New Ken Burns Documentary This Fall

PBS said Thursday its fall season will open with a binge-viewing opportunity: a seven-part Ken Burns documentary on the Roosevelt political dynasty.

The Roosevelts: An Intimate History, will air as two-hour episodes over seven nights, beginning 14 September. Each episode will be repeated nightly and the show will be widely available for post-air online viewing, said Beth Hoppe, PBS chief programming executive.

"I think it's the best thing Ken's done since The Civil War," Hoppe said. "He thinks it might be the best thing he's ever done."

"The viewer experience is changing and we're trying to dish this up as an epic binge," Hoppe said of the series about US presidents and cousins Theodore and Franklin D Roosevelt and FDR's wife, Eleanor.

The Burns family itself will be well-represented on public TV's schedule, with brother Ric Burns' The Pilgrims, airing 25 November, Thanksgiving week. Another film, The American Experience, will examine what compelled English men and women to voyage to a new land in 1620.

PBS, whose average household rating for the season to date puts it at No. 7 among all broadcast and cable channels, won't have drama ratings champ Downton Abbey back on until January. But there's a full slate of fall alternatives.

Among them is Death Comes to Pemberley,"based on novelist PD James' sequel to Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice and starring Matthew Rhys (The Americans) and Anna Maxwell Martin. It airs 26 October and 2 November.

Bill Nighy will return as British spy Johnny Worricker, seen in 2011's Page Eight, in two new stories. He'll be joined by Christopher Walken, Winona Ryder, Helena Bonham Carter and Ralph Fiennes in the shows airing 9 and 16 November.

Arts programming will remain the focus of PBS' Friday night schedule, with two series, Live from Lincoln Center and Austin City Limits, marking their 40th anniversaries.

A March performance by Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel in Sweeny Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, in concert with the New York Philharmonic, will open the"Lincoln Center season on 26 September.

PBS' announcement preceded commercial network presentations of fall schedules to Madison Avenue next week. PBS and its stations are supported by a combination of funding that includes private donations and other sources, along with federal funding administered by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting that provides about 15% of local station budgets.

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