Leandro’s Don’t-Miss List: December 2018

Leandro Mejia | December 5, 2018

Inbar Algov Kaplan and children in Hanukkah: Festival of Delights.

Inbar Algov Kaplan and children in Hanukkah: Festival of Delights.

Make this a December to remember with this merry medley of media! WNET’s very own Leandro Mejia, a self-proclaimed public media superfan, writes a monthly column of his must-see recommendations on THIRTEEN. Check out his suggestions for new and encore programs you won’t want to miss. And if you want to expand your vocabulary, click on the hyperlinked words for a definition.


‘Tis the season for trees…and trains! Pardon the hackneyed cliche, but all aboard for Treasures of New York: Holiday Train Show (now streaming) to take an insider’s look look at how a New York Botanical Garden’s Holiday Train Show is built. Hear that, Dr. Sheldon Cooper?!

The series Theater Close-Up captures live Off-Broadway plays and THIRTEEN audiences are the only audiences who get to see it on the PBS network. Theater Close-Up: If I Forget (now streaming) is about a liberal Jewish Studies professor locking horns with his sisters at their ailing father’s 75th birthday. Though the play is set before 9/11, the theme of this family’s infighting, speaks metaphorically to our own time of sociopolitical divisiveness and discord.

Voting booths are not the only booths to effect change in American society. Heather Booth-Changing the World (now streaming) shows the everlasting impact her activism has had on areas from workers rights, immigrant rights, reproductive rights…and, yes, voting rights.

Hanukkah: A Festival of Delights (Sunday, December 9 at 8 p.m.) reveals how this holiday of hope attained prominence for American Jews, with insight from rabbis, historians, author Abigail Pogrebin…and even Captain Kirk (William Shatner) himself! Adam Sandler’s “Chanukah Song” has become my latest earworm!


In Sacred (Monday, December 10 at 10 p.m.) learn how some of the worlds disparate cultures practice their respective faiths. This documentary on the divine shows you the far and wide practices of faith, from a monk circling a mountain in Japan to a young Muslim father passing on his faith to his infant in Egypt. Closer to home, we view the cycle of life ranging from the performance of a baby boy’s bris in New York, to the prayers of a soul reaching the end of its time on Earth in Connecticut. [Update: streaming now!]

Still from Letters from Baghdad.


The Middle East continues to be a consequential region for geopolitics. Learn about one of its lesser-known shaping figures, Gertrude Bell, aka “The Female Lawrence of Arabia,” in Letters from Baghdad (Tuesday, December 11 at 9 p.m.) narrated and executive produced by actress Tilda Swinton.

Independent Lens: Man on Fire (Monday, December 17 at 10 p.m.) shows the extraordinary lengths a minister’s faith and morality took him. In 2014, Charles Moore, a Methodist minster, self-immolated in protest to racism in his local community and America. A truly impactful documentary, one that can serve as supplementary learning to the Sacred documentary on the motivating force that faith can have on people.

NOVA: Apollo’s Daring Mission (Wednesday, December 26 at 9 p.m.) takes a look at how half a century ago, Apollo 8 circumnavigated the Moon, a feat as equally monumental as the landing itself was.