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July 9th, 2004
Program Description

AMERICAN MASTERS is an ongoing series of award-winning primetime specials examining the lives, works, and creative processes of our most outstanding cultural artists. Created in 1984 by Susan Lacy and produced by Thirteen/WNET for national public television, the series is both a celebration and an exploration of creativity in America. Consisting of more than 250 hours of programming to date, AMERICAN MASTERS is a growing film library documenting the role important individuals, groups, and movements have played in the formation of our cultural identity.

Since its premiere in 1986, AMERICAN MASTERS has been the only PBS primetime series committed to developing and producing comprehensive film biographies about the broad cast of characters who comprise our cultural history.

The illuminating film portraits chronicle the process of discovery and evolution in the working methods and lives of our most significant and influential writers, musicians, visual and performing artists, and filmmakers.

By selectively balancing program topics and approaches, while maintaining across the board the highest standards of historical, intellectual and artistic integrity, AMERICAN MASTERS has secured a high degree of audience loyalty and recognition, averaging two to five million viewers per hour. Recognized by the industry and the critics as “the best biographical programs ever to appear on American television,” AMERICAN MASTERS has received 22 Emmy nominations, winning a primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Non-Fiction Series, five primetime Emmys for Outstanding Documentary; three Oscar nominations; four Peabody Awards, a Grammy Award and 19 Cine Golden Eagles.

The body of work AMERICAN MASTERS has created, which includes profiles of such American artists as Charlie Chaplin, James Baldwin, Helen Hayes, Andy Warhol, Charlie Parker, Aaron Copland, William Wyler, Martha Graham, Eugene O’Neill, Billie Holliday, The Group Theater, Philip Johnson, Paul Simon, Alexander Calder and Leonard Bernstein among others, continues in its value far beyond its American television life. The world-wide recognition afforded most of the individuals profiled by AMERICAN MASTERS has assured a vast international television audience as well. And, in its outreach efforts, AMERICAN MASTERS is now enhancing this “archival and living history of American culture” by developing print and interactive materials for educational and home use. Many programs are now available on video.

AMERICAN MASTERS has been praised not only for the consistently excellent quality of its programs, but for the series as a concept. Fascinating in their individuality as well as in the aggregate, the films that make up the AMERICAN MASTERS series add to an understanding of our heritage and the extraordinary mosaic of the American character. An artist’s work can capture, reflect and, in many cases, even mold the American experience or at least change our perceptions of it. Without art we would, as a society, lack a soul and a voice. AMERICAN MASTERS exists to give life to that voice.

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