A woman sings while a man plays a guitar.
April 21, 2016

All the State is a “Song Stage”

It's not uncommon when a complete stranger approaches me to pitch a TV show concept, but it's unusual when I find myself excited by the prospect. That's what happened when I met the producers of Song Stage Illinois, an eight-part music competition series airing Fridays at 10 pm on WILL-TV. And now that it has premiered, I'm seeking your feedback about a potential second season for 2017.

A partial map of England marked with Downton Abbey filming locations.
March 08, 2016

Things Will Be Great When You’re Downton

As we bid adieu (for now) to the Dowager Countess and the other residents of Downton Abbey, I'd like to offer an epilogue in the form of a few random news items and yet another map of England.

© Tim Ritz
February 18, 2016

Where in the World is Coronation Street?

If you've ever thought, "I enjoy Downton Abbey, but I'd really like to find it on a map," you're in luck! Artist Tim Ritz engaged in an exercise of televisual cartography detailing both the fictional and filming locations of many popular U.K. TV shows. Click through for more!

Cast of Downton Abbey
February 04, 2016

The Next Downton Abbey?

With only a few episodes of the fan favorite British drama left to air in the US, many have wondered “What’s the next Downton Abbey?” By that, I don’t mean what creator Julian Fellowes or star Laura Carmichael are up to after saying "Ta ta!" to Highclere Castle. No, the real question could be rephrased as “Which period drama will be the next colossal hit?” I have some thoughts about that…

Sherlock and Watson, dressed in Victorian-era clothes.
Credit: Courtesy of (C) BBC/Hartswood Films for MASTERPIECE
January 07, 2016

Sherlock Holmes and the Sign of the Times

On New Year's Day, audiences in both the UK and the US watched Sherlock: The Abominable Bride. It was the first time an episode of that series debuted on PBS and the BBC on the same day.

There was something else unusual about that premiere. During the following week, there were no repeats of The Abominable Bride on this or any other PBS station. There was a reason for that, and I think it speaks to the evolving ways in which we consume traditional mass media.

A van marked TV Licensing sits in a garage.
From Wikipedia.
December 04, 2015

Asking Nicely

In England, sinister vehicles are said to roam the streets, peering into homes to catch those who might be illegally viewing public television. Happily, we have another way.

Big Bird, Mr. Snuffleupagus and Cookie Monster examine a bowl of vegetables.
© Sesame Workshp via Facebook
November 19, 2015

Snuffy Days

There was a time when Big Bird was Sesame Street's equivalent of the guy who swears he saw a Sasquatch in his kitchen. No one believed his stories about a giant, furry pal named Mr. Snuffleupagus, who conveniently was nowhere to be seen. That is, until the day in 1985 when Snuffy made himself known.

David Thiel wears a swami hat.
October 21, 2015

The Swami Predicts

I, the great Swami Thielini, see a vision of the future! Specifically, the future of PBS prime-time programming this coming Winter/Spring season. As my crystal ball boots up, click through to read what my mystical mists reveal…

Grover and Elmo hold up numbers
August 20, 2015

Partly Cloudy Days

Last Thursday, public television audiences and personnel alike received the surprising--and disturbing--news that upcoming seasons of Sesame Street will air first on HBO as part of a new production deal. It may mean very little for the show's target audience of preschoolers, but some adults are concerned about the messages sent by the move.

Young Mr. Grace inspects a line of people dressed as Santa.
© BBC; fair use for commentary purposes
July 16, 2015


Over the past couple of weeks, the List of Topics Likely to Lose You Friends on Facebook had an unlikely addition: The Dukes of Hazzard. Reruns of this 1979-1985 comedy/adventure TV series about two "good ol' boys, never meanin' no harm" were dropped by cable channel TV Land, presumably due to the prominent placement of a Confederate battle flag atop the Dukes' beloved Dodge Charger, the "General Lee." Inevitable outrage ensued, defiant GIFs were posted to social media news feeds, and people wondered why we stopped talking about the Charleston church massacre.

Our shared pop culture past is strewn with the unfortunate relics of our slow-to-evolve attitudes about People Who Don't Look Like Us, and while the line between uncomfortable and offensive is often hard to find, sometimes it's right friggin' there. And the example I'm about to bring up from WILL-TV's own history comes from another unlikely source...

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WILL Highlights

The Highwaymen

New look at country music’s supergroup at 8 pm May 27 on WILL-TV

The Bandwagon

Will Leitch joins with talk from the Cardinals' side of the Cubs-Cardinals rivalry