Pioneers of THIRTEEN – The ’70s – Bold and Fearless

Air date: 01/31/2013

The Second Episode of Pioneers of THIRTEEN Continues the 50THAnniversary Celebration of America’s Most-Watched Public Television With a Retrospective of the ’70s premiering Thursday, January 31 at 9 pm on THIRTEEN


Award-winning actress Meryl Streep narrates “The ’70s – Bold and Fearless,” exploring the second decade of THIRTEEN’s history, one that bravely defined public television through creative experimentation and political controversy


The 1970s was a decade of milestones for New York’s THIRTEEN. In its second decade of broadcasting, the flagship PBS station continued to shape what public television could and should be, creating groundbreaking programs, while furthering the careers of such young talent as musicians Al Green and Stevie Wonder; journalists Bill Moyers, Jim Lehrer, Robert MacNeil, and Andy Rooney; actors Chevy Chase, Morgan Freeman, Rita Moreno and Susan Sarandon; and artists Nam June Paik, Bill Viola, and William Wegman, among many others.

Rarely-seen clips from THIRTEEN’s rich archive are featured in Pioneers of THIRTEEN’s The ’70s – Bold and Fearless, narrated by Meryl Streep, who, in 1978, starred in THIRTEEN’s production of Wendy Wasserstein’s first play Uncommon Women and Others at the age of 28.  Pioneers of THIRTEEN The ’70s – Bold and Fearless will air Thursday, January 31, 2013 at 9 p.m. on THIRTEEN.

Told through personal stories from writers, journalists, producers, directors and actors, the 90-minute documentary chronicles the station’s iconic programming in the 1970s. Anecdotes include:

  • Sheila Nevins, now President of HBO Documentary Films, reminisces about her “most creative contribution to television” as a producer for the pioneering magazine show The Great American Dream Machine.
  • Director Stan Lathan recounts witnessing a 25 year old Al Green “blow the roof off the place” in a live performance in the THIRTEEN studio.
  • The story of the making of the real-life soap opera of the Loud family unfolding in the controversial 12-hour documentary series An American Family, named by TV Guide one of the “50 greatest TV programs ever made.”
  • The FBI pressured THIRTEEN to stop broadcast of a journalistic investigation about the Bureau’s involvement in bombing and arson. PBS cancelled the segment hours before it was to air, and THIRTEEN put 12-minutes of black on the air instead.
  • The first televised rock concerts, including previously unreleased footage of The Allman Brothers, then an unknown band.
  • Filmmaker Jon Alpert credits THIRTEEN for giving him the opportunity to prove that documentaries could be shot on inexpensive, portable video cameras: “The whole beginning of the electronic revolution of television news, home video cameras, the camera that you have in your cell phone – it all started at Channel 13.”

The ‘70s – Bold and Fearless reintroduces us to The Great American Dream Machine, an irreverent and adventurous amalgam of satire and documentary unlike anything ever seen on public television.  A young Don Mischer, famed director of such live events as the Superbowl Half Time Show and the Academy Awards, got the chance to experiment with unconventional approaches to television. Future talents Albert Brooks, Chevy Chase, Penny Marshall, Andy Rooney, and Henry Winkler are featured in surprising and original archival clips from the show.

In 1973, journalistic powerhouses Robert MacNeil and Jim Lehrer teamed up to provide unprecedented gavel-to-gavel coverage of the U.S. Senate Watergate Hearings, in what Lehrer credits as a landmark moment that made PBS a player in the field of news and public affairs. A few short years later in 1975, MacNeil and Lehrer partnered again to create The MacNeil/Lehrer Report, which continues today as the critically acclaimed news program PBS NewsHour.

In the 1970s, THIRTEEN also created an experimental arts workshop, The TV Lab, which gave such artists as Nam June Paik, Bill Viola, and William Wegman, a chance to play with the then-novel technology of video. Archival clips include Paik’s seminal collages of sight and sound; Wegman’s attempts to teach his dog Man Ray to spell; and Don Mischer’s manipulations of dance on television with dancers Twyla Tharp and Mikhail Baryshnikov.

The weekly variety show SOUL! celebrated black culture and featured in-depth interviews. The archival clips include political activist Stokely Carmichael aka Kwame Ture, sports great Muhammad Ali, literary figures Amiri Baraka and Melvin Van Peebles, and more; as well as live performances from funk, soul, jazz, and world musicians including The Delfonics, Gladys Knight, the Max Roach Quintet, and Stevie Wonder performing his first big hit Superstition.

The ’70s – Bold and Fearless also presents excerpts from Bill Moyers Journal, the current affairs program that propelled the legendary public television journalist into the national limelight; iconic interviews with such Hollywood luminaries as Richard Burton, Ingrid Bergman, Sophia Loren, and Marcello Mastroianni on The Dick Cavett Show; highlights from Realidades, the first national bilingual Latino show in the history of public television; and scenes from The Adams Chronicles, an ambitious 13-part dramatic mini-series about John Adams and his descendants, which was produced to commemorate America’s Bicentennial in 1976. The documentary features skits by comedians, Albert Brooks, John Cleese and Lily Tomlin; dance performances by the Alvin Ailey Dance Company, Martha Graham Dance Company and the New York City Ballet; and theatrical performances by then-emerging actors Samuel L. Jackson, James Earl Jones, Christopher Lloyd, Meryl Streep, Sigourney Weaver, and many others.

The ’70s – Bold and Fearless is the second episode of a four-part documentary series, Pioneers of THIRTEEN, celebrating THIRTEEN’s 50th anniversary. The remaining two episodes, The ’80s – Trusted Voice and The ’90s and Beyond – Changing Landscape, will be broadcast at quarterly intervals, the ’80s slated for June and the 90s for September. The first episode, The ’60s – Experimental Days, aired September 2012.

Pioneers of THIRTEEN is a production of THIRTEEN for WNET.  WNET is the parent company of public television stations THIRTEEN and WLIW21 and operator of NJTV. Julie Anderson is executive producer.  Charlotte Mangin and Denise A. Greene are producers. Sue Ding is associate producer.

Funding for Pioneers of THIRTEEN is provided by Rosalind P. Walter and the members of THIRTEEN.

For more information about THIRTEEN’s 50th anniversary visit:


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About WNET
In 2013, WNET is celebrating the 50th Anniversary of THIRTEEN, New York’s flagship public media provider. As the parent company of THIRTEEN and WLIW21 and operator of NJTV, WNET brings quality arts, education and public affairs programming to over 5 million viewers each week. WNET produces and presents such acclaimed PBS series as Nature, Great Performances, American Masters, Need to Know, Charlie Rose and a range of documentaries, children’s programs, and local news and cultural offerings available on air and online. Pioneers in educational programming, WNET has created such groundbreaking series as Get the Math, Oh Noah! and Cyberchase and provides tools for educators that bring compelling content to life in the classroom and at home. WNET highlights the tri-state’s unique culture and diverse communities through NYC-ARTS, Reel 13, NJ Today and MetroFocus, the multi-platform news magazine focusing on the New York region.


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