Happy New Year! The beginning of another year always brings excitement as people look forward to the new things and changes that it might usher in, and PBS shows are no exception. Take a look ahead at some of the series we’re eagerly waiting for in 2019.
The return of this hugely popular drama about the political and domestic challenges of Queen Victoria in a sexist world is right around the corner – the third season premieres January 13 at 8:00 pm. If you need to catch up on the previous two seasons, you can find our recaps and much more content related to the show here (Passport members can stream all the episodes). And if you want more British royals in your life, the two-part Victoria and Albert: The Wedding, hosted by historian Lucy Worsley, investigates and recreates the wedding of the century between Queen Victoria and prince Albert (9:00 pm on January 13 and 20), while Margaret: The Rebel Princess jumps forward a century to examine the life of another fiery young noblewoman, Queen Elizabeth’s sister Margaret (9:00 pm on February 10 and 17).
This 2018 documentary about the beloved Mister Rogers has struck a chord with audiences across the country, becoming the top-grossing biographical documentary of all time. It was directed by Morgan Neville, who won an Oscar for his 20 Feet from Stardom, and itself has generated Oscar buzz. It comes to WTTW as part of Independent Lens on February 9 at 7:00 pm.
Speaking of Oscar buzz, the young director Bing Liu’s documentary Minding the Gap about three skate-obsessed boys growing up in Rockford, Illinois is also rumored to have a good chance at the award. It airs as part of POV on February 18 at 9:00 pm.
This three-part drama is an unusually personal and intimate fictionalization of the life of a mid-century Englishwoman, given that the lead actress, Ruth Wilson, is playing her own grandmother. Based on her memoir, the show jumps from London to India and back as Alison Wilson digs into a world of secrets following the death of her husband and the appearance of a woman claiming that she is the real Mrs. Wilson. It premieres on Masterpiece on March 31, the same day that a new season of the warmly human Call the Midwife returns. (Recap this year’s holiday special of Call the Midwife here.)
The ever-enlightening Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (whose Finding Your Roots returns with a new season on January 8 at 8:00 pm) continues his excavations of African American history with this four-hour documentary about the period from the end of the Civil War until World War I in which optimism for the future of African Americans gave way before hardened cynicism and racism in the establishment of Jim Crow segregation. It premieres April 9.
Another historical epic about a tumultuous time and the fight for justice also appears in April, although this one is fictionalized and takes place across the Atlantic in France. It’s not a filmed version of the blockbuster musical but rather a new, six-part adaptation of Victor Hugo’s classic novel starring Dominic West, David Oyelowo, Olivia Colman, and more. It premieres April 14.
There are several fascinating new American Experience documentaries coming in 2019. The Swamp chronicles the up-and-down fortunes of the Everglades, from its dismissal as a useless wetland through attempts to develop it through preservation efforts. (It premieres January 15 at 9:00 pm.) The four-part Chasing the Moon celebrates the landmark achievement of the lunar landing and Apollo 11 on its 50th anniversary. And Woodstock looks back at the legendary music festival 50 years later.
After a year’s hiatus we’re finally getting more Grantchester – but the news is mixed, since it will be James Norton’s last season as Sidney Chambers. The show will continue without him and a new vicar will eventually be announced, but for now we’ll have to savor this fourth season. (Recap the previous season here.)
Grantchester isn’t the only mystery returning, either: another season of Unforgotten will be coming in 2019 as well. (Recap the first two seasons here.)
He’s already made the definitive documentary about jazz, and now Ken Burns tackles another quintessentially American form of music: country. With his signature exhaustive approach, Burns and his producers cover everyone from the Carter Family to Dolly Parton to Garth Brooks, as well as the related stories of bluegrass, the origins of rock and roll, Nashville, and more. Plus, coming up soon, you can get a taste of country history with American Masters: Charley Pride (airing February 22 at 9:00 pm), a portrait of the groundbreaking African American country musician.