaviors, including communal bathing in hot springs and rolling snowballs for fun. In “Touching the Wild” (w.t.) (April 30), Joe Hutto (“My Life as a Turkey”) literally enters deer society, crossing the species divide and tapping into a new understanding of these elusive animals.

NOVA “Inside Animal Minds”– Wednesdays, April 9-23, 2014, 8 p.m. -- We have all gazed into a creature’s eyes and wondered: What is it thinking about? What does it know? Now, the revolutionary science of animal cognition is revealing hard evidence about how animals understand the world around them, uncovering their remarkable problem-solving abilities and exploring the complexity of their powers of communication and even their emotions. In the three-hour “Inside Animal Minds,” NOVA explores these breakthroughs through the eyes of three iconic creatures: dogs, birds and dolphins.

YOUR INNER FISH -- Wednesdays, April 9-23, 2014, 9 p.m. -- How did the human body become the complicated, quirky and amazing machine it is today? This cutting-edge scientific adventure reveals a startling truth: hidden within the human body is a story of life on Earth, and the legacy of animals that lived hundreds of millions of years ago.  Based on the best-selling book by Neil Shubin, the series travels from Africa to the Arctic Circle to uncover the 3.5 billion year history of the human body — and how a colorful cast of ancient characters made us who we are today.

THE BLETCHLEY CIRCLE, Season 2 -- Sundays, April 13-May 4, 2014, 9 p.m. -- THE BLETCHLEY CIRCLE returns for a second season, following four ordinary women with the extraordinary ability to break codes, a skill honed during World War II when they worked undercover at Bletchley Park, site of the United Kingdom’s main decryption establishment. The women use their code-breaking skills to solve crimes in post-war London.

PIONEERS OF TELEVISION -- Tuesdays, April 8-29, 2014, 7 p.m. -- More than 200 breakthrough stars bring their stories to life in season four of this Emmy-nominated documentary series. Each episode melds compelling new interviews with irresistible clips to offer a fresh take on TV’s biggest celebrities. Featured stars in this season’s four new episodes (“Standup to Sitcom,” “Doctors and Nurses,” “Acting Funny” and “Breaking Barriers”) include Jerry Seinfeld, Robin Williams, Roseanne Barr, Bill Cosby, Tim Allen, Ray Romano, Noah Wyle, Anthony Edwards, Diahann Carroll, Howie Mandel, Bob Newhart and many more.

INDEPENDENT LENS “Muscle Shoals” Tuesday, April 21, 2014, 11 p.m. -- Located alongside the Tennessee River, Muscle Shoals, Alabama is the unlikely breeding ground for some of America’s most creative and defiant music. The music of Muscle Shoals has helped create some of the most important and resonant songs of all time. At its heart is Rick Hall, who brought black and white together in Alabama’s cauldron of racial hostility to create music for the generations. In this joyful film, Greg Allman, Bono, Clarence Carter, Mick Jagger, Etta James, Alicia Keys, Keith Richards, Percy Sledge and others bear witness to Muscle Shoals’ magnetism and mystery, and why it remains influential today.

About Eight, Arizona PBS

Eight, Arizona PBS is a trusted community resource. For 50 years, the PBS station has focused on educating children, reporting in-depth on public affairs, fostering lifelong learning and celebrating arts and culture. Eight achieves its mission through the power of noncommercial television, the Internet, educational outreach and community-based initiatives. Its signal reaches 86 percent of the homes in Arizona. With more than 1 million viewers weekly, Eight consistently ranks among the most-viewed public television stations per capita in the country. For more information, visit azpbs.org.

Eight is a member-supported service of Arizona State University.