‘Victoria on Masterpiece’ Begins Jan. 15; How to Binge-Watch

The much-anticipated Victoria on Masterpiece begins Sunday, Jan. 15, at 8 p.m., on NPT. While the Victorian era has been a go-to time period for Masterpiece and PBS for decades, this is a new look at the storied reign of the legendary monarch. Prefer to binge-watch? Following the Jan. 15 premiere, the entire season of the new drama will also be available for streaming on NPT Passport.

If you are already a Passport-activated member, you’ll have immediate access to the entire series. For non-Passport viewers, each episode will available online following the Sunday broadcasts and will remain available for viewing for two weeks.

Written by historical novelist Daisy Goodwin, Victoria on Masterpiece chronicles Victoria’s first years on the throne as she displays a surprisingly determined manner. The cast stars Jenna Coleman as Victoria; Rufus Sewell as Prime Minister Lord Melbourne; and Tom Hughes as Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, Victoria’s consort. Victoria on Masterpiece airs Sundays through March 5 (with a break Feb. 26 for the Oscars).

NPT Passport is the member benefit streaming portal through which you can enjoy past episodes of many of your favorite PBS and NPT shows on demand using your streaming media player, computer, smartphone or tablet. Learn more about the Passport membership benefit here.

Opera Based on Ann Patchett’s ‘Bel Canto’ Airs Jan. 13 on NPT

The Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Bel Canto the Opera, an adaptation of Nashville author Ann Patchett’s award-winning novel about a hostage crisis in a South American embassy, will air on PBS’ Great Performances series, Friday, Jan. 13, at 8 p.m. on NPT. The new opera was composed by Jimmy López with a libretto by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Nilo Cruz and curated by legendary soprano Renée Fleming, Lyric’s creative consultant, who hosts the broadcast. This performance was recorded in Chicago last January.

‘Bel Canto’ world premiere at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. ©Todd Rosenberg Photography 2015

NPT spoke with Ann Patchett recently about the experience of having her book adapted for the operatic stage, an occurrence none too common these days, but undeniably appropriate for this particular book. Yet Patchett wasn’t entirely convinced it would happen.

“The thing about Bel Canto is that it has almost been so many things,” Patchett said by phone from her home in Nashville. She ran through a list of proposed adaptations: an opera in Santa Fe, a Broadway musical, a stage play. “It has almost been a movie more times than I can count,” Patchett said. “It’s not that these things didn’t happen because it was so hard, it’s just the process of doing collaborative art is hard.”

What was different this time around? Patchett’s good friend Renée Fleming approached her after being named creative director at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. “I said, sure, go ahead, knock yourself out. But I didn’t actually think it was going to happen; nor did I think that it wasn’t going to happen. I’d been down this road so many times before that I just didn’t think about it very much,” she added.

Not thinking about it meant not being involved in any way; all creative decisions were left to Fleming and others at Lyric Opera. “What do I know about opera? I think if you make a decision to sell your work, you’ve sold it,” Patchett said. As it turned out, she didn’t see Bel Canto the Opera until opening night, after a delayed flight cancelled her plans to attend a dress rehearsal with Fleming. By the time Patchett reached Chicago, there was just enough time to get to the pair’s speaking engagement.

“I’m glad in a way that’s the way it turned out,” Patchett said. “It was a beautiful experience and I genuinely loved the opera.” The lighting, the sets, the staging all brought out aspects of the story the author hadn’t previously considered. And she admits to enjoying taking a bow after the performance (though she protested at the time) and staying out late for the cast party. Patchett isn’t planning a party for Friday’s broadcast — but will be watching.

In the production, internationally acclaimed soprano Danielle de Niese stars as the American opera diva Roxane Coss, who is making a special appearance at a diplomatic gathering in Lima when terrorists storm the mansion. The hostage situation becomes a siege as government forces surround the compound. During the months-long crisis, lines blur and unexpected alliances form between captors and captives, with Roxane’s singing becoming a powerful, humanizing force.

