Burns' 'The Roosevelts' to open PBS season

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PBS says its fall season will open with a binge-viewing opportunity: a seven-part Ken Burns documentary on the Roosevelt political dynasty.

“The Roosevelts: An Intimate History,” will air as two-hour episodes for seven nights beginning Sept. 14. Each episode will be repeated nightly and available online, said Beth Hoppe, PBS chief programming executive.

“I think it’s the best thing Ken’s done since ‘The Civil War,”’ Hoppe said.

The Burns family itself will be well-represented on public TV’s schedule, with brother Ric Burns’ “The Pilgrims,” airing Nov. 25. The “American Experience” film will examine what compelled English men and women to voyage to a new land in 1620.

PBS won’t have drama ratings champ “Downton Abbey” back on until January. But there’s a full slate of fall alternatives.

Among them is “Death Comes to Pemberley,” based on novelist P.D. James’ sequel to Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” and starring Matthew Rhys (“The Americans”) and Anna Maxwell Martin. It airs Oct. 26 and Nov. 2.

Bill Nighy will return as British spy Johnny Worricker in two new stories. He’ll be joined by Christopher Walken, Winona Ryder, Helena Bonham Carter and Ralph Fiennes in the shows Nov. 9 and 16.

Arts programming will remain the focus of PBS’ Friday night schedule, with two series, “Live from Lincoln Center” and “Austin City Limits,” marking their 40th anniversaries.

A March performance by Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel in “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street,” in concert with the New York Philharmonic, will open the “Lincoln Center” season on Sept. 26.

Other PBS fall highlights:

• A production of “Porgy and Bess” from the San Francisco Opera on Oct. 17, starring Eric Owens and soprano Laquita Mitchell.

• “How We Got to Now with Steven Johnson,” about the people responsible for remarkable ideas that shaped modern life, including what we eat and where we live. The series debuts Oct. 15.

• Season 2 of “Finding Your Roots,” with Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. helping people identify unknown ancestors. It debuts Sept. 23.

• “Makers,” a six-documentary look at groundbreaking American women in the arenas of war, space, business, politics, Hollywood and comedy. It begins Sept. 30.