Garry Denny is Director of Programming for Wisconsin Public Television. He is responsible for the acquisition, scheduling and delivery of programming services on WPT, and each month, he gives you the inside scoop on the best new programs in his post “A Look Ahead.”
Normally I don’t use this space to write about a show or series that is repeating in the schedule. However, almost any series by famed documentary filmmaker Ken Burns deserves some attention and a second look. Certainly his seminal film The War is no exception. The 15-hour epic film is by almost any measure the most important, most in-depth and best documentary ever produced about World War II. Burns’ pure skill in weaving together complex issues with both familiar and unfamiliar historical events, along with truly moving personal stories makes The War an engrossing and utterly engaging television series. I know that committing to 15-hours of television viewing is nearly impossible these days, but do yourself a favor and tune-in for any part of this wonderful documentary. And, if you have a DVR just record the whole thing and watch each episode when you can. Trust me, it’s totally worth it. The War premieres 8 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 1 and continues through Wednesday, Aug. 8.
The Barnes Collection
When it comes to arts programming no one does it better than public television. In fact, no other broadcaster even does arts programming any more. And, just to be clear I’m not counting the reality junk like Dancing With the Stars, The Voice and American Idol – they are nothing more than hyped-up talent shows with 12-minutes of commercials. But, I digress. As part of PBS’ Summer of the Arts we’re airing a truly wonderful documentary about the preeminent art collection of Dr. Albert C. Barnes. In The Barnes Collection viewers are treated to a rare inside look at the life of the man, his amazing collection, and the design and building of the museum that houses his collection. The entire collection, estimated to be worth $20-$30 billion, famously contains more Cezannes than all of the museums in Paris and more than 180 Renoir’s. The documentary is partially told through the words of Barnes himself (as performed by a voice actor) and explores his life, his approach to art collecting and ultimately the legacy he left behind. For a man that amassed all of his wealth manufacturing a drug to treat gonorrhea, he certainly put his money to good use and left the world with a priceless treasure. The Barnes Collection premieres 7 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 5 and encores on at 10:05 p.m. Monday, Aug. 6.
Whether you’re an animal lover or not (I am), everyone loves babies in the animal kingdom. In our wonderful special Orangutan Diary you will certainly get your fix of cute, cuddly orangutans to ooh and coo over. But, there’s more to this documentary than just fun video of these amazing creatures. This moving and uplifting documentary follows the work of the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation as their vets and caregivers provide a safe sanctuary for over 600 orangutans whose natural habitat, the rain forest, is slowly being burned down around them. Then there are the score of orphaned orangutans whose parents were either illegally poached or sold as pets. The documentary is so good at exposing the problems faced by the orangutan population, the love and care of the foundation staff, and the bonds formed between humans and our distant cousins. It’s a wonderful hour of television. Orangutan Diary premieres at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 15.