PBS at TCA, Day 2: The power (and vanity) of celebrity

Meg Ryan visited Cambodia to draw attention to human trafficking in "Half the Sky."

Nostalgia kicked off the second day of the Television Critics Press tour in Beverly Hills, Calif., on Sunday, when PBS presented a breakfast panel for “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood,” the first television series from The Fred Rogers Company since the beloved children’s show “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood.”

Daniel Tiger is the sweater-wearing 4-year-old son of Daniel Stripe Tiger, Fred Rogers’ first puppet from the original series. In the new animated series, the residents of the Neighborhood of Make-Believe are all grown up with kids of their own, who learn lessons on developmental issues (think: separation anxiety, disappointment and bedtime routines).

“This is designed to be your first television experience as a very young child. It carries the legacy of Fred Rogers in so many ways, but it’s not necessary to enjoy this to know anything about Fred and his Neighborhood of Make-Believe,” said executive producer Kevin Morrison.

At the same time, parents who grew up calling Mr. Rogers their neighbor will be happy to know “there’s little nods of love throughout the episodes,” explains executive producer Angela Santomero. “If you are a big fan of Fred like I was, you’ll see his little red sweaters. You’ll see the little traffic light. There’s a lot of love in there that kind of goes back to the nostalgia,” she says, “but as Kevin said, you know, it also works for today’s kids.”

“Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” will premiere on Sept. 3.

A very different kind of look back was the focus of the panel for Ken Burns’s latest documentary, “The Dust Bowl,” about the disastrous dust storms that hit the American plains in the 1930s. Told mostly through the first-person accounts of survivors, the film premieres over two nights, Nov. 18 and 19.

Why it’s a timely event in American history to examine now, Burns said, is because “this is a cautionary tale … a story of our complex and often fraught relationship with the land. This is the story of the greatest manmade ecological disaster in American history, a 10-year apocalypse punctuated by hundreds of terrifying black blizzards that killed not only farmers’ crops and cattle, but their children too.”

Many survivors are now at the end of their lives; some featured in the film have since passed away. “The Dust Bowl” is Burns’s tribute to them. “They were children and teenagers then, their searing memories as raw and direct as if this had all happened yesterday,” he said. “What they were witnessing is unparalleled in American history, and yet their perspective is resolutely personal and intimate. It was an epic of human pain and suffering, but it is also the story of heroic perseverance.”

Inspiring tales of human resolution also set the stage for “Half the Sky,” the documentary based on the bestselling book by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn about oppression of women and girls. Also on the panel were actresses Meg Ryan, Diane Lane and America Ferrera, who traveled with the journalists to help tell the stories of those around the world fighting for women’s rights.

Maro Chermayeff, executive producer and director of “Half the Sky,” said celebrities were brought into the project to “help the audience find a way in” to the upsetting stories of trafficking and mutilation. “If you if you give people a chance and you find some new ways for them to come to some of the subject matter, they will come and they’ll respond,” she said.

Ryan said while the spotlight is shining on a celebrity, “you can just saddle up next to something smart and important and that will get some attention.”

No matter what gets viewers to tune in, it’s important this documentary, premiering Oct. 1 and 2 as part of “Independent Lens,” is seen.

Speaking of celebrity: Star-making legend David Geffen sat on a panel for the “American Masters” film documenting his career in music and film, “Inventing David Geffen.” He had been flown in from Sardinia specifically for the event, and seemed in a bit of a hurry to get back — his answers to critics’ questions were short and not very quotable. Not until he was asked about the Carly Simon song “You’re So Vain,” that is, and how he had been fingered as the subject of the tune.
“No, no. That’s simply not true,” he insisted. “Not to say I’m not vain, but I’m not her vain.”

“Inventing David Geffen” will air Nov. 20.

For full coverage from the Television Critics Association press tour, follow Amber on Twitter: @amberatmetro.


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
News

Easter Egg hunt horror as skydiver plummets to…

A FAMILY Easter egg hunt ended in horror when a skydiver plummeted to his death in a New York garden after his parachute failed to…

News

Boston Marathon 2014 on high alert, Red Sox…

One year on from the horrific Boston Marathon bombings a ring of steel has been thrown around today's race, and a city stands defiant against…

News

Boston Strong: One year on from Boston Marathon…

  For more than a century the Boston Marathon has been an even centred around sportsmanship, endurance and athleticism, but there's no denying the face…

Local

Monday is the deadline to register for Pennsylvania…

If residents want to vote in the May primary, which includes a vote for a new City Council member, today is the deadline to register.

Television

‘Mad Men’ recap: Season 7, Episode 2, ‘A…

Peggy and Lou are horrible, Bert's racist, Don is honest(ish) and Roger and Pete are frustrated. "A Day's Work" not quite worthy of "This Will Be Our Year."

Television

'Game of Thrones' recap: Season 4, Episode 3,…

The problem with the devil you know is that ignoring them doesn’t mean they simply lie in wait. It allows them time to do things…

Television

Discovery cancels 'Everest Jump Live' special in wake…

The Discovery Channel has indicated it will not be moving forward with "Everest Jump Live," a planned special about mountain climber Joby Ogwyn's effort to…

The Word

'X-Men' director Bryan Singer drama continues

  News broke late last week that "X-Men" and "The Usual Suspects" director Bryan Singer is being sued by a man who said Singer molested…

NHL

Ray Emery steps up in Flyers’ Game 2…

Sure, he allowed two goals in the Rangers’ first four shots Sunday afternoon, but it’s about how you start, not how you finish.

NHL

Flyers come from behind, even series with Rangers

The Flyers overcame a two-goal deficit to get a much-needed win at Madison Square Garden Sunday.

MLB

Phillies get set for four against the Dodgers

The Phillies will face tough starting pitching out west against the Dodgers this week.

MLB

Phillies notebook: Cole Hamels returns this week

The Phillies should receive a big boost when Cole Hamels returns during the Dodgers series.

Travel

Packing: The one thing you need in your…

A new survey that looks at the travel habits of 50,000 people around the world has revealed that Western and Asian globetrotters have different priorities…

Home

Is your chair making it hard to talk?

Ever wished there was an office chair that could make impromptu meetings and discussions more private? The Cristiana Wing Chair is an asymmetrical armchair which…

Travel

Live large at these luxury hotels

From Thai boxing lessons and macabre Dracula tours to the Australian Outback, the Four Seasons hotel chain launched a series of new travel packages this…

Parenting

4 things that every summer camp should have

Alan Saltz, director of the 92nd street Y program lists things that every summer camp should have.