PBS’ Fall 2021 Programming Lineup Includes “Wicked” and John Williams Concerts, Documentaries about Muhammad Ali and Kids Who Lost Parents in 9/11, and Returning Series

Over the course of three days, PBS presented an expansive lineup of new and returning programming at the TCA Summer Press Tour. This slate includes filmed live performances that bring the arts to your living rooms, groundbreaking scientific exploration, immersive documentaries, and remarkable storytelling from the United Kingdom. Here’s a look at the fun in store this fall and winter on PBS, with a quote from the creative teams behind each one.

(Wicked Courtesy of Nouveau Productions, All Creatures Great and Courtesy of Masterpiece, Generation 9/11 Courtesy of Arrow International Media, Muhammad Ali Courtesy of Michael Gaffney, Citizen Hurst Courtesy of PBS)

(Wicked Courtesy of Nouveau Productions, All Creatures Great and Courtesy of Masterpiece, Generation 9/11 Courtesy of Arrow International Media, Muhammad Ali Courtesy of Michael Gaffney, Citizen Hurst Courtesy of PBS)


  • When: August 29th at 9:00 pm ET.
  • Description: A celebration of Stephen Schwartz’s Tony Award-winning musical hosted by Idina Menzel and Kristen Chenoweth with performances by Ariana DeBose, Cynthia Erivo, Stephanie Hsu, Rita Moreno, Jennifer Nettles, Alex Newell, Isaac Powell, Amber Riley, Gabrielle Ruiz, and more.
  • Stephen Schwartz, Oscar, Grammy and Tony-Winning Composer: “I was approached by Executive Producer Robert Pullen about the idea of doing this concert on PBS. It was during the pandemic when nothing was happening and he said the idea would be a sort of welcome-back Broadway concert… And then Robert told me how there were going to be new arrangements done and described a couple of the notions he had for how to play around with the music for certain songs. That was exciting too, so I was very enthusiastic, and having now seen it, I remain enthusiastic.”


  • When: August 31st at 9:00 pm ET.
  • Description: More than 100 kids lost their fathers before they were born on 9/11/2001 and now they’re becoming adults. This documentary film follows seven of these descendants, seeing what their life is like as we near the 20th anniversary.
  • Dina Retik, Featured Participant: “I have been so grateful that I have gotten to be a part of this documentary, for so, so many reasons. One of the reasons is finding this community of people, because for so, so long I felt really alone in my experience because the rest of my family experienced 9/11 in completely different ways than I did.”


  • When: September 19th – 22nd, 8:00-10:00 pm ET.
  • Description: A 4-part, 8-hour documentary series about the life of three-time heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali.
  • Ken Burns, Co-Filmmaker: “We found unbelievable footage and photographs. Rasheda [Ali, Daughter of Muhammad Ali] herself had seen pictures, home movies that she had never seen and wept to see her daddy talking to her at a year and a half or two years old.”
  • Expanded Content: 4-part virtual event series called "Conversations on Muhammad Ali” in partnership with ESPN’s The Undefeated.


  • When: September 27 and 28, 9:00-11:00 pm ET.
  • Description: Based on historian David Nasaw’s critically acclaimed biography, The Chief, this 2-part special chronicles the life of William Randolph Hearst, the man on whom Orson Welles based Citizen Kane: His media empire, political dealings, and love affairs.
  • Stephen Ives, Writer/Director: “In terms of Citizen Kane, I think what's in some ways most accurate about [William Randolph Hearst] was that swashbuckling early period where he is literally bashing his way through conventions and reinventing what it means to be a newspaper publisher. I think David Nasaw, whose wonderful biography this series is based on, said that he felt like at that stage in his career, Orson Welles wasn't going to play a villain. So Hearst himself was this magnetic, winning personality, and I think that that's true. I think that the darker side of that was so hyperbolic in Citizen Kane, and the women in Hearst's life were painted as such extreme caricatures, that it is really hard to not see it as a crazy distortion.”
  • More from American Experience: "Sandra Day O'Connor: The First" – premiering September 13th.

NOVA “The Cannabis Question”

  • When: September 29th, 9:00-10:30 pm ET.
  • Description: An exploration into what scientists have learned about cannabis, the pros and cons, and its impact on communities of color.
  • Sarah Holt, Writer/Producer/Director: “I was aware that there were so many clinical trials going on today looking at the medical uses of cannabis, some of the risks. At the same time, you can't talk about cannabis and not talk about racism. It's amazing to me with the patchwork of laws that we have that someone can legally buy medical cannabis in one state and end up spending time in prison for having the same cannabis in another state. So it was a challenging film to weave together the science stories and some of the social issues, but I think it makes a much richer film.”
  • More from NOVA: "The Universe" – premiering October 27th alongside themed episodes of the NOVA Now podcast.


