A Wranglin' Roundup of Wild West Programming This Spring on PBS

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(PBS Press Tour: Pasadena, CA, January 14, 2006) - Saddle up, partners, as PBS presents the heroes and the hardships of the Old (and not so old) West with a series of programs that explore life on the American frontier, as well as the legends and lore that persist today. Ride with the wild stallions of the Rocky Mountains, round up your prettiest cattle and revive the days of six-shooters and sheriffs with a "range" of programming.

THE STANDARD OF PERFECTION's "Show Cattle,"airing on PBS Wednesday, April 19, 2006, 10:00-11:00 p.m. ET, is a new documentary from director Mark Lewis (NATURAL HISTORY OF THE CHICKEN), who takes viewers behind the scenes of the Fryeburg Fair, New England's biggest and most prestigious show cattle competition. Held annually in October, the fair signals a time when cattle lovers across New England gather to bathe, groom, clip and show their animals over three days of intense competition. Judged against recognized standards in a variety of categories, hundreds of cattle compete for six grand champion prizes and the coveted crown of Supreme Champion. "Show Cattle" takes viewers into the world of the bovine makeover, and shows how pride, determination and a set of steel-capped boots transform barnyard cattle into regional celebrities.

Departing the territory of domesticated cattle, the dusty trail heads west for an encore of NATURE's "Cloud: Wild Stallion of the Rockies," airing on PBS Sunday, April 23, 2006, 8:00-9:00 p.m. ET. Filmed in the mountains of western Montana, this poignant, engrossing story focuses on a wild stallion whose life has been recorded since his moment of birth in the wild by Emmy-winning filmmaker Ginger Kathrens. Kathrens' exceptional footage follows the striking white horse she names Cloud through a series of harrowing struggles and adventures, including expulsion from his own horse family, the rites of passage as he develops into a dominating stallion, his capture in a government roundup and subsequent release, the struggle to survive harsh winters and frequent summer lightning strikes, and the dangers posed by illegal horse shooters. As an illuminating visual record of the emergence of a natural leader, this is an unprecedented film about wild horses.

In May, circle your wagons around the latest hands-on history series, TEXAS RANCH HOUSE, airing on PBS Monday-Thursday, May 1-4, 2006, 8:00-10:00 p.m. ET. This four-part series from the producers of COLONIAL HOUSE and FRONTIER HOUSE challenges a group of intrepid time-travelers to experience the exhilaration and exhaustion of life in the Old West. Participants ranch, rope, ride and pass nights under the stars and in their haciendas as they experience life in the real West of the American cowboy. As it follows the daily challenges of the participants, the series illuminates the fascinating story of merging cultures and changing social dynamics in post-Civil War Texas, and explores the country's diverse ancestry, including the cultures of European immigrants, Hispanics, African Americans and Native Americans.

The trail moves from the harsh realities of western life to the legends that life has created: AMERICAN EXPERIENCE's "Annie Oakley," airing on PBS Monday, May 8, 2006, 9:00-10:00 p.m. ET, tells the tale of the star of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, the young woman who thrilled audiences around the world with her daring shooting feats. While her act helped fuel turn-of-the-century nostalgia for the vanished, mythical world of the American West, the legend of Annie Oakley had little to do with the real Annie. Although famous as a western sharpshooter, Oakley lived her entire life east of the Mississippi. A champion in a man's sport, Oakley forever changed ideas about the abilities of women, yet she opposed female suffrage. Her fame and fortune came from her skill with guns, a concept that was counter to her Quaker upbringing.

The journey ends with a modern-day look at the ways two masters of American cinema collaborated to create a number of classic western movies in AMERICAN MASTERS' "John Wayne/John Ford" (w.t.), airing on PBS Wednesday, May 10, 2006, 9:00-11:00 p.m. ET. Many consider John Ford America's greatest director, winner of six Academy Awards, more than any director before or since. John Wayne is the actor whom Ford transformed from a B-western cowboy into a larger-than-life national icon. Their friendship and professional collaboration spanned 50 years, changing their lives, the movies and, in the process, how America saw itself. Their remarkable body of work,  including Stagecoach, Fort Apache, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, Rio Grande, The Searchers, The Horse Soldiers, The Alamo and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,  is heroic and nostalgic, reflecting all the elements and all the paradoxes of 20th-century America: generosity of spirit, abuse of power, a sense of loyalty and a restless nationalism.

Head off into the sunset with this collection of Wild West programs in April and May, only on PBS.

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