Best Shows to Watch if You Love Books

Christina Knight | May 3, 2018

Updated for July

If the one thing that can tear you away from reading a book is a great show about literature, then get your bookmark ready for a new eight-part series about the power of books and the joy of reading.

The Great American Read (premiered May 22), uncovers America’s 100 most-loved novels and the people who love them, including prominent authors and guests. In additon to streaming its two-hour premiere, THIRTEEN will present film adaptations of beloved classic novels as well as documentaries on literary giants. Keep track of the best shows to watch on THIRTEEN with this schedule of literary programs for book lovers. Don’t forget to share your favorite novel with us.

July Broadcasts

Poldark Season 2 – Masterpiece

Dezmelda and Ross Poldark

Dezmelda and Ross Poldark in Season 3 of the Masterpiece drama.

The 18th-century character Poldark was born in a series of historical novels by Winston Graham, published from 1945 to 1953 and again between 1973 and 2002. Now it is a hit drama on Masterpiece. In advance of the new Season 4 premiere on September 30, THIRTEEN re-airs Poldark Seasons 2 and 3 in July and August. Aidan Turner (The Hobbit) stars as Ross Poldark, a redcoat who returns to Cornwall after battle to discover that his father is dead, his lands are ruined, and his true love is engaged to another. Can Poldark change his destiny, restore his lost fortune, and reclaim his love? Ross sets out to rebuild his life, seeking to reopen his father’s tin mine, to employ the starving villagers, to whom Ross is the people’s nobleman. Elizabeth and Demelza compete for Ross’ heart, and George seeks to ruin Ross’ life at every turn.

Prime time: Sundays in July, 8 p.m.
Late night: Mondays in July, 2:30 or 3:30 a.m. (see Schedule)
Streaming: THIRTEEN members who have activated the member benefit THIRTEEN Passport can stream all three seasons of Polark now.

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American Masters – Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise

The author of I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings is the subject of Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise, winner of the 2017 Peabody Award for excellence in documentary filmmaking. With unprecedented access, filmmakers Bob Hercules and Rita Coburn Whack trace Dr. Angelou’s incredible journey, shedding light on the untold aspects of her life through never-before-seen footage, rare archival photographs and videos and her own words. From her upbringing in the Depression-era South and her early performing career (1957’s Miss Calypso album and Calypso Heat Wave film, Jean Genet’s 1961 play The Blacks) to her work with Malcolm X in Ghana and her many writing successes, including her inaugural poem for President Bill Clinton, American Masters – Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise reveals hidden facets of her life during some of America’s most defining moments.

The film also features exclusive interviews with Dr. Angelou, her friends and family, including Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, Common, Alfre Woodard, Cicely Tyson, Quincy Jones, Hillary Clinton, Louis Gossett, Jr., John Singleton, Diahann Carroll, Valerie Simpson, Random House editor Bob Loomis and Dr. Angelou’s son, Guy Johnson.

Explore some of Dr. Angelou’s books here.

Day time: Saturday, July 14, 2pm

August Broadcasts

Poldark Seasons 2 and 3 – Masterpiece

Season 2 culminates on August 12 with war, an enraged mob and a fateful reunion. The eight episodes of Season 3 begin August 19 with two consecutive episodes each Sunday night until the finale in which tables are turned, feelings are revealed and a vow is taken.

Prime time: Season 2 – Sundays 8 p.m. with Season 2 finale August 12. Season 3 starts August 19 with two episodes every Sunday at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m.
Late night: Mondays in August at 1, 2 or 3 a.m. (see Schedule)
Streaming: THIRTEEN members who have activated the member benefit THIRTEEN Passport can stream all three seasons of Polark now.

Sherlock Season 4 on Masterpiece – The Six Thatchers

The mercurial Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) is back once more on British soil, as Doctor Watson (Martin Freeman) and his wife, Mary (Amanda Abbington), prepare for their biggest challenge yet: becoming parents. Though set in the present-day, the series is inspired by the classic detective series written by Arthur Conan Doyle, first published in a collection of short stories in 1892.

Prime time: Sunday August 5 at 9 p.m.
Late night: Monday, August 6 at 1 a.m.
Streaming: THIRTEEN members who have activated the member benefit THIRTEEN Passport can stream the episode at any time.

