PBS PLEDGE FESTIVAL--The Public Broadcasting Service puts on its best face this week for the annual spring fund-raising drive. There are new offerings of practically every program type, plus encores of some worthwhile efforts from the past.
The goal is not only to entertain you but also to inspire you to make a donation to your local public television station. Just in case the programs don't get the message across, there'll be plenty of direct-appeal spots between and during the shows.
Here are some of the highlights due this week (the pledge drive runs through March 24).
DRAMA: Dick Van Dyke and Cloris Leachman play a married couple in a lighthearted "American Playhouse" production called "Breakfast With Les and Bess" (Monday at 8 p.m., Channel 50; 10 p.m. Channel 28). It's based on Lee Kalcheim's 1982 play about a husband and wife who host a morning talk show from their New York living room in 1961. The story follows the pressure that their marriage and family life undergo as a result of becoming celebrities.
Then on Thursday (8 p.m., Channels 50 and 58; 9 p.m., Channel 28), "Mystery!" launches the first of seven new episodes from "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes" (illustrated on the cover). Jeremy Brett stars as the famous detective and David Burke plays his sidekick, Dr. Watson. In the first installment, Holmes is hired by the king of Bohemia to retrieve a photograph with which his former mistress is threatening to blackmail him.
MUSIC: In a repeat telecast, Billy Dee Williams hosts "Eubie Blake: A Century of Music," a tribute to the late songwriter at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington (Sunday at 1 p.m., Channel 28), followed at 3 p.m. by another encore, "Broadway Plays Washington." Highlights from Broadway musicals are performed by the likes of Pearl Bailey, John Raitt, Melba Moore, Elaine Strich, Chita Rivera and Beatrice Arthur.
On the opera front, Luciano Pavarotti portrays the philandering Duke of Mantua in "Rigoletto," Friday at 8 p.m. on Channel 24 and at 9 p.m. on Channels 28, 15 and 50. Ingvar Wixell performs the title role. The production was filmed on location in Italy and will be simulcast in stereo on KUSC-FM (91.5) and KCPB-FM (91.1). It's in Italian with English subtitles.
NATURE: In addition to the regularly scheduled broadcasts of "The Living Planet: A Portrait of the Earth," "Wild America" and "Nature," KCET Channel 28 will be running a new series, "Profiles of Nature," for the next two weeks on weekdays at 7:30 p.m. Also on tap are specials such as "Home Free: Return of the Bald Eagle" (Monday at 9:20 p.m., Saturday at 1 p.m. on Channel 28) and "In the Kingdom of the Dolphins" (Tuesday at 9:15 p.m. and Saturday at 5 p.m. on Channel 28; Thursday at 7 p.m. on Channel 50 and at 8 p.m. on Channel 15).
There are also two "National Geographic" documentaries scheduled. The first, airing Monday at 8 p.m. on Channel 28, is "The Ballad of the Irish Horse," a look at the role that horses have played in Ireland's history; the second, due Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. on Channel 50 and at 8 p.m. on Channels 28 and 15, is a "Great Moments" show with highlights from past "National Geographic" programs.