ATAS, WETA prepping history of TV docu

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The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation has teamed with Washington-based public television station WETA and the Documentary Group to produce a series chronicling the history of television for PBS.

The project, tentatively titled "The History of Television," will be comprised of a series of programs that will examine every aspect of the medium. Kicking off the series will be a four-hour look at scripted primetime programming and the iconic characters featured in comedy and drama series over the past six decades whose stories "have reflected, defined and even shaped American history and culture." Each hourlong episode will feature interviews with various writers, actors, directors and producers of note.

The project, which is set to debut in spring 2009, was recently awarded a $2 million challenge grant from PBS and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The ATAS Foundation also will initiate a "major" fundraising effort on behalf of the series.

"Television is a medium in transition, and there is no better time to step back and appreciate where it has been and where it is going," said ATAS Foundation chairman Steve Mosko, who also serves as president of Sony Pictures Television. "This is a milestone for the foundation to have the opportunity to work with such prestigious partners as PBS, CPB and the Documentary Group -- the perfect creative team for a project of this size and scope."

The ATAS Foundation's mission is "to preserve and celebrate the history of the medium and to educate and guide those who will shape its future." It is responsible for the Archive of American Television, which features more than 500 interviews with current and past TV icons.

Said Dalton Delan, executive vp and chief programming officer at WETA: "At this watershed moment in television, all roads still lead back to content. This insightful series, powered by the television academy's access to an unprecedented array of historical material, will take a smart and entertaining look at the characters and cultural iconography that have made scripted television America's communal campfire."

WETA productions and co-productions include "The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer" and the upcoming Ken Burns documentary "The War."

The Documentary Group's credits include the upcoming docu "Steep," scheduled for release by Sony Pictures Classics later this year.
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