What to Watch in February

Dan Soles
Sammy Davis, Jr. backstage photo. Photo: Courtesy The Estate of Altovise Davis
Sammy Davis, Jr. Photo: Courtesy The Estate of Altovise Davis

There’s a huge amount of worthwhile TV out there nowadays, so it can be hard to choose what to watch. But who better to recommend shows than the person who programs them? Dan Soles, Senior Vice President and Chief Television Officer at WTTW, constructs the WTTW schedule by searching through offerings from many different sources which include the national PBS network, the BBC, and independent filmmakers to put together a varied and engaging broadcast schedule. Each month, he’ll recommend a few shows that he thinks you should watch.

Won't You Be My Neighbor

Saturday, February 9 at 7:00 pm


It's the top-grossing biographical documentary of all time, garnered accolades and acclaim, and left nary a dry eye in any theater that showed it – this heartwarming documentary about the beloved Fred Rogers and his Neighborhood explores his life and the radical power of his quiet ideas. Directed by Morgan Neville of the Oscar-winning 20 Feet From Stardom, it's the perfect film for our loud and divisive era.

Nature: Wild Way of the Vikings

Wednesday, February 13 at 8:00 pm


While you wait out the polar cold, you can see how ancient peoples survived brutal winters, in Wild Way of the Vikings. The ancient Vikings traversed and lived in an awesome and forbidding landscape, from Iceland to the North Sea, all across the North Atlantic. Fjords, reindeer, winter storms: they had to observe nature closely and rely on it to thrive. Discover their natural world in this fascinating Nature special.

POV: Minding the Gap

Monday, February 18 at 9:00 pm


Produced by our Chicago-based friends Kartemquin Films, Minding Your Gap is an astonishing debut for the young director Bing Liu that has already generated tons of acclaim, including a nomination for an Academy Award. It follows three skateboarding enthusiasts (one of whom is Liu) as they grow up in Rockford, Illinois, and manages to address issues of domestic abuse, racism, and responsiblity, while also including thrilling skateboarding footage. Liu appeared on Chicago Tonight last fall to discuss his film, so we'll also be re-airing that interview immediately after the documentary.

Plus, you can watch Mark Bazer chat with Bing Liu on The Interview Show in an episode that airs Thursday, February 7 at 10:00 pm and will be available to stream then.

Sammy Davis, Jr.: American Masters

Tuesday, February 19 at 9:00 pm


Sammy Davis, Jr. began his career as an entertainer at the age of three and continued on performing nearly until his death some sixty years later. During that time, he was one of the hardest-working people in show business, navigating the difficult line between the white world he moved in and the black community that often rejected him. "Talk about handicap," he is famous for saying. "I'm a one-eyed Negro Jew" (he converted to Judaism and lost an eye in a car accident). American Masters explores his complex life.

Lady You Shot Me: The Life and Death of Sam Cooke

Thursday, February 21 at 8:00 pm

Sam Cooke

Sam Cooke was another performer who started young, at the age of six – but his life ended tragically early, too. In his 33 short years, he helped contribute to the rise of soul music, achieving huge hits with his silky voice and influencing other titans such as Aretha Franklin and Marvin Gaye. But his death by gunshot, ruled a justified homicide, has always been shadowed by questions. This documentary explores his life and the mystery of his death. And there's a local connection: Cooke grew up in Chicago, and the first of his two funerals was held here, attracting hundreds of thousands of people.

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