Garry Denny previews Shelter Me, The Central Park Five, Director’s Cut and more new programs coming to Wisconsin Public Television.
Michael Mosley Specials
On public television we schedule a lot of science and technology programs, not the least of which being NOVA and my personal favorite NOVA scienceNOW. In fact, the Wednesday night schedule on PBS has become the television destination for good science programming. Notice I said “good.” Because if you look around the dial you’ll find plenty of what I consider to be junk science — programs that are highly promoted with style and import, but with substance that is a mile wide and an inch deep.
In recent years we’ve added a new face to the public television stable of host. His name is Michael Mosley, a British bloke with a curious nature and insatiable appetite for science. During April, we’re airing three new specials from Mosley and his team — each an informative and entertaining look at topics that are near and dear to us all — living longer.
In Eat, Fast and Live Longer Mosley explores whether or not it’s possible to eat whatever he wants, lose weight and live longer, all while making very few changes to his lifestyle. He takes us on an intriguing journey and makes the trip fun, while giving us a dose of serious science as part of the bargain. In The Truth About Exercise Mosley investigates new science that suggests we can all benefit from just three minutes of high intensity exercise per week. In the aptly titled Guts Mosley truly takes one for the team by swallowing a tiny pill camera to demonstrate what goes on “down there” during the admittedly fascinating digestion process. You can’t say he’s a host that mails it in.
Eat, Fast and Live Longer premieres 9 p.m. Wednesday, April 3. The Truth About Exercise premieres 9 p.m. Wednesday, April 10 and Guts premieres 9 p.m. Wednesday, April 17. Each with their respective encore at 10 p.m. the following Tuesday.
Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries
Okay, I’ll be honest: Phryne Fisher is one good-looking woman. But, she’s also whip-smart and awfully good at solving crimes.
Set in 1920s Melbourne, the gorgeous actress Essie Davis plays a glamorous, wealthy socialite who constantly finds herself mixed up in solving crimes that baffle the police and serve as wonderful backdrops for drama and action. This is one of the few mystery series that I’ve seen in recent years that I purchased for the WPT schedule after previewing only one episode. It’s just that good. The stories are intriguing, the supporting cast of characters is fun to watch, and the sets and costumes are simply exquisite. And did I mention that Miss Fisher is easy on the eyes? Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries premieres 9 p.m. Thursday, April 4 and airs weekly, right after Poirot.
Director’s Cut: Wisconsin Film Festival
Our local series Director’s Cut takes its annual walk through the Wisconsin Film Festival. This year guest host Pete Schwaba gives us a wonderful insider’s tour of the festival along with clips galore and interviews with filmmakers. Without rival, Wisconsin Public Television is THE home for independent film on television, and Director’s Cut’s involvement with the Wisconsin Film Festival is another way for us to showcase the important and impressive work of independent filmmakers from Wisconsin and around the world. Director’s Cut: Wisconsin Film Festival premieres 9 p.m. Friday, April 5 with an encore later the same evening. As a reminder, the Wisconsin Film Festival runs April 11-18, and the new season of Director’s Cut and Director’s Cut Presents premieres Friday, April 19.
Independent Lens “The House I Live In”
Speaking of independent film, the new film from producer/director Eugene Jarecki (“Why We Fight”) takes a penetrating and devastating look at one of America’s longest wars — the War on Drugs. The film illustrates the effects of the decades-long war on children, families, communities and the nation. Most eye opening is the film’s illumination of how the African American community has been decimated by the War on Drugs and overall drug policy in this country. I suspect that you could watch this film and find reasons to agree and disagree, but you will certainly come away with a new perspective on the drug war, and asking questions that few politicians and jurist have answers. Independent Lens “The House I Live In” premieres 9 p.m. Monday, April 8.
R&B artist John Legend performs “The House I Live In” theme song.
The Central Park Five
In a mesmerizing new documentary from Sarah Burns (yes, daughter of Ken Burns) and David McMahon, the case of the rape and brutal beating of the Central Park jogger is brought to the screen like no film before. In New York in the summer of 1989 a white woman jogger in Central Park was attacked, raped and beaten until near dead. The city and the country were outraged. Someone had to be brought to justice.
The haste to justice and judgment lead police to arrest, question and ultimately charge five teenage boys with the brutal crime. The problem is they didn’t do it. Their confessions were coerced — the result of slimy police and prosecutor tactics — and all five teenagers served time in prison for a crime they didn’t commit. The Central Park Five focuses on the events in chronological order and tells a sad, almost angering story using great footage from the period, and most importantly, the words of the five convicted teenagers, who are now grown men irrevocably affected by their ordeal.
This is not easy television to watch, but it’s a well-made film with tones that still resonate, more than two decades after the crime. The Central Park Five premieres 8 p.m. Tuesday, April 16 and encores 10 p.m. Wednesday, April 17.
Shelter Me: Let’s Go Home
I’ve already established in this space that I am an animal lover. My two golden retrievers made an appearance here, and now they are world famous. Last year we aired the first episode of Shelter Me, which featured wonderful stories of adopted shelter animals helping people with personal difficulties. In Shelter Me: Let’s Go Home host Jane Lynch (Glee, Best of Show) leads us through great stories of shelter pets that go from being rescued to rescuer. We get to see dogs that visit patients in hospitals; shelter dogs being trained by firefighters for search and rescue; and even a dramatic rescue of a litter of puppies in danger of death from starvation. Just like episode 1, Shelter Me: Let’s Go Home is moving and uplifting television. It premieres 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 24.
The Bletchley Circle
In the past two years our colleagues at PBS have been on the look out for more dramas and mysteries for the schedule. The popular series Call the Midwife is just one example of the fruits of their labor. The Bletchley Circle is another series picked up by PBS and has a limited three-week run in April.
Based on the famous World War II British code-breaking center known as Bletchley Park, the series tells the story of four women who used to work as codebreakers. A series of murders takes place in 1952, that the women feel have a pattern, but police are making no headway in solving. The women take it on themselves to investigate the murders and hopefully bring the culprit to justice. It’s a dark, moody drama, but it gives viewers a rather good yarn to enjoy. The Bletchley Circle premieres 9 p.m. Sunday, April 21.