The year 2021 is a big one for anniversaries on PBS. It's the tenth anniversary of Downton Abbey's premiere season; it's the 25th anniversary of the show's first major rebrand from Masterpiece Theater. (The series become Mobile Masterpiece Theater in 1998, which then changed again to Masterpiece as we know it today starting in 2008.) But the big one, of course, is that PBS's experiment in bringing over the best and brightest of British Television is now 50. The program was first launched by WGBH Boston on Jan. 10, 1971, making this its half-centennial.
Fans have already experienced part of the celebratory year, starting with Elizabeth Is Missing and then the revival of All Creatures Great & Small. But with the pandemic upending much of the spring season, Masterpiece had to find other ways to celebrate as well. So it turned to the most 2020s way of doing it: a podcast. The three-part deep dive into all series short and long stars Masterpiece Studio host Jace Lacob and promises to feature "the inside scoop on everything from Downton Abbey to Upstairs, Downstairs."
Check out the trailer for the podcast, the first episode of which arrives on Feb. 28.
Making Masterpiece takes its title from the book by Rebecca Eaton, the longest-running executive producer of the PBS Masterpiece series, who ran the show for 35 years from 1985 to 2020.
Her book, which was released during the height of the Downton Abbey craze in 2013, looked back at her 25 years overseeing the program. (Before her, the series was helmed first by Christopher Sarson and then Joan Wilson.) The podcast will extend the look going back to the program's original inception, how it became a big hit with shows like Upstairs Downstairs and Poldark through today's hit programming.
Here's the podcast's synopsis:
Making MASTERPIECE is the full story of how public media's favorite place for the best of British drama went from a crazy idea to a franchise 50 years strong. Hosted by MASTERPIECE Studio host Jace Lacob, the three-part documentary miniseries features the inside scoop on everything from Downton Abbey to Upstairs, Downstairs, and everything in between. Featuring exclusive interviews with MASTERPIECE favorites like Rufus Sewell, Lily Collins, Alan Cumming, Laura Linney, Charles Dance, and many more.
Notably, this documentary special is not airing on PBS proper, as one might expect. But just because Masterpiece opted to do this is in a 21st-century format doesn't mean fans should ignore it. (After all, you all listen to the Telly Visions podcast, right?) This supplementary content looks back on how your favorite television sausage gets made.
Moreover, it seems like the perfect companion piece for those who've watched Masterpiece for decades and those just discovering it. For TV nerds, it's also a chance to hear the history behind what went into creating one of American TV's longest-running broadcast standards and how producers kept that success going over multiple reconceptions and rebrands without ever losing its core mission.
Making Masterpiece will run three episodes, with the first arriving on Sunday, Feb. 28, 2021. All episodes will be available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you listen to podcasts.