By Charly SHELTON
This week at the Langham Hotel in Pasadena, the Public Broadcasting Service – PBS – debuted its upcoming specials and ongoing television series that will come to screens in early to mid 2013.
Normally when one thinks of PBS, it conjures images of “Sesame Street,” classical concerts and antiques shows. But their line of shows is growing. With the success of “Downton Abbey,” they have brought in more imported shows from Mother England which have garnered success not only overseas but also on BBC America.
In addition to the new imports, PBS has launched a slew of new shows and specials to keep viewers from changing that channel: history shows that rival the best cable-based history networks, science shows that will give a broader view of the world, and even more children’s programming to keep the legacy of “Sesame Street” and “Mr. Rogers Neighborhood” alive.
Over the next few months as the shows and topics arrive, CV Weekly will take a deeper look at some of the programs and specials offered on PBS. First up is “Shakespeare Uncovered,” debuting tomorrow.
This show is part history, part play, part travel show as it takes viewers back to the days of Shakespeare. How did he write his plays? Where did the ideas come from? Did he write all his own work or did he have help? And what is the importance of Shakespeare in today’s society? All this and more is addressed in a one hour program starring some of the top Shakespearian actors of today – Jeremy Irons, David Tennant and Ethan Hawke just to name a few.
Jeremy Irons was on hand at a press event to speak with CVWeekly about the upcoming series that he will take part in. Irons recently played Henry IV in a TV production of what is called “The Hollow Crown” series, consisting of Richard II, Henry IV Part 1, Henry IV Part 2 and Henry V. As such, Irons will be hosting the show that covers the Shakespearian histories of Henry IV and V. Tom Hiddleston (Loki from the Marvel movies Thor and The Avengers) plays Henry V in the series as well.
Irons spoke on topics including, among other things, the importance of Shakespeare. “We have such a disadvantage with Shakespeare because everybody teaches it badly in school and so you leave school and the Americans and the English, they leave school and if they’re lovely they get taught a bit of Shakespeare and they’ve probably seen a bad production, and they say ‘Right, fine, schools over. Thank you very much. That’s the end of you for my life.’ So as an actor, I’ve realized that Shakespeare is gold dust. Shakespeare is the best writer, he can allow you to do more with an audience than any other writer before or since. So what I’m very excited about Shakespeare on camera is, specifically the ‘Hollow Crown’ series is that you see some of the best British actors playing Shakespeare. And what you do is to open up to this huge American audience this gold dust. Show them that actually television doesn’t end with ‘Downton Abbey.’ If you think that’s good, then watch these Shakespeare productions and you’ll see what real writing, what real stories, what real characters are about.” Irons continued “its like… a Ford Fiesta will get you there and give you a good time. But then there’s an Aston Martin. That’s Shakespeare.”
The series debuts Thursday night at 9 p.m. on PBS with “Macbeth” featuring Ethan Hawke, followed at 10 p.m. by “The Comedies” with Joely Richardson.
This show is amazing. Really insightful and timely, it looks at Shakespeare not only through a modern lens, but shows viewers how these plays were received by his contemporaries, why they have lasted so long and why they are still relevant today. By presenting the stories in a historical light and a condensed version of the story, there is no need to fear the Early Modern English that is the script of the play. It is expertly worked out for the viewer so that any mystery one may have had about one of the plays, whether you are new to Shakespeare or you were born to play Hamlet, will be Uncovered.