Who needs mini-pies when you have PBS’s programs?

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No, PBS didn’t give each writer at the Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour a mini-pie like HBO did. But at least one critic was more impressed with the network’s actual programming. Todd VanDerWerff writes in today’s (Jan. 10) AV Club that “the kind of arts, news, and science programming PBS offers just doesn’t pop up anywhere else. What other network would air Frontline? Or Great Performances? Or Nova?” PBS also featured “fascinating people” on its panels. “Some biologists let us know why it was totally cool for them to get within a few feet of grizzly bears,” he writes, “and tried to help a TCA member figure out how to deal with the bear that makes trouble in her backyard.”

In other TCA news, PBS is considering ways to make its groundbreaking doc from 1973, “An American Family,” available now that HBO is presenting a dramatic take on the film, “Cinema Verite.” “American Family” probably won’t run on the network. WNET’s v.p. for content Stephen Segaller said clearing 12 hours of air for what is essentially a rerun may not make sense. Another possibility is to do a special with highlights of the series and stream full episodes online. And sale of a DVD of the doc, which is considered by many as the first reality show, could benefit the perennially cash-strapped PBS.

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