Among the hostages are Japanese industrialist Katsumi Hosokawa (who is obsessed with the opera singer and who is the reason she was invited to perform) and his translator Gen Watanabe, portrayed by Jeongcheol Cha and Andrew Stenson, respectively. J’nai Bridges sings the role of guerilla Carmen; with Rafael Davila as General Alfredo; William Burden as Rubén Iglesias, the vice president; Anthony Roth Costanzo as César; and Jacques Imbrailo as Joachim Messner, the Red Cross intermediary for the hostages, captors, and government officials.

Bel Canto the Opera is sung in Spanish, English, Japanese, Russian, German, French, Latin and Quechua, with projected English translations. Sir Andrew Davis conducts the Lyric production directed by Kevin Newbury.

Win Tickets from NPT to See ‘Sherlock’ in Nashville

NPT is offering viewers the chance to see The Final Problem, the Sherlock on Masterpiece Season Four finale, on the big screen.

The feature-length episode will be shown at three Nashville movie theaters – the Regal Green Hills Stadium 16, the Regal Hollywood Stadium 27 (100 Oaks) and the Regal Opry Mills Stadium 20 – at 7 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 16, and Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2017. The theatrical release includes 15 minutes of additional material featuring one of the show’s most beloved characters.

Click here to register for the chance to win tickets to the screenings. The contest runs through Jan. 12.

Tickets for Sherlock: The Final Problem can be purchased online by visiting www.FathomEvents.com or at participating theater box offices. For a complete list of theater locations, visit the Fathom Events website (theaters and participants are subject to change).

Sherlock’s fourth season began Jan. 1, 2017, on NPT and continues with “The Lying Detective” (8 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 8) and “The Final Problem,” (6 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 15).

New Masterpiece Dramas Start January 1 with ‘Sherlock’

A fresh trio of Masterpiece dramas premiere in January, starting with Sherlock on Masterpiece on New Year’s Day at 8 p.m., followed in the coming weeks by the new series Victoria, and the second season of Mercy Street.



Season 4 of Sherlock begins with “The Six Thatchers,” which finds the famously manic and brilliant Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) back on British soil and once again facing antagonists and his own demons. Meanwhile, his friend and colleague John Watson (Martin Freeman) and his wife, Mary (Amanda Abbington), are expecting their first child. As with 2016’s “Abominable Bride,” each Season 4 episode will air in the U.S. and Britain on the same day.



In addition to the season-opening adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Adventure of the Six Napoleons” – which, like it’s predecessor, starts with a miscreant smashing busts of the titular political figure – this fresh batch of Sherlock episodes includes “The Lying Detective” (based on “The Adventure of the Dying Detective”) airing 8 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 8, and “The Final Problem,” airing 6 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 15.

“Sherlock: The Final Problem,” the season conclusion, will be shown at three Nashville movie theaters – the Regal Hollywood Stadium 27 (100 Oaks), The Regal Green Hills Stadium 16 and the Regal Opry Mills Stadium 20 – at 7 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 16, and Wednesday, Jan. 18. NPT is giving away five pairs of tickets for each day’s shows; check our website and social media for details.

We had a spirited audience at our Dec. 11 “Victoria Preview Screening and Victorian Celebration” at the Franklin Theatre (see some of the great costumes here), so we’re especially excited about the two-hour television premiere of Victoria on Masterpiece on Sunday, Jan. 15, at 8 p.m. The multipart drama chronicles the legendary queen’s first years on the throne as she evolves from a sheltered 18-year-old into a confidant young woman leading a growing empire.



In this new series written by Daisy Goodwin, Victoria (Jenna Coleman) gains a valuable ally in Prime Minister Lord Melbourne (Rufus Sewell), but their closeness triggers a Parliamentary crisis. Later, Victoria meets and marries Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (Tom Hughes). Victoria on Masterpiece is a beautifully filmed, historically informed series full of the intrigue and glamour viewers came to love in Downton Abbey. Watch Sundays at 8 p.m., Jan. 15 through March 5 (with a break Feb. 26 for the Oscars).

