PBS’ New Season Will Feature Walt Disney Documentary, Civil War Drama ‘Mercy Street’

PBS this coming TV season will boast an unvarnished look at entertainment entrepreneur Walt Disney, a revival of Ken Burns epic documentary “The Civil War” and something that has been a rarity on the network in recent years: a drama financed by PBS set in America.

The network best known these days for pickups of British productions like “Downton Abbey” and “Call the Midwife” will in January debut “Mercy Street,” a six-part Civil War epic that is produced by Ridley Scott’s Scott Free Productions and is the first American drama to air on PBS in more than a decade. Such stuff “is expensive,” noted Beth Hoppe, chief programming executive and general manager of general audience programming at PBS, in an interview, but the network expects to monetize the product through international distribution. Josh Radnor and Mary Elizabeth Winstead are among the members of the show’s cast.

One of the bigger projects set to air on PBS this fall is an episode of “American Experience” that offers a deep look at Walt Disney. The Walt Disney Company gave producers “unprecedented access” to archival material, Hoppe said, even though the company was not given any oversight of the show’s research or execution. “It’s a warts-and-all biography,” she said that wil show all sides of the legendary executive, The episode will debut on PBS Monday, September 14, with a second hour set to air September 15.

PBS will screen the high-definition debut of Ken Burns’ “The Civil War” on Monday September 7 in commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the series’1990 debut, PBS will air the entire documentary over five nights.

Other highlights of the season include the launch of a new nine-part “Masterpiece” drama, “Indian Summers,” featuring actress Julie Walters in a retelling of the end of British rule in India. The series will debut Sunday, September 27. In November, PBS will unveil a three-part look at the first recordings of everyday American music titled “American Epic,;’ and follow it with :”The American Epic Sessions,” a concert featuring contemporary American artists utilizing recording equipment available to people in the 1920s. Gloria Estefan will host this season’s “PBS Arts Fall Festival,” which will include a celebration by Latin musicians of the work of Michael Jackson.

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