Once upon a time, PBS presented to Americans the very finest examples of our musical culture. Such programs as “Live from Lincoln Center,” “Great Performances” and “Live from the Met” offered viewers a wonderful sampling of classical music, opera and dance featuring some of the greatest and most admired artists in the world. That’s what PBS used to do, anyway, and I say that with sadness and regret and now some growing anger.
What has replaced that programming are low-brow shows such as “Antiques Roadshow,” surely the dullest and most predictable non-reality entity on television, along with self-help shows with the well-worn likes of the Suze Orman and Wayne Dyer and an increased number of pledge week appeals for money which specialize in showing aging doo-wop groups from the 1950s and ’60s. What a sad ending for PBS.
The network recently announced its 2014-1015 program lineup. Yes, “Downtown Abbey” is there again — to my delight, although the PBS insistence on delaying it months beyond the first showing in Great Britain is another instance of misguided management. But the rest of the season is notably mostly for the total absence of classical music. There’s no classical dance. And there’s only one opera, “Porgy and Bess.” (If you happen to like jazz, you’re out of luck once again as well.)
In brief, it’s a pathetic lineup that speaks to a diminished sense of values on the part of the people who run the network. I of course cannot say it will cost PBS viewers because I have no way of knowing. But I do know it will cost them at least one viewer — me. And it will cost them my pledge, too, because I will no longer offer my financial support given their lack of interest in what interests me.
There are network programs of some quality, to be fair about it. But more and more I am seeing lower-level programming come to the fore with an emphasis on pop culture. What else would you call the appearance of Lady Gaga and a repeat showing of “Cats” from nearly 20 years ago?
All of this does indeed make me sad and disappointed. I feel abandoned, my companionship no longer desired. I don’t expect that to matter in the big picture, but the executives who oversee PBS need to know they have divorced me, not the other way around.