Have you watched Netflix’s Making a Murderer, the real-crime documentary series that explores the 2005 Manitowoc homicide of Teresa Halbach and subsequent conviction of Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey?
The series has inspired wide-ranging interest in the case that shook the state, as Avery had previously been released from prison after an earlier conviction for a 1985 sexual assault that was later proven to be wrong. The series has also made stars out of two of Avery’s Wisconsin defense lawyers, Dean Strang and Jerry Buting, who have now appeared regularly on national TV programs and are even going on tour for a series of theater conversations about the case. (This includes a March 18 event at the Riverside Theater in Milwaukee.)
Strang, a longtime defense attorney and professor at the UW-Madison and Marquette University law schools, is also a scholar on cases involving wrongful convictions. He even appeared on Wisconsin Public Television’s University Place in 2013 to talk about another historic case in which Clarence Darrow freed wrongly convicted men accused in a 1917 bombing of a Milwaukee police department. Watch that interview online, or on the PBS channel of your Roku or other digital device now.
Have plans to see the new Will Smith film, Concussion, this holiday season? Watch FRONTLINE‘s powerful documentary, League of Denial, online or on the PBS channel of your Roku or other digital device now and hear firsthand interviews with the real Dr. Bennet Omalu about his work around the NFL’s concussion challenges.
I must admit that I have a soft spot for reality television. I also enjoy nature-centric television. Perhaps I just like television in general, which means I definitely work at the right place. The point is, I’m super excited for Big Blue Live, a new kind of reality television that combines all of my favorite things into one show.
Big Blue Live is a three-night live TV event airing 7 p.m. Aug. 31-Sept. 2 that will celebrate some of the world’s most amazing marine creatures converging off California’s coast. It’s a success story filled with beauty, cuteness and some breathtaking moments.
The live event set in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary is a celebration of the bay’s environmental rebirth, featuring humpback whales, sea lions, elephant seals, sea otters, great white sharks and much more as they visit the bay for a once-a-year marine animal phenomenon.
The phenomenon will be captured withstate-of-the-art filming technologies and live reports from air, sea and below the waves. Big Blue Live will also bring together scientists, animal behaviorists and other experts, and will be anchored live from hubs at the Monterey Bay Aquarium and from a national marine sanctuary research vessel. Needless to say, the team has their bases covered.
You can tune in beginning 7 p.m. Monday, Aug. 31, but while you’re waiting for the premiere, PBS offers a number of activities to keep you busy:
Take their quiz to find your Big Blue Live animal counterpart (For the record, I’m a sea otter).
Check out live cams for a live look at what sharks, whales, sea lions and more are up to right now.
Learn about the animals that will be featured in the show.
Take a fresh look at an Upper Midwest culinary tradition with Wisconsin Public Television’s newest documentary, Supper Clubs 101. The documentary is available online now and makes its television debut 7:30 p.m. this Thursday, July 23.
The documentary takes a behind-the-scenes look at the hometown restaurants that are serving hearty meals and a dose of nostalgia. From the history of the term “supper club” to a look at supper clubs’ symbiotic relationship with state agriculture, you’ll get a tasty tour of Wisconsin’s culinary history.
Dive into the history of Friday fish fries, a tradition that caught on during Prohibition, and explore how supper clubs’ nightly menus have been shaped by deep-rooted traditions.
In addition to a look at the history of supper clubs, Supper Clubs 101 explains how modern research conducted at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is helping today’s supper clubs serve fresher produce, meat and dairy. It also includes a look at local brews with UW-Madison food science professor Jim Steele, who is supplying up-and-coming beer brewers with tools for better beer, thereby helping supper clubs draft pints with local flavor.
This week on Director’s Cut we welcome Kristin Catalano, the creative force behind the documentary Clarence. Clarence tells the story of World War II veteran Clarence Garrett who decides to return to college to pursue his degree at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee after “cutting class” for more than 50 years.
It’s hard enough to stay focused on your education after a week-long spring break. Picture yourself returning to the world of academia after fighting in a war, raising a family and having a full career while now being hard of hearing, lacking computer skills and moving at a snail’s pace while going from class to class.
The film is a thumbnail of Clarence’s life, one spent overcoming obstacle after obstacle and doing so the only way Clarence knows how, with a never-say-die, can-do attitude. The story Catalano tells is not only inspiring but also uplifting. Clarence’s infectious personality elevates those around him with his “you’re only here once so why be anything but upbeat” attitude.
Catalano does a nice job of showing how Clarence immerses himself in campus life, making solid friendships with a generation of students at least twice removed from his own and engaging his professors in the process. There is no way anyone can not feel great about life while watching Clarence achieve his long postponed dream after making sacrifices to provide for his family and putting the academic needs of his children before his own.
