The Final Forte

Watch Wisconsin’s Young Artists Compete: The Final Forte at 8:00 p.m. Monday, March 28 on Wisconsin Public Television.

Ariela Bohrod, Elliot Yang, Leah Latorraca and Valerie Clare Sanders.

Every year I am amazed with what these kids can do.  Part of it may come from my lack of ability to play an instrument, but each of these young artists is truly great at what they do. If you’d like to see just what I’m talking about, you can see each artist in action by watching their profiles courtesy of In Wisconsin by using the links above.

The competition is quite an opportunity, but only one artist can receive top honors. Make sure you tune in Monday to watch their full performance with the Madison Symphony Orchestra and find out who won.

Pelicans of the Outback

Watch Nature: Outback Pelicans at 7:00 p.m. Sunday, March 27 on Wisconsin Public Television.

What drives a bird with a primary diet of fish to make a thousand mile journey to one of the hottest and driest places on earth? No one really knows for sure.  Year after year these large pelicans abandon their homes along the coastal waters of Australia and fly inland to the Australian Outback. The main push behind this journey appears to be large rainstorms that bring new life to once dry riverbeds and empty drainage basins.  So how do they know that a thousand miles inland at this desolate location there will be food waiting for them? Maybe they’re smarter than we think.

Wisconsin Film Festival

Watch Director’s Cut “Wisconsin Film Festival” at 8 p.m. Friday, March 25 on Wisconsin Public Television.

Director's CutAt long last the Wisconsin Film Festival is here! In just one short week it will be time to hit play on over 200 films and sit back and enjoy.  For those of us who can’t wait to see what’s coming out at this year’s festival, Director’s Cut offers a look behind the scenes at a few of the films and the directors behind them.  This also gives us a chance to learn a little bit more about Meg Hamel, the director of the entire festival who brings everything together here in Madison for us to enjoy. Sadly, they can’t help people like me who still haven’t taken the time to look through the full schedule and start buying tickets to the shows. If you’re behind (like me), take a look at the full schedule and don’t miss your chance for a sneak peak on Director’s Cut this Friday.

The Edge of the Universe

Watch NOVA: Hunting the Edge of Space at 8 p.m. Wednesday, March 23 on Wisconsin Public Television.

Space has always been both fascinating and frustrating to me.  Planets, stars, black holes, they’re just too big to imagine.  At the same time, there is still so much we don’t know about the universe. Despite billions of dollars in research and centuries of theorizing, most of what we think we know is merely scientific speculation. This is exactly why I’m always excited for a new episode of NOVA focusing on space.  You never really know what you’ll discover next…

Our Birds

Watch Our Birds at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 17 on Wisconsin Public Television.

After almost two years of hard work, the In Wisconsin special is finally here!  I’ve had the pleasure of seeing individual parts of it along the way as they aired on In Wisconsin, but I’m excited to see the final product.  Every time I see these colorful little birds, I’m amazed that they are capable of surviving the long journey between their summer and winter homes each year.  Check out the preview below for a taste of things to come on Thursday.

A lesser-known history of Chicago

Watch DuSable to Obama: Chicago’s Black Metropolis at 9 p.m. Monday, March 14 on Wisconsin Public Television.

The election of President Barack Obama marked a historic moment in American history as he became the first African-American man to serve in the White House. It was also another in a long line of historic landmarks in the rich African-American history of Chicago.

This exciting new film from WTTW, WPT’s sister station in Chicago, outlines the rich history of the African-American community in Chicago. Since Jean Baptiste Point DuSable — considered the father of Chicago — founded a trading post in this place on the shore of Lake Michigan, the city’s growth has been shaped and led by African-American leadership, innovation and determination.

Watch a preview of the film below, then tune in to watch this powerful documentary on WPT.

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.