PBS premiered its first original American drama in more than a decade in 2016; that series, Mercy Street, is back for a second season 7 p.m. Sundays from Jan. 22 through March 5 (with the exception of Feb. 26). Set in a military hospital in Union-occupied Alexandria, Va., Mercy Street deals with smallpox, an inquisitive detective, a former slave turned activist, numerous romances and a Rebel spy over this season’s six episodes. In the opener, the Mansion House staff rallies to save one of its own during a visit by President Abraham Lincoln amid a foiled assassination attempt.

This season’s directors include Stephen Cragg (“Scandal,” “Nashville,” “How to Get Away With Murder,” “ER,” “Boston Legal,” “Grey’s Anatomy”); Laura Innes (“How to Get Away With Murder,” “The Affair,” “Brothers & Sisters,” “The West Wing,” “Grey’s Anatomy”); and Alexander Zakrzewski (“Bosch,” “Blacklist,” “Salem,” “The Good Wife,” “The Wire,” “Oz,” “NUMB3RS”).



Mercy Street was inspired by the stories of real people and in that spirit Tennessee State Museum curator Rob DeHart will write blog posts about each week’s episode highlighting a related object from the museum’s connection again this season.

Find our full programming schedule for NPT and NPT2 at http://www.wnpt.org/schedule/.

‘Downton Abbey’ Marathon Anchors NPT’s 2016 Holiday Programming

It’s the most wonderful time of the year – if you love Downton Abbey, because we’re showing every episode from all six seasons over Christmas weekend. The marathon starts Friday, Dec. 23, at 8 p.m. and concludes Monday, Dec. 26, 10:30 p.m. We’ll leave Downton briefly to air a new Call the Midwife Holiday Special on Sunday, Dec. 25, at 6:30 p.m. Consider that a stocking stuffer just for being extra good this year.

In this year’s Call the Midwife Holiday Special, the Nonnatus House team heads to South Africa to help out a tiny mission hospital.

Here’s a list of the other holiday treats we have you this season. And remember to kick off 2017 with The Six Thatchers, the Sherlock on Masterpiece Season 4 opener, airing New Year’s Day at 8 p.m.

Monday, Dec. 19, at 8 p.m. Broadway star Laura Osnes and actor Martin Jarvis are this year’s featured artists for Christmas with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Four Metropolitan Opera soloists will also join the performance.

Tuesday, Dec. 20, at 7 p.m. The season-nine Voice winner released an album of holiday standards this year and performs them in his first concert special, Jordan Smith ’Tis the Season.

Tuesday, Dec. 20, at 11 p.m. Journey to Trondheim, Norway, for an evening of holiday favorites in Christmas in Norway with the St. Olaf Choir.

Thursday, Dec. 22, at 8 p.m. Enjoy the 2015 Christmas at Belmont concert showcasing the university’s student ensembles along with guest performers. Grammy Award-winning artist Kathy Mattea hosts this special recorded at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center.


Thursday, Dec. 22, at 11 p.m. Keith Lockhart conducts Happy Holidays with the Boston Pops, a new program that includes the orchestra’s signature rendition of Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride”; a reading by Mad Men and Broadway star Robert Morse; and a performance by country artist Sara Evans.

Joyce DiDonato. Credit: Courtesy of Simon Pauly

Joyce DiDonato. Credit: Courtesy of Simon Pauly

Saturday, Dec. 31, at 8:30 p.m. The annual New York Philharmonic New Year’s Eve on Live from Lincoln Center features mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato in a performance of classics by Rodgers & Hammerstein and other American composers. Musical director Alan Gilbert conducts in his final season with the orchestra.

Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017, at 6:30 p.m. Another tradition, Great Performances’ annual presentation of the Vienna Philharmonic’s New Year’s Celebration, is once again hosted by Julie Andrews. Gustavo Dudamel of the Los Angeles Philharmonic serves as the orchestra’s guest conductor.

