Pioneers Of THIRTEEN, A New Four-part Series, Celebrates The 50Th Anniversary Of THIRTEEN, America's Most-watched Public Television Station

The series explores the station's contributions to drama, music, historic perspective, and key events; Premieres Monday, September 17 at 8 pm on THIRTEEN

Programs feature rarely seen footage unearthed from the WNET archives

Sep 07, 2012, 12:36 ET from WNET

NEW YORK, Sept. 7, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In honor of THIRTEEN's 50th anniversary on September 16, 2012, the flagship station of PBS is kicking off a year-long celebration the week of September 17-23, 2012 with the premiere of Pioneers of THIRTEEN, a four-part documentary chronicling the growth and breadth of the station's programming over 50 years.


Episode one of Pioneers of THIRTEEN, The '60s – Experimental Days, will air Monday, September 17, from 8:00-9:00 p.m. on THIRTEEN.  The remaining three episodes, The '70s – Bold and Fearless, The '80s – Trusted Voice and The '90s and Beyond – Changing Landscape will be broadcast later in the year, date: TBD.

Pioneers of THIRTEEN features rarely seen clips of the artistic and groundbreaking programming unearthed from the WNET archives, as well as first-hand stories from the people who created the inspiring programs over 50 years.  Each episode tells the story of a decade, beginning with the launch, September 16, 1962, when Edward R. Murrow, host of the inaugural broadcast, introduced channel13, WNDT – "New Dimensions in Television," which would later evolve into WNET. Dustin Hoffman and Andy Rooney are seen at the nascent stages of their careers.

Episode one: The '60s – Experimental Days
In 1961, the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Newton N. Minow, challenges TV producers to do a better job, calling TV programming a "vast wasteland."  A year later, President John F. Kennedy signs the Educational Television Facilities Act and public television is born. In episode one, a pioneering group of producers and directors at WNET, then called WNDT – "New Dimensions in Television," launch shows with chef Julia Child and famed cellist Pablo Casals and Black Journal, created by independent producer Alvin H. Perlmutter, which examines for the first time on television black issues, music, culture, and politics.

Pop artist and cultural icon Andy Warhol introduces a new band called the Velvet Underground and The Doors play a concert in a TV studio. Documentary filmmaking brothers Albert and David Maysles follow Truman Capote in a black and white cinema verite film shot in 1966, just after the release and fame of his non-fiction novel In Cold Blood. In a precursor to Great Performances, the station begins to experiment with televising stage plays and films the play Journey of the Fifth Horse in 1966, starring a young Dustin Hoffman, a year before his breakthrough role in The Graduate.  A new children's series called Sesame Street which challenged the norm by combining fantasy and reality to teach children is broadcast in 1969.           

Featured clips include:      

