‘Les Miserables,’ Seasons of ‘Finding Your Roots’ and ‘Unforgotten’ Among Disc and Digital Releases From PBS in May

The six-part miniseries Les Miserables, season five of “Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.” and season three of “Masterpiece Mystery!: Unforgotten” are among the titles coming to digital, DVD and Blu-ray from PBS Distribution in May.

Based on Victor Hugo’s masterpiece novel, the drama Les Miserables streets May 21 on Blu-ray, DVD and digital. It stars Dominic West (The Affair, “The Wire”) as Jean Valjean, the most famous fugitive in literature. It also stars David Oyelowo (Selma, Queen of Katwe) as his relentless pursuer Javert; Lily Collins (Rules Don’t Apply; Love, Rosie) as the tragic seamstress Fantine; Ellie Bamber (Nocturnal Animals) as Cosette; Academy Award-winner Olivia Colman (The Favourite) and Adeel Akhtar (Unforgotten) as Cosette’s cruel overseers; and Josh O’Connor (The Durrells in Corfu) as the student and reluctant revolutionary Marius.

Season five of “Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.” streets May 14 on DVD and digital. The season traces the families of Academy Award winner Marisa Tomei; Emmy and Golden Globe Award winners Laura Linney and S. Epatha Merkerson; actors Michael K. Williams, Chloë Sevigny and Kal Penn; author George R.R. Martin; journalists Christiane Amanpour, Ann Curry, Joe Madison and Lisa Ling; bestselling author and Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg; TV hosts Seth Meyers and Michael Strahan; artists Marina Abramović and Kehinde Wiley; politicians Marco Rubio, Tulsi Gabbard and Paul Ryan; Academy Award-winning filmmakers Alejandro G, Iñárritu and Michael Moore; and comedians Tig Notaro and Sarah Silverman.

Due May 7 on DVD and digital is season three of “Masterpiece Mystery!: Unforgotten.” When human remains are found by a motorway near London, the crime-solving duo Cassie and Sunny are called to the scene. Dogged work leads the team to Hayley Reid, a 16-year-old girl who went missing on the eve of the millennium. The police’s failure to find out what happened to Hayley wrecked her family’s life. Cassie’s compassion makes her determined to correct the mistakes made by the original investigating team — whatever the cost is to herself.

Coming May 21 on DVD and digital is the two-part docu-drama Nicholas and Alexandra: The Letters. Since their brutal murders 100 years ago, the world has been fascinated by Tsar Nicholas II and his wife, the Empress Alexandra. Through the couple’s politically damning, sexually intimate and personally revealing letters, the docu-drama explores Nicholas and Alexandra’s complex love story and the couple’s role in the lead up to the Russian Revolution of 1917, which led to their execution. From their total isolation to their political ineptitude and reliance on Rasputin, the letters chronicle their disastrous leadership in graphic detail.

Nova: Rise of the Rockets streets May 7 on DVD and digital. The show covers the explosion of private companies sparking the development of new technologies and lowering costs to bring space closer than ever. It also explores how NASA is returning to crewed spaceflight, building a rocket more powerful than Saturn V to take us far beyond earth.

Coming May 14 on DVD and digital is Nova: The Next Pompeii. The series joins investigators as they hunt for clues hidden beneath the surface of Italy’s lesser-known volcano, Campi Flegrei, and assess the risk of a new and potentially devastating eruption. The program also follows historians and geologists as they discover the latest evidence of Pompeii’s fiery destruction, unpacking the chain of events that led to the ancient world’s most notorious disaster.

Due May 28 on DVD and digital is Frontline: The Trial of Ratko Mladic. In the aftermath of the brutal wars that decimated Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, former Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladic was accused of genocide and other war crimes — including the massacre of more than 7,000 Muslim men and boys in the town of Srebrenica in July 1995 — considered the worst crime perpetrated on European soil since World War II. After 16 years on the run, Mladic was apprehended and brought to The Hague to stand trial before the U.N.’s International Criminal Tribunal. The two-hour special goes inside the historic five-year trial, with unprecedented, behind-the-scenes access to the prosecution and defense teams, as well as to witnesses from both sides who came to present evidence.

