Baseball is a springboard for immortality. As a game, it has the capacity to create idols every summer. Among the scores of heroes enshrined in bronze at Cooperstown, one player personifies the century-and-a-half long symbiosis between baseball and the long, breaking arc of the nation’s history: Jackie Robinson.
The life and legacy of Jack Roosevelt Robinson, the star who broke Major League Baseball’s color line, is the focus of the new documentary by Ken Burns. The two-episode and nearly four-hour Jackie Robinson is an expansive biography of the historic ballplayer: his childhood, his athletic feats and career, and most poignantly, his family.
The film is just as much a history of the African American experience in the 20th century, and of how Robinson came to personify the victories, disappointments and lessons of civil rights struggles. Robinson’s life intersected with the broad sweep of 20th century African American history, including displacement wrought by the Great Migration, new expectations inspired by service in World War II, the struggle of the post-war Civil Rights Movement, and ongoing racism as experienced through redlining and cynical political strategies. Continue reading The Next Base: “Jackie Robinson” by Ken Burns→
Ken Burns’ newest documentary, Jackie Robinson, goes way beyond baseball and can turn anyone (even yours truly) into a fan.
The film – premiering 8 p.m. Monday, April 11 – draws you into mid-century America through sports, the civil rights movement, and an incredibly charismatic, strong ball player named Jackie.
My favorite aspect of Jackie Robinson (and of all Ken Burns’ films, really) is how it shows a deeply human side of this iconic superstar. Jackie’s relationship with his wife, Rachel, is so inspiring. They seem like an indomitable team, and I’m so glad she contributes her voice to the story. It gives a depth and perspective to their experience that I truly appreciate.
This movie also adds another layer of nuance and perspective to my understanding of race relations in the U.S. I can’t help but watch this film and think of how far we’ve come, and how much we still have to accomplish. The resistance to change that shows up in this documentary feels uncomfortably familiar, and some of the frustrations and inequalities that come through in the movie are still being experienced today. Ken Burns’ Jackie Robinson serves as a powerful reminder that we can do more, and we can expect more of ourselves.
As we enter our August membership drive, Wisconsin Public Television is excited to have some of the best in drama, music, local favorites and the arts filling our schedule in the coming weeks as a thank you for all of the generous ongoing support of so many viewers across the state who value high-quality educational, enlightening and inspiring television.
Now that we’ve watched Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies from Ken Burns this week (miss it? Watch it online now), Wisconsin Public Television’s University Place takes us inside the amazing cancer research and treatment work that is being done here in Wisconsin.
In the special Mini Med School session below, watch some of the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health’s top experts discuss their groundbreaking work that is giving hope to cancer sufferers and their families.
I’ve watched a half dozen or so of the stories on cancerfilms.org that document how people cope with cancer, and each story ends with this statistic: 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women will get cancer. Each time I read this fact I feel its weight and am reminded that every one of us will either endure an intimate battle with cancer at some point in our lives or know someone who has to fight the battle.
Cancerfilms.org is the home of the new documentary Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies. The film airs March 30 – April 1 on Wisconsin Public Television, and the website is full of great content available to watch now.
While the film presents a comprehensive history of cancer, from its first description in ancient Egypt to the “war on cancer” in the ’70s to the gleaming laboratories of today’s research institutions, this film is unlike most from Ken Burns. Cancer is more than just a history documentary. Three films in one, it also weaves in a scientific and investigative report, and an engrossing an intimate vérité film.
The real-life stories will give the 1 in 2 men and the 1 in 3 women dealing with cancer an outlet for their grief and anger, and will help them make sense of what seems like a hopeless situation. And for the families and friends of cancer patients, it will offer a better understanding of cancer’s impact, the treatment process and what’s going on in the minds of our loved ones.
In short, Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies will give people a better understanding of cancer and will enable them to feel more comfortable talking about it. To quote Ken Burns, “As much as you want to move away from it, you have to move toward it.”
Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies, a new three-part, six-hour television event, based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning book by Siddhartha Mukherjee, premieres 8 p.m. Monday, March 30 on WPT and will be available to watch online at video.wpt.org.
See what’s being done to fight cancer at the University of Wisconsin. Watch innovative lectures on University Place from Wisconsin Public Television.
For last night’s finale of The Colbert Report on Comedy Central, Stephen Colbert invited a couple familiar Sesame Street friends, Ken Burns and Charlie Rose to join him and an all-star group of actors, news reporters, musicians, writers, politicians and more for the rousing – and dare I say, epic! – musical farewell that you can watch below.