  • When: Sundays from 8:00-9:00 pm ET starting October 3rd.
  • Description: Season 10 is set in 1966 amidst the women's rights movement. Sister Julienne is fighting to solve Nonnatus House’s financial challenges while four new midwife pupils arrive.
  • Stephen McGann, Actor (Doctor Turner): “One of the particular benefits for us is we very strictly move to a calendar. Every single season is a new year, we are religiously moving forward in what we do. It keeps us fresh because each year through that tumultuous time in the '50s and '60s brought with it such amazing change, and we try to bring that out in the program.”

POV “Fruits of Labor”

  • When: October 4th, 10:00-11:00 pm ET.
  • Description: A documentary about a teenager named Ashley whose life is threatened by immigration issues, forcing her to spend her nights working in the fields and a food processing plant.
  • Emily Cohen Ibañez, Filmmaker: “Something that's really remarkable about Ashley is she both cares about making a better life for herself and her family, but also for the community. I found that really striking for such a young woman. I met her when she was 15 and to have that kind of vision, I think you can see this continue through her as she's coming into her own power and has come of age.”

GREAT PERFORMANCES “Three Divas at Versailles”

  • When: October 8th, at 10 pm ET.
  • Description: Isabel Leonard, Ailyn Pérez and Nadine Sierra sing selections by Mozart, Offenbach, Bizet and more from the Royal Opera of Versaille, in partnership with Great Performances at the Met.
  • Isabel Leonard, Three-time Grammy-Winning Met Opera Soprano: “We are all telling our stories in the arias that we are singing. And when we come together to sing the trios, we are all telling the same story together. There's nothing like working with great friends that you trust.”
  • More from Great Performances: "Coppelia!" – premiering November 26th.

AMERICAN MASTERS “Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It”

  • When: October 5th at 9 pm ET.
  • Description: The 70+ year career of EGOT-winner Rita Moreno is explored in this intimate documentary about the challenges she faced when starting out and why she is still so in demand.
  • Rita Moreno: “It's a documentary not about an actress, but it is a documentary about the times, about the times now and about the times then. It's like a lesson in history and women, and that just thrills me to pieces.”
  • Mariem Pérez Riera, Director/Producer: “The small crew behind it was all Puerto Ricans… I think that was something really neat for Rita, because she hasn't been in a shoot where everyone behind it is people speaking Spanish, especially Puerto Rican. I think that made her feel more open and vulnerable and ready to answer everything that we wanted her to answer.”  
  • Read our review from the Sundance Film Festival.


  • When: October 15th and 22nd, at 9 pm ET.
  • Description: A 2-part special about the culture and the cuisine on both sides of the U.S./Mexico border.
  • Pati Jinich, James Beard Award-Winning Host/Executive Producer: “We have researched for over three years, conducted interviews, et cetera.  And it is not until you're there and people open their lives and their homes and their families that you realize you really can't experience it until you're there. So we hope that by bringing the cameras there, and we are honored to do this with PBS, and giving people the agency to talk about what it is like to be a fronterizo.”


  • When: Tuesdays starting October 26th at 9:00 pm ET.
  • Description: Veterans from all five branches of service and from diverse backgrounds share their personal experiences in this 4-part documentary series, narrated by celebrity veterans.
  • Leah Williams, Director/Producer: “It was really important for everyone involved in the project to choose veterans who were representing America. We wanted to share some familiar stories, but also unfamiliar stories as well and some underrepresented voices, because we really felt like everyone's story deserved to be told… It represents all five branches, enlisted and officers. We have a range of jobs from those who worked as snipers to cooks to logistical specialists. We have people from all over the country, East Coast, West Coast, South, Midwest, Southwest. We wanted to have a good representation of women, African Americans, Latina community, Native Americans, Asian Americans, immigrants, people who represent the Muslim faith, LGBTQ representation, and those with disabilities.”  
  • Expanded Content: Look for a 10-part PBS YouTube digital series and a 9-part podcast.


  • When: November 8th at  10:00 pm ET.
  • Description: The aftermath of Michael Brown Jr.’s murder in 2014 is examined through the eyes of his father, Michael Brown Sr., in the wake of the global uprising following George Floyd.
  • David Oyelowo, Film Producer, star of Selma: “We had shot this film, the events of which had taken place fifty years earlier. Largely, the Selma march had been sparked by yet again the murder of a Black man in the form of Jimmie Lee Jackson and the brutalization of Black people on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, who were just there peacefully protesting. We had made this period film and here we were, while Ava [Duvernay, director of Selma] was in post, literally seeing images synonymous with what we had just shot, events that had taken place in America fifty years earlier.”

