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Brokaw: PBS intrigues viewers with two new shows

By Francine Brokaw - Special to the Standard-Examiner | May 4, 2024
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"Art Happens Here," hosted by John Lithgow, premiered April 26 on PBS.
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"MaryLand" is a new drama premiering Sunday, May 5, 2024, as part of "Masterpiece" on PBS.

‘Art Happens Here with John Lithgow’

John Lithgow has a long list of credits to his film and television career. His latest project, “Art Happens Here with John Lithgow,” is a labor of love. With art being phased out of public schools, students are missing out on a variety of great ideas, projects and history. And when the art programs go, so do the teachers.

“My appreciation for teachers began when I had teachers,” Lithgow told some gathered media. “I think everyone can remember at least one teacher who meant something to them growing up, and I have a dozen. A couple of them in particular were my art teachers until the age of 18 or 19 when I basically decided I couldn’t do anything else as well as acting. I wanted to be an artist and it had a lot to do with the teachers I had, starting very young, but most particularly when I was in ninth or 10th grade.”

Most of us can remember a very special teacher who went out of her or his way to impart ideas and creativity. These special teachers helped shape us, whether we know it or not.

The actor stated, “I’ve always appreciated teachers, particularly art teachers. And as the long gestation period of this show in the course of that period, I began to see it as all about teachers. … (There’s) that electric moment between great teachers and willing students in the arts.”

He went on, “I wanted to be an artist, and I was quite serious about it when young. I’ve always continued doing it but much more as a hobbyist than a professional artist. I respect them too much to call myself one. But I do my own Christmas cards every year. I do a drawing for — or a painting at the wrap of every film or an opening night of every play.” His art has documented his career as an actor. Interestingly, Jeff Bridges created photo books of his films during his career with a special camera. Art and acting might go hand in hand. They are both creative undertakings.

“I nurse a faraway fantasy of just either retiring or taking a sabbatical from acting to do nothing but painting for a year, but I’m sure I’ll never do that. They keep wanting me to act for some reason more now than ever.” He has film, TV and stage productions to his credit and more on the way.

“When I first pitched this, I pitched it as a series kind of the way Stanley Tucci has made a remarkable thing out of his trips to Italy — a good friend of mine whom I just did a movie with. He can somehow fit all this into his life. I just can’t.”

Lithgow waxed on about the state of eduction in schools today: “The education system has desiccated in terms of the arts. There’s so much emphasis on the STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and passing tests and being prepared for them and being evaluated. … Something has gone terribly wrong from when I was a kid because my public school education, and I went to several of them, it was joyful. I just feel there is a terrible dearth of joy for kids, and it is a serious problem.” For those over 40, the education system of today is frustrating. And it is definitely something the actor regrets. His education, as with many of those over 40, was well-rounded, and that included music and art. Today’s system doesn’t allow for many classes in those subjects.

Acting and painting are his two favorite things. “I’m most eager to get back to painting. … As a matter of fact, I’m creating a little painting studio for myself because I really do want to do much more of that in my retirement. But who knows?” The show includes a variety of art programs, including ceramics, dance, music and screen-print drawing.

With art declining in the schools, Lithgow, who is on the commission on the arts for the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, decided this is a good time to show how art can be beneficial to students of all ages.

“Art Happens Here with John Lithgow” premiered April 26 on PBS.

Family drama ‘MaryLand’ on Masterpiece

“MaryLand” is a three-part series focusing on family relationships, dynamics and secrets. Suranne Jones and Eve Best star as sisters Becca and Rosaline.

When the sisters get a phone call telling them their mother is dead, they must travel from the U.K. to the Isle of Man to identify the body. When they get there, they discover plenty of family secrets as, one by one, things are revealed. They discover things about their mother, father and each other as they also reconnect to each other after being partially estranged for years.

This is an intense and interesting story beginning Sunday on “Masterpiece” on PBS.


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