Sock it to me?

Watch The Best of Laugh In at 10 p.m. Saturday, March 12 on Wisconsin Public Television.

With top-of-the-line programs like The Daily Show, Colbert Report, Conan, 30 Rock, and even the ongoing work of Saturday Night Live, it might seem like today is the hey-day of laughs on television. But, long before all of those shows, Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In was blazing comedy trails with eclectic material that wasn’t afraid to tackle political and social issues. The talented cast that included Lily Tomlin, Gary Owen, Ruth Buzzi, Goldie Hawn and others were often complemented by guests that included Jack Lemmon, John Wayne, Sammy Davis Jr. and even Richard Nixon.

This program offers a look back at the lasting laughs that Laugh-In created. It is also a great opportunity to share the origins of today’s politically charged comedy with a younger generation that hasn’t experienced these unique characters and the show’s regular segments.

Watch cast members talk about one of those iconic segments — the joke wall — in the video below.

An all-star celebration

Watch the All-Star Bluegrass Celebration at 8 p.m. Saturday, March 12 on Wisconsin Public Television.

Bluegrass music finds its roots in the Appalachian Mountains dating way back to the 1930s. For such a long-lasting musical genre, it is still hugely popular and continues to provide the backbone for much of modern country music. It’s fast-picking improvisational aspects have even offered it a new home for many artists in the community of jam bands.

No one has been as devoted to preserving and enhancing bluegrass music in modern American culture than Ricky Skaggs. In this program, he invites some of Bluegrass’ finest musicians to the Ryman Theater for the kind of legend-filled show that only public television can offer. Tune in and enjoy music from Ralph Stanley, the Dixie Chicks, Earl Scruggs, Del McCoury Band, Alison Krauss, Travis Tritt and Nickel Creek. Watch an exclusive excerpt from the program in the video below.

The birth of rock theater

Watch Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s “The Birth of Rock Theater” at 9 p.m. Wednesday, March 9 on Wisconsin Public Television.

Just hearing the name Trans-Siberian Orchestra instantly conjures up images of head-banging guitarists, intense rock interpretations of classical themes and dazzling concerts filled with lights, lasers and plenty of pyrotechnics. I’ve attended a number of the band’s winter tours in the past few years and have always been amazed by the innovations added to each year’s show. That is why I am excited by this new program which invites us all to step into the world of a Trans-Siberian Orchestra tour to learn how it is created. There will also be plenty of great music and stunning high-definition video footage of the group’s live shows, too.

Watch a preview of the program below and prepare to rock Wednesday night!

David Foster – The Hitman returns

Watch Great Performances “Hitman Returns: David Foster and Friends” at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 9 on Wisconsin Public Television.

There might be no one in contemporary music who has produced for, collaborated with and advised as many major stars as David Foster. A talented musician with a keen ear for the right sound, lyric and melody, Foster has earned his nickname — “The Hitman.”

His previous PBS special was a star-studded affair, filled with great music and inspiring performances. Now, Foster returns to WPT with a new program recorded live in Las Vegas. Of course, he brings along many of his friends, including young phenom Jackie Evancho, R&B star Ne-Yo, funk pioneers Earth, Wind and Fire, rock and pop artist Kenny Loggins, pedal steel guitar master Robert Randolph, newcomer Charice and more.

Watch an exclusive preview of the music-filled evening below.

Nick Jonas on WPT

Watch Les Miserables in Concert – Live at 7 p.m. Sunday, March 6 on Wisconsin Public Television.

It’s nearly impossible to have not at least heard of the Jonas Brothers in the past few years. After the rise of Hannah Montana — and in many ways because of it — the Jonas Brothers became one of the biggest pop groups of the decade. So, what does that have to do with Wisconsin Public Television? No, they are not yet appearing on a special episode of Soundstage or Austin City Limits. Instead, it is a special celebration of the 25th anniversary of the musical Les Miserables that brings at least one of the Jonas Brothers to WPT.

Before he was a pop star, Nick Jonas performed in a number of stage plays and musicals, including the role of Gavroche in the final nine months of Les Miserables‘ original Broadway run in 2003. In this special concert from London’s O2 Arena, Jonas takes on the vocal part of Marius.

Watch this special video marketing piece that was created before these groundbreaking concerts were performed in 2010.

A new season and a new site

Watch the premiere of the new season of The Wisconsin Gardener at 5:30 p.m. Sunday, March 6 on Wisconsin Public Television.

We’ve had a few days where the temperatures have climbed out of the reaches of freezing and with them have come thoughts of the spring to come. That means it is also time to start thinking about our gardens. Join host, producer and Master Gardener Shelley Ryan for the premiere of the new season of The Wisconsin Gardener this weekend. In “Misteaks We Have Maid,” Shelley takes a lighthearted look at gardening mistakes we have all made.

And, take a few moments to venture over to the show’s brand new website. There, you will find recipes, archived video segments on dozens of gardening topics, tips and downloadable video podcasts.

Gov. Scott Walker's Budget Address

Watch coverage of Gov. Scott Walker’s Budget Address at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 1 on Wisconsin Public Television.

Every two years, Wisconsin’s Governor is required to create and present a biennial budget and present it to the legislature to begin what is usually an intense debate and evaluation process. In the midst of the ongoing debate over his budget repair bill, Gov. Scott Walker will bring his budget address to the legislature Tuesday afternoon and WPT will be there to bring you coverage.

Remembering the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory

Watch American Experience: Triangle Fire at 8:00 p.m. Monday, Feb. 28 on Wisconsin Public Television.

Triangle FireI have always assumed that current workplace standards and policies were created over the years based on a combination of long-term realizations of necessity and major events.  However, I had never heard of the fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory that occurred in New York City in March of 1911.  This one tragic event that occurred 100 years ago not only left New York with a whole new set of workplace regulations, but laid the path for our entire country to make employee safety a primary concern.   It’s amazing to think back to how things used to work and compare them to now.  I still find random tornado and fire drills annoying, but I am happy to live in a time where tragedies such as this are few and far between.

Wisconsin's Wolves

Watch Wolves in Wisconsin at 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 25 on Wisconsin Public Television.

I’m not sure if I should be excited about the return of gray wolves to Wisconsin, or terrified.  In the end, I think I’m a little bit of both.  After all, they are quite an amazing creature and native to Wisconsin.  I remember going to the Milwaukee zoo as a child and getting to the wolf exhibit and always being disappointed because you never actually got to see the wolves.  I could see rhinos, elephants and dozens of other animals from half the world away, but the wolves were always so well hidden.  Now, they number in the hundreds throughout northern Wisconsin and people are seeing them around more and more.  It’s exciting to see this elusive animal making its way back into our state, but I can’t really say that I’d like to see one outside of the zoo.  It’s my understanding that many other people around the state feel the same way, however rare the occurrence may be.  After all, it took over four years using motion sensing cameras just to gather all of the footage to make this documentary.  If you can’t wait until Friday to learn more, you can watch the full documentary here.

Where did we come from?

Watch Nova ScienceNOW: Where Did We Come From at 9 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 22 on Wisconsin Public Television.

It’s a question humans have pondered for millennia? Where did we come from? It’s also a question that crosses scientific, cultural and religious debates. In this episode of Nova ScienceNOW, Neil deGrasse Tyson looks at the scientific perspective.

Join him on a journey to meet scientists who are working to uncover the earliest building blocks of life. Along the way, we’ll meet researchers who are using head lice to examine evolutionary patterns and we’ll explore the earliest days of our own solar system for clues to the moment that set life in motion.

Watch a preview of the program below: