For those of us who toil at our keyboards and telephones to get the word out about Thirteen’s great programming (and it IS great by the way, so tell your friends), a recent cover story in Broadcasting & Cable was cause for pause.
In her article, “The Disappearing Critic,” Marisa Guthrie writes that
The fraternity of the nation’s television critics at daily newspapers was once a thriving milieu, dominated by a great diversity of committed voices. The critics’ opinions were sought, revered – in many cases, even feared – and blurbed in network on-air promos.
Has that era passed? “That reality has changed drastically of late as the ranks of critics have grown noticeably leaner,” Guthrie observes. “Caught in the financial turmoil roiling the newspaper industry, they have become a beleaguered lot, a growing part of the collateral damage of the digital revolution.”
Well, we know all about the digital revolution here at Thirteen (Chances are you do, too, considering what you’re doing at this very moment.) And we realize that not only is the public consuming media in new ways, but they are also choosing what to consume in different ways as well. That’s why we’ve been using the new media to get the word out. Have you seen our YouTube page? Are you a Facebook friend of Thirteen, Reel13 or SundayArts? (And why not?) Have you embedded the Nature video player on your own blog? (Well, what are you waiting for?)
So, we’re out there creating viral buzz with the best of ’em.
But we still revere the critics, too. The best ones have experience, a distinguished tradition, a commitment to telling it like is. And those are qualities we can get behind.
Take a few choice reviews from this past week:
Nature, one of PBS’ most enduring and endearing series, has a show on Sunday night that you simply should not miss if you are at all a, er, nature lover… here is a remarkable DNA revelation at the end which is as good as any reality-TV series climax you’ll see. A wonderful, remarkable show.
And if you missed The Gorilla King last night, you can catch it again Saturday, April 26 at 6 p.m.
The Christian Science Monitor in its Monitor Picks column:
A hula troupe from Hawaii, the US Olympic Synchronized Swim Team, and four choreographers and their dance companies perform among the cliffs and waterways of America’s most scenic national parks in PBS’s Dance in America (April 21, 10 p.m.) ….The show was commissioned by Wolf Trap’s Face of America. Armchair travel doesn’t get better than this.”
I have a kind of collect-them-all affection for the PBS biographical series American Masters, now in its 22nd year. . . . . Some editions are better than others, of course. . . . But most all are better than what passes for ‘biography’ on most other networks, where a couple of hit records or a popular sitcom is considered reason enough to haul a star’s old elementary school teacher in front of a video camera . . . . It takes a little more than that to become an American Master.
Thanks, guys, we’re glad you’re there.
And here’s what we propose: You keep watching us. And we’ll keep reading you.
Thirteen blogger: Kevin Lezak, freelance producer
We’re working on a special webcast for Thirteen.org visitors–a LIVE webcast from The Minimalist, aka food writer Mark Bittman, he of The Best Recipes In The World. He’ll be taking questions from the audience, so think of a good one and send it in. It’s scheduled for April 27th, and should be an event of unprecedented video spontaneity for thirteen.org, as Bittman has requested we don’t give him your submitted questions until the show starts.
I’m thrilled to be working with Thirteen and The Minimalist. Bittman’s wry wit and culinary chops to me define the New York Times palate and always whets my appetite. I always enjoy watching Mark cook, he’s funny, he’s dark, and his food is just delicious. He does not go easy on substitutions, he’s the real deal, and has a great way about the kitchen. His no-BS approach is going to be gangbusters live on the web. I’m wanting people to ask him tough questions, let him know if they’ve tried his recipes and how they’ve worked, especially if they didn’t.
There’s some time between now and next Sunday, I’d encourage you to go try one out in your New York City kitchen. Mine’s small, but I still pull off a great garlic butter reduction over a filet, and can do a bananas foster in a pinch. A good question for Bittman: What’s the tinest kitchen he’s ever worked in?
It should be a fun night. We’re going to be eating, talking about little-known NY dining secrets and recipes. And Mark live is going to be a wild card.
Thirteen blogger: Neal Shapiro, President
Welcome to the new and improved thirteen.org.
From today on, thirteen.org will do all the great things that can be done online, including:
* Provide daily updates on our program websites, connecting our broadcast programs with local and world events, further informing the stories told on the air.
* Contain your contributions, through comments, and later, ratings. We want you to share your insights with us and with other viewers as much as we want to share our programs with you.
* Most importantly, thirteen.org will house a large and growing library of online video so you can more easily watch your favorite programs whenever you like.
The site is in beta, which really means this is a work in progress! (And with your ongoing support, we will continually improve it to suit your needs. So please contact us to share your comments and suggestions.
Today’s redesign is only the beginning of many exciting changes in store on Thirteen.org. Over the coming weeks, months, and years, we will be posting the latest broadcast programs, adding fascinating content from the WNET archives that hasn’t been publicly available for years (even decades), and creating new programs that can only be found online (The NY Philharmonic in North Korea and upcoming Mark Bittman live webcast are just the tip of this iceberg!).
Please enjoy your visit, and come back soon, there’ll always be something new on thirteen.org!
You can see this same post in new surroundings here….
The optimum screen resolution for thirteen.org is 1024×768
Thirteen blogger: Neal Shapiro, President
Last night we held an extraordinary event to pay tribute to an extraordinary man.
The occasion was Thirteen and WLIW’s Annual Gala Salute, and the man was the one and only Bill Baker.
Many of our city’s most illustrious figures were in attendance at Manhattan’s Gotham Hall to honor Bill, our newly minted President Emeritus, who has devoted the last 20 years to the mission of public television.
Journalist Bill Moyers, serving as the evening’s host, summoned the kind of inspiring tribute that only he is capable of. And Bill Baker was saluted in song by Frank Sinatra School of the Arts Chamber Singers and the incomparable Tony Bennett. There was also a fantastic video featuring Bill’s friends, colleagues and beloved family.
Every year the Annual Gala Salute inspires New York’s philanthropic community to come together to support New York’s public television stations. I’m delighted to report that we exceeded our goal this year, raising more than $2.6 million for the programming and educational projects that make our work so valued by so many.
Among the many generous donors cited by our dynamic Chairman Jim Tisch were two Chairmen Emeritus: Henry Kravis, whose energy and expertise were critical in building our financial base, and Steve Rattner, whose vision helped build our distribution base, which now includes two analog channels, seven digital channels and services, and numerous Web sites.
So much planning goes into this annual event, and it really showed last night. A huge round of applause goes to Hilary Vlachos and her team, and to everyone at Thirteen and WLIW who contributed to making the evening such a success.
Postscript: Bill Baker is off to Berlin for a few months to share his expertise in the academic setting. When he returns, he’ll be spending some time teaching at some of the country’s most prestigious universities. But he’ll also be around the station, working on some special projects. And even when he isn’t in the building, his commitment and enthusiasm will always be with us.
images: Joe Schildhorn/PatrickMcMullan.com
Thirteen blogger: The Thirteenth (Vickie Karp, Director of Creative Services)
Hundreds of years ago, way, way before television, Basho and other poets wrote renga–the syllabic group-blog of its day. An ancient Japanese poetry form better known as a shared poem, the renga is an ongoing conversation in verse, in which each poet adds a few lines and passes it on. Not quite like any conversation you or I have ever had, you count the syllables per line–fives and sevens–with slight variations allowed if your accountant knows how to phrase it to the IRS.
Now, in honor of National Poetry Month, PBS, and viewers like you, the Thirteenth launches “Television–A Renga.” After all, dear reader, it’s not about the tote bag. Our renga on television continues virtually forever, so do send me one if you like. I’ll read as many as I can without getting depressed, and select a few for appearance in The Thirteenth over the coming months. Or a nameless intern will take a break from writing his or her screenplay, read some, and help post them. Don’t be afraid to be serious or really good. It happens. But do keep it to a few lines of fives and sevens on Thirteen, public television, and television in general.
I’m still hoping to hear from Indrek Tart in Siberia, who once sent me a fan letter in Russian Cyrillic. At least I think it was a fan letter. Indrek, if you see this, please send your contribution to the television renga asap.
Television: A Renga — Help Desk
According to Jonah Lehrer, author of “Proust Was a Neuroscientist,” your brains and your feelings are vitally connected, so not to worry if you get a little emotional. Even Mussolini wrote a romance novel. Dorothy Parker, in her review, merely said “You Duce, you!”
The Jews of New York makes a complete five-syllable line. Pledge, tote bag, Jews of New York makes a strikingly dull seven. Great Performances. Five. Long live Sunday Arts. Five. Cable and network pale by comparison? Too many syllables.
But if all three million of you decide to use these suggestions, the renga will get a little repetitive. How about your favorite sea creature from Nature or your fictional account of how Charlie Rose got his black eye? Oh, wait, I see the prescient Garrison Keillor has captured that moment in time without even reading my directions, so make that a sea creature and hurry.
We also have David Lehman, famous editor of The Best American Poetry series and author of dozens of books including the just-released Poetry Forum (and excellent blog!). We have our own Hugh Siegel who can watch Sesame Street in both English and Spanish, the magnificent Isaiah Sheffer, whom you know from Selected Shorts on NPR and who is Artistic Director at Symphony Space in NYC, and the redoubtable Roy Blount, Jr., of NPR’s Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me, and author of more than 20 books.
And Fran Richey, author of the beautiful and just-released poetry book, The Warrior: A Mother’s Story of a Son At War wrote some perfect lines about the Hudson River and then went on book tour before I could tell her there are no television sets, at least not any working television sets, in the Hudson River. So she’ll turn up later with some lines on tv. I’ve asked Thirteen’s program guide illustrator and New Yorker cartoonist Arnie Levin to contribute, but he’s tired after drawing last month’s suspenders for Neal Shapiro.
Free Advice–writing about Jane Austen does not make you Jane Austen, but feel the fear and do it anyway. Have I forgotten anything? Oh yes, here’s the poem …
Television Renga – The World Premiere
Charlie Rose appeared
One night with a big shiner
And did not explain
Who or what hit him
Thinking this too trivial
For public TV
And allowed women
To think him heroic but
In fact he fell down.
– Garrison Keillor, April 2008
The Foresight Saga
With foresight I fell in love
with Fleur before she blossomed;
a masterpiece of
Susan Hampshire’s blonde good looks
-David Lehman, April 2008
March of the Penguins, good flick,
But how do penguins do it?
“Nature” is brutal
But sometimes also cozy
With kangaroo love
The movie failed to show this.
As television would have.
- Isaiah Sheffer, April 2008
Two Haiku for Talking Heads
In the races, race
And gender are introduced:
“Hi, Color.” “Hi, Sex.”
Meanwhile pundits, aides,
Ads and candidates are all
- Roy Blount, Jr., April 2008
Let us revisit
Days we spent at Brideshead with
Let’s clap, too, for John Gielgud,
Who always made me feel good.
– David Lehman, April 2008
Elmo, well, you know,
like Cookie you are to me
Just lookie. You see?
You’re just a Sésamo,
and it’s all the things you know:
letras y números.
Get me off this couch,
big star that you are, Oscar.
You’re really not a . . ..
No place is as neat.
It’s my way or the calle,
when I’m on that street.
– Hugh Siegel, April 2008
I ask you to pause
And think about your channels
And your destiny.
Meaning. Structure. Poise.
Can’t we all use more of them …
And yes, a tote bag?
– T.T., April 2008
Come back May 13th, when The Thirteenth returns with more of the renga, Arnie Levin’s illustration for the perfect public tv dinner, an exclusive interview with Proust entitled “What Proust Would Have Said About Public Television, Had He Lived.” And Martin Low, so glad you liked the suspenders.
Thirteen blogger: Irene Tejaratchi, Nature producer
The variety of mating behaviors found in nature are plentiful, and it’d be foolhardy to think there’s one sure-shot way to succeed in the seduction game–what works for one species may not work for another. Actually, the behaviors of the cast of characters in Nature’s “What Females Want and Males Will Do” are so varied and dazzling they might distract viewers from some of the subtler themes in the show. So I thought I’d point out a couple of my observations here:Last year, while “What Females Want and Males Will Do” was in still in production, news broke out about groundbreaking research being conducted by biologist Patricia Brennan on the sexual anatomy/behavior of certain duck species. Naturally Brennan had to be featured in the show! Without giving much away (tune in on Sunday for the racy details), I will say that Brennan decided, instead of focusing solely on male duck anatomy as other researchers had previously done, she was going to research the females’. The results have led to an unprecedented, fascinating understanding of how some female duck species may be involved in the mating process.
What intrigues me about this particular segment of “What Females Want and What Males Will Do” is not only the research but the more subtle notion that scientific research is not always exhaustive, and can be limited by the predilections of researchers. It took Brennan to come along and research the neglected half of a very complicated equation.
Thirteen blogger: Neal Shapiro, President
It may be cloudy outside but in the hallway of Thirteen, I just ran into a ray of sunshine.
How’s that for a transition to Janice Huff, meteorologist for WNBC and NBC Weekend Today?
I’ve known her for years and off camera she’s as nice as you’d imagine she is. We caught up in audioroom B, where she was recording her lines for Stormy Gale, a character in Cyberchase. Stormy is a weatherborg from cybersite Gollywood… she’s got flashy lightning bolt earrings and, instead of having legs, she floats around on a cloud.
Stormy appears in two special weather-themed shows that will hit the air a year from now, in April 2009. In one of her first programs, Stormy helps the CyberSquad (and viewers like you) use math to figure out when fog forms. (If you’re wondering “Where’s the math in fog?” I’ll tell you. It’s in the measurement you do to keep track of air temperature and humidity, and it’s in the reasoning you do to predict when fog will form.)
Like many of the other well-known personalities who do voiceover work for this program, Janice loves how much Cyberchase empowers young people–especially girls–to be more confident in math. (Christopher Lloyd [Hacker] and Gilbert Gottfried [Digit] star in the series, and other guest voices have included Tony Hawk, Jane Curtin, Al Roker, Philip Bosco, Jasmine Guy, Bebe Neuwirth and Danica McKellar.)
When Janice was younger, before she knew a cold front from a cumulonimbus cloud, she loved the theater. I listened as she recorded her lines, and it’s clear she channels her early theatrical passion.
What’s the difference between a forecast and her work on Cyber-
chase? “When you do the weather, you just get one shot at it,” she said. “When I do Cyberchase, I can do it until I get it perfectly.”
Oh…and one more difference. Weather forecasts come and go, but Cyberchase will live on…on the air, online and in children’s imaginations.
Thirteen blogger: Maura B. Thompson
This week Cyberchase has a very special appearance from John Maine of the New York Mets on Friday, April 11. The honor? Because Maine can help connect math and baseball for Cyberchase viewers–he’s one of many we’ve worked with to draw real-world parallels and experiences into the process of learning math.
As I wrote in last month’s blog entry, Dan Flockhart is one of the presenters I wish I had seen at Thirteen’s Teaching and Learning Celebration. Dan is the man behind Fantasy Sports and Math, a really cool math curriculum that engages children using baseball, soccer, football, and basketball math.
Math & Sports is but one of the new Outreach tools on our belt. For each of Cyberchase’s thematic initiatives we create an activity kit that contains a DVD with episodes specific to that theme, and a CD-Rom with activities that extend the educational message. This year we had two thematic initiatives, Builders’ Math and Math & Sports. For both initiatives we asked educators to pre-register so we could send the kits out as soon as they arrived at Thirteen. Both kits have presented us with quite a good problem…we “sold out” of our free kits in a matter of days! So what is an educator that uses Cyberchase resources to do? Have no fear; Cyberchase Math & Sports (and Builder’s Math) activities and games are online! What we can give away physically, we have made available virtually.
The Cyberchase Outreach team trains our partners at conferences and events nationwide. The American Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance AAHPERD … try saying that five times and fast … is our newest partner; they joined us specifically for the Math & Sports initiative. We have been to both a state conference in Connecticut and a regional conference in Rhode Island.
This month, however, we joined the big leagues at the national conference in Texas. As I type, two Cyberchase Outreach staff members are training AAHPERD conference attendees. Our trainings include an introduction to Cyberchase, a preview of Math & Sports episodes and how to facilitate our Math & Sports activities. Our team truly enjoys these opportunities to interact with educators that use Cyberchase to teach math.
Tune in (online!) and train to become a “mathlete”!
Thirteen Blogger: Andrew Yamato, Life After Broadcast (LAB)
Before coming to Thirteen, I’d worked as a curator aboard New York City’s own aircraft carrier—the Intrepid Sea Air Space Museum—so I was very excited to hear about the new 10-part PBS series Carrier, shot over six months aboard the nuclear carrier USS Nimitz during its 2005 deployment to the Persian Gulf.
The series airs nationwide from April 27th through May 2nd, but as part of Thirteen’s outreach effort for the series, we held a sneak preview screening of the series’ first episode for our Educator Members on Tuesday, March 25th. This was an audience in many cases coming straight from the classroom, so we served up some hearty chow before dimming the lights (including some MRE desserts which, judging from the leftovers, our guests found about as appetizing as our servicemen and women do!) From the first scenes of Nimitz’s crew bidding farewell to loved ones in their home port of San Diego, it was clear that Carrier would be less about a ship than about its shipmates. With unprecedented access to young men and women serving far from home in a controversial war, and the screen time to really to tell their stories, Carrier sets a new benchmark for “reality” television.
The focus on humanity rather than hardware extended into a lively post-screening discussion and Q&A featuring a special guest panel: Carrier producers Deborah Dickson and Jeff Dupre shared their recollections of having shot over 2000 hours of footage during Nimitz’s six month deployment; Lt. Suzanna Brugler fielded questions about today’s U.S. Navy, drawing on her own experience aboard the carrier USS Ronald Reagan; and a couple of old friends of mine, former USS Intrepid crewmembers Ray Stone and Bob Dougherty, described how life was different—and not so different—aboard aircraft carriers during WWII and the Cold War.
With insightful observations coming from both the panel and the audience, we were sorry to have to cut the conversation short, but the evening was appropriately rounded out with a preview of Thirteen’s new Carrier website, which invites sailors past and present to share their written or videotaped recollections of life aboard America’s fighting ships.
Thirteen blogger: Neal Shapiro, President
I’m writing on my Blackberry on Sunday night from table 7, one of the two tables we have here at the 51st Annual New York Emmy awards. For some reason, one of our tables is way in front and one is at the back.
There are dozens and dozens of Emmy categories. In some of them, like the category which included “Topless Car Wash”, there is no place for us.
There was a bit of last-second behind-the-scenes drama here involving our excellent production “Setting The Stage.”
To be quite candid, there was some confusion about who might accept the award if we won. At first, we thought Lynn Redgrave would accept because she was the host of the series, but she had a previous commitment, and had emailed me something to read on her behalf.
I wanted the producer Margi Kerns to accept and read Lynn’s statement, but she was at our table in the back of the room.
Just as they began the introduction to our category, two colleagues at my table raced to back of the room to find Margi’s table.
So, what would we do? Who would go up to the podium and accept the award, Margi or me?
There were seconds to go. I was gathering my thoughts, wondering what to do if Margi and I both arrived at the podium at the same time.
Would she talk? Would I? Would the audience pick up on this last-second glitch?
My heart was racing as I heard, “And the winner is…”
The envelope was opened.
And the Emmy went to…”Nuttin’ But Stringz” from the MSG Network.
Oh well, I can thank my family another time.
Meanwhile, at 8:20 pm, back at table seven, we are 0-4.
8:30 pm Yea! We win our first Emmy for “Keeping Kids Healthy.”
9:01 pm Uh oh! It turns out “Setting The Stage” is also nominated as an interview series. Am I supposed to accept this one? Does Lynn Redgrave’s statement apply to this award?
9:02 pm Turns out there’s no reason to panic. The award went to another production.
9:05 pm. Yippee! Loud cheers from table 7 as Thirteen’s “NY Voices” won for Best Magazine Program….our second Emmy of the night!
9:36 pm Wait a second. Lynn Redgrave, from our “Setting The Stage” is nominated in the category of best host.
Now, what did I do with that acceptance speech?
9:37 pm “And the winner is…” The Emmy host fumbles with the envelope. Is my speech on the table? Did I put it in my program?
9:38 “…Lynn Redgrave”. Thunderous applause as I reach inside my inside jacket pocket–phew!–make my way to the podium, and calmly read Lynn’s gracious note, thanking the Thirteen and the Academy–just like I planned it!