Secrets of the Dead: The Nero Files debuts May 14 on DVD and digital. The show uncovers the story of the Roman emperor Nero, considered one of history’s greatest criminals — a cruel, insane and brutal ruler. He stands accused of killing his step-brother, his wife and his mother, as well as burning Rome to the ground for his own artistic inspiration. Recent research, modern interpretations of historical sources and new discoveries cast a different light on the accusations levelled at the Roman emperor. The Nero Files investigates Nero’s reign with the help of criminal psychologist Thomas Müller, using “cold case” methodology, asking the question: Did history get it wrong?

Coming May 7 on DVD and digital is Henry IX: The Lost King. The program takes viewers on a journey to investigate the mysterious disappearance from history of a forgotten Scottish prince — Henry Fredrick Stuart. Not many of us know his name but Henry started the British Museum and the Royal Collection and was the first royal prince to back a permanent settlement on American soil in the early 17th century. In this documentary, host Paul Murton brings this forgotten figure from the shadows of history. It’s a detective story that reveals the tragedy of Henry’s lost potential.

The Best of the World’s Greatest, due May 7 on DVD and digital, is a six-part series going on a journey around the planet, revealing the world’s greatest ancient cities, natural wonders, extreme animal encounters, lost cities, journeys and adventures, monuments, and coral islands. Viewers get a chance to explore cities such as Venice, Rio, and Cairo; the islands of Galapagos; Hawaii; and the Maldives. Viewers also explore Stonehenge, Machu Picchu, Angkor Wat, the Taj Mahal, Mt. Everest, the Great Barrier Reef, and the Grand Canyon. In addition, viewers get up close and personal with killer whales, grizzlies, and silver-backed gorillas, among other animals in the wild.

Korea: The Never-ending War, coming May 14 on DVD and digital, is written and produced by John Maggio and narrated by Korean-American actor John Cho. The documentary sheds new light on the global upheaval that led to the Korean War in 1950, a moment when the Cold War turned hot, and how today that war’s brutal legacy has forced the world into a deadly nuclear showdown. With testimony from the soldiers on the frontlines, civilians caught in the crossfire, political leaders from then and now, journalists, and historians, the film is a comprehensive re-examination of a war that took the lives of tens of thousands of Americans and millions of Koreans.

‘Ready Jet Go!: Chasing the Sun,’ ‘Wild Kratts: The Briny Blue Sea’ Coming to DVD April 9 From PBS

Four episodes of “Wild Kratts” and eight episodes of “Ready Jet Go!” are racing to DVD April 9 from PBS Distribution.

In Ready Jet Go!: Chasing the Sun, kids learn about the sun as Jet and friends discover that the sun is actually a star in the episode “Our Sun is a Star.” Then Jet and his friends turn their treehouse into their own observatory in “Treehouse Observatory.” They build their own telescope to observe the nighttime sky. In “Galileo, Galileo!” Mindy tells Jet she can see the sun move across the sky. Jet has to explain to her that the sun isn’t moving, it’s the earth moving around the sun. Other episodes on this DVD include: “Just the Right Distance From the Sun,” “Solar Power Rover,” “Mindy’s Bedtime,” “Sunspot’s Sunspot” and “How We Found Your Sun.”

In Wild Kratts: The Briny Blue Sea, kids have some underwater adventures with Chris and Martin Kratt. In the episode “Osprey,” Jimmy accidentally drops the keys to the Tortuga into the ocean. Chris, Martin and Aviva are on a race to develop osprey creature powers to find the keys before they disappear forever. Then in the episode “Sea Otter Swim,” the Wild Kratts take time out for a swim but Jimmy reveals that he’s not a strong swimmer. Martin and Chris take Jimmy to meet his own personal swimming tutor — a sea otter named Coach. Other episodes included on the DVD are “Puffin Rescue” and “Aye Aye.”

PBS Distribution Launches Lifestyle Content Streaming Service PBS Living

PBS Distribution has launched PBS Living, a new streaming service featuring public media lifestyle content across the food and cooking, home, culture, and travel genres.

The service is available by subscription from Prime Video Channels on Amazon for $2.99 per month after a seven-day free trial.

The channel offers subscribers a curated selection of hundreds of episodes from award-winning series with new content to be added each month. Content includes both classic and current series, such as Julia Childs’s “The French Chef,” “This Old House,” “Antiques Roadshow,” “No Passport Required,” “Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street,” “America’s Test Kitchen” and “Born to Explore.”

