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February 5, 2020

New Season of Bookish TV on PBS

by Donna Huber

One of the highlights of my television viewing week is Sunday night. I have long been a fan of Masterpiece Theater on PBS. It has brought us great shows like Downton Abbey and Victoria. It is also the place for great bookish television (Poldark and The Durrells in Corfu - both of which have sadly ended). I was worried about the new lineup for winter and spring, but I have totally enjoyed the two new shows. And Masterpiece isn't the only spot on PBS's schedule with shows based on books.

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Howards End

Howards End
The four-part series based on the 1910 novel by E.M. Forster wrapped up this past Sunday. If you have a PBS passport you can stream the four episodes. I remember as a teenager watching the movie adaption with my family and not liking it. I don't know if it is because I'm older, but I absolutely enjoyed this television adaption. Hayley Atwell is wonderful as Margaret Schlegel. I've not read the book so I can't attest to its faithfulness to the novel, but as a television show, it is entertaining and worth the watch.


This eight-part series still has 3 episodes left. I'm not a fan of Jane Austen so I am really surprised by how much I'm enjoying Sanditon which is based on Austen's unfinished novel. Austen's sharp wit on subjects such as marriage and societal norms are clearly present in this adaption. I really like the character Charlotte Heywood played by Rose Williams. It really has a top-notch cast that play off each other well. I've seen movie and television adaptions of Pride and Prejudice and I still don't like it. But Sanditon makes me want to pick up an Austen novel. I'm only sad that the book was never finished. I'm also enjoying the setting of a seaside village that is trying to reinvent itself into a destination point.

Vienna Blood

Rounding out the Sunday night lineup is Vienna Blood, which is based on Frank Tallis's Liebermann Papers series. Vienna Blood is the second book in the series. Max Liebermann is a psychoanalytic student who is interested in the new methods of Sigmond Freud and he assists the local police in solving crimes by providing psychological profiles. There are plenty of profiler type shows on television these days, but the turn-of-the-century setting makes it unique. The show runs through the end of February and I look forward to the rest of the season.

The Poison Squad

The Poison Squad
While there are plenty of fiction adaptions this season on PBS, there is even something for nonfiction fans. American Experience delved into the history of the forgotten heroes who fought for food safety at the turn of the 20th century with The Poison Squad last night. The book by Deborah Blum came out last year and I was very disappointed that I didn't get approved for an ARC via NetGalley. I attended a science writer workshop a couple of summers ago and Blum was my small group's leader.

Call the Midwife

Call the Midwife, based on Jennifer Worth's memoir, returns March 29. Now in its ninth season, the series has moved well past Jennifer Worth's time in the East End. But I absolutely love this show, though I cry with every episode. With so many of my favorite shows ending this year, I'm thrilled that this one is returning.

Little Women

If you are looking for more bookish television, Masterpiece will air an encore performance of their series Little Women in March. I watched it last year and thoroughly enjoyed this adaption of Louisa May Alcott's beloved novel.

Have you watched any of these shows? Are there other bookish television shows you are enjoying right now?

Donna Huber is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour.

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  1. mr wonderful works for pbs and i love that you are highlighting some of the programming.
    sherry @ fundinmental

  2. I've heard lots of things about Sanditon, all positive until the ending! Apparently there will be a season two... Cliffhangers aren't my thing though so i'll probably wait on watching it until S2 airs.

    In the UK, these shows are either BBC or on ITV. It's so cool that they all have the same home in the US! :)

  3. I'd like to watch Little Women---I've heard wonderful things about it.

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction