Ken Burns' new piece paces panoply of programming

PBS comes to the fall 2009 TV season with the varied programming that viewers expect — starting with a new documentary by longtime collaborator Ken Burns.

Burns’ 12-hour “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea” airs Sept. 27-Oct. 2. “He’s great at making it about characters and struggle,” PBS senior veep and chief TV programmer John Wilson says.

Also slated is “Latin Music USA” — which chronicles the influence of forms like Latin jazz, mambo and salsa on pop music like hip-hop and rock. Jimmy Smits narrates the four-hour series, Oct. 12 and Oct. 19.

“The Botany of Desire,” narrated by Frances McDormand, illustrates the development of the apple, the tulip, marijuana and the potato to quench human needs for sweetness, beauty, intoxication and control, and premieres Oct. 28. PBS’ “Nova” also features “Becoming Human: Our Earliest Ancestors” — a three-part, three-hour special airing Tuesdays Nov. 3-17 that explores the latest DNA analysis transforming ideas about evolution.

The network is long on political intrigue as well. The “Masterpiece” series “Endgame” — a drama about the real-life negotiations that led to the end of apartheid in South Africa — stars Chiwetel Ejiofor and William Hurt and premieres Oct. 25.

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