What to Watch in May

Lisa Tipton
A Sikh patriot. Photo: Corky Lee
'Asian Americans' tells the story of America's fastest-growing racial/ethnic group, through history and personal narrative. Photo: Corky Lee

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? Lisa Tipton, WTTW’s Head of Programming and Pledge, 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, she’ll recommend a few shows that she thinks you should watch.


FIRSTHAND: Gun Violence airs Fridays at 8:30 pm or anytime at wttw.com/firsthand; FIRSTHAND: Coronavirus airs Monday, May 18 at 9:00 pm or Thursday, May 21 at 8:00 pm 

FIRSTHAND is a WTTW Digital series that addresses issues like gun violence through the personal perspectives of Chicagoans who live with the repercussions. The first season follows five people directly affected by gun violence, from a high schooler coping with PTSD to a community activist trying to prevent others from succumbing to gun violence. You can further explore the complicated factors and effects of gun violence at wttw.com/firsthand, where you can watch experts address an aspect of gun violence as well as read reported stories and stream the whole series. 

And don't miss FIRSTHAND: Coronavirus, which shows you the stories of people living on the frontlines of the pandemic, from a sanitation worker to a nurse. 

George W. Bush: American Experience

Monday, May 4, and Tuesday, May 5 at 9:00 pm 

George W. Bush's two presidential terms covered two of the most challenging crises to face America in recent years: 9/11, and the recession that began just as he was nearing the end of his presidency. Twelve years and two presidents after he left office, this two-part American Experience re-examines his life and legacy. 

Asian Americans

Monday, May 11 at 8:00 pm and Tuesday, May 12 at 8:00 pm and 10:00 pm 

Asian Americans are America's fastest-growing racial/ethnic group, partially because that designation contains multitudes: Indian Americans, Korean Americans, Chinese Americans, Filipino Americans, and more. Instead of approaching Asian Americans as a monolithic group, this three-part series examines individual stories and personal narratives, from pioneering members of the military in World War II to trailblazing politicians and authors. Chinese Americans were the first group to be prevented wholesale from immigrating to the United States, in the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, and yet they and other Asian Americans have struggled through discrimination to great success.

Great Performances: Leonard Bernstein Mass

Friday, May 15 at 9:00 pm 

Musical organizations around the country celebrated the centennial of the conductor and composer Leonard Bernstein in 2018, including Chicagoland's Ravinia Festival. Under the baton of Marin Alsop, who studied under Bernstein, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra performed Bernstein's exuberant, iconoclastic Mass. The work is a unique hybrid, featuring both a traditional orchestra and a rock band, with sections in a similar vein to the work of Godspell composer Stephen Schwartz, who wrote the text and lyrics (Paul Simon also contributed som lyrics). The Mass was commissioned by Jacqueline Kennedy for the opening of the Kennedy Center in D.C. and included choreography by Alvin Ailey. Basically, it's a one-of-a-kind piece that's seldom heard, so don't miss it!

Alsop spoke to our sister station WFMT while she was preparing this performance about both the Mass and working with Bernstein. On May 15, WFMT's General Manager George Preston will moderate a virtual panel with Alsop; Paulo Szot, the star of the performance; and others on Facebook. Check WTTW's Facebook page that day for details!

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