Tag Archives: American Experience

WPT Previews: American Experience’s Mark Samels on Command and Control

When he visited Wisconsin recently, American Experience Executive Producer and UW-Madison alumnus Mark Samels talked with us to give a behind-the-scenes perspective on the making of the PBS series’ new film, Command and Control, which premieres the evening of Tuesday, Jan. 10, immediately following PBS NewsHour coverage of President Obama’s Farewell Address.

Watch his behind-the-scenes perspective on the film’s creation and then watch a trailer for this powerful documentary, below.

WPT Previews: American Experience’s Mark Samels Takes Us Inside “The Battle of Chosin”

When he visited Wisconsin recently, American Experience Executive Producer, Wisconsin native and University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate Mark Samels talked with Wisconsin Public Television to give a behind-the-scenes perspective on the making of the PBS series’ new film, The Battle of Chosin, which premieres 8 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 1.

Watch an exclusive first look at the first chapter of the powerful film online now.

A Look Ahead with WPT’s Director of Programming: Fall 2015

 “There are only 21 hours of prime time in the week. We can’t expand time.” – Garry Denny, Director of Programming

The summer is growing short, and as kids get excited about fresh crayon sets, adults anticipate a new broadcast season full of zombies, dragons and political intrigue. I spoke with our director of programing, Garry Denny, to see what exactly goes into crafting a successful fall schedule.

Whitechapel premieres in October

“As with all fall schedules, there’s a great deal of optimism,” Denny says. “We feel like everything we put on the air has a great deal of value to our viewers. Having said that, there’s a certain amount of reality that sets in. There’s a lot of competition out there.” Continue reading A Look Ahead with WPT’s Director of Programming: Fall 2015

'Last Days' Shares Untold Stories from the Vietnam War

American Experience “Last Days in Vietnam” airs 8 p.m. Tuesday, April 28 on WPT. Scroll to the end to see more programs about the Vietnam War.

Ever since the United States ended it’s involvement in the Vietnam War 40 years ago, journalists, filmmakers, historians and countless others have studied and scrutinized the Vietnam War from several angles. So when American Experience asked Rory Kennedy to make a film about the final days of the Vietnam War, her initial response was, “Could I provide anything new.” Fortunately, Kennedy obliged and she managed to uncover one of the most dramatic tales from the Vietnam era.

Sailors push a helicopter off a landing platform of the U.S.S. Kirk to clear room for more helicopters dropping off refugees.

Since its premiere at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, the Academy Award®-nominated “Last Days in Vietnam” has been seen in communities throughout America, and, according to Kennedy, the overwhelming response is, “I can’t believe we didn’t know this story.”

The film shares how the handful of American diplomats and military operatives that remained in the country at the war’s end engaged in unsanctioned operations to save as many South Vietnamese as possible from the approaching North Vietnamese Army. The film’s narrative is woven with emotional first-hand tales of bravery and gripping footage of the evacuation shot from the U.S. embassy and the Navy ships that awaited the last of the evacuees. It’s a film that is sure to give any viewer a new perspective on U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War.

“Last Days in Vietnam” is among several programs airing this week that mark 50 years since U.S. combat troops first landed in Vietnam and 40 years since the fall of Saigon. Some programs cover familiar topics, but each provides unparalleled in-depth storytelling and historical accuracy that public television is known for.

Preview “Last Days in Vietnam” and scroll to the end to see the full schedule of Vietnam programs.

Also airing on Wisconsin Public Television
American Experience “My Lai”

8 p.m. Tuesday, April 21
Examine the My Lai massacre, its cover-up and efforts of soldiers who broke rank to halt atrocities.

The Draft
8 p.m. Monday, April 27
The Draft tells the story of how a single, controversial issue continues to define a nation.

Dick Cavett’s Vietnam
9 p.m. Monday, April 27
Explore the war and its impact on America through interviews conducted by the host of The Dick Cavett Show.

The Day the ’60s Died
7 p.m. Tuesday, April 28
In May of 1970, four students were shot dead at Kent State. The Day the ’60s Died examines the event and its fallout.

Last Days in Vietnam
8 p.m. Tuesday, April 28

Wisconsin Vietnam War Stories
Watch Online Anytime
See Wisconsin Vietnam War veterans recount their experiences in a three-hour documentary.

You're Invited: Free Screening of Last Days in Vietnam in Madison

Join Wisconsin Public Television and the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs for a free screening of the Academy Award-nominated documentary, Last Days in Vietnam.

7 p.m. Tuesday, April 7
Union South Marquee Theater
University of Wisconsin-Madison
1308 West Dayton Street
Click here for parking information and directions.
No reservations needed. Limited seating – first come, first served.

Coming soon to Wisconsin Public Television, American Experience: Last Days in Vietnam reveals the story of the chaotic final days of the Vietnam War, as the North Vietnamese Army closed in on Saigon and the South Vietnamese resistance crumbled.

The United States had only a skeleton crew of diplomats and military operatives still in the country. With a communist victory inevitable and the U.S. readying to withdraw, many Americans on the ground worried their South Vietnamese allies and friends faced imprisonment or death at the hands of the approaching North Vietnamese.

With the clock ticking and the city under fire, a number of heroic Americans took matters into their own hands, engaging in unsanctioned and often makeshift operations in a desperate effort to save as many South Vietnamese as possible.

Through firsthand interviews with the people who were there and rare archival footage being seen, in some cases, for the first time, Last Days in Vietnam reveals the heartache and heroism of the war’s final moments.

American Experience: Last Days in Vietnam will premiere on Wisconsin Public Television 8 p.m. April 28.