“Public television has a long history as a home for unique and compelling lifestyle programs,” said Andrea Downing, co-president of PBS Distribution, in a statement. “We are excited to offer viewers another way to explore their passions and find inspiration through these series, with the convenience of being able to watch anywhere, at any time.”

Select programs are also streaming in PBS Passport, a digital member benefit available through local stations.

“Contact,” “The Court” and “Inspector Falke” Among Six “Walter Presents” Foreign Series Streaming on PBS Masterpiece Prime Video in March

PBS Distribution in March will begin streaming six new series from the “Walter Present’s” library on the PBS Masterpiece Prime Video Channel –– “Contact,” “The Court,” “Dead Beautiful,” “Flight HS13,” “Framed” and “Inspector Falke.”

“Walter Presents,” which launched in January 2016 in the United Kingdom as a video-on-demand service and is a joint venture between Channel 4 and Global Series Network, partnered with PBS Distribution on Amazon Prime Video in October 2018. The PBS Masterpiece Prime Video Channel is available to Prime members for $5.99 a month after a seven-day free trial.

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Eight episodes of the French series “Contact” will be available March 4. The series follows Thomas Jouannet, who was sentenced to life after avenging his parent’s brutal murder and the kidnapping of his sister. He is freed after serving only 15 years when he makes a deal with the FBI to use his extraordinary ability — psychometry — to solve crimes. When he touches an object, he feels the “psychic footprint” of its owner, envisioning its owner’s memories, emotions and secrets. However, there is one stipulation — he cannot leave the United States. But, once he receives a mysterious package containing an object that shows his brother in trouble, Thomas heads for France. Having broken the arrangement, he now has the FBI on his tail while trying to save his brother’s life.

Also streaming beginning March 4 are six episodes of the Icelandic series “The Court.” The legal drama follows the professional and personal lives of three Reykjavik lawyers. Logi is one of the country’s most brilliant legal minds and the most troubled. He’s determined to uncover the truth about what really happened one night in his youth — an incident that left a man dead and Logi in prison for manslaughter. But his internal demons threaten to send him spiraling into alcoholism. Standing between Logi and self-destruction are his colleagues — two lawyers, Brynhildur and Hordur, whose own private lives are far from simple.

Streaming beginning March 11 are nine episodes of the French crime drama “Dead Beautiful,” It centers on the self-loathing police commissioner Martin — a compassionate investigator who is dedicated to solving some of the most shocking crimes against women. While trying to solve these crimes, Martin also juggles the three women in his life: his ex-wife, the police psychiatrist and his girlfriend, journalist Marion. Each episode pits Martin against a new killer.

Streaming beginning March 18 are 10 episodes of the Dutch thriller “Flight HS13,” which follows Liz and Simon, a seemingly happily married couple who have everything they could possibly want ‚ a lovely son, a beautiful home and successful careers. But their perfect life is over when Simon boards a plane — flight HS13 — to attend a conference in Barcelona.  A few hours later, Liz’s world collapses when she hears Simon’s plane has crashed. No one survived. Very quickly her grief turns to shock and disbelief when she finds out that Simon never actually checked in for the flight. His name was not on the passenger list.

Streaming beginning March 25 are 10 episodes from another Dutch series “Framed.” Communications consultant Michael Bellicher has just received a promotion at his software firm and a party is being held in his honor to announce it. When an ex-lover appears, however, he lapses back into his unfaithful ways and things begin to spiral out of control. His wife is sick of it and packs her bags. Things suddenly get even worse when that ex-lover suddenly turns up dead. His identity is stolen, and he is forced to become a fugitive when he is framed for the murder.  Though family and friends doubt his innocence, Bellicher eventually forms an alliance with his newly transgender sister and a computer hacker, Vince. Together, they set out to uncover what is really going on.

Also streaming beginning March 25 are seven episodes of the German series “Inspector Falke.” Thorsten Falke is a devoted police officer who has traded in a family and a social life in the name of justice. Having grown up in the throes of Hamburg’s grimy underbelly, he is now proud to take a stand against crime in his hometown. Falke and his partner, Katharina Lorenz, work to bring down the ruthless criminal gangs threatening Hamburg.

