What to Watch in May

Lisa Tipton
A young Ida B. Wells
Ida B. Wells was an investigative journalist, civil rights activist, and suffragist admired by Frederick Douglass, among others. Image: Public Domain

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.

You can also watch all of WTTW's programming via live stream 24/7 at wttw.com/live.

Extra Life: A Short History of Living Longer

Tuesdays beginning May 11 at 8:00 pm


Vaccines take up a lot of our attention these days, and they're one of the innovations that have helped double the human lifespan in less than a century. Investigate the stories behind them and other achievements in this four-part series about public health and its unsung heroes. 

Ida B. Wells: A Chicago Stories Special

Friday, May 21 at 8:00 pm and at wttw.com/idabwells

Ida B. Wells made a name for herself in the South as a journalist investigating and cataloging lynchings and their causes, but she continued to be a civil rights activist throughout her life, much of which was spent in Chicago advocating for suffrage and equal rights. Our next Chicago Stories special reveals the courage, conviction, and strength evident throughout Ida B. Wells' life. 

Dive further into Wells' life at wttw.com/idabwells, where you can discover where traces of her linger in Chicago, view extended interviews, and more.

Independent Lens: The Donut King

Monday, May 24 at 10:00 pm

Ted Ngoy at BC Donuts in 'Donut King'Photo: Logan Industry

Ted Ngoy arrived in California in the 1970s as a refugee from Cambodia and built a multi-million dollar chain of donut shops on the West Coast, sponsoring other Cambodian refugees to come to this country and work in his shops. This Independent Lens documentary looks at Ngoy's version of the American Dream, its challenges, and how it all came crashing down. 

National Memorial Day Concert

Sunday, May 30 at 7:00 pm and rebroadcast at 8:30 pm

It's a longstanding tradition in Washington, D.C. and on PBS: a concert featuring stellar performers honoring the United States' service men and women, veterans, and military families. It's a celebration tinged with solemnity, perfect for this time in which vaccination campaigns are beginning to affect the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tulsa: The Fire and the Forgotten

Monday, May 31 at 9:00 pm

On the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre, in which Tulsa's "Black Wall Street" was violently decimated by white mobs, look back on the terrible event and how Tulsa is reckoning with it and its effects, as well as the future. 

Greenwood Avenue, the center of "Black Wall Street," was one of Geoffrey Baer's 10 Streets That Changed America