Summer is a time for vacationing to new places, exploring nature, and enjoying the outdoors. But when it gets too hot or you’re exhausted from your exploits, you can continue your expeditions on PBS, with the Summer of Adventure: eight new programs that take you from Alaska to Cuba, China to Ireland, Yellowstone to the African bush. Catch a preview of the upcoming shows here.
The Story of China (airs Tuesdays, June 20, 27, and July 11 from 8-10:00 pm)
Attempting to condense 4,000 years of history into 360 minutes, the six-part The Story of China follows host and historian Michael Wood as he explores the origins and heights of China’s empires, their collapse, and the rise of Communist China. The exotic trade of the Silk Road, China’s greatest female poet, the sprawling enormity of modern Shanghai: it’s all here.
Check back on June 20 for an interview on Playlist with the series filmmaker Rebecca Dobbs and host Michael Wood.
Great Yellowstone Thaw (airs Wednesdays at 9:00 pm, beginning June 21)
As winter melts into spring and then summer in Yellowstone, the temperature can shift some 140 degrees. Kirk Johnson of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History hosts three episodes in which extreme temperatures pose a threat to wolves that have only just recovered from near-extinction, owls that must migrate in search of food, and bears forced out of hibernation early.
Big Pacific (airs Wednesdays at 8:00 pm, beginning June 21)
This five-part series surveys the “Mysterious,” “Violent,” “Voracious,” and “Passionate” depths of the Pacific Ocean and concludes with a making of episode. Hosted by actor Daniel Dae Kim of Hawaii Five-0 and Lost, it shows how the diverse creatures of the vast Pacific Ocean feed, fight, reproduce, and survive.
On June 21, explore the Shedd Aquarium with an animal trainer and a Shedd vice president on Playlist.
Nature’s Great Race (airs Wednesdays at 9:00 pm, beginning July 12)
While bird migrations receive all the press, there are some extraordinary land migrations across the world as well. In three episodes, Nature’s Great Race follows caribou in the Arctic and elephants and zebras in the eastern and southern Africa as they traverse perilous landscapes and thousands of miles.
Weekend in Havana (airs Tuesday, July 18 at 8:00 pm)
WTTW’s own Geoffrey Baer hosts this tour of the unique city of Havana, only recently re-opened to Americans. With a restoration architect, a salsa dancer, and an Afro-Cuban pianist as his guide, Baer explores Havana’s vibrant culture and history, from its 1950s cars to its crumbling old buildings to Hemingway’s haunts to Santeria.
Stay tuned for an interview with one of Baer’s tour guides, the architect Daniel de la Regata.
RARE – Creatures of the Photo Ark (airs Tuesdays at 9:00 pm, beginning July 18)
Joel Sartore is seeking to photograph every single species in captivity in the world for his Photo Ark, thus preserving both the everyday and the nearly extinct. A photographer for National Geographic, Sartore has so far captured more 6,500 species for the Ark. Watch his quest to save and document endangered species in this three-part series.
Playlist talks to Joel Sartore about nature photography, conservation, and more in July.
Wild Alaska Live (airs and streams Sundays, July 23 and 30 at 7:00 pm and Wednesday, July 26 at 8:00 pm)
In an all-new, three-part live broadcast, the Kratt brothers (of the PBS Kids show Wild Kratts) host a look at Alaska’s summer feast, in which bears, wolves, moose, orcas, and eagles gather. In addition to the Kratts, scientists, filmmakers, and photographers discuss the preservation of the Alaskan wild and the incredible animals that live there.
Ireland’s Wild Coast (airs Wednesday, August 2 at 8:00 pm)
This two-hour special follows wildlife cameraman Colin Stafford-Johnson on a trek along the rocky Atlantic Coast of Ireland as he investigates the animals and landscapes of his homeland.
The Summer of Adventure also includes three new PBS Kids specials: Nature Cat: Ocean Commotion, Wild Kratts Alaska: Hero’s Journey, and Ready Jet Go!: Return to Bortron 7. In June, Playlist features a two-part profile of Spiffy Pictures, the producers of Nature Cat.