Friday, Dec. 16, at 9 p.m. Lidia Bastianich returns in a new special, Lidia Celebrates America: Holiday for Heroes. This year the chef/cookbook author visits veterans in four states and hosts a holiday dinner for 250 active duty Navy troops aboard the USS George Washington at the Naval Station Norfolk.

Tuesday, Dec. 20, at 9 p.m. Explore holiday traditions in the United Kingdom, Scandinavia and Europe in Rick Steves Special: European Christmas.

GREAT BRITISH BAKING SHOW judges Paul and Mary Berry. Credit: Courtesy of Andy Devonshire

GREAT BRITISH BAKING SHOW judges Paul and Mary Berry. Credit: Courtesy of Andy Devonshire

Thursday, Dec. 22, at 9 p.m. Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood were exacting judges on the popular Great British Baking Show. In the Christmas Masterclass episode, the pair demonstrate how to create spectacular holiday treats.

Saturday, Dec. 31, at 10 p.m. Prepare for tomorrow’s Viennese celebration by watching Bare Feet with Mickela Mallozzi as the host learns how to waltz.

Finally, what would the season be without evergreen holiday episodes of Keeping Up Appearances and the Lawrence Welk Show? Watch them Saturday, Dec. 17 and 31.

Find our complete viewing schedule for NPT and NPT2 at wnpt.org/schedule.

Happy holidays from NPT!

Enjoy Victorian Holiday Celebrations in Advance of Victoria on Masterpiece

victoria-06Victoria on Masterpiece premieres with a two-hour special, Sunday, Jan. 15, at 8 p.m. This new series follows the feisty teen queen’s reign after she ascended the British throne in 1837 and features finely appointed interiors, lavish costumes and extravagant ballroom scenes as it provides a look at the woman who gave her name to an era.  NPT celebrated the series launch with a Victoria Preview Screening and Victorian Celebration Dec. 11 at the Franklin Theatre.



Victoria’s 63-year reign coincided with the Industrial Age, the Dickensian era and the American Civil War. It was also the time when many of our holiday traditions were established, among them the adornment of Christmas trees, the Christmas Carol story and the sending of Christmas cards. Appropriately, our Victoria preview event takes place during the holiday season.

Here are some opportunities to enjoy a Victorian holiday experience in the Nashville area.

Franklin's Dickens of a Christmas. Ryan Jason Photography

Franklin’s Dickens of a Christmas. Ryan Jason Photography

Dickens of a Christmas, Downtown Franklin
At this time of year, Downtown Franklin looks like the set of a holiday movie and becomes even more festive during the Heritage Foundation of Franklin & Williamson County’s annual Dickens of a Christmas. The 32nd edition of the event takes place the weekend of Dec. 10-11 and features Tiny Tim and the Cratchits, Scrooge, Marley and other characters plucked from Dickens’ stories; 200 musicians and dancers, a stilt walker and a unicyclist. Sugar plums, roasted chestnuts and other 19th-century English fare will be available from vendors; while a Victorian Father and Mother Christmas will distribute treats to children.

Remember, if you’re planning to attend Dickens of a Christmas on Sunday, finish the experience with NPT’s Victoria Preview Screening and Victorian Celebration!





Belmont Mansion

Belmont Mansion

Belmont Mansion
Adelicia Acklen, the remarkable heroine of Belmont Mansion, was born just two years before Victoria. A portrait of the young queen dressed in ceremonial robes and wearing a glittering crown hangs at the center of Belmont Mansion’s grand staircase. During the holidays, seasonal flowers are added to the staircase and the mansion is bedecked in swags of greenery and arrangements of greenery and berries reminiscent of those of Adelicia’s time.

Belmont Mansion is celebrating a two-year restoration of Adelicia’s central parlor to its 1860s glory with a special Christmas treatment of festive greenery above the doors and windows. The mansion’s dining room has been laid with desserts and multi-course table setting typical to the Victorian era.




