PBS unveils plans for weeklong look at Newtown tragedy, related issues


Members of the Sandy Hook Volunteer Fire and Rescue department stand during moment of silence in Sandy Hook village Dec. 21 in Newtown, Conn. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)
January 14, 2013

PBS will air a weeklong dissection of December’s elementary school mass shootings in Connecticut under the umbrella “After Newtown.”

“PBS is not where you go for breaking news,” PBS chief Paula Kerger told TV critics in announcing the project, which will debut Feb. 18. “Where we can add to the conversation is to step back . . . and say: ‘Okay, where are the big issues and where does this take us?’ ”

The week of “Newtown” programs will look at violence in the media, gun laws, mental illness, school security and other topics connected to the killing of 20 schoolchildren and several adults in Newtown, Conn.

The programming will span the PBS franchises “PBS NewHour,” “Frontline,” “Washington Week With Gwen Ifill” and “Nova.”

In moments of tragedy, “there’s lot of fascination with the event itself,” Kerger told critics.

“Frontline,” in collaboration with the Hartford Courant, will profile Adam Lanza and his relationship with his mother, who was among those he killed in Newtown. “Raising Adam Lanza” will look at the young man who killed students and adults on Dec. 14 before committing suicide — leaving his motives, and life, largely a mystery.

“Frontline” also will report on the battle over America’s gun laws and gun culture.

“Nova” will air “Mind of a Rampage Killer,” which will ask what makes a person open fire in a theater, church or classroom, and whether science can provide clues to prevention. “Nova” correspondent Miles O’Brien will look at new theories that suggest the most destructive rampage killers are driven not by the urge to kill but by a death wish.

Kerger’s announcement, on the penultimate day of Winter TV Press Tour 2013, punctuates two weeks of discussion with industry execs about TV’s responsibility in its depiction of violence.

“It certainly fits into the way we think about what’s in front of kids,” said Kerger, adding: “The kind of programming you’re talking about has not found its home on public television.”

Her announcement came the day before Vice President Biden is scheduled to make recommendations to President Obama, based on the findings of the task force on guns laws that Biden was appointed to head in the wake of the Newtown tragedy.

Globes’ golden return

The 70th annual Golden Globe Awards bagged 20 million viewers Sunday, finally getting back to the crowd size it enjoyed before getting nuked in 2008 by the Writers’ Guild of America strike.

The trophy show scored 3 million more viewers than it did last year.

“Argo” was declared best dramatic flick and “Les Miserables” crowned best musical flick. HBOs “Girls” was named best comedy series, Showtime’s “Homeland” was best drama series, Jodie Foster may or may not have come out and best comedy actress Lena Dunham (“Girls”) couldn’t navigate heels and an evening gown.

It was the most watched Globes since 2007, which is the last time the competition broadcast logged 20 million viewers.

One year later, with celebs unwilling to cross the picket line, the Globes got turned into a broadcast news conference; only 6 million tuned in.

The franchise has been clawing its way back to the 20 million mark ever since — a threshold that it hit or passed many times , including a record 27 million in 2004.

Among the 18- to 49-year-old viewers who are preferred by advertisers, Sunday’s Globes climbed nearly 30 percent compared with last year.

For the past few years, the Globes have been broadcast live across the country. In addition, the West Coast immediately reruns the live broadcast. In those Western markets that repeat the Globes, unduplicated viewers from the live telecast and the rerun are counted in the national averages.

To read more from Winter TV Press Tour 2013, go to washingtonpost
.com/tvblog.

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