• A publicity photo from the fifth season of Downton Abbey made the rounds on the Internet for all the wrong reasons. The shot of stars Hugh Bonneville and Laura Carmichael featured an anachronistic plastic water bottle perched on a mantle. Producer ITV has since removed the shot from its press site, according to the BBC, and it's also vanished from PBS's pressroom. "You had one job, guys. One job," Buzzfeed wrote.
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — The success of Downton Abbey, whose fifth season has been set for Jan. 4, has created a novel problem for PBS: too many programs to fit into the Sunday-night slot occupied by Masterpiece. It’s possible that PBS might schedule some of the excess series at another hour or on another day. But there are no plans to do so for now, according to Masterpiece Executive Producer Rebecca Eaton.
The stars of Downton Abbey aren’t the only luminaries whom journalists will chat with during PBS’s portion of the Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour today and Wednesday. Other big names at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, Calif., include rapper and songwriter Nas, director Spike Lee, Oscar winner Geena Davis, actor Nathan Lane and television legend Dick Cavett. The twice-yearly tour is a chance for broadcasters to woo more than 200 reporters with news of their upcoming schedules, deploying sizzle reels, high-profile appearances, question-and-answer sessions and, of course, food and drinks. PBS President Paula Kerger will greet journalists during her executive session at 10 a.m. Pacific time. Later today, the press conference for Season 5 of Downton Abbey, PBS’s blockbuster series on Masterpiece, will feature Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael), Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery), Anna Bates (Joanne Froggatt) and Tom Branson (Allen Leech), as well as Executive Producer Gareth Neame and Masterpiece’s Rebecca Eaton.
Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes has weighed in on PBS's decision to delay airing the Masterpiece megahit for months after each season premieres in Britain. And as his countryfolk might say, he is cheesed off. “I want to have simultaneous transmission in America and Britain,” he tells the Telegraph of London. “The difficulty that we have is that people are discussing the series as it happens online before America’s seen it and on the internet we’re all in the same company. It’s madness.”
Then he adds: “It’s what I’d like, but who cares what I think?”
Scheduling Downton is a tricky subject for PBS. The blockbuster costume drama has always premiered in January on PBS, two months after the British airing.
PBS’s fiscal year 2015 draft budget includes the launch of a Membership Video on Demand service that will generate revenue by drawing on the network’s expansive library of content. MVOD members will get exclusive access to on-demand PBS videos, according to a budget document acquired by Current. “This is a critical product to help stations drive membership of the growing digital audience,” it said. The service will be integrated with PBS’s COVE video platform, and the public broadcaster anticipates hiring additional staff for the project. The budget proposal, now awaiting comment from stations, also requests a 2.5 percent increase in assessments from stations.
Episode four of the new season of Portlandia, starring Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein, will feature A Prairie Home Companion tailgating. The sketch is also being spun off into a series of four webisodes, which can be viewed online before the season premiere. Season four of Portlandia premieres Feb. 27 at 10 p.m. on the Independent Film Channel. If an avid blogger can't leave a comment on your website, he'll write about it. That's what tech-savvy journalist Doc Searls did when he encountered issues with a story from WBUR, Boston's NPR news station.
PBS is in "the final stages" of hiring a new executive to improve public TV fundraising efforts at both the local and national levels, President Paula Kerger announced during the Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour in Pasadena, Calif., Monday.