Grassmere Historic Home, Nashville Zoo
Yuletide tours of the Grassmere Historic Home will be offered weekends Dec. 3-4 through 17-18 and will include live entertainment. The house will be decorated with greenery in the Victorian style using ribbons and decorations that belonged to Margaret and Elise Croft, the sisters whose family bought Grassmere in 1888. Docents will explain Victorian traditions that are still part of modern celebrations, while discussing customs such as taking a turn stirring the Christmas pudding for good luck.

Grassmere Historic Home

Grassmere Historic Home


Lotz House Civil War House Museum
This historic home was completed in 1858 and survived the brutal Battle of Franklin. The house was built by German immigrant Albert Lotz, a master carpenter who created the home’s stunning cantilevered staircase and free-floating handrail. During the holiday season Lotz House is decorated in the manner of a mid-1880s Christmas and will be part of Twinkling Tennessee Christmas, a Gray Line tour of exterior light displays in Franklin. The Lotz House stop includes hot apple cider and cookies.

Lotz House Civil War House Museum

Lotz House Civil War House Museum


New Undersea Series from Jim Henson Now Part of Kid’s Lineup on NPT

splashbubblesThe latest addition to NPT’s children’s programming lineup is Splash and Bubbles, a new series from The Jim Henson Company, producers of Dinosaur Train and Sid the Science Kid. This new series airs 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 7 a.m. Saturday and Sunday on NPT. Splash and Bubbles was designed by a team of marine biologists, digital innovators and educators to show the wonders of the undersea world to children ages four to seven, while also helping them develop social-emotional skills.

Splash and Bubbles uses groundbreaking digital puppetry technology to follow the adventures of Splash, a yellow fusilier fish who has migrated all over the ocean. He now lives in Reeftown, where he has befriended Bubbles, a Mandarin Dragonet whose vivid orange and electric blue coloring matches her colorful personality. Until Splash came along, Bubbles and most of the other Reeftown residents had no idea what lived beyond the cozy confines of their coral walls. Together, Splash, Bubbles and their friends explore the world’s undersea habitats, make new friends and learn about the many different ways life looks and lives in the ocean, celebrating the importance of diversity along the way.

Each Splash and Bubbles episode includes two 11-minute animated stories, as well as live-action content. The series is funded in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and by the National Science Foundation. Videos, games and downloadable activity pages related to the series are available on the PBS Kids/Splash and Bubbles website.

Here’s our updated weekday schedule of children’s programs:

6:00     Wild Kratts
6:30     Ready Jet Go!
7:00     Nature Cat
7:30     Curious George
8:00     Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood
8:30     Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood
9:00     Splash and Bubbles
9:30     Sesame Street
10:00   Dinosaur Train
10:30   Peg + Cat
11:00   Super Why!
11:30   Thomas & Friends
12:00   noon Bob the Builder
12:30   The Cat in the Hat
1:00     Splash and Bubbles
1:30     Curious George
2:00     Nature Cat
2:30     Ready Jet Go!
3:00     Odd Squad
3:30     Odd Squad
4:00     Wild Kratts
4:30     Arthur
5:00     Martha Speaks
5:30     WordGirl

Click here to find your children’s favorite shows on our schedule.


NPT Earns Four Midsouth Regional Emmy Nominations; Simington Honored

emmy statuette
NPT received four nominations in four categories at the 31st Midsouth Regional Emmy Award announcement party on November 17, 2016, at BMI on Nashville’s Music Row.

The following NPT productions and staff received nominations:

NPT Reports: Aging Matters: Living with Alzheimer’s & Dementia, Beth Curley, Mary Makley

Christmas at Belmont, Ed Jones, Don Carr

Tennessee Crossroads #2949, Ken Simington, Joe Elmore

A Word on Words, Linda Wei, Matthew Emigh, Will Pedigo, JT Ellison, Mary Laura Philpott, Beth Curley

In addition, it was announced that Ken Simington will be inducted into the Silver Circle. The Silver Circle honors those with at least 25 years of service to the television industry and who have made a significant contribution to the community and to Midsouth television. Simington, who was the longtime executive producer of NPT’s Tennessee Crossroads magazine program, died in August of this year.

