For decades, PBS has been a staple of the American household, holding a unique reputation as an âintelligentâ? broadcaster, dedicated to quality and reliability over sheer entertainment value. As the USâs only non-profit public network, PBS has a unique agenda, focused on education rather than turning a profit and the programmes reflect that focus. But eggheads (and people who like interesting television) in Britain shouldn’t feel left out because the broadcaster launched a UK channel this month and they’re bringing American culture to a tellybox near you..
And no TV series illustrates the tone of PBS better than American Experience. Since 1988, the award-winning documentary programme has been highlighting lesser-known figures, events in US history and illustrating the surprising impact on the culture and the world around it. Which is great because we’ve all seen at least 20 programmes about the moon-landing anyway. PBS invests years of research into each episode, something that no other American broadcaster is able to do, and itâs led to some unparalleled insight into the shaping of the country. Over the next month, PBS will be featuring some of showâs greatest and most uniquely American episodes.
You can find PBS on Sky (166) Virgin Media (243)
New Orleans: Friday, November 11th
Over the years New Orleans has established itself as one of the most distinctive cities in the world with a history of stunning innovation and explosive conflict. From the invention of Jazz to controversies over racial integration and Americaâs biggest party, this cityâs rich history is astonishing and its impact on the country canât be overstated. Anyone who’s seen HBO series Treme will attest to the rich vein of culture the city that gave us Louis Armstrong possesses.
The Polio Crusade: Monday, November 14th
Polio was one of the most devastating diseases to ever hit America with over 33,000 people struck down in 1950 alone and left crippled, paralyzed or relying on an iron lung. Through interviews with survivors, historians and the last living member of the research team that developed the vaccine, this episode highlights the devastation caused by Polio and the ingenuity required to stop it. Yet despite the subject matter, this is an uplifting film which highlights the determination, resourcefulness and spirit of those who battled to find a cure and save lives.
The Magnificent Voyage of Christopher Columbus: Friday, November 18th
Columbus is one of the most controversial figures in history (as we know he wanted to line his pockets by finding a new route to China) but his unintentional discovery changed the world forever. Using recreations of his famous three ship fleet, experts retrace Columbusâ steps to delve deeper into his legacy and incredible first contact with the new world.
The Mormons: Friday, November 25th & Friday, December 2nd
There are over 11 million Mormons around the world and as one of Americaâs fastest growing religions, it is often ridiculed for its subversive nature. This episode includes interviews with the religionâs leaders, apostles and historians to remove the shroud of mystery surrounding the polygamist community and reveal pioneers, patriots and dark secrets.