Click here to watch a preview of the film online now.

Online Exclusive: Watch Oscar-Nominated Last Days in Vietnam

Wisconsin Public Television and PBS have long been a home for the best documentary films on series like P.O.V., Independent Lens, Frontline and, here in our state, Director’s Cut. Across the past decade, WPT has also told the stories of our veterans through our award-winning War Stories programs and specials like Wounded Warriors and has supported veterans and their families through community engagement projects, including the ongoing Veterans Coming Home initiative.

That work converges this spring with the premiere of American Experience‘s groundbreaking Last Days in Vietnam.

In April 1975, the North Vietnamese Army was closing in on Saigon as South Vietnamese resistance was crumbling. Approximately 5,000 Americans remained with roughly 24 hours to get out. Their South Vietnamese allies, co-workers and friends faced certain imprisonment and possible death if they remained behind. Last Days in Vietnam tells the firsthand stories of the bravery, sacrifice and tragedy of those final moments of the war.

The film, directed by Rory Kennedy, premieres on WPT April 28 and has already been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.

To make sure public television viewers had a chance to see the film before the award ceremony Feb. 22, PBS and WPT streamed the full documentary online for three days – Feb. 5 – 7.

8 Activities for your Halloween

Looking for some creative ways to spend your Halloween? There’s plenty of fun costume ideas, gripping dramas, delicious recipes and more available throughout the public media landscape. Here are eight activities to add to your Halloween festivities.

Image of Salted Pumpkin Caramels
Make Salted Pumpkin Caramels

1. Make Salted Pumpkin Caramels or Mummy Dogs — because, for some, holidays are all about the food.

2. Go ghost hunting with Green Bay’s paranormal investigative team Shadows of Spirits (S.O.S.). See what WPT’s Wisconsin Life turned up on a recent investigation with S.O.S.

3. Take a haunted road trip with Antiques Roadshow by reading about paranormal highlights from the series’ past tour events, including those of a young engineer that haunts the Queen Mary and a vengeful prison ghost in Idaho.

Image of Elmo and Abby
Play Dress Up Time with Elmo and Abby

4. If you’re skeptical that paranormal ghosts really do exist, spend time with some of nature’s undisputed ghosts. Frolic with the White Deer of Wisconsin or take to the oceans to swim with beluga whales, also known as sea ghosts.

5. Grab the kids and play Dress Up Time with Sesame Street’s Elmo and Abby Cadabby. You might even find some last minute costume ideas.

6. Elevate your halloween costume to couture fashion status with ideas from HighBall, “the nation’s fiercest costume party” held annually in Columbus, Ohio. Watch the video from PBS member station WOSU.

Image of Orson Welles
Experience the golden age of radio

7. Go trick or treating with “The Seven Sinister Sisters” and learn how the cosmos relate to Halloween celebrations around the globe. Check out this short video so you know where to “look up” this Halloween.

8. Experience the golden age of radio on Nov. 8 with “Supernatural,” a live radio drama event from Wisconsin Public Radio. Or look back on one of the spookiest radio broadcasts of all time, Orson Welles’ performance of “The War of the Worlds” on Oct. 30, 1938, as documented by American Experience.

Revisiting Freedom Summer

Freedom Summer: American Experience premieres 8 p.m. Tuesday, June 24 on WPT
Freedom Summer: American Experience premieres 8 p.m. Tuesday, June 24 on WPT

50 summers ago, a historic effort to shatter the foundations of white supremacy in Mississippi changed everything. In the summer of 1964, over 700 student volunteers joined organizers and local African Americans in what was then the nation’s most segregated state. The group set their hopes high, but knew that the risks were great.

“It was always in the back of people’s minds that something bad was going to happen. But if you cared about Democracy and you cared about this country, then you had to go down.” – Freedom Summer participant

Together, the brave group canvassed for African American voter registration and created Freedom Schools. They also created the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, which was formed in the hopes that it could go up against the segregationist state Democratic Party at the national convention.

These trailblazers faced a great deal of opposition, including extreme violence. During their efforts, three civil rights leaders were murdered, 35 churches were burned and 70 homes and Freedom houses were bombed.

Freedom Summer: American Experience tells the moving story of that momentous summer. Be sure to tune into Wisconsin Public Television 8 p.m. Tuesday, June 24 to view the full documentary.

Watching Our Presidents on Presidents Day

As the snow falls over much of Wisconsin, many of us are thinking of hunkering down somewhere warm on yet another wintry day. If that is how you find yourself today, we have a great opportunity to pass the time.

Being Presidents Day, there might be no better time to dive into the history of the men who have led our country from the White House. And, there is no better place to do that than with our friends at American Experience.

The documentary series has long been the best outlet for presidential histories – and you can watch many of them and explore exclusive content online now. Just visit American Experience’s Presidents collection and dive in. You’ll be so engrossed in these great stories that you won’t even notice spring arriving before you know it!

UW-Madison Professor and The Poisoner's Handbook

Tonight’s all-new The Poisoner’s Handbook: American Experience at 7 p.m. on Wisconsin Public Television is based on UW-Madison professor Deborah Blum’s best-selling book. It’s a fascinating tale of New York City medical examiner Charles Norris’ role in bringing a scientific approach to the ravages of poison that were running wild in the Industrial Age’s criminal underbelly. In doing so, Norris created what has become modern forensic crime fighting. Watch a preview now:

Our friends at “Inside UW-Madison” have the full inside scoop on how Blum’s terrific book made its way to national television. Click here to dive in! And, watch Blum describe her findings in her own words from an episode of WPT’s University Place below. Then tune in tonight to learn the true beginnings of CSI!