Reel 13: Classics: Oliver! (1968)

Based on Charles Dickens’ novel Oliver Twist, this film is an adaptation of the stage musical of the same name, with book, music and lyrics written by Lionel Bart. The screenplay was written by Vernon Harris.

Prime time: Sunday August 11 at 9 p.m.
Late night: Monday, August 12 at 1:30 a.m.

Sherlock Season 4 on Masterpiece – The Lying Detective

Toby Jones as Culverton Smith in Sherlock

Toby Jones as Culverton Smith in Sherlock, Season 4 “The Lying Detective”. Courtesy of Ollie Upton/Hartswood Films & MASTERPIECE.

In episode two Sherlock, Season 4, Sherlock faces perhaps the most chilling enemy of his long career: the powerful and seemingly unassailable Culverton Smith (Toby Jones), a man with a very dark secret indeed. Benedict Cumberbatch returns as Sherlock Holmes, with Martin Freeman as John Watson, Mark Gatiss as Mycroft Holmes, Rupert Graves as Inspector Lestrade.

Prime time: Sunday August 12 at 9 p.m.
Late night: Monday, August 13 at 1 a.m.

The Remains of the Day (1993)

Emma Thompson and Anthony Hopkins in promotional image for the film Remains of the Day

Emma Thompson and Anthony Hopkins in promotional image for the film Remains of the Day.

Devotees of Downton Abbey should not miss Reel 13 Classics: The Remains of the Day on Saturday, June 9. Nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actor (Anthony Hopkins) and Best Actress (Emma Thompson), this stellar film directed by James Ivory was adapted from the Booker Prize-winning 1989 novel by Kazuo Ishiguro.

Butler Stevens (Anthony Hopkins) is fastidious in his care-taking duties in the manor house of aristocrat Lord Darlington, for whom he maintains loyal devotion. Stevens’ foil is the new housekeeper, Miss Kenton (Emma Thompson), who arrives in the mid-1930s and attempts to establish a personal relationship with him, even a romantic one. But Stevens is all work and no play, incapable of acknowledging his own emotions in any aspect of his life. His pride in his work and association with Lord Darlington is deeply undercut when the reputation of the aristocrat, a Nazi sympathizer, is ruined during World War II.

Ishiguro was awarded the 2017 Nobel Prize in Literature, being cited by the Swedish Academy as a writer “who, in novels of great emotional force, has uncovered the abyss beneath our illusory sense of connection with the world.” That citation certainly speaks to his novel and this film.

Prime time: August 25, 9 p.m.
Late night: August 26, 1 a.m.

June Broadcasts

The Remains of the Day (1993)

(See description above, in August).
Prime time: June 9, 9-11:20 p.m.
Late night: June 9, 12:50-3:10 a.m.

Northanger Abbey

Northanger Abbey is English author Jane Austen’s gentle parody of gothic fiction– the first novel she completed, in 1803, but first published posthumously in 1817. In the film adaptation, Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything) plays the romance addict Catherine Morland. Invited to a medieval country house that appeals to her most lurid fantasies, she forms a close friendship with the younger son on the estate, Henry Tilney (JJ Feild of Captain America), but their budding romance is mysteriously cut short. Jane Austen’s book Pride and Prejudice (1813) is on The Great American Read’s list of America’s 100 best-loved novels.

Prime time: June 10, 8-9:35 p.m.
Late night: June 11, 1-2:35 a.m.
Streaming: THIRTEEN members who have activated the member benefit THIRTEEN Passport can stream Northanger Abbey now.

Death Comes to Pemberley

The Masterpiece murder mystery imagines life six years into the marriage of Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet, characters from Jane Austen’s timeless classic, Pride and Prejudice (1813). However this is not a Jane Austen book adaptation; that credit goes to crime writer P.D. James, who pays homage to Austen in the bestselling whodunit. There are plenty of familiar faces in Death Comes to Pemberley, including Matthew Rhys (The Americans, The Post) as Mr. Darcy and Anna Maxwell Martin (The Bletchley Circle) as Elizabeth Bennet. Ginger-haired James Norton (Grantchester) plays Henry Alveston, who is wooing Darcy’s sister Georgiana, played by Eleanor Tomlinson, whom we’ve come to know as the red-haired Demelza in Poldark. Elizabeth’s sisters include Lydia, played by Jenna Coleman (the queen herself in Victoria).

