A Look Ahead at PBS's 2020 Programming

Daniel Hautzinger
Marcus Samuelsson in Las Vegas in No Passport Required
Marcus Samuelsson visits Las Vegas's Chinese community in the newest season of 'No Passport Required.'

January often has the worst weather of the year, but luckily there are plenty of exciting shows to keep you busy at home, letting you travel across the United States, to England and Vienna, and around the world. And as the winter slows and the weather warms into spring, there's more to entertain, educate, and perhaps make you hungry. Here's a look ahead at some of our upcoming programming in the new year. 

Food and Dining

The new year begins with new episodes from Check, Please!, starting with the return of the show's nineteenth season on January 3 in an episode featuring an unusual spot that includes magic tricks along with your food.

Chef Marcus Samuelsson's No Passport Required returns on January 20 with a new season exploring Los Angeles's Armenian community, Houston's West African community, and more. In the spirit of No Passport Required, WTTW is leading its own culinary exploration in Chicago, profiling five diverse restaurants along a half-mile stretch of Lawrence Avenue and hosting a food tour in February of each of them. Find the profiles and more info at wttw.com/no-passport-required. (One of the restaurants is Filipino, and a preview episode of the new season of No Passport Required airing December 20 at 9:00 pm features Seattle's Filipino community.)


You can get a taste of this season of No Passport Required on December 20 at 8:30 pm in Chefs Marcus and Vivian: A Taste of What's Next, which also features chef Vivian Howard, whose new show Somewhere South explores the tangled roots and bright contemporary expressions of Southern cuisine. It premieres March 27.

Immediately following the premiere of Somewhere South, stay tuned for The Inn at Little Washington: A Delicious Documentary, which follows renowned, self-taught chef Patrick O'Connell, who was awarded a Lifetime Achivement Award by the James Beard Foundation this year. And on February 4, American Experience showcases the history of food safety in The Poison Squad.

New Dramas and Mysteries

There's an all-new slate of dramas from Masterpiece beginning on January 12 with an adaptation of E.M. Forster's Howards End by Oscar winner Kenneth Longergan that stars Hayley Atwell and Matthew Macfadyen.

That's followed by the premiere of an adaptation of Jane Austen's final, unfinished novel SanditonWritten by seasoned adapter Andrew Davies, who has also tackeld Pride and Prejudice and Les Misérables, it's set at a wannabe seaside resort and includes Austen's typical social satire of the befuddled middle and upper classes.


Vienna Blood, which premieres January 19, isn't an adaptation but does draw on history, following a student of Freud's who teams up with a detective to solve cases in turn-of-the-century Vienna. 

Finally, Call the Midwife returns March 29 with a new season – and don't miss the new Christmas special on December 25 at 8:00 pm!

Travel and Nature

Explorer and naturalist Steve Backshall is in pursuit of new discoveries, and he's taking you with him, in Expedition with Steve Backshall, a new show premiering January 15. Join him as he freedives in underground river systems, kayaks Himalayan whitewater, and scales unclimbed Arctic peaks. 


An all-new episode of Nature takes a look at an oft-maligned animal: The Mighty Weasel. It premieres February 19. 

Earth's Sacred Wonders brings you to some of the planet's most awe-inspiring spiritual buildings and explains the rites that go on inside. WTTW Passport members can already stream it, if you can't wait until its premiere on March 25.

International Holocaust Remembrance Day

January 21 marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. In honor of that important event, the evening is dedicated to celebrating Jewish heritage. In Finding Your Roots (which has a new season premiering January 7), Henry Louis Gates, Jr. explores the ancestry of Jeff Goldblum, Terry Gross, and Marc Maron. 

Secrets of the Dead looks at a historical moral dilemma, in Bombing Auschwitz: should the Allies have risked killing the prisoners at the camp by bombing it to stop future atrocities?

Frontline ends the evening with The Last Survivors, a feature on some of the last remaining survivors of the Holocaust, who were only children at the time of that great nightmare. 

Black History Month

A Chicago-centric documentary is just one of various programs airing during February that excavate African American history. On February 10, Independent Lens presents Cooked: Survival by Zip Code, which examines the effects of Chicago's deadly 1995 heat wave and the underlying poverty and racism that allowed so many elderly African Americans to die – they made up the majority of the 739 people perished because of the heat wave. 

The following day, February 11, Finding Your Roots looks at the slave trade, as Henry Louis Gates, Jr. shows Ava DuVernay, S. Epatha Merkeson, and Questlove the places where slavery scattered their ancestors.

American Masters profiles Miles Davis in a program that includes never-before-seen footage on February 25, and Independent Lens looks at an alleged modern-day lynching in North Carolina on February 24 with Always in Season.

Understanding the World

Niall Ferguson's Networld, premiering March 17, is a wide-ranging new series exploring social networks via history, technology, classic experiments, and cutting-edge research.

On March 24, East Lake Meadows: A Public Housing Story tells the story of a short-lived, notorious public housing communtiy in Atlanta. Directed by Sarah Burns and David McMahon and executive produced by Ken Burns, it investigates poverty, racism, and the failures of cities to successfully house their poor.

March 30 sees Independent Lens in China investigating the consequences and human rights violation of China's one-child policy, which ended in 2015, in One Child Nation, by filmmaker Nanfu Wang.

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