Mike’s Picks: ‘Sammy Davis, Jr. — I’ve Gotta Be Me’ and ‘Beat the Devil’

American Masters: Sammy Davis, Jr. — I’ve Gotta Be Me

Street Date 2/19/19
PBS, Documentary, $24.99 DVD, NR.
Featuring Kim Novak, Billy Crystal, Whoopi Goldberg, Norman Lear, Jerry Lewis.
2019.
Neatly dividing its subject’s life into chapters that reflected the dimensions of his career (singer, dancer, social progressive, social regressive, etc.), Sam Pollard’s documentary hits the expected bases we remember from past print biographies, press coverage and, in some cases, scandal sheets of the day.
Read the Full Review

Beat the Devil

Available via ScreenArchives.com
Twilight Time, Drama, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Humphrey Bogart, Jennifer Jones, Gina Lollobrigida, Robert Morley.
1953. As one of screen history’s most ticklish of answers to that oft-asked question, “What did you do on your vacation?”, John Huston’s artfully ramshackle Beat the Devil is propelled by one its era’s most memorable displays of loopy ensemble acting.
Extras: It’s poignant hearing bonus-section commentator and Twilight Time co-founder Nick Redman talking here of Humphrey Bogart’s final days, given that Redman himself succumbed to cancer on Jan 17.
Read the Full Review

‘American Masters’ Documentary ‘Sammy Davis, Jr.: I’ve Gotta Be Me’ Due on Digital and DVD Feb. 19 From PBS

The “American Masters” program Sammy Davis, Jr.: I’ve Gotta Be Me is coming out on DVD and digital Feb. 19 from PBS Distribution.

This is the first major film documentary to examine the performer’s vast career and his journey for identity through the shifting tides of civil rights and racial progress during 20th century America, according to PBS. Davis strove to achieve the American Dream in a time of racial prejudice and shifting political territory. He was a veteran of increasingly outdated show business traditions and worked tirelessly to stay relevant, even as he frequently found himself bracketed by the bigotry of white America and the distaste of black America. Davis was a public black figure who embraces Judaism, thereby yoking his identity to that of another persecuted minority. In Duke Ellington’s words, he was “beyond category.”

The documentary features interviews with Billy Crystal, Norman Lear, Jerry Lewis, Whoopi Goldberg and Kim Novak, with never-before-seen photographs from Davis’ vast personal collection and footage of his performances.

‘Frontline’ Series ‘Documenting Hate, ‘American Experience: The Swamp’ Due on Digital and DVD Feb. 12 From PBS

PBS Distribution is releasing two documentaries, Frontline: Documenting Hate and American Experience: The Swamp, on digital and DVD Feb. 12.

Frontline: Documenting Hate is a two-part investigation into today’s white supremacy groups in the United States. In the first part, “Charlottesville,” correspondent A.C. Thompson tracks down some of those at the center of the infamous and deadly rally in Charlottesville, Va., revealing that one participant in the violence was an active-duty Marine, and the other worked for a major defense contractor and held a U.S. government security clearance. This part also shows just how ill-prepared law enforcement was to handle an influx of white supremacists from across the country, some of whom had been part of a series of earlier violent confrontations in California and descended on Charlottesville specifically to fight. The second part, “New American Nazis,” presents a new investigation into white supremacist groups in America, in particular a neo-Nazi group, Atomwaffen Division, that has actively recruited inside the U.S. Military. This joint investigation documents the group’s terrorist objectives, examines how civilian and military authorities have responded, and shows how the group gained strength after the 2017 Charlottesville rally.

Also due on digital and DVD Feb. 12 is American Experience: The Swamp. Told through the eccentric lives of hucksters, politicians and activists, the documentary explores the Florida Everglades, which has some of natures’ most mysterious and unique ecosystems. The program is based, in part, on the book The Swamp: The Everglades, Florida and the Politics of Paradise by Michael Grunwald.

Tilda Swinton Narrates Doc ‘Letters From Baghdad’ Due on Digital and DVD Feb. 5 From PBS

Letters From Baghdad, the story of 19th century explorer Gertrude Bell narrated by Oscar winner Tilda Swinton, is coming out on DVD and digital Feb. 5 from PBS Distribution.

