The Next Base: “Jackie Robinson” by Ken Burns

In recognition of Jackie Robinson Day, we want to take another look at the new Ken Burns documentary about the life of the groundbreaking baseball player. Watch it  online through April 26.

Baseball is a springboard for immortality. As a game, it has the capacity to create idols every summer. Among the scores of heroes enshrined in bronze at Cooperstown, one player personifies the century-and-a-half long symbiosis between baseball and the long, breaking arc of the nation’s history: Jackie Robinson.

The life and legacy of Jack Roosevelt Robinson, the star who broke Major League Baseball’s color line, is the focus of the new documentary by Ken Burns. The two-episode and nearly four-hour Jackie Robinson is an expansive biography of the historic ballplayer: his childhood, his athletic feats and career, and most poignantly, his family.

The film is just as much a history of the African American experience in the 20th century, and of how Robinson came to personify the victories, disappointments and lessons of civil rights struggles. Robinson’s life intersected with the broad sweep of 20th century African American history, including displacement wrought by the Great Migration, new expectations inspired by service in World War II, the struggle of the post-war Civil Rights Movement, and ongoing racism as experienced through redlining and cynical political strategies. Continue reading The Next Base: “Jackie Robinson” by Ken Burns

Preview: 2016 Wisconsin Film Festival

Director’s Cut is back and we once again kick off our season with our annual Wisconsin Film Festival Episode 2016. After talking with Program Director Jim Healy, it’s obvious that the indie film scene is alive and well here in Wisconsin. Jim has been programming the Wisconsin Film Festival for almost a decade, and I don’t think I’ve ever met a bigger film enthusiast. His energy for the festival and film in general is infectious. 

Besides showing you wide variety of clips from domestic and international films at this year’s festival, I also had the privilege of interviewing some great local directors about their intriguing and outstanding films. Wendy Schneider discussed her film The Smart Studios Story. This is a great film about a recording studio based in Madison that produced some of the most influential music of the last 20 years, including albums by Garbage, Nirvana and The Smashing Pumpkins. Wendy’s film has been sold out at the festival for at least two weeks, but maybe you can find a respectable scalper if you’re really dedicated! Continue reading Preview: 2016 Wisconsin Film Festival

New Ken Burns: Jackie Robinson

Ken Burns’ newest documentary, Jackie Robinson, goes way beyond baseball and can turn anyone (even yours truly) into a fan.

The film – premiering 8 p.m. Monday, April 11 – draws you into mid-century America through sports, the civil rights movement, and an incredibly charismatic, strong ball player named Jackie.

My favorite aspect of Jackie Robinson (and of all Ken Burns’ films, really) is how it shows a deeply human side of this iconic superstar. Jackie’s relationship with his wife, Rachel, is so inspiring. They seem like an indomitable team, and I’m so glad she contributes her voice to the story. It gives a depth and perspective to their experience that I truly appreciate.

This movie also adds another layer of nuance and perspective to my understanding of race relations in the U.S. I can’t help but watch this film and think of how far we’ve come, and how much we still have to accomplish. The resistance to change that shows up in this documentary feels uncomfortably familiar, and some of the frustrations and inequalities that come through in the movie are still being experienced today. Ken Burns’ Jackie Robinson serves as a powerful reminder that we can do more, and we can expect more of ourselves.

Remembering the Late Merle Haggard With a Classic Austin City Limits Performance

We’re remembering Merle Haggard, one of country music’s greatest voices, who passed away today on his 79th birthday.

In a lifetime filled with great songwriting, influential musical partnerships and great performances, here is just one that we were lucky enough to enjoy on public television.

We dug into the endless vault that is YouTube to find this clip of Haggard performing “Working Man Can’t Get Nowhere Today” on a 1978 episode of Austin City Limits.

Here and Now: State Voter I.D. Information

As Wisconsin voters head to the polls Tuesday, it will be the largest election to date under Wisconsin’s new voter ID requirements. Dodge County Clerk Karen Gibson joined Here and Now to outline what kinds of identification will be accepted at the polls, and how citizens who don’t yet have any can file a provisional ballot.

