'Downton Abbey II' and the problem(s) with PBS

“A gift from God,” is the way Masterpiece executive producer Rebecca Eaton described Downton Abbey, whose sequel will premiere Jan. Read the full post.

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  • Bill

    What? No Poldark III. How about Return of Chuzzlewit? Downton seemed so recycled.

  • dublin

    Lucky for Masterpiece-I found this article:

    “Masterpiece” executive producer Rebecca Eaton announced that a national corporate sponsor, a luxury cruise company, will be on board for the first time in more than six years. Viking River Cruises will contribute an unspecified amount to the PBS program starting in the final quarter of this year.

    The program was funded since its 1971 debut by Exxon Mobil, which ended its support at the end of 2004. PBS has been funding “Masterpiece” and will continue to support it, Eaton said.

  • ZenMaster

    Love this article, almost as much as I do, say, the Zen series on Mystery. So why not have Rufus Sewell ask for donations before? Or Alan Cumming? Use what you got, PBS, and trumpet the talent you have!

  • Jennifer

    PBS drives me crazy, they are so dependent now on viewer donations they have membership drives every 2 or 3 weeks where I live. GOP bastards cut funding. However, part of the problem is they catter to much to old people with their programming. Lawence Welk has been dead 30 years and they still air him. Yes, there is some suprises for example Sherlock and the new Aurelio Zen starring Rufus Sewell that just aired. Also 7 years ago they aired “White Teeth”, a movie based on the Zadie Smith book I enjoyed a lot.

  • B

    For the record, I enjoyed Downton Abbey so much that I would totally watch “Downton Abbey: Special Servants Unit”. Bates is already kinda badass.

    • Bouncy Castle, London, UK

      PMSL! Now “that” I’d watch!!

      Oh, and I’m glad you guys in the US got to see the fabulous Zen. Sorry to disappoint, but the BBC have cancelled it, even though it got an average of 6million viewers each week (Sunday night at 9pm), which is good for our tiny island.

      • ZenMaster

        NO!!! Were there more than 3 episodes filmed? :(

        How could anyone cancel anything with Rufus Sewell is beyond me. And it had good ratings!!

      • Bouncy Castle, London, UK

        Sorry. Only three episodes. Bummer isn’t it?

  • maggie

    I agree with Ken on the “sad re-branding” into 3 units. I’m not sure what they consider a “classic.” DA is a new work, and not based on a classic, yet airs in the Classic timeslot. And the poor Contemporary section didn’t even rate having David Tennant film any new openings this past year. It only had 2 new offerings.
    I disagree with the “happy accident” part, as Masterpiece co-produced Downton Abbey. PBS didn’t “pick it up” after it aired in the UK. Having seen the British version as it aired, I knew it was going to be on Masterpiece, as Masterpiece and Rebecca Eaton were in the credits. If Masterpiece had not put up money to co-produce DA, it never would have gotten made. The same goes with most Masterpiece offerings.
    Just like any other major TV production company, Masterpiece had creative people bringing ideas to them hoping they would put up the money to produce it. Masterpiece and various UK production companies work out finacial arrangements to fund the projects. How is that any different than say, John Wells having someone pitch him a show to produce, and then Wells working out financial arrangements with foreign distributors to get enough money to produce it?

    • Teresa

      Lots of instirapion, as ever. We (well, I) have been horribly lazy, finding it a struggle to even make it to the park. It’s just so cold, and nasty being out there in the cutting wind. But your post has reminded me that there’s no such thing as bad weather, just inadequate clothes – I’m out to dig out the proper thermals.

  • Rush

    Hasn’t cable TV rendered PBS irrelevant at this point? Cable programming shows that programs can be provocative, edgy, and with a forceful point of view, without alienating the most sensitive sponsor: the corporation. And in HBO’s case: the subscriber.

    • Myke25

      Really? Let’s see. A&E used to present arts programming. Not so much any more. Same with Bravo. If you want your kids to have a healthy dose of cereal and toy ads with their cartoons, Nick is for you. History Channel only focuses on history programming part-time now. Does anyone really watch the Science Channel much? Pretty much only Food Network and NatGeo have successfully programmed PBS-ish shows. And none of them can come into your home free of charge. PBS doesn’t force anyone to pay for programming…they serve it up first, then ask you for a donation if you like the show. It’s like a freakin’ tip jar.
      I gotta ask Tucker if he is a member of his local station. Only one in every ten viewers is a member. If the other nine of you ponied up, maybe PBS could A) afford to bring back some of these classics you want (they cost money, too!)and B) maybe get off the federal funding roller coaster so the GOP would stop using them as a political football every time they see something they don’t like…such as the truth!