  • Aaron Copland Music in the '20s
  • Black Journal, Bill Greaves, executive producer and co-host
  • Black Journal Roundtable
    • Kathleen Cleaver
  • Black Journal featuring: Jim Brown, Fannie Lou Hamer, Robert Johnson (Jet Magazine), Dr. Alvin Poussaint, Richard Moore (historian), Andrew Young, LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka), Reverend Jesse Jackson, and Huey P. Newton
  • Bill Cosby, Conversations with James Day
  • Court of Reason, weekly public affairs program
  • Critique, hosted by rock journalist Richard Goldstein
    • Interview with The Doors
  • Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Special, Public Broadcasting Laboratory (PBL)
    • During the lead up to the People's March – a THIRTEEN photographer, Joseph Louw on the scene when Dr. King was assassinated took the iconic photograph on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis
    • Interview with photographer Joseph Louw
  • Free Time, featuring John Lennon and Yoko Ono in a remarkable art performance
  • Glenn Gould, Public Broadcasting Laboratory
  • The History of the Negro People, The Negro and The South
    • Ossie Davis
  • Journey of the Fifth Horse, featuring Dustin Hoffman
  • Jazz Casual
    • Louis Armstrong
    • Vince Guaraldi, pianist, and Bola Sete, guitarist
    • B.B. King, King of the Blues
    • Mel Torme
  • Judith Jamison, Alvin Ailey dancer, in a clip from Ailey's signature piece "Cry"
  • Margaret Mead's New Guinea Journal, producer Craig Gilbert
  • Muhammad Ali, Conversations with Bud Collins
  • NET Festival, The Sound of Soul
    • Nina Simone performing "Mississippi Goddman" and her response to the civil rights violence
  • Bob Newhart's satirical look at a talk show
  • Opening cartoon by John Hubley, Academy-Award winning animator (creator of cartoon character Mister Magoo)
  • PBL Buffalo Arts Festival
    • Allen Ginsberg
    • Cecil Taylor
  • Sesame Street
    • James Earl Jones
  • Sleep of Prisoners, featuring Jon Voight, 12 years before his Academy-Award win for Coming Home
  • Take This Hammer, James Baldwin
  • Ten Blocks on the Camino Real featuring Martin Sheen
  • USA Arts
    • Featuring Andy Warhol and the Velvet Underground with lead singer Lou Reed
  • USA Dance
    • Featuring the New York City Ballet (voice of George Balanchine, artistic director of the NYC Ballet)·        
  • USA Novel
    • Featuring Vladimir Nabokov, author of Lolita
    • Featuring Truman Capote
  • USA Photography
    • Featuring Ansel Adams
    • Featuring Dorothea Lange
  • USA Poetry
    • Featuring Frank O'Hara
  • What Harvest for the Reaper?, producer Morton Silverstein
  • Who's Afraid of the Avant Garde?
  • Frederick Wiseman, legendary filmmaker, featuring clips from
    • Titicut Follies (Bridgewater State Hospital of the criminally insane)
    • Law and Order (Kansas City Police Department)
    • Hospital (New York's Metropolitan Hospital) 

Featured interviews include:

  • Stephen Battaglio, cultural critic and editor TV Guide Magazine
  • Ward Chamberlin, vice president, 1962-1971
  • Joan Ganz Cooney, staff producer and co-founder of Children's Television Workshop (now Sesame Workshop)
  • Richard Heffner, first general manager of WNDT
  • Herb Homes, operations manager, 1963-1972
  • James Earl Jones, actor
  • Robert Kotlowitz, first vice president of programming
  • Jessie Maple, 1968 NET training school student and first African American woman to join the cinematographers union
  • Bill Moyers, host of Bill Moyers Journal
  • Alvin H. Perlmutter, former WNBC staff
  • Sam Pollard, 1968 NET training school student, director and longtime Spike Lee collaborator (i.e., When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts (2006), 4 Little Girls (1997), Jungle Fever (1991), and more)
  • Morton Silverstein, producer/writer NET
  • Michael Winship, publicity director, 1974-1979
  • Jac Venza, culture and arts executive, 1962- 2005

Pioneers of THIRTEEN is a production of THIRTEEN for WNET.   WNET is the parent company of public television stations THIRTEEN and WLIW21 and operator of NJTV. Julie Anderson is executive producer.   Denise Green and Charlotte Mangin are producers.  Sue Ding is associate producer.

Funding for Pioneers of THIRTEEN is provided by Rosalind P. Walter and the members of THIRTEEN.

For more information about THIRTEEN's 50th anniversary visit:

About WNET
In 2012, WNET is celebrating the 50th Anniversary of THIRTEEN, New York's flagship public media provider. As the parent company of THIRTEEN and WLIW21 and operator of NJTV, WNET brings quality arts, education and public affairs programming to over 5 million viewers each week. WNET produces and presents such acclaimed PBS series as Nature, Great Performances, American Masters, Need to Know, Charlie Rose and a range of documentaries, children's programs, and local news and cultural offerings available on air and online. Pioneers in educational programming, WNET has created such groundbreaking series as Get the Math, Oh Noah!  and Cyberchase and provides tools for educators that bring compelling content to life in the classroom and at home. WNET highlights the tri-state's unique culture and diverse communities through NYC-ARTS, Reel 13, NJ Today and the new online newsmagazine MetroFocus.