GREAT PERFORMANCES “John Williams at Tanglewood”

  • When: November 12th at 9 pm ET.
  • Description: Legendary composer John Williams’ new violin concerto conducted with the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood.
  • John Williams, Emmy, Grammy and Oscar-Winning Composer: “When I am writing for one of the soloists or for an orchestra in general, I am free from all of those very confining, arithmetic requirements of what has to be put into film.  So it is an area where I can find freedom to write what I like, in this case, with Anne Sophie Mutter, for someone I like very much.”


  • When: Tuesdays at 8:00 pm ET beginning January 4th.
  • Description: The 10th season of Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr.’s genealogical exploration series includes actors, directors, comedians, activists, journalists and world-class chefs.
  • Damon Lindelof, Emmy-winning Writer and Producer (Lost, Watchmen): “I am not used to being on camera, I am used to being behind it and manipulating what happens on it to the best of my ability. I have been obsessed with this show for as long as it's been on… So I reached out to [Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr.] to let him know what an impact the show had had on me and then would he like to have dinner… There are the stories that your family tells you and then the stories that your family doesn't tell you and Finding Your Roots is giving you the stories that your family doesn't tell you. In a lot of ways it just feels like a missing piece is sliding into place. It was an incredible experience.”

POV “Not Going Quietly”

  • When: January 24th, 2022 at 9:00 pm ET.
  • Description: A documentary film about Ady Barkan, whose career and family were upended when he was diagnosed with ALS at the age of 32.
  • Nicholas Bruckman, Filmmaker: “Ady very intuitively understood that seeing the kind of real, intimate, gritty and painful parts of ALS was going to translate into a politically effective message, because he had spent a decade, prior to my meeting him, as an organizer using storytelling to shape policy. He had just confronted Jeff Flake when this project got started, and he had seen the power of his voice. I think he had that kind of intuition that not every documentary protagonist might know, that their story matters.”

MASTERPIECE “All Creatures Great and Small” Season 2

  • When: Premieres Winter 2022.
  • Description: James Herriot must choose between accepting a new job in Glasgow or returning to Yorkshire in the second season o the critically acclaimed season, with Patricia Hodge joining the cast as Mrs. Pumphrey.
  • Ben Vanstone, Writer/Executive Producer: “We thought there were four or five series' worth of stories right at the beginning. I think you need to think about what your endpoints are going to be before you start, so you know how to shape those characters. This show is quite peculiar in a way, that most series eat stories very quickly, where this show gives those stories time to play out slowly and the characters time to breathe. We have a fair way to go with our plans.”
  • More from Masterpiece: New series “Guilt” starts September 5th, “Grantchester” Season 6 starts October 3rd and “Baptiste” season 2 starts October 17th. “Sanditon” has been renewed for two seasons and is now in production.

FRONTLINE “American Reckoning”

  • When: Release date TBD.
  • Description: Part of “Un(re)solved, a multiplatform investigation of lives cut short from the Till Act list, this documentary explores the killing of NAACP leader Wharlest Jackson in 1967.
  • Brad Lichtenstein, Writer/Producer/Director: “I was [John Lewis’] intern in Washington and I worked on his campaign when I was 15 through 17 and knew him all my life. I actually found out about these cold cases a few years after he helped to pass the Emmett Till Act. The project started in 2014 when he pointed me in that direction. Of course, I found out there was a wealth of investigative reporters from all over the country, including the great Jerry Mitchell in Mississippi, who, of course, unearthed Byron De La Beckwith and the Medgar Evers case. I sort of joined forces, in a sense, or became part of that collaborative team… This is a little bit of an unusual thing for Frontline. This is a project that began with the interactive and with the podcast and then Raney [Aronson-Rath, Series Executive Producer] was kind enough to reach out only this last Christmas and ask where we were with this project and get an update and then jumped fully into the waters with us.”
  • Expanded Content: Podcast and interactive website at https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/unresolved/


  • When: Fridays, 8:00 pm ET, ongoing.
  • Description: Washington Week continues with its newest moderator, Yamiche Alcindor, recognizable to PBS viewers at PBS Newshour’s White House correspondent.
  • Yamiche Alcindor, Moderator: “One of the greatest parts about being on Washington Week and being the moderator is to be able to see the next generation of journalists come and be invited to my table. Of course, there are the veteran journalists that we love, Dan Balz, Peter Baker, and so many other great people, but I also love the fact we can bring in a new generation of reporters who maybe are just getting their first shot to be in a big Washington news analysis show that we can also showcase their talent.”