July 11, 2007


Hoping for a masterstroke: As audience dwindles, PBS readies a makeover for venerable series (Joanna Weiss, July 11, 2007, Boston Globe)

It could be argued that the heroines of Jane Austen's novels are the precursors to "Desperate Housewives" -- or even the ladies of "Sex and the City." So if anyone can convince TV viewers that PBS's "Masterpiece Theatre" is relevant and modern, it might be a British woman who has been dead for nearly two centuries.

Of course, a new, living host could help, too.

Both will be enlisted as "Masterpiece Theatre," the iconic series produced by WGBH, prepares for an unprecedented makeover. At a conference for TV critics in Beverly Hills today , producers will outline a four-month Austen festival to launch the new season in January, including dramatizations (old and new) of all six Austen novels and a new biopic, "Miss Austen Regrets."

The Austen push is part of a much larger effort to rebrand the series as a whole, drawing in viewers who left long ago for flashier TV fare. Producers have a sense that with this new image, the future of the series is at stake. But with no major changes planned in the direction of programming, critics are already questioning whether new window dressing will make "Masterpiece," or PBS, feel relevant today.

Okay, so one night a week for a few weeks a year they'll return to cl;assy programming--how will that change the fact that they've reduced their brand to reunion concerts and self-help gurus for yuppies?

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 11, 2007 9:58 AM

I am also stumped as to why they broadcast the worst programming (self-help gurus, etc.) during the pledge drives.

Posted by: Rick T. at July 11, 2007 10:19 AM

. . . how will that change the fact that they've reduced their brand to reunion concerts and self-help gurus for yuppies?

. . . and Antiques Roadshow (HGTV wannabee) and the dreadful Are You Being Served? (possibly the most horiffic sitcom ever inflicted on a weary world).

Posted by: Mike Morley at July 11, 2007 10:21 AM

As long as the new host(ess) isn't Ellen DeGeneris, I guess we'll still tune in. "Bleak House" = excellent.

Posted by: erp at July 11, 2007 11:18 AM

Since we're on PBS, what about that ending for the Foyle series? Foyle quits, see you next year? Or is there no next year and this was their "Sopranos" style ending?

Posted by: Patrick H at July 11, 2007 12:12 PM

Did you notice they dedicated the show to the creator (Jeremy Silberman?) and flashed up his birth/death dates?

Posted by: oj at July 11, 2007 3:01 PM

oops. he wasn't the creator but the director the first five years and did a bunch of Midsomers.


The creator is Anthony Horowitz, who also writes the Alex Rider kids books, which our son likes.

Posted by: oj at July 11, 2007 3:06 PM

We did notice the ending. it seemed rather hurried and thought the death of the creator meant the series was over, either that or Foyle will become the next godfather and move to New Jersey.

Posted by: erp at July 11, 2007 4:10 PM

Sure do miss the Sunday night mysteries with Sherlock/Poirot/Morse/Frost/etc...

Posted by: Bartman at July 11, 2007 5:51 PM

We've been watching Morse on Netflix. Dozens of episodes and all wonderful.

Posted by: erp at July 11, 2007 9:00 PM