Prime time marathon: June 10, 9:35-11 p.m. Part 1 and 11 p.m.-12:30 a.m. Part 2
Late night marathon: June 11, 2:35-4 a.m. Part 1 and 4-5:30 a.m. Part 2
Streaming: THIRTEEN members who have activated the member benefit THIRTEEN Passport can stream Death Comes to Pemberley now.

Poldark – Masterpiece, Season 2

The benevolent and unlucky tin mine owner Poldark is the invention of author Winston Graham (1908 – 2003), who wrote 12 Poldark novels between 1945 and 2002, all set on the coast of Cornwall in England. Poldark on Masterpiece stars Aidan Turner as Ross Poldark. Season 2 picks up moments after the Season 1 cliffhanger which, coincidentally, took place on an actual cliff. Ross Poldark is dragged away to Truro jail on trumped up charges of wrecking and murder as his wife Demelza (Eleanor Tomlinson) sobs.

Prime time: Episode 1 June 17, 7-9 p.m.; Episode 2 June 24, 8-9 p.m.
Late night: Episode 1 June 18, 3-5 a.m.; Episode 2 June 25, 2:30-3:30 a.m.
Streaming: THIRTEEN members who have activated the member benefit THIRTEEN Passport can stream three seasons of Poldark now.

Miss Marple

Julia McKenzie plays Miss Marple on episodes of Miss Marple on Masterpiece Mystery!

Julia McKenzie plays Miss Marple on episodes of Miss Marple on Masterpiece Mystery!

The great mystery writer Agatha Christie is the most widely published author of all time, outsold only by the Bible and her fellow English countryman Shakespeare! Her fictional character Miss Marple is an elderly, unmarried woman who features in 12 of Christie’s crime novels and in 20 short stories. Miss Marple (played by Julia McKenzie on Masterpiece Mystery! adaptations) often finds herself at the center of trouble — a witness to betrayals, poisonings and all manner of mayhem. Knitting needles in hand and a cup of tea always at the ready, Marple quietly earns confidence while uncovering secrets and exposing killers. On June 17, THIRTEEN airs the Masterpiece Mystery! installment Miss Marple Season 7: Greenshaw’s Folly. Greenshaw’s Folly is one of Christie’s short stories. The author appears on The Great American Read list with her novel And Then There Were None.

Late night: June 17, 11 p.m.-12:30 a.m.

The Thin Man (1934)

Promotional still for the 1934 film The Thin Man starring William Powell, Myrna Loy and dog Asta (Skippy).

Stay in Saturday night for Reel 13 Classics: The Thin Man (1934). Nominated for four Oscars, the light-hearted whodunit centers on detective Nick Charles (William Powell) and his wealthy wife Nora (Myrna Loy) as they investigate a murder case, mostly for the fun of it. The film is one of six in the Thin Man series, which was born from a single story by crime writer Dashiell Hammett, originally published in the December 1933.

Prime time: June 23, 9-10:50 p.m.
Late night: 12:40-2:30 a.m.

May Broadcasts and Streaming

Little Women on Masterpiece (2018)

Little Women, the classic novel by American author Louisa May Alcott, is on the list of America’s 100 most-loved novels. An immediate success when it was first published in 1868, three years after the Civil War ended, the novel follows sisters Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy March as they grow from children into young women. Alcott based the Marches on her own sisters, and Jo – a writer who resists society’s expectations of a young woman – on herself.

The film adaptation Little Women on Masterpiece starring Emily Watson, Michael Gambon and Angela Lansbury airs on two consecutive Sundays.

Prime time:
May 13, 8-9 p.m. Part 1 and May 20, 8-10 p.m. Part 2
Late night: May 14, 1-2 a.m. Part 1 and May 21, 1-3 a.m. Part 2
Streaming: Stream episodes for two weeks after broadcast. THIRTEEN members who have activated the member benefit THIRTEEN Passport can stream the entire production for a longer period, starting May 13.

The Age of Innocence (1993)

Michelle Pfeiffer and Daniel Day Lewis in a scene from the film The Age of Innocence.

Michelle Pfeiffer and Daniel Day Lewis in a scene from the film The Age of Innocence.

