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THE TV COLUMN

Women of Bletchley Circle return to PBS

By Michael Storey

This article was published August 29, 2013 at 3:06 a.m.

the-bletchley-circle-stars-from-left-rachael-stirling-as-millie-anna-maxwell-martin-as-susan-sophie-rundle-as-lucy-and-julie-graham-as-jean-the-series-returns-sept-15-to-pbs

The Bletchley Circle stars (from left) Rachael Stirling as Millie, Anna Maxwell Martin as Susan, Sophie Rundle as Lucy and Julie Graham as Jean. The series returns Sept. 15 to PBS.

Aside from a few early bird programs, the inundation of the new fall season begins in only 25 days. Let’s use the relative calm to catch up with stuff that would be lost in the shuffle.

At the recent TV critics summer press tour, PBS took the opportunity to discuss new and returning series for fall and on down the line. Here are some highlights.

The Bletchley Circle. The acclaimed miniseries follows four seemingly ordinary British women with the extraordinary ability to crack German codes during World War II when they worked undercover at Bletchley Park, site of the country’s main decryption center.

It’s now 1952 and Susan, Millie, Lucy and Jean have returned to civilian life, keeping their intelligence work a secret. However, a series of nasty murders targeting women reunites the team as they search for the pattern behind the crimes.

The three episodes of Season 1 will air on Sundays beginning Sept. 15, and a four-episode second season is set for spring 2014.

Also on Sunday nights next spring will be Season 3 of Callthe Midwife and Season 2 of Mr. Selfridge.

Veterans special. PBS plans a three-part special “that personalizes the experiences of returning veterans and celebrates the lives of this group of exceptional people.” Coming Back With Wes Moore is set for May and tells the personal tales of returning vets, the challenges they face and their quest to renew lives of meaningful service.

Great ideas. Coming in fall 2014 will be How We Got to Now. The six-part series hosted by author Steven Johnson explores why and how ideas happen, and their sometimes unintended results. Example: how the search for clean water opened the way to invention of the iPhone.

New co-anchors. Beginning next month, Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff will be co-anchors and managing editors for the PBS Newshour. On Fridays, it’ll be a solo Woodruff as I fill hosts Washington Week. In addition, Hari Sreenivasan will host PBS Newshour Weekend beginning Sept. 7.

JFK tribute. To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the death of President John F. Kennedy, PBS will air a series of prime-time specials Nov. 11-13.

Arts festival. Beginning Oct.18, the PBS Arts Fall Festival will spotlight Broadway shows and stars with seven weekly programs. Actress Anna Deavere Smith (The West Wing, Nurse Jackie) will host.

Black history. Historian and filmmaker Henry Louis Gates will present The African-Americans: Many Rivers to Cross. The six-hour documentary series traces 500 years of black history and begins Oct. 22.

Hispanic history. Set to debut next month, American Latinos is a six-hour, three-part documentary also covering 500 years. Latinos includes “the 16th-century arrival of the Spanish to America; the wave of Latino immigration to the United States in the 19th and 20th centuries; Latinos during World War II; the 1960s start of social action movements; and the contemporary debate over illegal immigration.”

Actor Benjamin Bratt, whose mother emigrated from Peru as a teenager, is the narrator.

AETN invitation. Meanwhile, AETN has announced Sept. 14 as Family Day Conway 2013. If you’re a fan of PBS Kids, there will be something for you. The day is billed as a “free public event to encourage community spirit” and will take place at AETN headquarters at 350 S. Donaghey Ave. in Conway from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

What’s there to do? First of all, viewers get to meet the inimitable Chuck Dovish, Clifford the Big Red Dog, Martha, Daniel Tiger, Arthur and the Cat in the Hat.

They had me at Dovish.

Other activities include story time with celebrity readers Arkansas first lady Ginger Beebe, B98.5 radio personality Jeff Matthews and Heather Kendrick, host of Conway Corp.’s Living Local.

There’s lots more stuff for the kiddies, plus tours of the facilities and refreshments. Check the web at AETN.org for the full list of activities - all with the Mr. Rogers theme of “Won’t you be my neighbor.”

Good stuff. Full disclosure: There’s not a whole lot that I watch on MTV. I’m, like, 40 years past their target demographic. However, the comedy series Awkward is high on my DVR list.

The series captures “the conflict, chaos and humor that defines teenage life” through the eyes of its protagonist, Jenna Hamilton (Ashley Rickards). Yes, we’ve all been there and there’s a certain truth that resonates throughout the series no matter what your age. It’s creatively written, crisply acted and treats its characters as human beings.

The final 10 episodes of the 20-episode Season 3 begins at 9:30 p.m. Oct. 22. A fourth season has already been ordered. The TV Column appears Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. Email: mstorey@arkansasonline.com

Weekend, Pages 32 on 08/29/2013

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