'Masterpiece Theatre' might lose its accent

July 15, 1998|By David Zurawik

PBS yesterday announced a major shift in direction for "Mobil Masterpiece Theatre" that could transform public television's 27-year-old signature series from a showcase for British drama to one featuring American-made productions by the year 2002.

"Mobil Masterpiece Theatre's American Collection" is a $40 million project that will include nine films based on classics of American literature airing over three years under the "Masterpiece Theatre" banner.

The funding involves a $15 million grant, the largest ever from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, as well as an estimated $10 million per year from Mobil, which is underwriting "Masterpiece Theatre" through 2002.

"Our goal is to present superb American drama in the finest Masterpiece Theatre tradition," said Rebecca Eaton, executive producer of the "Masterpiece Theatre" and "Mystery!" series.

PBS announced the first four "American Collection" films: "The Song of the Lark," by Willa Cather; "Cora Unashamed," by Langston Hughes; "Mark and Livy," a story about Mark Twain and his wife Olivia: and Henry James' "The American."

Pub Date: 7/15/98

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