PBS president and CEO Paula Kerger announced a number of new programs during her executive session at PBS’ virtual TCA Press Tour.
Southern Storytellers is a new three-part series from PBS, Arkansas PBS and award-winning filmmaker Craig Renaud that follows some of the American South’s most compelling and influential contemporary creators to the places they call home, the communities at the heart of the stories they tell in books, songs, poems, plays, and on screens both big and small. The docuseries is slated to premiere in summer 2023.
In addition to the three-part broadcast series, Southern Storytellers also includes a six-part series on PBS Digital Studios that explores the role of place in the lyrics of Southern songwriters. Go-Valley’s Keith Maitland (Dear Mr. Brody) and Terry Lickona (Austin City Limits) direct and produce the digital series, while indie music artist Thao Nguyen serves as host.
Southern Storytellers comes from Renaud Films and Arkansas PBS, along with filmmakers and producers Keith Maitland, Terry Lickona, Denise Godoy, Jamal Hodge, Andy Sarjahani, Héctor Tapia and Juan Arredondo. Bill Gardner is the executive in charge for PBS.
Coming to the ‘American Masters’ strand is a new documentary on legendary soul singer Roberta Flack (pictured), featuring interviews with Reverend Jesse Jackson, Clint Eastwood, Yoko Ono, Angela Davis, Eugene McDaniels, Joel Dorn, Peabo Bryson and more, as well as exclusive access to Flack’s archive of film, performances, interviews, home movies, photos, hit songs and unreleased music.
American Masters: Roberta Flack tells the story of the “Killing Me Softly” singer and her triumphs over racism and sexism both within and outside of the recording industry, revealing how Flack’s musical talent was inseparable from her commitment to civil rights. The doc premieres on January 24.
American Masters: Roberta Flack is a production of La Lutta Productions in association with American Masters Pictures. It is produced, directed and written by Antonino D’Ambrosio, and produced by Mike Tyner, Yrthya Dinzey-Flores and Axel Caballero. George Sampas, Charlie Cohen, and Andrew Herwitz are executive producers, and Michael Kantor serves as executive producer for ‘American Masters.’
Also coming to ‘American Masters’ is a documentary on Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the chief medical advisor to the president.
American Masters: Tony – A Year in the Life of Dr. Anthony Fauci offers a behind-the-scenes look at Fauci’s struggles and successes during the COVID-19 pandemic, which made him a household name in the U.S. and beyond. Following a planned theatrical release, the documentary will make its broadcast debut in spring 2023.
American Masters: Tony – A Year in the Life of Dr. Anthony Fauci is a production of Topspin Content and American Masters Pictures in association with Room 608, Inc. It is directed by Mark Mannucci and produced by Lia Dosik Carney, Eddie Barbini and Mark Mannucci. Laura Jespersen is co-producer, and Michael Kantor serves as executive producer for ‘American Masters.’
Coming to PBS’ flagship history program ‘American Experience’ is the new documentary Zora Neale Hurston, which examines the life and career of the trailblazing writer and anthropologist, whose work in the latter field challenged assumptions about race, gender and cultural superiority that had largely defined the field since the 19th century.
Best known for her novel Their Eyes Were Watching God, Hurston was a key figure of the Harlem Renaissance, drawing on her ethnographic expertise to inform her writing. In more than a decade of fieldwork in the American South and the islands of the Caribbean, Hurston documented stories, songs and religious rituals, often immersing herself in the cultures she studied and, through her groundbreaking work, reclaiming, honoring and celebrating Black life on its own terms.
Directed by Tracy Heather Strain, produced by Randall MacLowry and executive produced by Cameo George, Zora Neale Hurston will premiere in early 2023.
On the digital front, this summer will see the premiere of The Bigger Picture, a new series that explores American history through iconic photographs that have defined national culture and identity. Hosted by Harvard University historian Dr. Vincent Brown, the digital series will launch on the PBS YouTube channel on August 9, with new episodes dropping on the platform every other week.
PBS also announced that the first two digital series to come from its recently established Regional Digital Centers of Innovation, aimed at creating a new pipeline of multi-platform content with a focus on elevating diverse voices, will debut this fall.
Houston Public Media is in production on Welcome to Alief with Mo Amer, which explores an ethnically diverse neighborhood that, according to census data, currently mirrors what America will look like in 2050. PBS North Carolina, meanwhile, is developing Rogue History, a series about often overlooked aspects of pirate history, including stories of female, LGBTQIA and BIPOC buccaneers.