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American Masters

American Masters

American_masters_season_29_241x208
  • 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:

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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.
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On Tuesday, December 29, 2020 at 9pm (check local listings), PBS premieres "Laura Ingalls Wilder," a new installment of AMERICAN MASTERS that marks the 85th anniversary of the publication of "Little House on the Prairie." Directed and produced by Emmy Award winner Mary McDonagh Murphy, this installment presents an unvarnished look at the unlikely author whose autobiographical fiction helped shape American ideas of the frontier and self-reliance. A Midwestern farm woman who published her first novel at age 65, Laura Ingalls Wilder transformed her frontier childhood into the best-selling "Little House" series. The documentary delves into the legacy of the iconic pioneer as well as the way she transformed her early life into enduring legend, a process that involved a little-known collaboration with her daughter Rose.

Featuring never-before-published letters, photographs and family artifacts, the film explores the context in which Wilder lived and wrote, as well as the true nature of her personality. The film includes original interviews with Caroline Fraser, who won a Pulitzer Prize for her Wilder biography; Pamela Smith Hill, author of "Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Writer's Life" and editor of Wilder's New York Times bestselling memoir; Wilder historian William Anderson; authors such as Louise Erdrich, Roxane Gay, Lizzie Skurnick and Linda Sue Park; and actors from the beloved TV series Little House on the Prairie, including Melissa Gilbert (Laura Ingalls Wilder), Alison Arngrim (Nellie Oleson) and Dean Butler (Almanzo Wilder). Historians, scholars and fans provide additional perspectives on Wilder's life and legacy.

Wilder has an enduring fanbase -- including self-proclaimed Bonnetheads -- and the books and TV program loosely based on them have become cultural touchstones. Starting with "Little House in the Big Woods" (1932), the books chronicle the adventures of a family struggling to survive on the American frontier and have inspired four generations with the courage and determination of their heroine. Though Wilder's stories emphasized real life and celebrated stoicism, she omitted the grimmer and contradictory details of her personal history: grinding poverty, government assistance, deprivation and the death of her infant son. In recent years, Wilder's racist depictions of American Indians and Black people have stirred controversy, and made her less appealing to some readers, teachers and librarians. American Masters: Laura Ingalls Wilder reveals the truth behind the bestsellers, exploring a rags to riches story that has been embraced by millions of people worldwide.