Together they sang, “We’ll Meet Again,” which of course is correct since Colbert (minus the TV pundit character he’s played on the Report) will be taking over hosting duties on The Late Show on CBS after David Letterman retires in 2015.
“My job is not to put great programming on television; My job is to keep really bad programming off television. There’s far more bad television than there is good television to consider.” – Garry Denny, Director of Programming
Each year, WPT Director of Programming Garry Denny sifts through a mind-boggling amount of content. Denny may have started his career entering logs by typewriter at Howard University’s WHMM (now WHUT), but for the past 17 years he’s ensured that WPT brings you – our viewers – the highest quality programming available on public television. With the New Year fast approaching, Denny sat down and told me about some of his upcoming favorites for 2015:
The Story of Cancer
In the short term, I think we’re all excited about the new production from Ken Burns Florentine Films. Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies is directed by Barak Goodman and based off of the book, which did really well. The six-hour series is heartbreaking, but to some degree it’s also hopeful. The film will be broadcast in the early springtime, and it’s full of personal stories from cancer patients. Some of them do well and some of them don’t, but it gives you an overview of how cancer has really become this – as it says in the book – emperor of all maladies. It’s difficult to treat and it’s difficult to cure even 30 or 40 years after the Nixon administration launched a so-called war on cancer.
Bigger Than Vegas Frontline has a new documentary which has been delayed and won’t broadcast until next fall because of continued reporting. They’re featuring Macau, a small region of China that’s become the gambling capital of the world. It not only rivals but outdoes Vegas in terms of the number of casinos and the amount of money that’s exchanged. The upcoming program talks about how corruption is prevalent because of all of the gambling.
I’m looking forward to seeing this episode, as I am with all new episodes of Frontline. I sit down to watch certain episodes thinking, “Well, I might be interested in this,” and then I get sucked in. They do a fantastic job. People can argue with me if they want, but I still think it’s the best journalistic documentary series on television anywhere. Continue reading A Look Ahead with WPT's Director of Programming: Spring 2015→
For many public television viewers, a seven-night TV viewing marathon came to a close Saturday with the final on-air broadcast of The Roosevelts: An Intimate History.
For anyone who didn’t sprint to the finish (myself included) there’s still time to watch Ken Burns’ latest documentary online. Watch all seven episodes of The Roosevelts now through Sept. 28 on wpt.org or on your Apple TV, Roku, Xbox or Amazon Fire. But don’t delay much longer, all seven episodes are only available until Sunday, Sept. 28. (After that, the series will be available for purchase on iTunes, Amazon and Google Play).
If you’re already through watching and want more history documentaries, there’s a whole world of video waiting in the archives at wpt.org. For example, if Episode 2 of The Roosevelts left you wanting to learn more about TR’s achievement in building the Panama Canal, you can check out American Experience “The Panama Canal”.
To get you started, here’s a list of documentaries and clips, segmented by each Roosevelt episode, that dive deeper into the history of major events in which Teddy, Franklin and Eleanor were a part of. If you know of additional Roosevelts-related video, please share it in the comments below.
Episode 1: 1858-1901 “Get Action”
TR’s famous “Rough Riders” fought in the Spanish American War. PBS’ Latino Americans looks at the expansionist ideals that led to the United States’ involvement in Cuba. For more on the “Rough Riders” look to member station KNME’s report, “Rough Riders in New Mexico.”
Episode 2: 1901-1910 “In the Arena” American Experience “The Panama Canal” tells the complete story of how the Panama Canal connected the world’s two largest oceans and signaled America’s emergence as a global superpower.
Episode 3: 1910-1919 “The Fire of Life”
When TR abandoned the White House, President William Howard Taft carried on with similar progressive policies and even broke up Standard Oil, owned by John D. Rockefeller. For more, watch “The Rockefellers” from American Experience.
Episode 4: 1920-1933 “The Storm”
In 1921, FDR was diagnosed with infantile paralysis – polio. Once nearly eradicated, polio appears to be making a comeback in 2014. PBS NewsHour reports on this modern public health emergency.
Episode 6: 1939-1944 “The Common Cause”
TR and FDR both served as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, and both championed strong military defense budgets during their time in the post. University Place “Science and Engineering in WWII takes a look at technology and design of two aircraft that helped the U.S. and its allies win World War II.