The biggest challenge for Clarence, and possibly Catalano as director, was when Clarence was hospitalized shortly before completing his first semester, forcing him to fall behind. Clarence takes this in stride as just another of life’s inevitable hurdles. Since quitting never seems to have been an option for Clarence in his life, he pushes on as he has always done, with a determined yet whimsical grace.
Please put the bottle rockets down for an hour or so and join us for Director’s Cut on Wisconsin Public Television 9 p.m. Friday night to celebrate a nice little film about a great, inspiring American. Hope to see you then, indie film fans. Have a fun and safe 4th of July!
This week on Director’s Cut, our guest is filmmaker Bob Murray. Bob is the director and star of his film Date America, which follows Murray as he drives across the country in search of the perfect mate. At first I couldn’t figure out if Bob was just an adventurous auteur or desperate to meet girls. After talking to him, I realized it was a little bit of both.
The film starts in Bob’s hometown of Milwaukee where he goes on the first in a series of blind dates set up over the Internet ahead of time. The film follows Murray and his cab driver — you heard right, cab driver — as he journeys west in search of love. Along the way Murray sets up some very creative and cinematic blind dates, one of which is skydiving. Skydiving is risky in and of itself. If things went awry, it could very well have been the end of Murray’s date, film and life.
Obviously this is a guy who is not afraid to take a chance. Murray has no prior filmmaking experience on-camera or behind it. Bob is a banker by day and made this film on a whim just to do something different, as if blind-dating your way across the country isn’t enough. Despite his lack of experience, Bob Murray is an entertaining enough guy and does a nice job in the lead role despite having no priors.
Mixing the worlds of dating and film making, Date America is a fun ride and will make you appreciate the fact that you have a significant other…or that you don’t. Check out my interview with Bob Murray this Friday night at 9 on Director’s Cut on Wisconsin Public Television and stick around to watch the entire film immediately after. Hope to see you then!
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month (LGBT Pride Month) is celebrated each June to honor the 1969 Stonewall riots in Manhattan, a tipping point for the Gay Liberation Movement in the United States. This June on Wisconsin Public Television, enjoy programs including:
Independent Lens “The New Black” 9 p.m. Monday, June 1 See how the African American community is grappling with gay rights in light of the gay marriage movement and the fight over civil rights. This program documents activists, families and clergy on both sides of the campaign to legalize gay marriage.
Independent Lens “We Were Here” 10:30 p.m. Friday, June 5 Both inspiring and devastating, David Weissman’s film revisits the arrival in San Francisco of what was called the “Gay Plague” in the early 1980s. It illuminates the profound issues raised by the AIDS epidemic as well as the broad political and social upheavals it unleashed, offering a cathartic validation for the generation that suffered through the onset of AIDS while opening a window of understanding to those who have only the vaguest notions of what transpired in those years.
Facing Fear 5:30 p.m. Sunday, June 14 This 30-minute documentary shows what happens when a former neo-Nazi skinhead and a gay victim of his hate crime attack meet by chance after 25 years.
Independent Lens “Limited Partnership” 9 p.m. Monday, June 15 In 1975, when American Richard married Australian native Tony in one of the first same sex marriages performed in the U.S., they found themselves on the front lines in the battle for legal immigration status for same sex spouses.
POV “Out in the Night” 9 p.m. Monday, June 22 Examine the uphill battle of a group of African American lesbians charged with attempted murder when they fought back after being threatened. The case reveals the role that race, gender identity and sexuality play in the criminal justice system. Preview
Out and Proud in Chicago 11 p.m. Wednesday, June 24 Hosted by actress Jane Lynch, “Out & Proud” charts the history of Chicago’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community from the 19th century to the present.
This week, Director’s Cut welcomes David Nordstrom: writer, producer, director, editor and lead actor for the film Sawdust City. Everyone who makes an independent movie wears multiple hats. But with all the hats Nordstrom donned for this project, he could open his own millinery.
Sawdust City is the story of two brothers; one on leave from the Navy, the other a hometown husband and soon-to-be father. They are searching for their estranged father in the dive bars of Eau Claire.
As the brothers immerse themselves in the Eau Claire tavern scene, they have trouble finding their dad. But they have no problem finding a cast of characters all too familiar in Wisconsin bar culture. My personal favorite is Gene. If you’ve seen that guy in the bar walking around with his empty glass looking for a fresh pitcher bought on someone else’s dime, then you know Gene. Sawdust City delivers solid writing and storytelling as the brothers reconnect, argue and bond amid the Eau Claire winter.
Nordstrom makes his home in L.A. now and is staying busy pursuing new projects. As a Wisconsin filmmaker myself, I have to tip my hat — yes, just the one — to David for getting his film done entirely in Wisconsin. I look forward to seeing his next effort.
Nordstrom gives a great interview, and Sawdust City is a solid indie film definitely worth checking out this Friday night starting at 9 p.m. on Director’s Cut. Hope to see you then on Wisconsin Public Television!