Newtown followups, unique documentary on Stephen Hawking coming from PBS

PBS unveiled upcoming feature programming today at the annual Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour in Pasadena, Calif. Highlights include a week of special programming examining the killings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Ct. PBS NewsHour, Frontline, Nova, Need to Know and Washington Week with Gwen Ifill each will focus on different aspects of the tragedy; new offerings from P.O.V. and Independent Lens such as director Michael Apted's 56 Up; the first autobiographical documentary on famed physicist Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Mine; a six-part series, Latino Americans, narrated by actor Benjamin Bratt; and, for fans of British dramas, The Bletchley Circle, a three-part murder mystery, and How Sherlock Changed the World, a two-hour examination of the popular detective character. PBS's sessions at the TCA Press Tour conclude tomorrow.

2013 Golden Globes: Maggie Smith wins PBS’s only statuette

PBS was nominated in four categories at the 70th Golden Globe Awards Jan. 13, but only Dame Maggie Smith of Downton Abbey earned a win from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Smith won for Best Supporting Actress in a TV Series for the show's second season. The awards, which celebrate both film and television, had also nominated Downton Abbey for Best Drama, while star Michelle Dockery had been nominated for Best Actress in a Drama. The Showtime series Homeland won in both categories. Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch had been nominated for Best Actor in a Miniseries or TV Movie, but lost to Kevin Costner for his work in History's Hatfields & McCoys.

WGBY interviews real-life Downton Abbey Countess

Three nights after 7.9 million people tuned into the third-season premiere of PBS's Downton Abbey, WGBY in Springfield, Mass., will broadcast an interview tonight with Lady Carnarvon of Highclere Castle, the filming location of the BBC-produced series. The interview is being shown as an episode of the program Connecting Point and is not available for national carriage, so only those New Englanders lucky enough to receive the WGBY signal will be able to watch this evening. "I got in touch with Lady Carnarvon’s personal assistant last fall for a different reason," WGBY spokesperson Myrna Flynn told Current regarding how the station landed the exclusive. "Circumstances naturally led to this. The Countess was very gracious and accommodating." In 2011, the Countess authored a book, Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle.

PBS inks deals for on-demand access to local station content

PBS unveiled deals to distribute public TV programs on two additional on-demand video streaming platforms -- Roku and Xbox Live. The contracts, unveiled last week by PBS Digital chief Jason Seiken, lay the groundwork for apps that will feature local station programming and a limited selection of national content. To gain access, Xbox and Roku users will provide email addresses and choose their local station. The graphic interface on both services will be cobranded with PBS and local station logos. "Xbox and Roku are leaders in the fast-growing 'over-the-top' television phenomenon, in which viewers access television programs on-demand on their TV sets using an Internet connection," Seiken wrote in Jan.

Kickstarter users have given more than $42M to documentaries

Crowdfunding website Kickstarter announced Thursday that independent film projects on its site had passed the $100 million mark in pledges since its 2009 launch, with $42.6 million of that total pledged to documentaries — the largest share of any film genre. Many Kickstarter-funded documentaries find their way to larger success, whether through film festivals, theatrical distribution or airings on networks like PBS. This year, three Kickstarter-assisted documentary features shortlisted for a Best Documentary Oscar nomination will also air on PBS in 2013: The Waiting Room, Detropia and Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry.