TCA: PBS Sets 'Downton Abbey' Special, Reality Competition Series

Paula Kerger
Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

"I'd much rather see that than another series on cupcakes."

The station also schedules its Summer Arts Festival and renews “Art in the Twenty-First Century” for a sixth season.

PBS is diving into the reality competition genre.
The station on Wednesday during the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour in Pasadena announced Market Wars, a 20-episode series from the producers of Antiques Roadshow.

Set to air in the summer/fall, the series will offer a “lesson in the bare-knuckles business of scoring a bargain.” Hourlong episodes will feature professional antiques dealers competing head-to-head in a timed and budgeted race to score the biggest profit in each show’s final auction segment.

PHOTOS: Highlights From Summer 2011 TCA
“We think there’s a place for smart reality programming,” PBS president and CEO Paula A. Kerger told reporters, touting the station’s recent strategy of pairing like-minded fare in creating history, science and arts-themed nights.
“We’re trying to align our programming strategy so that people can find it in a way that will be helpful,” she told reporters of last year’s decision to move Nova.
In keeping with that strategy, Market Wars will be paired with Antiques Roadshow on Monday nights.
In other news from PBS’ executive session:
• Calling it a “special treat” for Downton Abbey fans, Kerger also announced Secrets of the Manor House, an hourlong special set to premiere Jan. 22 at 8 p.m. Secrets will look beyond the fiction to explore the background of the British titled class in Edwardian times.
• PBS announced the sixth-season renewal of Art in the Twenty-First Century, its Peabody Award-winning biennial series offering profiles of contemporary artists working today. Returning Friday, April 13, the premiere episode, titled Change, will profile Ai Weiwei, the Chinese artist arrested by government officials last year.
• The PBS Arts Summer Festival will kick off June 29 and be hosted by Nurse Jackie’s Anna Deavere Smith, with Susan Sarandon and John Leguizamo slated to be among the performers and narrators.
• Touting its growth online and on social media, PBS announced plans for six new Web series as it continues to use the Internet as a tool to reach new viewers. “I think the online space is a great area to experiment,” Kerger said, touting the lower cost of producing new projects and the station’s successful growth on Facebook.
• Kerger also addressed a recent New York Times article that noted PBS’ strategy in challenging premium cable networks like HBO and Showtime, saying that the success of Downton Abbey has prompted the station to take a “hard look” at its primetime opportunities to build programming that isn’t being covered by other broadcasters. “It provides great opportunities,” she said of the Emmy-winning and Golden Globe- and SAG-nominated series.
"People are saying, 'Oh, PBS is cool again.’ I've always thought PBS was cool." Kerger said of Downton Abbey, noting that the success of the series has “reintroduced” the public to PBS.
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