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American Masters

American Masters

  • Premiered: 
    June 22, 1986
    (Click date to see TV listings for that day)

  • Network: PBS
  • Category: Series
  • Genre: Biography
  • Type: Live Action
  • Concept: 
    Created by Susan Lacy 
  • Subject Matter: Anthology
  • Tags:

Buy This Show on DVD or Watch Online

  • Click a button to buy a DVD at Amazon
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  • Mike Nichols [Blu-ray]
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  • Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You [Blu-ray]
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  • Philip Roth: Unmasked
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Legal Full Episodes
Not Available Online
(That We Know Of)

Plot Synopsis

AMERICAN MASTERS is a series of biographies and profiles about important figures in America's artistic and cultural life. Each episode features a different subject, ranging from the first quintessentially American dance company to an African-American gospel singer and guitar virtuoso who influenced rock and roll and from TV stars who affected American pop culture to filmakers who made American -- and international -- audiences cry with laughter. This series returned for its 26th season on Friday, December 28, 2012 at 9pm ET, with an episode, "Joffrey: Mavericks of American Dance," that uncovered the story of the Joffrey Ballet and its co-founders, Robert Joffrey and Gerald Arpino, who pioneered a new dance philosophy by daringly combining modern and traditional techniques and art with social statement, and integrating pop and rock music scores. The second episode of Season 26, which didn't air until February 22, 2013, revealed the life, music and influence of Rosetta Tharpe, an African-American gospel singer. AMERICAN MASTERS launched it 29th season on Friday, January 23, 2015 at 9pm on PBS (check local listings). Narrated by Dick Cavett, the season opener, "Ricky Jay: Deceptive Practice," journeys into the mysterious world of sleight-of-hand and the small circle of eccentrics who are its perpetual devotees. Told largely in Jay's own distinctive voice, the documentary traces the story of his achievement, beginning at age 4 as apprentice to his grandfather Max Katz, an accomplished amateur magician, and features rare footage of some of the most influential magicians of the 20th century: Cardini, Slydini, Al Flosso, Dai Vernon and Charles Miller. Season 30 of AMERICAN MASTERS premiered on Friday, January 29, 2016 at 9pm on PBS (check local listings). The season opener chronicles the life and impact of director, actor, writer, producer and comedian Mike Nichols, who won an Oscar, a Grammy, four Emmys, nine Tonys, three BAFTAs and many other awards. As the legendary comedy duo Nichols and May, Nichols and his partner Elaine May revolutionized comedy in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Now, May has directed the first documentary about her former partner. This program features new interviews with his friends and colleagues, including Meryl Streep, Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, Dustin Hoffman, Alec Baldwin, Paul Simon, Matthew Broderick, Nathan Lane, Bob Balaban, Tony Kushner, Neil Simon, Frank Langella, James L. Brooks and many others, conducted by film, TV and theater producer Julian Schlossberg. Schlossberg also conducted an exclusive interview with Nichols for the film. After Mike Nichols, the series' 30th anniversary season continues with new documentaries about music legends B.B. King (February 12), Carole King (February 19), Fats Domino (February 26), Loretta Lynn (March 4), Janis Joplin (May 3) and The Highwaymen (May 27).
PBS premiered the thirty-first season of AMERICAN MASTERS on Tuesday, January 3, 2017 at 8pm (check local listings). The season opener features prolific and versatile filmmaker Sidney Lumet (1924-2011), who made 44 films in 50 years, earning the Academy Honorary Award for lifetime achievement after four Oscar nominations. Considered a quintessential New York filmmaker, Lumet frequently used New York City's urban mettle to infuse his films with a realism and intensity that kept audiences in suspense while prodding them to consider their own morality. In this installment of AMERICAN MASTERS, he tells his own story in a never-before-seen interview shot in 2008 by late filmmaker Daniel Anker and producer Thane Rosenbaum.