DOWNTON ABBEY, CALL THE MIDWIFE Specials Among PBS' Full Holiday Programming
It truly is the most wonderful time of the year, when artist and artisan, newsman and newsmaker, singer and songwriter celebrate the holiday season with PBS. This year, Tony-winner Alfie Boe and veteran news anchor Tom Brokaw - along with "Hal" Halvorsen, the "candy bomber" who dropped chocolates into post-war Berlin in 1948 - join the Mormon Tabernacle Choir for an inspirational concert at Temple Square. Harking back to WWI, PBS presents Silent Night, a poignant opera based on the Christmas Eve truce of 1914, when French, German and Scottish soldiers laid down their arms for one evening of peace.
As the countdown to the fourth season of "Downton Abbey" on MASTERPIECE begins, PBS repeats Season 3 and presents RETURN TO DOWNTON ABBEY, a selection of favorite moments from the past three seasons and a tantalizing taste of the upcoming season. Academy Award(R)-winning actress Susan Sarandon hosts the special, which includes a mix of behind-the-scenes footage, interviews with creators and cast members, and memorable scenes.
Later in December, PBS presents a new Call The Midwife HOLIDAY SPECIAL. When an unexploded World War II bomb is found under a warehouse near Nonnatus House, the nuns and dozens of local families are left homeless. Dr. Turner and Chummy are both in a race against time - he to immunize children against polio and she to get everything in place for a royal's visit to the East End to open the new Community Centre.
For family viewing, PBS offers MR. STINK, a most unusual stocking-stuffer - a comedy with a nose-clenching twist. Hugh Bonneville ("Downton Abbey") stars as the eponymous Mr. Stink. For the youngest viewers, PBS Kids rings in the holiday season with an encore presentation of last year's blockbuster hit THE CAT IN THE HAT KNOWS A LOT ABOUT CHRISTMAS!, a special Holiday Week of themed programming, new holiday episodes and specials from DANIEL TIGER'S NEIGHBORHOOD, SESAME STREET and THOMAS & FRIENDS, as well as classic favorites including CURIOUS GEORGE: A VERY MONKEY CHRISTMAS and ARTHUR'S PERFECT CHRISTMAS.
Traveling to Norway, the renowned a cappella singers of St. Olaf College fill the apse and nave of Trondheim's historic Nidaros Cathedral with the sounds of Christmas. Back in the US, renowned American mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves hosts an evening of traditional carols and classical masterworks sung by the Belmont University choir, while CRAFT IN AMERICA embraces familiar and new winter celebrations as part of the American Experience with the handmade.
As the year winds down, Live From Lincoln Center looks forward to 2014 with the New York Philharmonic's gala opening concert, featuring cellist Yo-Yo Ma. On New Year's Day, Great Performances continues the cherished tradition of greeting the new year with the Vienna Philharmonic at the city's opulent Musikverein. Beloved stage and screen star Julie Andrews returns as host.
Before this bounty of celebratory programming, PBS ushers in the holiday season with an encore of NATURE "My Life as a Turkey," airing on the eve of Thanksgiving. The true story of writer and naturalist Joe Hutto, the film chronicles his experience of raising wild turkey hatchlings to adulthood.
Following, in broadcast order, are the programs that hail the holiday season:
NATURE "My Life as a Turkey" (Encore) Wednesday, November 27, 2013, 9:00-10:00 p.m. ET Based on the true story of writer and naturalist Joe Hutto, portrayed by wildlife photographer Jeff Palmer, this film chronicles Hutto's remarkable experience of imprinting wild turkey eggs and raising the hatchlings to adulthood. Deep in the wilds of Florida, Hutto spent each day out and about as a "wild turkey" with his family of chicks - until the day came when he had to let his children grow up and go off on their own. As it turned out, this was harder than he ever imagined.
RETURN TO Downton Abbey Sunday, December 1, 2013, 9:00-10:30 p.m. ET Savor fond memories from the past three seasons of "Downton Abbey" and get a tantalizing taste of the upcoming fourth season. Academy Award(R)-winning actress Susan Sarandon - a devoted fan of the series - hosts the program, which includes a mix of behind-the-scenes footage, interviews with creators and cast members, and video clips of favorite moments. Structured around three themes, RETURN TO Downton Abbey explores "The Changing World of Downton Abbey," "The Women of Downton Abbey" and "Love and Other Relationships at Downton Abbey."