Stay in for the movies on Saturday nights. The broadcast-only program Reel 13 Classics brings the Oscar-winning 1993 film adaptation of Edith Wharton’s novel The Age of Innocence (1920). Known for detailing the careful manners and bad behavior of upper crust society, Wharton set the love story and societal critique in 1870s New York City. Directed by Martin Scorsese, the film won the Academy Award for Best Costume Design, and was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Winona Ryder), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Score and Best Art Direction. Other stars include Daniel Day-Lewis, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Miriam Margolyes.

Prime time: May 19, 9-11:25 p.m.
Late night: May 19, 1:10-3:35 a.m.

Married Life (2007)

Film still from the film Married Life.

Film still from the film Married Life.

The plot of this film adaptation: An adulterous man schemes to murder his wife instead of putting her through a divorce. The tale of marital infidelity and criminal responses to desire was originally born in the mind of an international spy. British crime writer John Bingham once worked for MI5, the security service of the United Kingdom, before becoming an author. He himself served as the inspiration for his MI5 co-worker John Le Carre’s famous character, George Smiley. Though little known today, Bingham’s novel Five Roundabouts to Heaven (1953) was adapted into The Tender Poisoner for The Alfred Hitchcock Hour in 1962 and into Married Life (2007), starring Patricia Clarkson, Chris Cooper, Rachel McAdams and Pierce Brosnan.

The film airs on Saturday night’s Reel 13 Indies. On the Reel 13 site, you can watch short films, check the schedule, read the blog, and share your thoughts and critiques with other film fans.

Prime time: May 19, 11:25 p.m.-1:05 a.m.
Late night: May 20, 3:35-5:15 a.m.

Louisa May Alcott: American Masters

Louisa May Alcott: American Masters

Louisa May Alcott: American Masters

The author of Little Women was raised among reformers and Transcendentalists, an intellectual protege of Emerson and Hawthorne and Thoreau. Alcott was a free thinker with democratic ideals and progressive values about women – a worldly careerist of sorts. Most surprising is that she led, under the pseudonym A.M. Barnard, a literary double life, penning scandalous, sensational works featuring murderers, cross-dressers, and opium addicts. Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women, the American Masters documentary and dramatization starring Elizabeth Marvel (Homeland, House of Cards) and featuring Jane Alexander, tells the story of this remarkable woman’s quest to rescue her family from poverty and to find wealth, fame and happiness for herself.

Prime time: May 20, 10:05-11:35 p.m.
Late night: May 21, 3-4:30 a.m.
Streaming: Stream now through June 17, 2018. THIRTEEN members who have activated the member benefit THIRTEEN Passport can stream for a longer period.

Orchard House: Home of Little Women

Orchard House

Orchard House, the home of the Alcott family in Concord, Massachusetts.

Orchard House is the 350-year-old home in Concord, Massachusetts where Louisa May Alcott wrote Little Women in 1868. She labored at the novel at a desk that her father made especially for her. Hosted by Orchard House Executive Director Jan Turnquist, this documentary combines archival photographs, excerpts from personal papers, and interviews with scholars and fans to reveal the powerful historical, literary, and very human elements of this home and the people who lived there. While you’re reading Little Women from The Great American Read list, you can visit Orchard House, a National Historic Landmark, on a guided a tour.

Late night: May 20, 11:35 p.m.-12:05 a.m.; May 21, 4:30-5 a.m.

The Great American Read: Kick Off

Hosted by 14-time Emmy Award-winning host Meredith Vieira, this literary series explores the power of reading, told through the prism of America’s 100 best-loved novels. Topics investigated include how and why writers create their fictional worlds, how we as readers are affected by these stories, and what these 100 different books have to say about our diverse nation and our shared human experience. The eight-part series kicks off May 22, giving you plenty of time to read up on its featured book titles before returning for seven weekly episodes on September 11. Stay up to date with literary programs and events between May and October on THIRTEEN’s Great American Read page.

Prime time: May 22, 8-10 p.m. and May 27, 9:30-11:30 p.m.
Late night: May 23, 1-3 a.m.
Streaming: Stream now.

This page on THIRTEEN’s schedule of literary programs for book lovers will be updated regularly as part of The Great American Read. See our Schedule page for our entire broadcast schedule.