Bringing Wisconsin Public Television’s delightful mix of programming together takes a lot more work than most of us realize. Beyond PBS itself, WPT previews and purchases programs from American Public Television, the BBC, our own local production teams and multiple other independent sources.
In our latest installment of What We Watch, we chat with Garry Denny, WPT’s director of programming. A member of our staff since 1986, he’s the one who brings it all together: acquisition, scheduling and delivery of programming services on WPT’s six-station network.
Read more to find out what Garry is most looking forward to in WPT’s fall schedule!
During his 32 years at WPT, Garry Denny has served as the president of the Public Television Programmers Association, and on numerous system-wide committees, including the PBS Communications Advisory Committee and the CPB-funded Programmers’ Research Council. He also has served on panels directly associated with content selection, including the P.O.V. Editorial Committee and Open Call activities for the Independent Television Service (ITVS). A strong proponent of documentary filmmaking, he currently serves as board chair of ITVS.
In 2001, he was recognized as PBS Programmer of the Year for his innovative approaches to program scheduling and responsiveness to viewers’ programming preferences.
GARRY DENNY’S FALL 2018 PICKS:
American Experience: The Circus
Two-night event! Begins 8 p.m. Monday, Oct. 9
Garry says: I’m looking forward to “The Circus” for two reasons. One, it’s a local story for us [with connections to Circus World in Baraboo and the Ringling family], and the other reason is it’s produced by a friend of ours, Mark Samels, who’s the executive producer of American Experience.
We’ve seen this film coming for a lot of years now. To see it actually hit the schedule is exciting. I’ve seen most of it; it’s really good; it’s really entertaining. I think American Experience did a good job with it.
Poldark on Masterpiece: Season 4
Begins 8 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 30
Garry says: Mentioning Poldark is kind of obvious, but I’ll tell you this: I’ve watched all of Season 4, and the show just continues to get better.
I like Season 4 a lot because they bring all of the characters together in the same space at the same time. It’s interesting to see all these characters interacting outside of Cornwall. And of course, I think the stories are just getting better. They’re getting richer.
Coming to WPT this November!
Garry says: The story about Maigret is fascinating. It shows how active we are in finding content for the schedule for our viewers.
I saw it at a BBC meeting in Liverpool two years ago. A group of five or six of us programmers were seriously excited about it. We went to Rebecca Eaton at Masterpiece and said, “You have to pick this up.” They said no. We went to PBS; they said it was too expensive.
So we never thought it would see the light of day on North American television. When BBC syndication offered it to us last year, I jumped on it. All four episodes. I didn’t care what it cost; I wanted it.
I’ll tell you why: This show plays like a major Masterpiece mystery, for all intents and purposes. Each of the 90-minute movies, as they call them, are rich. The settings are amazing; the actors are great; the stories are complex.
And even though you wouldn’t expect it, Rowan Atkinson, formerly Mr. Bean, is incredible as Inspector Maigret. He has a subtle presence, a determined presence. His performance is just thoughtful. I’ve been excited about it for two years.
It finally hits our schedule in November, on a Thursday night. I really hope audiences come to it in droves.
Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
Coming soon to WPT!
Watch: Official theatrical trailer
Garry says: One final note: We are very excited that the Mister Rogers film Won’t You Be My Neighbor? is coming into the schedule. Even though we don’t yet know the broadcast date and time, we know that the broadcast window has been secured.
The story of it making it to PBS is extremely complex; some of it is confidential. But in the end, public television was able to secure a simulcast of this film with HBO, which is great because – obviously – Fred Rogers belongs on public television.
I’ve seen it four times, so now it doesn’t make me cry anymore.