We are very proud of all our nominees. The long list includes the producers and hosts for “New York Voices”, “What’s Up in Finance”, “Setting the Stage”, “Keeping Kids Healthy”, and our on-air promos. Check out the complete list below. They are all winners in my book.
Thirteen/WNET’s 2008 New York Emmy Award Nominations
Goodnight Alice. July 20, 2007. (Thirteen/WNET). Bob Morris, Producer.
ARTS: Program Feature/Segment
Thirteen Setting the Stage: Killin’ Jazz at Lincoln Center with Wynton Marsalis. April 6, 2007. (Thirteen/WNET). Margi Kerns, Executive Producer; Marta Rangel Gibbons, Senior Producer/Writer; Edward Goldberg, Editor; Martha Griffin, Line Producer.
What Makes it Great? December 15, 2006. (Thirteen/WNET). Bob Morris, Producer.
The 1977 Blackout: Thirty Years Later. July 13, 2007. (Thirteen/WNET). Jim Epstein, Producer.
What’s Up in Finance? April 1, 2007. (Thirteen/WNET). Jill Peters, Executive Producer; Naomi Edelson, Arash Hoda, Producers; Edward Goldberg, Editor.
Green Buildings. November 17, 2006. (Thirteen/WNET). Suzanne Glickstein, Producer.
Greenpoint v. Exxon Mobil. May 11, 2007. (Thirteen/WNET). Suzanne Glickstein, Producer.
HEALTH/SCIENCE: Program Feature/Segment
Keeping Kids Healthy—Glycogen Storage Disease: An Endless Vigil. October 15, 2005. (Thirteen/WNET). Susan Berger Sabreen, Rich Sabreen, Executive Producers; A. Thomas Tebbens, Executive in Charge of Production; Rob Sweren, Producer; Dr. Winnie King, Host; Heidi Schlatter, Editor; Gary Bramnick, Resources Producer.
Keeping Kids Healthy—Friedreich’s Ataxia: Living Life “Pretty Well”. August 31, 2007. (Thirteen/WNET). Susan Berger Sabreen, Rich Sabreen, Executive Producers; A. Thomas Tebbens, Executive in Charge of Production; Tami Yaeger, Producer; Dr. Winnie King, Host; Heidi Schlatter, Editor; Daniel McCarthy, Unit Manager; Gary Bramnick, Resources Producer.
The Battle for Brooklyn. October 26, 2006. (Thirteen/WNET). Jim Epstein, Producer.
SOCIETAL CONCERNS: Program/Special
Clearing the Air. September 15, 2006. (Thirteen/WNET). Bob Morris, Julie Leonard, Producers.
New York Voices. September 11, 2006. (Thirteen/WNET). Rafael Pi Roman, Host.
Thirteen Setting the Stage: Interview with David Rockwell, “Spectacle”. April 6, 2007. (Thirteen/WNET). Margi Kerns, Executive Producer/Director; Jed Parker, Co-Director/Editor; Marta Rangel Gibbons, Senior Producer/Writer; Martha Griffin, Line Producer.
New York Voices. September 11, 2006. (Thirteen/WNET). John DeNatale, Executive Producer.
COMMUNITY/PUBLIC SERVICE (PSAs): Single Spot, Campaign
RMA Friday Night K2 Promo. February 15, 2007. (Thirteen/WNET). Felicia van Os, Project Creative Director; Mara Posner, Senior Producer; George Motz, Director of Photography; Margi Kerns, Thirteen Creative Director.
PROMOTION: Program Promo – Sports, Image-Station
Thirteen HD: You Can’t Turn Away! May 25, 2007. (Thirteen/WNET). Margi Kerns, Executive Producer/Director; David Chomowicz, Project Creative Director; Jed Parker, Editor; Joshua E. Cohen, Line Producer.
ON-CAMERA TALENT: Program Host/Moderator
Lynn Redgrave. April 6, 2007. (Thirteen/WNET). Thirteen Setting the Stage.
Rafael Pi Roman. September 11, 2006. (Thirteen/WNET). Composite.
DIRECTOR: Post Production
Margi Kerns and Jed Parker. April 6, 2007. (Thirteen/WNET). Thirteen Setting the Stage – Ballet Hispanico/Rockwell.