      • Mo

        You hit it pretty much on the nose, Myke25. The History Channel’s name will soon become as relevant to its content as The “Learning” Channel did when it had to become simply TLC. Ovation does show some Masterpiece-ish miniseries and movies, and some interesting art documentaries, but I guess few people get that channel, even less in HD (I don’t), and the rest of its time is filled with Fame and So You Think You Can Dance. As much as we all love to complain, PBS still shows a lot of quality programming. HBO would have never run Downton, unless they could have all about the entailment of the estate explained while two topless women were going at it in the background.

      • Marph

        Wish I could “Like” this comment. The best of cable still doesn’t stack up to the best of PBS.

      • Marie

        true, i wish they got more funding.
        in 1995, when i was a pre-teen, pbs aired Ghostwriter, one of the best educational and entertaining shows for pre-teens ever. it got cancelled due to lack of funding. i can only imagine what the network would do if it had the money to do what it wanted to do.

    • Reni

      @blackfreedommilitia Fair enuogh, though I take issue with being called overostentatious ;p There’s enuogh stupidity being spouted on both sides of the race line here, I was just seeing what your real purpose was. Peace.

  • Syl

    Perfect column by Tucker…..And PBS doesn’t even have to worry about riling up Tea Baggers by showing the provocative stuff; I’d be happy if they’d rebroadcast (in full, of course) classic “Live From Lincoln Center” concerts and the original “Upstairs Downstairs” during their pledge drives, instead of the insipid nonsense they have now.
    And as for the cable argument: Cable does not have classical music, jazz, ballet or the occasional theatrical drama. And even if it did, there are still millions of Americans who cannot afford cable or choose not to have it.

    • DT

      Broadcast rights for “Live from Lincoln Center” are *very* limited: about a week.

      • Tiffany

        I guess there must be sheotming unique about that seizes my heart. At first, I also didn't know what it was. And it has been the trend in jewelry circles all the time. But this is not what I desire, and I guess, nor is it what the other young girls desire. Nowadays, young girls' value has changed.

  • Lou

    I love all these shows (Doc Martin too) and watch all the time…….but……one of the reasons people are watching more PBS is because TV is so lousey, bad, yucky……..need I say more?

  • Talismangirl

    Ken Tucker’s article is spot on. I look forward to Sunday nights on PBS, and am confounded that they don’t do more to promote the quality of the shows that show up on the night of TV. As for the nostalgia shows. BLECH! Just stop it….take a cue from HBO and AMC and DIRECT TV, SYFY even, pick up shows that have a hard core following and we will support you!

  • Maria

    “PBS has an audience of people sick of having Real Housewives and Hot In Cleveland and Hoarders shoved at them.” Let’s not put Hot In Cleveland in the same group with Real Housewives and Hoarders. Last two are obnoxious, sickness-inducing, totally unnecessary “reality” shows and social p*rn, while Hot In Cleveland is an actually funny, well-acted comedy carried solely by women. We need more of that!

  • a_preslik

    Don’t forget the other Excellent series on PBS Lark Rise to Candleford, was my absolute pure joy! Will miss Twister!

  • Mindy

    So, so true. I wish their Arts programming, in specific, was better. All their concerts are so boring. I wish they would show new opera, symphonies, big classical concerts like this. I love that they are airing Met Opera. Very grateful for the airing of John Adams “Nixon in China” this last season. Wish there was more along those lines. And less 50s and 60s pop music, and Andrea Bocelli. And I am under 35, BTW.

  • kk

    PBS Masterpiece was a little late to the party as they promoted the celebrated remake of ‘Upstairs/Downstairs’ which was nothing like the superb quality of Downton. Welcome to the party, latecomer, Masterpiece. Go with the winner.

  • Gabrieelle

    How about all of the OTHER wonderful programming like Zen, New Poirot & Agatha, South Riding, Cranford and so many of the remakes, ie. Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights and GREAT mysteries!

    • Laura G

      I agree – they were all great!

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