Bell was an Englishwoman who traveled to the Middle East and was often referred to as the female “Lawrence of Arabia,” whom she personally knew, T.E. Lawrence. An explorer, spy, archaeologist, and diplomat, she also rubbed elbows with other powerful men, including Winston Churchill.

The program follows Bell’s life from her time at Oxford University in 1886 to her death in Baghdad in 1926. Her role in the Middle East was ground-breaking for women, and one of her many achievements included drawing up the borders for a new country, Iraq. The documentary uses never before seen archival footage, photographs taken by Bell herself, and a script taken from Bell’s personal letters.

Season Two of Ann Curry Series ‘We’ll Meet Again’ Due on Digital and DVD Feb. 5 from PBS

The second season of “We’ll Meet Again,” hosted by Ann Curry, will be released Feb. 5 on DVD and digital from PBS Distribution.

We’ll Meet Again, Season Two features six more episodes of dramatic reunions between people who have been searching for a good Samaritan from their past. In “Saved in Vietnam,” we meet two veterans searching for their heroes from the war: a helicopter pilot who rescued one and a surgeon who saved a soldier’s leg from amputation. Other episodes in Season Two include “Alaskan Earthquake,” “Surviving the Holocaust,” “Korean War Brothers in Arms,” “Escape from Cuba” and “The Fight for Women’s Rights.”

‘Rumble’ Music Documentary to Make PBS Debut Jan. 21

Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World, a music documentary executive produced by musician Stevie Salas, makes its PBS debut Jan. 21.

The documentary is part of the Independent Lens series, which showcases independent documentary films and airs Monday nights on most PBS member stations.

Rumble has been available on DVD since October 2017 from Kino Lorber.

It also is available for streaming or purchase from Amazon.

The 102-minute documentary looks at Native American influence in popular music, going deep into the indigenous foundations of rock. The film features interviews with such celebrated Native American musical icons as Robbie Robertson (of The Band) and Buffy Sainte-Marie, and spotlights the contributions of such other influential Native American musicians such as Link Wray, the electric guitar pioneer whose titular instrumental hit was banned from the radio; Hall of Famer Jimi Hendrix, who was part-Cherokee; and Jesse Ed Davis, the Native American guitarist who backed Taj Mahal and later did session work for the likes of Willie Nelson, George Harrison, the Faces and Byrds co-founder Gene Clark.

Their stories are told by rock legends who knew them, played music with them, and were inspired by them, including George Clinton, Taj Mahal, Slash, Jackson Browne, Taboo, Buddy Guy, Quincy Jones, Derek Trucks, Tony Bennett, Iggy Pop, Steven Tyler and Stevie Van Zandt.

At a panel discussion last week at a preview event at the Ace Theater in downtown Los Angeles, Rumble was talked up by Salas, actor Edward James Olmos, and guitar legend Wayne Kramer, formerly of the MC5 and one of Rolling Stone magazine’s 100 greatest guitarists of all time.

Rumble panel discussion at the Ace Theater Jan. 5.

Salas, who is part Apache, said during the discussion, “Jeff Beck once told me that he and Jimmy Page used to jump around the bedroom at his mom’s house playing air guitar to Link Wray. To visualize these guys that are like the Mount Rushmore of rock stars playing air guitar to a Shawnee Indian, it just blew my mind.”

Salas in the late 1980s toured with Rod Stewart and later enjoyed a solo career with sold-out tours in Japan and Europe. He also was hired as guitarist and music director for Mick Jagger’s “Goddess in the Doorway” solo tour.

After the event, in a Facebook post, Kramer wrote, “This documentary knocked it out of the park from my point of view. My friend Stevie Salas lays out the influence of Native Americans on rock ‘n’ roll and it’s fantastic.”

The preview event for Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World at the Ace Theater also featured clips from the film and a live performance by the resuscitated Redbone, the Native American rock group led by with brothers Pat and Lolly Vegas best known for it early 1970s hit “Come and Get Your Love,” which was recently featured in the hit movie Guardians of the Galaxy.

The group, with only Pat Vegas remaining from the original lineup, performed “Come and Get Your Love” with Pat Vegas’ son, PJ Vegas, on lead vocals, filling in for his late uncle.

Redbone frequently performed in traditional Native American costumes.

Paul Vega of Redbone, performing Jan. 15 at the Ace Theater