For more information on the state’s voter ID law, visit the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board’s informational site at bringit.wi.gov/

Here and Now: Speaker Of The House Paul Ryan Talks Presidential Politics

As the presidential primary season moves into Wisconsin with next week’s April 5 statewide election, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, joins Frederica Freyberg on this week’s Here and Now to talk about the elections, the Republican candidates and his role as the chairman of this year’s GOP Convention in Cleveland.

Watch the full interview online below and tune in to Here and Now on Wisconsin Public Television 7:30 Friday night. Find full voting information, polling places, candidate profiles and election news from WPT and WPR at WisconsinVote.org.

Your Guide to British Drama Season Premieres

We may have said farewell to Downton Abbey, but British dramas still reign on WPT. March brings new seasons of Grantchester on Masterpiece and Mr. Selfridge on Masterpiece, and April welcomes a new season of Call the Midwife.

Clear your Sunday evenings and make a date with your favorite midwives, vicars and entrepreneurs. View premiere dates and season previews below.

Grantchester on Masterpiece: Season 2
Premieres 8 p.m. Sunday, March 27
Enjoy a new season of adventures, matchmaking and murder with vicar Sidney Chambers and veteran cop Geordie Keating.

Mr. Selfridge on Masterpiece: Season 4
Premieres 9 p.m. Sunday, March 27
See Jeremy Piven in the thrilling final season that dramatizes the climactic battle for the future of London’s iconic department store,
Selfridge & Co.

Call the Midwife: Season 5
Premieres 7 p.m. Sunday, April 3
Rejoin the nurses and midwives for a fifth season. It’s 1961 and Poplar is beginning to feel the winds of social change, along with improvements in housing, sanitation and healthcare.

Streaming Favorites for March

A lot of my favorite national dramas from PBS recently wrapped up, including Downton Abbey (let’s all share a moment of silence), and Mercy Street. In my search for great streaming content, I decided to bring it back home and focus on some of our locally-produced shows. So much of the quality content we broadcast at WPT is also available to watch online, so if you missed an episode – or if you’re a spoiled viewer like me, and only watch shows on-demand – check out some of our great, locally produced shows online.

Wisconsin Foodie
Kyle Cherek goes all over the state in a quest to discover the hidden gems of Wisconsin’s culinary scene. From cheese makers to beer distillers, Cherek shows us why it’s great to be a foodie in Wisconsin.

Wisconsin Life
When you feel like you’re in a rut, Wisconsin Life can show you a new perspective and share some of the incredible, adventurous things going on across the state. This show highlights how diverse, creative and fun Wisconsinites truly are!

Continue reading Streaming Favorites for March

UPDATE: Full Video Inside – Watch the Dalai Lama Speak in Madison

UPDATE: The full archived video of the presentation is now available to view on demand below or on the PBS channel of your Roku or other digital device.

In his 10th visit to UW-Madison, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, will participate in a panel discussion on global well-being, emotional health and mindfulness. Watch the presentation from Madison’s Overture Center streaming live online from Wisconsin Public Television at 1:30 p.m. in the video box below. We’ll add the on-demand archived video to this post after the event, as soon as it is available.

We will also broadcast the presentation on TV at a later date. Stay tuned to wpt.org to find out the air date.

Saying Farewell to Downton Abbey

As of 10 p.m. Sunday night, the phenomenon known as Downton Abbey is officially over. I’m a Downton fan (see: The Downton Dish), so I spent my weekend trying to squeeze in as much Downton as possible before the finale.

My all-things-Downton weekend included attending Wisconsin Public Television’s A Downton Abbey Farewell fundraising event, held Saturday night at the University Club in Madison. It was so much fun to mingle with fellow fans, dress up in 1920s attire and enjoy Downton-themed food and music. The amazing team that puts the event together really goes all out to give guests the complete Downton Abbey experience, and the excitement was contagious. (View photos from Saturday’s event here).

The show might be over, but our love of Downton Abbey doesn’t have to stop. Check out Masterpiece’s The Downton Abbey Connection to stay connected to your favorite characters, hear from other fans, take Downton-inspired quizzes to find out if you’re a superfan, and more!

Fellow Downton fans: We’ll get through this.