PBS fall schedule offers U.K. hits, US history

Associated Press Modified: May 15, 2012 at 4:01 pm •  Published: May 15, 2012

LOS ANGELES (AP) — PBS' fall schedule has a definite British accent, courtesy of the returning drama "Upstairs Downstairs" and newcomer "Call the Midwife."

The prominence of dramas imported from the U.K. is no surprise given PBS' success with "Downton Abbey," ''Sherlock" and season one of "Upstairs Downstairs."

"Call the Midwife," a six-part series set in 1950s London that was a hit in Britain, will kick off PBS' new season at 8 p.m. EDT Sunday, Sept. 30, it was announced Tuesday. Starting Oct. 7, "Midwife" will be followed by sophomore "Upstairs Downstairs" airing as part of the "Masterpiece Classic" showcase.

Pairing the dramas "is really part of our strategy to build around strong series that audiences know and love, like 'Masterpiece' and 'Antiques Roadshow,' and add new shows," said John Wilson, PBS' programming chief.

There's plenty of Americana as well on public television's fall schedule, including general election coverage and documentaries on two devastating chapters of U.S. history.

"The Dust Bowl," a two-part, four-hour documentary from Ken Burns airing Nov. 18-19, details the 1930s environmental disaster that unleashed deadly dust storms and ravaged Great Plains farmlands.

Ric Burns, the other prominent member of the filmmaking family, has an "American Experience" documentary airing Sept. 18, "Death and the Civil War," that explores the conflict's deep social impact. The film will show on the 150th anniversary of Antietam, considered the bloodiest day of battle on U.S. soil.