History Comes Alive as PBS Unveils Five New Specials and Series at Annual Meeting

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Modern Family Moves Back in Time to Edwardian Manor House; Legacies of Medici Family and Lawrence of Arabia Explored; Leonardo da Vinci's Dream Machines Recreated; Mountaineers' Survival in Peruvian Andes Chronicled

San Francisco, Calif., June 26, 2002 - New documentaries and historical specials spanning three continents and seven centuries were unveiled today at the PBS Annual Meeting in San Francisco. Titles announced were: MANOR HOUSE, an observational documentary in the style of the acclaimed PBS series that transplant today's families to previous eras and places; THE MEDICI: GODFATHERS OF THE RENAISSANCE and LEONARDO'S DREAM MACHINE, two programs about the profound influence that the giants of Renaissance Italy have had on politics, culture, art and science; LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, concerning the long-lasting influence the British operative had on the region; and TOUCHING THE VOID, a harrowing account of near-death in the Peruvian Andes based on the critically acclaimed book.

"We're pleased to announce this new slate of specials, which epitomize what PBS does so well: presenting documentaries that inform and enlighten, that bring history to life and that can help us understand today's world events," said Pat Mitchell, PBS president and CEO. "The creative teams behind these programs have the unique ability to translate the lessons of our past into compelling and relevant information that impacts on our present."

Following the success of PBS's 1900 HOUSE and FRONTIER HOUSE, a modern family will turn back the clock again, this time recreating life as it was in Edwardian England for the upper classes and their servants upstairs and downstairs in the MANOR HOUSE. For three months, cameras will film English country life as it was lived the old-fashioned way: a large English country manor, tea on the lawn, croquet in the garden, lavish banquets, grand fancy dress balls, a patrician butler... and a group of people utterly divided and ruled by class. This living experiment will raise questions about how our behavior has changed over the past century. The six-hour series is a Wall to Wall Television production in association with Thirteen/WNET New York and Channel 4 Television (UK). It will premiere in 2003.

THE MEDICI: GODFATHERS OF THE RENAISSANCE is both a tale of one family's powerful ambition and of Europe's struggle to emerge from the ravages of the Dark Ages. Beginning in the 14th century, The Medici used charm, skill and ruthlessness to garner unparalleled wealth and power. Standing at the helm of the Renaissance, they ruled Europe for more than 300 years and inspired the great artists, scientists and thinkers who gave birth to the modern world. Michelangelo, da Vinci, Machiavelli, Luther, Copernicus and Galileo are among the figures who will be profiled in this new Empires¨ special. A production of Devillier Donegan Enterprises (DDE) and Lion Television, the four-hour series will premiere in fall 2003.

DDE and Lion Television will co-produce another new documentary for PBS titled LAWRENCE OF ARABIA. One of the 20th century's most enigmatic figures, British Army officer T.E. Lawrence was fluent in Arabic and well versed in the culture of Islam. His unification of Arab tribes against the Turks during World War I endeared him to a generation of Bedouins and helped win victory for the British Empire. But it also sowed the seeds of conflict that still plagues the region today. Filmed in England and throughout the Middle East, the two-hour special will present the Arab perspective of Lawrence and the Arab Revolt. It will premiere in fall 2003.

PBS returns to the theme of great Renaissance thinkers from Florence with LEONARDO'S DREAM MACHINE, a two-hour program that follows the world's leading experts as they attempt for the first time to build some of Leonardo da Vinci's dream machines to his exact specification and scale, 500 years after he first committed his ideas to paper. The program will attempt to discover whether his ideas were the flights of fancy of a gifted artist or revolutionary designs hundreds of years ahead of their time. The program is an ITN Factual Production for Channel 4 Television.

TOUCHING THE VOID tells the suspenseful and heart-wrenching story of two young mountaineers' struggle for survival on Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes. At 21,000 feet on a stormy mountain peak the two men, Simon Yates and Joe Simpson, are fighting for their lives. Simpson has a shattered leg. Yates, unable to hold both his weight and that of Simpson, makes the horrible decision to cut the line, sending his partner plunging into a huge crevasse. Incredibly, Simpson does not die in the fall and eventually makes the journey back to base camp before Yates departs. The two-hour program, a mixture of interviews, location filming and extensive re-enactment, is based on the 1990 book by Joe Simpson. It is a Darlow Smithson production for Film 4 and Channel 4 Television.

PBS, headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia, is a private, nonprofit media enterprise owned and operated by the nation's 349 public television stations. Serving nearly 90 million people each week, PBS enriches the lives of all Americans through quality programs and education services on noncommercial television, the Internet and other media. More information about PBS is available at PBS.org, the leading dot-org Web site on the Internet.


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