We’d also like to congratulate our friends and partners on their nominations, including Todd Squared (Bluegrass Underground, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band & Friends ‒ Fifty Years and Circlin’ Back) and The Jackson Foundation Media Productions (Tennessee’s Wild Side, Writing on the Wild Side, Wild Side TV: Nature’s Classroom).

See the full list of nominations here. The 31st Annual Midsouth Regional EMMY® Awards will be held Jan. 21, 2017, at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center.

NPT’s ‘Aging Matters: Abuse & Exploitation’ Premieres Nov. 17

There are more than 5 million elder abuse victims in the United States and it is estimated that one in 10 adults over the age of 60 is a victim. Aging Matters: Abuse & Exploitation, the eighth documentary in Nashville Public Television’s NPT Reports: Aging Matters series, explores the issues behind elder abuse, neglect and exploitation. The documentary premieres Thursday, Nov. 17, at 8 p.m. on NPT.

The primary risk factor for elders is isolation, Kathleen Quinn, former executive director of the National Adult Protective Services Association, says in the film. Aging Matters: Abuse & Exploitation offers insight from a number of people working the frontlines of identifying and dealing with abuse, including law enforcement officials, social services personnel and community leaders.

Several surprising and thought-provoking facts about elder abuse are shared in the documentary. For example, there are more victims of elder abuse than there are of child abuse and domestic violence combined. And while exploitation by scammers and other strangers grabs the most headlines, the majority of perpetrators are people close to and trusted by the victim, people who are an integral part of the elder’s life.

In the second half hour of the broadcast, a panel of experts moderated by NPT senior producer LaTonya Turner considers two scenarios – physical abuse and financial exploitation – and what to do if you suspect either situation.

A preview screening and discussion of Aging Matters: Abuse & Exploitation is set for Wednesday, Nov. 16, at FiftyForward Patricia Hart Building with panelists Lauren Angulo, Victory Over Crime Director, FiftyForward; Teresa Clark, FiftyForward client; Zoe Sams, Davidson County Assistant District Attorney General; and Ardie Griffin, Davidson County Assistant District Attorney General.

Aging Matters: Abuse & Exploitation was produced by Will Pedigo, who previously produced the Aging Matters Healthy Aging and Economics of Aging documentaries. Pedigo has also worked on NPT’s Veterans Coming Home, Children’s Health Crisis and Next Door Neighbors documentary series.

The NPT Reports: Aging Matters series is hosted by Grammy-winning singer and songwriter Kathy Mattea. Aging Matters: Abuse & Exploitation is made possible by the generous support of the West End Home Foundation, the Jeanette Travis Foundation, The HCA Foundation and Cigna-HealthSpring. Additional support provided by the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee, Jackson National Life Insurance Company and AARP Tennessee.

Additional broadcast times for Aging Matters: Abuse & Exploitation are below; the documentary will also be available for online viewing at wnpt.org/agingmatters/.

  • Monday, Nov. 21, 8 a.m. on NPT2
  • Tuesday, Nov. 22, 1 p.m. on NPT2
  • Saturday, Nov. 26, 9 p.m. on NPT2
  • Sunday, Nov. 27, 5 p.m. on NPT2
  • Friday, Dec. 9, 9 p.m. on NPT


About Aging Matters: NPT Reports: Aging Matters is a major initiative designed to open a community-based conversation about what older citizens in Middle Tennessee need to optimize their quality of life and what the community needs to do to prepare for a coming explosion in our aging population. Over the course of several years, NPT has focused on issues such as caregiving, finances, end-of-life issues, dementia and Alzheimer’s through documentaries, televised town halls or panel discussions, Aging Matters updates, community engagement conversations, a project website, interactive online screenings and DVD distribution.

