TV

PBS to take on “Roosevelts,” “Constitution,” “Cuban Missile Crisis”

PBS has set a 2014 air-date for The Roosevelts: An Intimate History, its ambitious seven-part special from director Ken Burns (pictured), and unveiled details of history specials focused on the U.S. Constitution and the Cuban Missile Crisis.
July 23, 2012

PBS has set a 2014 air-date for The Roosevelts: An Intimate History, its ambitious seven-part special from director Ken Burns (pictured), and unveiled details of history specials focused on the U.S. Constitution and the Cuban Missile Crisis.

The previously reported Roosevelt special will be a 14-hour-long offering, weaving together the stories of Theodore, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, three members of one of the most influential families in American politics.

Actor Meryl Streep will portray Eleanor Roosevelt in readings from her personal letters and writings, while Paul Giamatti voices Theodore Roosevelt and Edward Herrmann plays the voice of FDR.

“As we’ve seen time and time again, Ms. Streep is a magician,” said Burns in a statement. “Here, she completely transformed herself into Eleanor Roosevelt, simply through her voice. It was remarkable to witness.

“The entire cast delivers what I consider to be some of the finest voice-over work we’ve ever been fortunate enough to present.”

Elsewhere, spring 2013 will see PBS premiere Constitution USA with Peter Sagal, in which the titular host travels across America on a Harley Davidson to look at the U.S. Constitution implemented in everyday life.

“The Constitution was, and is, an imperfect document, and its strength lies in the ongoing arguments about its meaning, as much as what’s in the original text,” Sagal says. “I’m looking forward to digging into this stuff… and also, getting to ride a motorcycle.”

Constitution USA is produced by of TPT National Productions in association with Insignia Films, and its broadcast will coincide with the 225th anniversary of the ratification of the Constitution.

It is produced and directed by Insignia Films’ Stephen Ives and Amanda Pollak (The West) and executive produced by Catherine Allan of Twin Cities Public Television (Hoop Dreams). Major funding was provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and public television viewers.

Of the programming set to air later this fall, PBS is lining up two specials on the Cuban Missile Crisis to mark “50 years after the events that brought the world to the brink of nuclear disaster.”

On October 23 at 8 p.m. EST, Cuban Missile Crisis – Three Men Go To War promises to look at the three central figures in the crisis – President John F. Kennedy, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev and Cuban leader Fidel Castro – while an hour later, Secrets Of The Dead: “The Man Who Saved the World” reveals “the dramatic and shocking story of the events that took place beneath the waves when a lone Russian submariner refused to fire a nuclear missile.”

The first doc comes from Crossing the Line Productions, and is produced by John Murray and co-directed by Murray and Emer Reynolds.

The second doc, meanwhile, is a Bedlam Production for Thirteen in association with WNET. The exec producer for Thirteen is Steve Burns, the exec producer for Bedlam is Simon Breen, and the executive in charge is Stephen Segaller.

In related news, PBS strand ‘Frontline’ has promoted Raney Aronson to the role of deputy executive producer, placing her in position to succeed the strand’s long-running¬†executive producer David Fanning. Aronson has been managing much of the production of “Frontline” since joining in 2007.

In a note to ‘Frontline’ staff sent Saturday (July 21), Fanning wrote: “In many ways this is less a promotion than a confirmation of the job she has been doing with such success since she joined the ‘Frontline’ staff five years ago… The title deputy means someone appointed and empowered to act on behalf of another. It’s my pleasure to have her agree to do so on my behalf, and share the responsibility and privilege of guiding ‘Frontline’s’¬†present and future.”

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