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Thursday, January 17, 2013
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Television Critics Association Winter 2013 Tour Developments: PBS

By Carson Blackwelder
Television Contributor

It’s official: The Television Critics Association’s 2013 winter tour ended Wednesday with a studio day, closing out two weeks of TV coverage from all the major networks, both cable and broadcast. Carson wraps up ScottFeinberg.com’s coverage of the tour.

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The 2013 Television Critics Association kicked off Jan. 1. This is the first of two yearly tours the TCA hosts, bringing network executives, showrunners and actors face-to-face with entertainment journalists. Essentially, this is the time to flaunt what you’ve got. Big news can come out of these events, and PBS was the last network to present. Here’s its big news:

PBS

1. Downton Abbey U.S. scheduling remains stagnant

There has been much concern about the time lapse between the airing of hit Downton Abbey in the United Kingdom and in the United States, but Paula Kerger, PBS president and CEO, says that fans shouldn’t expect any scheduling changes.

“This is a question of great debate,” Kerger says. “It’s complicated for a lot of reasons.”

The biggest reason, Kerger explains, is that the British version is shown with commercials, so it would have to be re-edited. Another case to keep the U.S. premiere date in January is to avoid going up against other network’s fall launches, which could steal the limelight from the Masterpiece Theatre drama.

The delay of the U.S. premiere can spoil much of the new season for American viewers. However, Kerger points to the 2012 Summer Olympics as a good example of not worrying about spoilers, saying the network was not “punishing [its] viewers.

“I think a little bit about the Olympics,” she says. “We knew what the outcomes were, but we were still watching every night.”

Luckily, for some fans, Apple announced that North Americans who have iTunes season passes for Downton Abbey will be able to download the final three episodes of the new season before they debut. They’ll be available for download Jan. 29, while the third season finale airs Feb. 17 on PBS.

2. PBS to air week-long Newtown series

In light of the Newtown, Conn., shootings, PBS will air a series of specials concerning the tragedy that has left the U.S. in a state of confusion and uproar.

After Newtown, beginning Feb. 18 and running until Feb. 22, will examine the massacre of 26 adults and children in December. The programming, which consists of news pieces and documentaries, is meant to give context to the public discourse on gun laws, school security and mental illness — all three of which are believed to be factors that led to the tragedy.

The week also includes such regular programs as PBS Newshour, Frontline (in collaboration with The Hartford Courant), Nova, Need To Know and Washington Week With Gwen Ifill. However, they’ll all focus on the shooting and its repercussions. For instance, the Frontline documentary, entitled Raising Adam Lanza, will be focused on the young shooter.

Kerger says this will show PBS’s strength as a public broadcasting network.

“PBS is not the place to go for breaking news ,” she notes. “Where we can add to the conversation is to kind of step back and say, ‘OK, what are the big issues and where does this take us?'”

3. Sherlock Holmes to air on network

Piggybacking on the success of BBC’s Sherlock and CBS’s Elementary, PBS is airing a two-hour special about the famous detective himself: Sherlock Holmes.

The special, slated to premiere fall 2013, will examine just how influential the fictional crime-solver was in the development of actual criminal investigation and forensic techniques.

How Sherlock Changed the World will, as Trish Powell, executive producer at Love Productions (the studio producing the special) explains, attempt to capitalize on Sherlock mania.

“It is clear, especially of late, the lasting impact that Holmes has had, both nationally and internationally,” Powell says.

Beth Hoppe, PBS’ chief programming executive and general manager of general audience programming, says, “We are delighted to bring this exclusive special about Sherlock Holmes to PBS.

How Sherlock Changed the World takes Conan Doyle’s creation from fiction to reality, revealing the real-life importance of Holmes as a revolutionary crime fighter,” she adds.

4. No negative blacklash from Elmo accusations

PBS’s Sesame Street was in the news a lot last year.

From Mitt Romney calling for Big Bird to be fired and Kevin Clash, Elmo’s puppeteer, being at the center of underage sex accusations, Sesame Street has seen its share of controversy.

But Kerger insists fans have nothing to worry about.

“The character of Elmo is larger than any individual,” she assures. “I have not seen negative impact, certainly to PBS Kids, and Elmo continues on the air.”

What is your favorite news from the TCA tour? Let us know what you think in the comments!

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