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The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Watch Happy Holidays: The Best of the Andy Williams Christmas Specials at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 11 on Wisconsin Public Television.

Each season brings its own icons to the television screen. The Fourth of July has bright fireworks displays, often in front of backdrops of grand American monuments. Springtime has usually featured an annual network broadcast of The Ten Commandments.

And, Christmas is remembered by many as the time of year that Andy Williams appears on TV. This special highlights all of the shows grand traditions — from family singalongs to the great, if not cheesy seasonal backdrops, and those fabulously memorable sweaters. To help coax you into the holiday spirit, I’ve posted one of those fun moments below.

The Living Skin of Earth

Watch Independent Lens “Dirt! The Movie” at 9 p.m. Friday, Dec. 10 on Wisconsin Public Television.

DIRT! What could be better? Everything comes from dirt – food, building materials and minerals. However, what most people don’t realize is that dirt is a living thing packed full of billions of organisms. Over the years we have been destroying our dirt in pursuit of other materials beneath. That, in combination with natural causes, has caused us to lose one third of our top soil in just a hundred years. The results of mistreating our dirt have proved to be somewhat devastating and have been linked to problems such as starvation and climate change. Don’t miss this amazing film by Bill Benenson and Gene Rosow about the importance of dirt and what you can do to help keep dirt alive.  In addition to the filmmakers interview above, I have also included a short preview of the movie below. If you’d like a longer and more detailed preview, you can watch it here.

Much Ado About Pluto?

Watch Nova: The Pluto Files at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 7 on Wisconsin Public Television.

Neil deGrasse Tyson could be the friendliest man in the entire field of astrophysics. So, what would it take for this jovial scientist to receive hate mail? Well, as this special episode of Nova reveals, all it takes is a demotion of what used to be the solar system’s smallest planet. When Tyson failed to include the former ninth planet from the sun in the display at the Hayden Planetarium in New York City, an enterprising New York times reporter questioned him about the missing planet. Despite scientific evidence supporting the conclusion that Pluto doesn’t live up to planetary rules, Americans were outraged.

In this fun program, follow Tyson on a quest to learn more about America’s love for the small, icy Pluto.

This clip includes feedback to Tyson from Brian Williams, Stephen Colbert, Diane Sawyer and Jon Stewart.

John Lennon's New York City

Watch American Masters: LennoNYC at 8 p.m. Monday, Dec. 6 on Wisconsin Public Television.

After the end of The Beatles, John Lennon left England to start a new life with Yoko Ono in the United States. He quickly went to work in the anti-war movement and through a decade of twists and turns created some of his finest music. This fascinating documentary shows a side of Lennon’s life that many of us didn’t previously know, shining a light on an artist who found a welcoming refuge of normalcy after being the world’s bigeest rock star.

The clip below shows one of those fascinating moments — John walking through Central Park, almost completely unrecognized, until a friendly fan asks for an autograph. And while it was the city where he unfortunately gave up his life to an assassin, John Lennon loved New York City because he could go to the movies, visit a restaurant and walk through the park.

He could just be John.

Eagles of Mull

Watch Nature: Eagles of Mull at 7 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 5 on Wisconsin Public Television.

Everyone can enjoy a good trip home, whether it’s across the ocean or across the street.  For wildlife filmmaker Gordon Buchanan, the trip brought him to the Isle of Mull just off the coast of Scotland.  After 15 years abroad, he finally came across the chance to return and film the amazing wildlife that he could only truly appreciate by coming back home.  The special attraction?  The white-tailed sea eagle.  An eagle with an 8-foot wingspan that was once extinct in the area, but has since thrived on Mull.

Enjoy the preview below and find out more about the Eagles of Mull

Explore Holiday Traditions With Rick Steves

Watch Rick Steves’ European Christmas at 1 p.m. Dec. 4 or 5 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 12 on Wisconsin Public Television.

My favorite part of the holiday season are the traditions that we celebrate year after year. While many of those traditions — big dinners, colorful lights, caroling — are almost universally familiar, each family creates their own favorite Christmas moments. In my family, one of those quirks that has become an essential part of each year’s celebration is our annual Christmas Eve fireworks display. What all started years ago when a cousin found a box of sparklers left over from the Fourth of July has turned into a brightly colored exhibition that finds family members stocking up on all kinds of pyrotechnic devices specifically for Dec. 24.

In this special, Rick Steves explores many of the widely diverse traditions and celebrations across Europe. Travel along to learn how the people of England, France, Germany and Switzerland celebrate the season.

Watch a preview segment from London in the clip below.

Landscape Legacy

Watch Landscape Legacy at 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 2 on Wisconsin Public Television.

Having worked with In Wisconsin for over two years, it brings me great joy to see this visually stunning special finally ready to air. Don’t miss this great opportunity to experience the University of Wisconsin Arboretum throughout all of the seasons. This is your chance to learn about the many restoration and management efforts that started with Aldo Leopold and have made the arboretum the amazing place it is today. A place that hosted the first prairie restoration (Curtis Prairie) in the United States  and where scientists and students have continued to learn for over 75 years.

WPT Behind the Scenes – PBS NewsHour correspondent Jeffrey Brown

Watch the PBS NewsHour at 6 p.m. weeknights on WPT or anytime at

During his recent Wisconsin visit, PBS NewsHour senior correspondent Jeffrey Brown offered insight into recent changes at the nightly news program, his outlook on journalism’s future and his devotion to arts coverage online and on-air. Watch the exclusive WPT interview below.

Riverdance Jumps into Beijing

Watch Riverdance: Live From Beijing at 8 p.m. Monday, Nov. 29 on Wisconsin Public Television.

For more than 15 years, Riverdance has been jumping, kicking and twirling across stages around the globe, blending the traditions of Irish dance with a wide array of musical styles. With dozens of dancers on stage, the programs are colorful and energetic. This new special captures the current Riverdance troupe as they toured China, incorporating traditional Chinese music into their dancing repertoire.

If you’ve ever wondered if you have what it takes to be a Riverdance dancer, watch the video clip below. In it, principle dancer Padraic Moyles teaches a BBC sports correspondent a few steps.

WPT Holiday Program Schedule

‘Tis the season for enriching and enlightening holiday programs on Wisconsin Public Television. Some favorite selections include Curious George: A Very Monkey Christmas (pictured), the bombastic sounds of Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s The Ghosts of Christmas Eve, Rick Steves’ exploration of a European Christmas and Shalom Sesame — Chanukah: The Missing Menorah. In all, there are more than 50 choices during the next month to enjoy the wonder, traditions and merriment of the season. Make your viewing plans or set your DVRs with the full schedule after the jump.

Continue reading WPT Holiday Program Schedule