Coming to WTTW in Spring, in Arts, History, and Drama

Daniel Hautzinger
Amy Tan. Image: Courtesy of KPJR Films
Amy Tan — Unintended Memoir. Image: Courtesy of KPJR Films

With the performing arts still limited by (and reeling from) the COVID-19 pandemic, you can turn to PBS and great books, theater, art, music, and dance, all featured in programs coming this spring. Some are filmed performances; many are profiles or retrospectives of individuals like Amy Tan, Twyla Tharp, and Ernest Hemingway (the latter the subject of Ken Burns and Lynn Novick's latest documentary). You can discover non-artistic history as well, in shows that look back to World War II, including a new Masterpiece drama, as well as dark periods of the American history of racism. And you can test your knowledge of every topic under the sun related to Chicago in The Great Chicago Quiz Show with Geoffrey Baer!

Browse highlights from our upcoming science, nature, and public affairs programming.

The Great Chicago Quiz Show 

Fridays at 8:00 pm beginning March 26 


How well do you know Chicago? Join Geoffrey Baer as he tests Chicagoans (including some popular personalities from the city) on everything from the origin of Bud Biliken to the jibarito, the Bears, Ford City Mall, and more in four episodes. Plus, you can test your own knowledge at wttw.com/quiz.

American Masters: Twyla Moves

Friday, March 26 at 9:00 pm

Explore legendary choreographer Twyla Tharp's career and famously rigorous creative process, with original interviews, first-hand glimpses of her at work, and rare archival footage of select performances from her more than 160 choreographed works.

American Experience: The Blinding of Isaac Woodard

Tuesday, March 30 at 9:00 pm

Leroy Carter (left) and Donald Jones, NAACP assistant field secretary (right), escort Sergeant Isaac Woodard (center) down an aisle, October 26, 1946. Image: Courtesy of the AFRO American Newspapers ArchivesImage: Courtesy of the AFRO American Newspapers Archives

After a Black veteran of World War II on his way home to South Carolina was refused access to a restroom by a bus driver in 1946, a local police chief beat him, leaving him blind. The incident made national headlines, eventually leading President Harry Truman to desegregate the military and federal offices and laying the groundwork for the Supreme Court's landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision.

American Masters: Doc Severinsen

Friday, April 2 at 9:00 pm 

Explore the groundbreaking career of master trumpeter Doc Severinsen, from his three decades as the colorful bandleader to The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson to his relentless schedule of touring and performing into his nineties.

Death in Paradise

Saturdays at 8:00 pm beginning April 3

There's a new season of the Caribbean mystery series Death in Paradise, the second to star Ralf Little, who is the fourth British detective to find himself a fish out of water solving crimes on a tropical island.

My Grandparents' War

Sundays at 7:00 pm beginning April 4

Follow leading actors (Helena Bonham Carter, Mark Rylance, Kristin Scott Thomas, and Carey Mulligan) as they re-trace the footsteps of their grandparents and learn how World War II changed the lives of their families and the world.

Atlantic Crossing

Sundays at 8:00 pm beginning April 4


See how a princess steals the heart of the president of the United States in this epic Masterpiece drama based on the World War II relationship of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Norwegian Crown Princess Martha.

Hemingway

Monday, April 5 through Wednesday, April 7 at 8:00 pm 


The latest topic to be tackled by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick is Ernest Hemingway, the legendary writer whose works influenced countless authors and life was as rich as his fiction. Discover the man behidn the myth in the three-part documentary, and find even more at wttw.com/hemingway.

Diana: 7 Days

Thursday, April 15 at 8:00 pm

Learn the inside story of the tumultuous week following Princess Diana's death in this documentary, which also features extensive interviews with her sons.

Great Performances: Beethoven in Beijing

Friday, April 16 at 9:00 pm 

During their first visit to China in 1973, Philadelphia Orchestra musicians played not only concerts, but key roles as cultural diplomats, offering a story of cultural reversals and a glimpse into the worldwide future of classical music.

American Experience: American Oz

Monday, April 19 at 9:00 pm

L. Frank Baum (center) surrounded by characters from The Fairylogue and Radio-Plays, a traveling multimedia Oz stage show. Circa 1908. Photo: Public DomainPhoto: Public Domain

This documentary tells the story of Chicago author L. Frank Baum and the making of his classic novel, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the movie it inspired, and the importance of this iconic work in American life.

American Masters: Amy Tan — Unintended Memoir

Monday, May 3 at 9:00 pm

Explore the life of the groundbreaking author of The Joy Luck Club in this intimate portrait. Archival imagery, home movies, photographs, animation, and original interviews create a vivid, colorful journey through Tan’s inspiring life and career. 

Great Performances: Uncle Vanya

Friday, May 7 at 9:00 pm

Experience Anton Chekov’s masterpiece in this Olivier Award-nominated West End production adapted by Conor McPherson starring Toby Jones and Richard Armitage from London’s Harold Pinter Theater.

American Experience: Billy Graham

Monday, May 17 at 9:00 pm

Explore the life of one of the best-known and most significant American Christian leaders of the 20th century, who died in 2018. Graham, whose career began near Chicago, had the ear of presidents and reached millions of people around the world.

Watch a clip of Graham himself in an excerpt from WTTW's archive.

Ida B. Wells: A Chicago Stories Special

Friday, May 21 at 8:00 pm

Ida B. Wells was a trailblazing journalist and activist who investigated and revealed the horrors of lynching while fighting against segregation and racial inequality as well as fighting for women's suffrage. She lived in Chicago for much of her life (a street here is named after her) and was awarded a posthumous Pulitzer last year

Inside the Met

Friday, May 21 at 9:00 and 10:00 pm and Friday, May 28 at 9:00 pm

The largest art museum in the Americas prepares to celebrate its 150th birthday with a treasure trove of landmark exhibitions during a year where it closed its doors to the public for the first time ever. Go behind the scenes in three episodes

Independent Lens: The Donut King

Monday, May 24 at 10:00 pm

Hard knocks, redemption, wealth, survival, risk, and donuts—Ted Ngoy’s life story has it all. It’s the American Dream, with a (glazed) twist.

Live at Mister Kelly's

Thursday, May 27 at 8:00 pm 

The legendary Rush Street night club Mister Kelly's helped launch the career of icons like Barbra Streisand, Richard Pryor, and Bette Midler, spotlighting talent regardless of color and gender barriers in the 1950s, '60s, and '70s. Some of the club's star talent tells stories of the club in this documentary.

Tulsa: The Fire and the Forgotten

Monday, May 31 at 9:00 pm

Learn about the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, on the one hundredth anniversary of the crime, and how the community of Tulsa is coming to terms with its past, present, and future. Plus, dive further into the subject in 10 Streets That Changed America with Geoffrey Baer.