SILENT NIGHT Friday, December 13, 2013, 9:00-11:00 p.m. ET The opera Silent Night recounts the true story of the World War I Christmas Eve truce. For one magical evening on December 24, 1914, French, German and Scottish soldiers laid down their arms and joined in a spontaneous celebration reflecting the peace, fellowship and humanity of the season. Based on the Academy Award-nominated film Joyeux Noel, this two-act production was commissioned by the Minnesota Opera and premiered in November 2012 to national acclaim, including a Pulitzer Prize for Music for composer Kevin Puts. With a libretto by Mark Campbell, Silent Night is sung in French, English, German, Italian and Latin with English subtitles.
Christmas with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir FEATURING ALFIE BOE AND TOM BROKAW Tuesday, December 10, 2013, 8:00-9:00 p.m. ET; encores Thursday, December 12, 9:00-10:00 p.m. ET and Tuesday, December 24, 9:00-10:00 p.m. ET As seen and heard by more than 80,000 people in the LDS Conference Center in Salt Lake City, this program features renowned TV personality Tom Brokaw and Tony Award-winning LES MISERABLES tenor Alfie Boe in a concert of holiday favorites. Boe's moving signature performance of "Bring Him Home" is a highlight. The choir also welcomes a surprise guest, Gail "Hal" Halvorsen, the famous candy bomber of the Berlin airlift. Together with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square, these special guests bring attendees to their feet more than once during the night.
CHRISTMAS AT BELMONT 2013 Friday, December 20, 2013, 10:00-11:00 p.m. ET Nashville shows why it's called Music City as acclaimed American mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves hosts this annual production of traditional carols, classical masterworks, world music and light-hearted seasonal favorites taped at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center. Nearly 700 Belmont University student musicians join Graves, the Belmont School of Music faculty and the Nashville Children's Choir to present the seasonal celebration. The program also features the University Symphony Orchestra, Belmont Chorale, Percussion Ensemble, Musical Theatre, Jazz and Bluegrass Ensembles.
CRAFT IN AMERICA "Holiday" Friday, December 20, 2013, 9:00-10:00 p.m. ET "Holiday" celebrates some of our most important traditions. Nordic folk woodcarver Harley Refsal brings to life the rich history of winter solstice. Clay artist Susan Garson creates fanciful Chanukah menorahs. George Vanderbilt's opulent turn-of-the-century Christmas is recreated at the Biltmore in Asheville, North Carolina. Daring chefs make lavish gingerbread houses for the competition at Grove Park Inn. Navidad is celebrated in San Antonio with religious processions, tamales and Kathleen Trenchard's sparkling luminarias. Garcia Art Glass makes colorful ornaments, and Veronica Castillo creates a traditional Mexican Tree of Life.
MR. STINK Sunday, December 22, 2013, 8:00-9:00 p.m. ET Delight in a family comedy with a nose-clenching twist. Chloe (Nell Tiger Free) sees Mr. Stink (Hugh Bonneville) every day, but she's never spoken to him, which isn't surprising, because he's a tramp - and he stinks. But before she knows it, Chloe has an unusual friend hiding in her garden shed when it seems Mr. Stink and his stinky dog, Duchess, might be driven out of town. As Chloe struggles to make sure no one sniffs out Mr. Stink, she also has to cope with an overbearing mum who is more interested in her own political ambitions than her daughter, her put-upon dad who has a secret of his own, her "perfect" younger sister, Annabelle, and the nasty girls who make her life miserable at school. There is also one other person with an extraordinary secret, as it turns out that there is more to Mr. Stink than meets the eye ... or nose.
CHRISTMAS IN NORWAY WITH THE ST. OLAF CHOIR Monday, December 23, 2013, 9:00-10:00 p.m. ET From Trondheim's historic Nidaros Cathedral, CHRISTMAS IN NORWAY WITH THE ST. OLAF CHOIR treats PBS viewers and lovers of choral music to a spectacular holiday concert featuring the 75-voice St. Olaf Choir from St. Olaf College and the Norwegian girl choir, Nidaros Jentekor. The production pairs the cathedral's spare gothic beauty and stunning acoustics with the distinctive a cappella singing style for which the St. Olaf Choir - which owes its origins and legacy to Norway - is internationally known. Musical selections include innovative arrangements of Christmas music ("The Word Was God" and "Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming/The Rose"), gospel spirituals ("This Little Light of Mine") and beloved Norwegian hymns and folk songs.
LIDIA CELEBRATES AMERICA "Life's Milestones" Thursday, December 26, 2013, 9:00-10:00 p.m. ET Host Lidia Bastianich celebrates important milestones with a diverse group of Americans: a baptism with a Greek Orthodox family; a Navajo house blessing in Utah; college graduation seen through the eyes of a Brazilian-American Boston University student; and a sweet 16 birthday party for a young French-Cajun woman ready to make her debut as a Nashville country music star. Soprano Renee Fleming sings "You'll Never Walk Alone."