Interview with ‘SOUNDBREAKING’ Music Supervisor; Series Airs Nov. 14-23

Soundbreaking: Stories from the Cutting Edge of Recorded Music, PBS’ highly anticipated music series, premieres Monday, Nov. 14, and explores the extraordinary impact of recorded music on the modern world in eight, one-hour episodes. The series combines unprecedented access to some of the most celebrated artists, producers and innovators from across the music spectrum with new interviews, rare archival studio footage and an extensive soundtrack.

George Martin is one of more than 150 artists featured in the SOUNDBREAKING series.

The series was the final project of legendary music producer Sir George Martin, a connection Nashville-based Carter Little said made his job as music supervisor on the series easier. “The way we were able to bring all of this music and get all of these labels and publishers was that Sir George Martin and the Beatles were a major part of this show.”

Little addressed the audience at NPT’s October advance screening of Soundbreaking at the Belcourt Theatre and recently spoke with NPT about the series. His involvement with the project began while it was still in development and he worked with the filmmakers to identify songs and storylines in the show around which sequences were built. “It’s been many, many years in the making,” he laughed.

A self-described music and recording junkie, Little said it was a joy “to spend so much time investigating, exploring the records, the producers, the engineers and the artists and the songwriters that I love so much and that have had such a big influence on my life.” The project was a labor of love for Little and other members of the team. He added that despite spending the last 25 years immersed in music and recording, he has still learned much from Soundbreaking.

Highlights of the series include:

  • George Martin and the Beatles’ groundbreaking work in the studio creates a new paradigm for pop music
  • Phil Spector rises as the first “rock star producer”
  • Paul Epworth collaborates with Adele on “Rolling in the Deep”
  • Stevie Wonder embraces the synthesizer and makes a break with Motown
  • Giorgio Moroder fuses R&B with electronica and the dance floor explodes
  • The art of sampling gives rise to hip-hop
  • Michael Jackson and Madonna take the art of the music video to new heights
  • Miles Davis and Marvin Gaye use the long-playing record for new kinds of expression


The Stevie Wonder segment is part of “Going Electric,” the fifth episode of Soundbreaking, and concerns the musician’s post-Motown discovery of the work of synthesizer pioneers Bob Margouleff and Malcolm Cecil. “[Their synthesizer] looked like eight airplane cockpits tied together with cables, ropes and electrical connections,” Little said. “Stevie Wonder loved the sound and ended up collaborating with them on the next string of records he made, which included Songs in the Key of Life, Inner Visions and Talking Book. This is a great story and unlikely story.”

Soundbreaking not only tells such little-known stories, it tells them in an innovative manner. “What Jeff [Dupre] and Maro [Chermayeff] did in this show, and what we were able to do with the licensing to match their creative vision, was to license the song so that if we wanted to have a whole song play for its entirety, we could,” Little said. In the episodes, the songs play longer than the usual snippet familiar to viewers of music documentaries. The idea, Little explained, is to give viewers an immersive experience minus extensive editorializing. “That is beautiful,” he said, “because what they’re saying is that the song speaks for itself and that we’re not going to hit you over the head constantly with commentary; that each of these eight hours will tell a story that’s compelling enough that we can back off for a few minutes and not say anything.”

Soundbreaking will air on NPT weekdays, November 14-23, 2016, at 9 p.m.; check our complete schedule at wnpt.org/schedule for replays.

Soundbreaking is presented by Higher Ground in association with the late Sir George Martin, and produced and directed by Emmy- and Peabody Award®-winning filmmakers Maro Chermayeff and Jeff Dupre of Show of Force (Half the Sky, A Path Appears, Carrier, Circus, Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present). The television series is the centerpiece of a multi-platform project that includes an extensive educational outreach initiative in partnership with PBS, The Grammy Museum® at L.A. LIVE and The Rock and Roll Forever Foundation. An interactive website, soundtrack CD and companion book with stunning photographs and unique interviews will also accompany the Soundbreaking series.