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On the Front Line of Diversity


The multichannel television universe continues to grow. But when it comes to thought-provoking and educational programming, PBS remains one of the medium's undisputed leaders.

This fall the network will present an array of new and diverse programs, from documentary series on the undersea world and the birth of the United States to multi-part programs exploring religion and ethics and actor Michael Palin's journey around the Pacific Rim.

The history of vaudeville, America's interstate highway system and the mysterious death of a wealthy Mexican man will be the subjects of other special programs.

Returning series will include the acclaimed "Frontline" investigative news show, the science series "Nova" and the British detective series "Mystery!," which enters its 18th season.

Here are highlights (with dates for KCET included where they've been set):


"The Devil Never Sleeps": A one-hour documentary that investigates the circumstances surrounding the mysterious 1990 death of filmmaker Lourdes Portillo's wealthy Mexican uncle, Oscar. Sept. 30.

"Naked to the Bone": This special tells the stories behind the development of medical imaging technologies that allow doctors and technicians to see inside the human body without surgery or scalpels. Sept. 30.

"Divided Highways: The Interstate and the Transformation of American Life": A 90-minute special exploring America's interstate highway system. The program traces the ideals, motives and methods behind this country's roadways over a period of nine decades. Oct. 22.

"Lewis & Clark: The Journey of the Corps of Discovery": This two-part special tells the story of one of American history's most significant expeditions and of the friendship between the two men who embarked on this journey into unknown territory in 1804. "Lewis & Clark" combines readings from the journals kept by explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, contemporary newspaper accounts, letters and oral-tradition stories from various Indian tribes via interviews with scholars, writers and descendants of expedition members. Nov. 4-5.

"The Living Edens: Manu, Peru's Hidden Rain Forest": The fourth program in this natural history series focuses on Peru's Manu Biosphere Reserve, specifically the abundance of life in the rare Amazonian wilderness. Nov. 12.

"Vaudeville: An American Masters Special": A look at the origins, nature and legacy of vaudeville. Included are interviews and memorable moments from dozens of actual vaudeville performances. Nov. 26.

"Pepper's Pow Wow": A documentary portrait of the life and influence of Native American saxophone pioneer Jim Pepper. TBA.


"Foto-Novelas": The fantastic elements of the Mexican and Latin American pulp novel tradition inspire this four-part series. Each drama was produced, written and performed by established and emerging figures from the Chicano and Latino artistic community. Wednesdays, Oct. 1-22.

"National Desk": A three-part documentary series that addresses patterns in American life that are subtly eroding common culture. Children of divorce, the chasm between black and white Americans and the politics involved in medical research are the subjects to be explored. Fridays, Oct. 3-17.

"Liberty! The American Revolution": The birth of the American republic is examined in this six-hour series, which features commentary by distinguished scholars and dramatic readings from period letters and diaries performed by American and British actors. Nov. 23-25.

"Religion & Ethics Newsweekly": A series providing coverage of the top religion and ethics stories of the week as well as religious and ethical perspectives on domestic and foreign events, and the arts. Hosted by Bob Abernethy. Already premiered.

"Secrets of the Ocean Realm": Ten 30-minute programs comprise this series exploring the mysteries of the ocean depths. Premieres Dec. 1.

"Full Circle With Michael Palin": British actor and comedian Michael Palin sets off on a journey around the Pacific Rim. Destinations include Alaska, China, New Zealand, Peru and Mexico. Mondays, through Nov. 24.

"Stephen Hawking's Universe": Hawking introduces the latest and loftiest advances in cosmological thought in down-to-earth fashion. Mondays, Oct. 13-Nov. 17.


"Nova": PBS's premier science series returns for its 24th season with 10 hours of new documentaries. Segments will include new treatments for head injury patients and the story of the men and women who live in avalanche country. Premieres Oct. 7.

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