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‘Masterpiece Theatre’ gets makeover

Anthology series split into mini-seasons

After 37 years, PBS’ “Masterpiece Theatre” is getting spruced up.

The revered anthology series will be split into three mini-seasons, each with its own theme and host – one of whom is Gillian Anderson, already familiar to “Masterpiece” fans for her 2006 performance as Lady Dedlock in “Bleak House.”

Anderson, even better known as Agent Dana Scully from the Fox series “The X-Files,” will make her debut as host of the renamed “Masterpiece Classic” on Jan. 13. Through May, she will present 10 programs that include adaptations of all six of Jane Austen’s novels plus a new biopic; “Cranford,” a three-part miniseries starring Judi Dench; “My Boy Jack,” starring Daniel Radcliffe and Kim Cattrall; and a new adaptation of E.M. Forster’s “A Room with a View” by Andrew Davies.

In the summer, “Masterpiece Mystery!” will absorb the “Mystery!” anthology series, a PBS fixture since 1980. Then, in the fall, “Masterpiece Contemporary” will focus on dramas set in the present day. Hosts for these two “Masterpiece” cycles will be announced later.

“Masterpiece Theatre,” which premiered in Jan. 1971, was closely identified with its drawing-room host, Alistair Cooke, until he retired in 1992. The series has not had a host since his successor, New York Times writer Russell Baker, stepped down in 2004.

“Our viewers told us that they miss having a host to lead them into the programs,” said executive producer Rebecca Eaton.

The series, which has been without corporate underwriting since 2004, when ExxonMobil ended its decades-long support, has since been funded by PBS and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

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