Garry Denny is Director of Programming for Wisconsin Public Television. He is responsible for the acquisition, scheduling and delivery of programming services on WPT, and each month, he gives you the inside scoop on the best new programs in his post “A Look Ahead.”
Around the Corner With John McGivern
It’s not often that we debut a new locally produced series for public television, but our colleagues at Milwaukee Public Television have come up with a great new series that we start airing this month. Around the Corner With John McGivern is a new half hour series that explores many of the wonderful neighborhoods in and around Milwaukee. The host, John McGivern, is a well-known Milwaukee celebrity whose illustrious background includes standup comedy and a stint as an actor. At first I felt that he was an acquired taste, but after watching McGivern interact with the people in the communities they visit I found myself really liking his inquisitive, goofy, infectious style. He’s funny and charming, but not in a forced way. Each episode focuses on a single neighborhood or city by highlighting its history; community richness and the people that make it tick. Some of the places McGivern visits include Bay View, Wauwatosa, Racine and Third Ward. (Get your bearings with this handy Google Map). It’s a true delight to see places I’ve never visited; the show sparked my interest and I’ve added some locations to my travel “bucket list.” Around the Corner With John McGivern can be seen on Thursdays at 7:30 p.m. with repeats sprinkled throughout the schedule.
Nova “Separating Twins”
Every season we get episodes of Nova that I consider “must see TV” (sorry NBC), and “Separating Twins” easily gets that distinction. The story of “Separating Twins” is so good and so engaging that I’m hopeful it will attract one of our largest audiences of the year. The episode covers the amazing story of conjoined twins girls Trishna and Krishna, born in an orphanage in Bangladesh, joined together at the head and brain, and abandoned by their birth mother. With very low odds of surviving in Bangladesh an aid worker had the heart and resources to take the twins to Australia for medical care and possibly separation. Nova picks ups the story two years later in 2009 when a very large team of surgeons set out to perform a risky, difficult operation to separate Trishna and Krishna. Nova’s cameras had exclusive access to the surgeons, caregivers and operation, and what develops is a harrowing, breath-stopping story of the nearly 30-hour operation to separate the twins.
I would usually avoid giving away the ending, but let’s face facts, you could easily look it up on the Internet. The girls do survive the operation and are now living healthy lives as separated twins. Don’t let your knowledge of the ending reduce your interest in seeing this episode – it’s the journey that makes this wonderful television. You won’t care that you know the happy ending and you’ll be pleased that you took the journey. Plus, Trishna and Krishna are so amazingly cute you won’t want to turn away. Click for a video preview and air dates.
Slavery By Another Name
It’s easy to look at this title and assume it’s just another story of slavery in the United States. A story that has been documented and dramatized dozens of times in movies and on television. Well, Slavery By Another Name is truly a new story about a little known chapter in our history. Based on the book by Wall Street Journal senior writer Douglas A. Blackmon, Slavery By Another Name tells the story about forced slavery of already freed people at the end of the Civil War. Although the 13th Amendment to the Constitution abolished slavery, except as punishment for a crime, many Southern states successfully criminalized nearly every aspect of daily life of African Americans, thereby making slavery a legal activity. African Americans were charged and convicted of a myriad of ridiculous crimes, including speaking loudly in the presence of white women, spitting in public, and even loitering if they could not produce proof of employment upon request. Once convicted, African Americans were shipped off to factories, coalmines, turpentine farms and brick yards, and forced to work without pay. Just as before the abolishment of slavery, they were shackled, beaten and tortured. “Neoslavery,” as it has been called was responsible for the death of thousands.
I’ll be the first to admit that this type of documentary makes for tough viewing, but it’s so important and so well told that the 90-minutes spent watching is certainly worth the discomfort. And, to be honest, this is the kind of thing that PBS does better than any other broadcast or cable network. Slavery By Another Name would have never been scheduled on a cable network because it wouldn’t get high enough ratings. We care far less about ratings and more about telling the stories of our shared past. Do yourself and your family a huge favor and watch Slavery By Another Name. It premieres on Monday, February 13 at 8 p.m. with an encore Tuesday, February 14 at 10 p.m. Preview the film and learn more about Douglas A. Blackmon’s companion book at wptschedule.org.
Clinton: American Experience
I had some doubt about including this in my monthly highlights. Not because Clinton isn’t a great film, but because Clinton the man is such a divisive figure. You either love him or you hate him. However, WPT and PBS have a long-standing history of broadcasting documentaries about former U.S. presidents and it just happens to be Clinton’s turn. And what a turn it is! As always, the filmmakers at American Experience have crafted a documentary that is anything but a love letter to the former president. Clinton is an unflinching, undaunted and at times cringe-worthy look at the life and career of our 42nd president. The film is both fair and balanced (sorry FOX), challenging and sticks to the facts. I like that many of Clinton’s friends, colleagues and political adversaries are interviewed for the film. Their voices provide a great deal of insight in to the man, his triumphs and failures, his amazing intelligence and stupid behavior, and his uncanny ability to bounce back from the brink of political disaster. I do find it disappointing that the filmmakers didn’t have access to Clinton or Hillary for their point of view, but their absence doesn’t weaken the film. So love him or hate him, Clinton makes for a very informative and fascinating look at William Jefferson Clinton. Clinton: American Experience premieres on President’s Day, Monday, Feb. 20 at 8 p.m. (part 1) and Tuesday, Feb. 21 at 8 p.m. (part 2). You can also catch or record the encore on Monday and Tuesday, February 27 and 28 at 10 p.m.