PBS Breaks Out New Programming Genre With "Life 360" on Friday Nights at 9:00 P.M.

Posted by PBS Publicity on

Innovative Series Hosted By ABC News Nightline's Michel Martin Mixes Masters of Storytelling in Unique Format

PASADENA, Calif. - July 27, 2001 - It was one of the greatest sea battles of World War II, ending in the destruction of two of the world's mightiest warships and the loss of almost 3,500 lives. Now, 60 years later, PBS has partnered with England's Channel 4 in an extraordinarily ambitious expedition to find Great Britain's HMS Hood and Germany's Bismarck for two new television specials. The first broadcast will be a one-hour look at the expedition leading up to the location of the Hood, on Wednesday, October 31 at 8 p.m. (Check local listings.) A two-hour special will follow in 2002. The announcement was made today by Pat Mitchell, president and CEO of PBS, at the Television Critics Association Press Tour in Pasadena.

LIFE 360SM, a new genre of programming featuring some of America's most talented storytellers, will premiere on PBS beginning Friday, October 5 at 9:00 p.m. (Check local listings.) The first original series produced for PBS as part of the reinvention of the PBS primetime schedule, LIFE 360 is hosted by the Emmy-winning ABC News Nightline correspondent Michel Martin. Each 60-minute program in this innovative 13-part series explores an intriguing theme through a dynamic mix of segments that draw on the storytelling craft of the best and brightest independent filmmakers, writers, comedians, musicians, performance artists, and journalists commenting on life today. To create LIFE 360, PBS and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) initiated an unprecedented co-production partnership between Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB) and ABC News Nightline.

"Great stories, well told, are what bring us together," Ms. Martin says. "LIFE 360 will explore issues and ironies, challenges and comforts, dilemmas and desires that we can all relate to from the multiple perspectives of different stories: the depth of documentaries, the intimacy of personal narratives, and the emotional and spiritual connections of music, comedy, and dramatic performance. Life is always surprising, and that's what we want to capture in LIFE 360."

Already set to contribute to LIFE 360 is a remarkable array of talent that includes comedians Margaret Cho ("I'm the One That I Want") and Jake Johannsen (Late Show with David Letterman, Late Night with Conan O'Brien, HBO); Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Ron Suskind (The Wall Street Journal, "A Hope in the Unseen: An American Odyssey from the Inner City to the Ivy League"); ABC News correspondent Robert Krulwich; Academy Award-winning filmmakers Jeffrey Friedman, Rob Epstein and Steven Okazaki, and musicians Los Lobos, Grammy-nominated artist Brian McKnight, Grammy-winning singer Mary Chapin Carpenter, Ozomatli, Jude, John Hiatt and Alana Davis.

LIFE 360 is designed to be timely as well as reflective. The partnership between OPB and Nightline brings to the series a seasoned team of television professionals accustomed to examining the nuances of contemporary culture. The show's news roots assure that each week's material will be fresh and current. PBS and CPB joined together to create this ambitious blend of performance, documentary and commentary to offer exciting opportunities for independent filmmakers across America and to bring new voices to television.

Appearing in a small, intimate setting with a studio audience, Michel Martin will open each program with a verbal riff, then hand the theme off to other storytellers who will take it apart, put it back together, stand it on its head, and discover unexpected perspectives. As an example of how the series will explore a theme, the program tentatively titled "Food" will start with a major segment from correspondent Robert Krulwich who goes behind the scenes of a couple of Manhattan's hottest restaurants to explore the things that aren't on the menu: the pressure, the politics, and the power structure. A shorter film documents the lifestyle of "Dumpster diners," young eco-radicals who survive only on food discarded in the land of plenty - or, perhaps, excess. Cuban-American performer Carmen Pelaez illuminates the importance of food in Cuban culture and the difficulties posed by perpetual shortages, and comedian Margaret Cho reflects on the never-ending conflict between her weight and a lifetime love affair with food.

Other themes set for the first season of LIFE 360 include "Roots," which weaves together a moving visit to historic African slaving centers by a group of African-Americans, a portrait of a white Alaskan who discovers her African-American ancestry and begins to struggle with what race really means; and a performance by Darius de Haas, the fiery cabaret performer who The New York Times recently lauded for his memorable tribute to Billy Strayhorn. "Monuments" takes viewers on a whimsical road trip across South Dakota, with fresh takes on Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Monument, as well as visits to the tourist meccas, Wall Drug and the Corn Palace.

"Fresh, unique, and absolutely relevant for the American public today, LIFE 360 stands out in the reinvented primetime schedule of the new PBS as a great destination for viewers on Friday night," says PBS President and CEO Pat Mitchell. "Just like K.D. Lang and Lyle Lovett have created an indefinable sound, LIFE 360 defies traditional programming labels."

"LIFE 360 is an innovative way to bring a new generation of storytellers and a new genre of storytelling to public television," said Robert T. Coonrod, CPB President and CEO. "We're delighted to help it come full circle."

Both behind the cameras and in front of the cameras, LIFE 360 brings together top-rank talent. Host Martin, former reporter at The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post, has been a Nightline contributor since 1994. In addition to her work for ABC News, she has been a regular contributor on PBS's Washington Week in Review and correspondent for a recent Frontline program on the juvenile justice system. Martin has won an Emmy and been cited for excellence by the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

Executive producer Janet Tobias started her network news career at 60 Minutes. She was one of the original producers on the launch of Prime Time Live, a national producer at Dateline NBC, and the editorial producer of ABC News' Law and Justice unit where she developed and produced stories for Nightline, 20/20 and World News Tonight. Prior to joining LIFE 360 she was the commissioning executive for public affairs programming at Oregon Public Broadcasting, where she executive produced primetime hours for Discovery and PBS. She also supervised and worked as one of the directors on a joint Nightline/Frontline project on the juvenile justice system that resulted in four hours of programming split between ABC and PBS. Tobias has won the Sigma Delta Chi Award, a Cine Golden Eagle, an honorable mention Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award and many other honors.

Co-executive in charge of production Tom Bettag was named executive producer of ABC News Nightline in 1991, after 22 years at CBS News, where he served as executive producer of The CBS Evening News with Dan Rather. A former 60 Minutes producer, Bettag has been a Fulbright fellow and has won six Alfred I. duPont-Columbia School of Journalism Silver Batons and 15 Emmy Awards.

Co-executive in charge of production John Lindsay is Senior Vice President of Television Production at Oregon Public Television. Programs he produced or executive produced have won multiple honors, including five national Emmy Awards, three George Foster Peabody Awards, and many others.

A companion Web site for LIFE 360 will launch on PBS.org on September 27. The site will offer interactive explorations of each week's stories and themes, through features like games, photo galleries, chats, e-cards and more. Extending the themes of the programs into their own communities, public television stations will add customized information of local interest for their viewers.

LIFE 360 is funded by PBS and CPB. It is a joint production of Oregon Public Broadcasting and ABC News Nightline. Executive Producer: Janet Tobias; Co-executives in charge of production: Tom Bettag and John Lindsay; Senior producer: Dan Morris.


- PBS -

Karen Salerno
Kelly & Salerno Communications