Thirteen‘s American Masters has announced the preliminary lineup for its 30th anniversary season on PBS featuring Mike Nichols, B.B. King, Carole King, Fats Domino, Loretta Lynn, Janis Joplin, The Highwaymen, Norman Lear and Maya Angelou. American Masters, THIRTEEN’s award-winning biography series, celebrates our arts and culture. Awards include 70 Emmy nominations and 28 awards — 10 for Outstanding Non-Fiction Series since 1999 and five for Outstanding Non-Fiction Special — 12 Peabody Awards; three Grammys; an Oscar; two Producers Guild Awards for Outstanding Producer of Non-Fiction Television; and the 2012 IDA Award for Best Continuing Series.
Launched in 1986, the series is the gold standard for documentary film profiles, accruing widespread critical acclaim. This prolific series has produced an exceptional library*, bringing unique originality and perspective to illuminate the creative journeys of our most enduring writers, musicians, visual and performing artists, dramatists, filmmakers and those who have left an indelible impression on our cultural landscape. Balancing a broad and diverse cast of characters and artistic approaches, while preserving historical authenticity and intellectual integrity, these portraits reveal the style and substance of each subject.
The series’ individually crafted films reflect the specific attention deserved by American Masters subjects, including such great talents as Arthur Miller (the series’ first subject), Georgia O’Keeffe, James Baldwin, Diego Rivera, Martha Graham, F. Scott Fitzgerald, I.M. Pei, Leonard Bernstein, Sidney Poitier, Judy Garland, John James Audubon, Bob Dylan, Andy Warhol, Johnny Carson, Zora Neale Hurston, Albert Einstein, Rod Serling, Bill T. Jones, Lucille Ball, Paul Simon, Richard Avedon, John Cassavetes, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Gehry, Woody Guthrie, Jimi Hendrix, Edward Curtis, Julia Child, Walter Cronkite, Woody Allen, and Billie Jean King, as well as influential cultural institutions and eras such as the Actor’s Studio, the Algonquin Round Table, the Negro Ensemble Company, the Juilliard School, 60 Minutes, the Joffrey Ballet, and a century of Chinese American cinematic history in Hollywood Chinese.
Fascinating in their individuality as well as in the whole, American Masters has become a cultural legacy in its own right, producing and presenting the extraordinary mosaic of our creative heritage and broadening viewer appreciation of our nation’s traditions and character. An artist’s work can capture, reflect and even shape a society’s experience. Without art, we would lack an identity, a soul and a voice. American Masters exists to give life to that voice.
For this celebratory 30th anniversary season, the offerings are no less fascinating. The season opens with Mike Nichols and concludes with Maya Angelou. How can it get any better than that?
Season 30 premiere: Friday, January 29 at 9 p.m. Meet one of America’s late, great directors Mike Nichols (The Graduate, Angels in America), who discusses his life and 50-year artistic career, from the comedy duo Nichols and May to his final film, Charlie Wilson’s War. Winner of an Oscar, a Grammy, four Emmys, nine Tonys, three BAFTAs and many other awards, director, actor, writer, producer and comedian Mike Nichols (November 6, 1931 – November 19, 2014) was an artistic trailblazer. 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, Mike Nichols: American Masters, premiering Friday, January 29, 2016, at 9 p.m. on PBS (check local listings) to launch the 30th anniversary season of THIRTEEN’s American Masters series.
With charm and wit, Nichols discusses his life and 50-year career as a performer and director. Mike Nichols: American Masters 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 (Bullets Over Broadway, American Masters — Nichols & May: Take Two, American Masters: The Lives of Lillian Hellman). Schlossberg also conducted an exclusive interview with Nichols for the film. The documentary features insights and highlights from Nichols’ acclaimed films, including The Graduate, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Catch 22, Silkwood, Biloxi Blues, Working Girl, Angels In America and Charlie Wilson’s War, as well as his theatrical productions Barefoot in the Park, Luv and The Odd Couple. Directed by Elaine May. Produced by Julian Schlossberg.
American Masters: B.B. King: The Life of Riley
Friday, February 12 at 9 p.m. in honor of Black History Month. Explore B.B. King’s challenging life and career through candid interviews with the “King of the Blues” filmed shortly before his death and fellow music stars, including Bono, Bonnie Raitt, Carlos Santana, Eric Clapton, John Mayer, and Ringo Starr, and more.
American Masters — Carole King: Natural Woman
Friday, February 19 at 9 p.m. Delve into the hit singer-songwriter’s life and career from 1960s New York to the music mecca of 70s LA to the present. Carole King joins collaborators and family in new interviews, while rare home movies, performances and photos complete the tapestry. The year 2016 marks the 45th anniversary of King’s landmark, four-time Grammy-winning album Tapestry, which was released February 10, 1971.
American Masters: Fats Domino and the Birth of Rock ‘n’ Roll
Friday, February 26 at 10 p.m. in honor of Black History Month and Fats Domino’s birthday. Discover how Fats Domino’s brand of New Orleans rhythm and blues became rock ‘n’ roll. As popular in the 1950s as Elvis Presley, Domino suffered degradations in the pre-Civil Rights South and aided integration through his influential music.
American Masters — Loretta Lynn: Still a Mountain Girl
Friday, March 4 at 9 p.m. in honor of Women’s History Month. Explore the country legend’s hard-fought road to stardom. From her Appalachian roots to the Oscar-winning biopic of her life, Coal Miner’s Daughter, Loretta Lynn struggled to balance family and her music career and is still going strong after more than 50 years. The documentary premieres the same day Lynn’s first new studio album in over 10 years, Full Circle (Legacy Recordings), is released.
American Masters — Janis: Little Girl Blue
Tuesday, May 3 at 9 p.m.. Observe Janis Joplin’s life through intimate letters and rare footage in the first in-depth celebration of the iconic rock singer. Oscar-nominated director Amy Berg (Deliver Us From Evil, West of Memphis) presents a portrait of a complicated, driven, often beleaguered artist. Chan Marshall (also known as Cat Power) narrates. Oscar-winner Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Dark Side, Going Clear) is one of the film’s producers. Note: 2016 marks the 45th anniversary of Joplin’s final studio album Pearl, which was released January 11, 1971.
American Masters — The Highwaymen: Friends Till the End (w.t.)
Friday, May 27 at 9 p.m. Discover the story behind the pioneering outlaw country music supergroup that featured Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash and Kris Kristofferson, told through vintage performances and new interviews about life on the road and in the studio.
Two American Masters documentaries slated for Fall 2016 on PBS will world premiere at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival in January 2016: Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You (Day One Film) and Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise (directors Bob Hercules, Rita Coburn Whack).
Fall 2016. How did a poor Jewish kid from Connecticut bring us Archie Bunker and become one of the most successful television producers ever? Norman Lear brought provocative subjects like war, poverty, and prejudice into 120 million homes every week. Norman Lear proved that social change was possible through an unlikely prism: laughter.
Fall 2016. The remarkable story of Maya Angelou — iconic writer, poet, actress and activist whose life has intersected some of the most profound moments in recent American history.
*To purchase DVDs of AMERICAN MASTERS episodes, please visit ShopPBS or call 1-800-531-4727 FREE. The icon of a shopping cart on this site’s top navigation bar leads to ShopPBS.