With little of the fanfare typical of commercial TV, the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) is introducing one of its strongest television schedules ever, in depth and range. It is a schedule without easy-to-promote programs. There are no glamorous standouts like ``Jewel in the Crown'' or ``Brideshead Revisited'' or even ``Cosmos'' or ``The Brain.'' There are, however, some solid, innovative new series, many fine returning series, and more American-produced and co-produced programs than ever before, according to Suzanne Weil, senior vice-president of programming at PBS.
There also seems to be a trend toward shorter series, with greater emphasis on finely focused specials.
Eight new series have just begun, and more are scheduled for November. The 1987 season, which starts after Jan. 1, promises some unusually imaginative programming.
Here is a list of the new series, with their PBS-recommended air times. These may vary, however, since local stations have the option of shaping their own schedules. Please check local listings.
Out of the Fiery Furnace, a seven-part series (Sundays, 7-8 p.m., premi`ered Oct. 5), examines the history of mankind as seen in the use of metals. Narrated by Michael Charlton, the series begins with the use of metal in the Stone Age and ends with consideration of the contemporary demands placed on the earth's resources. Although the subject may sound dry and academic, metallurgy becomes an exciting science as the program takes viewers to historical sites around the world.
The Story of English, a nine-part series (Mondays, 10-11 p.m., premi`ered Sept. 15), is proving to be one of PBS's most popular nonfiction series ever. Hosted and co-written by Robert MacNeil, ``The Story of English'' explores the spread of English as a universal language. It travels to 16 countries and interviews experts and a wide variety of English-speaking people. In all it makes for an innovative and entertaining adventure in linguistics.
The West of the Imagination, a six-part series (Mondays, 9-10 p.m., premi`ered Sept. 22), traces the history of the American West through the eyes of popular imagemakers -- artists, photographers, entertainers, and cinematographers. Hosted by James Whitmore, the series travels from Missouri to California and from the early 1800s to the present. It's art as history.
The Africans: A Commentary, a nine-part series (Tuesdays, 9-10 p.m., premi`ered Oct. 7), stirred up controversy long before it aired. It is a view of Africa from inside that continent by an admitted third-world partisan, Dr. Ali A. Mazrui. The noted African scholar explores what Mazrui calls Africa's ``triple heritage'': its indigenous culture, what has been ``contributed'' by Islam, and what has been ``imposed'' by the West. The series is often provocative, always challenging.
The Day the Universe Changed, a 10-part series (Mondays, 8-9 p.m., premi`ered Oct. 13.), traces discoveries that have fundamentally transformed man's understanding of the world around him. Hosted by James Burke, the series is chock-full of unexpected intellectual revelations, a kind of jigsaw puzzle of ideas that Burke helps viewers snap into place.
Hometime, a 13-part series (Saturdays, 3-3:30 p.m., premi`eres Nov. 1), is a how-to guide through the kinds of home-repair projects an average homeowner can tackle. The hosts, Dean Johnson and Peggy Knapp, offer step-by-step instructions on installing everything from dry wall to kitchen counters. There are more ambitious projects as well, but ``Hometime'' gives viewers enough information in advance for them to decide whether the job is for them or a professional.
Good Health From Jane Brody's Kitchen, a 10-part series (Saturdays, 3:30-4 p.m., premi`eres Oct. 25), reflects Brody's philosophy that good food and good sense can be combined in the kitchen to produce meals that are both nourishing and tasty. There's lots of nutritional information as well as cooking tips.
Managing Our Miracles: Health Care in America, a 10-part series (Tuesdays, 10-11 p.m., premi`ered Sept. 10.), presents legislators and people from the media and the courts engaged in debate with leading medical experts about problems relating to modern medicine. Hosted by Fred W. Friendly, it does not shy away from controversy. Included are such topics as organ transplants and health-care financing.
Some of the regular series returning:
Nature (Sundays, 8-9 p.m., starting Oct. 19).
Great Performances (Fridays, 9-10 p.m.).
Masterpiece Theatre (Sundays, 9-10 p.m., starts Oct. 19) with 11-part ``Paradise Postponed,'' based on John Mortimer's novel about England after World War II.
Mystery! (Thursdays, 9-10 p.m., started Oct. 9 with five-part adaptation of a P. D. James novel.
Nova (Tuesdays, 8-9 p.m.).
Washington Week in Review (Fridays, 8-8:30 p.m.).
Wall Street Week (Fridays,8:30-9 p.m.).
Capitol Journal (Thursdays, 10-10:30 p.m.).
Sneak Previews (Thursdays, 8:30-9 p.m.).
Adam Smith's Money World (Saturdays, 6-6:30 p.m.).
The Frugal Gourmet (Saturdays, 1-1:30 p.m.).
Firing Line (Fridays, 8-9 p.m.).
The MacNeil/Lehrer Newshour (Mondays-Fridays, 6,7,9 p.m.).
Mister Rogers' Neighborhood and Sesame Street (Mondays-Fridays, various times).
Wonderworks (Saturdays, 8-9 p.m.).
Newton's Apple (Saturdays, 6:30-7 p.m.).
Live From Lincoln Center and Live From the Met (check local listings).
PBS has scheduled a wide variety of special programs. Some of the best still to come:
San Francisco Symphony Diamond Jubilee (Oct. 25, 9-10;30 p.m.).
The Making of Liberty (Oct. 28, 8-9 p.m.).
The Wyeths: A Family Portrait'' (Nov. 19, 8-9 p.m.), a ``Smithsonian World'' presentation..
The 1986 International Tchaikowsky Competition (Dec. 3, 9-10:30 p.m.).
Coming up after the first of the year:
Eyes on the Prize, narrated by Julian Bond, is a six-part history of the civil-rights movement.
Frontline will be back as television's only regularly scheduled documentary series. Arrangements are being made to air that mammoth Holocaust classic, ``Shoah.''
There will be a ``new math'' series for children, a new season of American Playhouse, and a Bill Moyers series on the United States Constitution.
To top it off, a repeat of all the episodes of Upstairs, Downstairs is in the planning stage.
``We try to serve the American public with things they are not getting on commercial television,'' says Ms. Weil. ``That is the PBS mandate.''
The programs listed here show PBS is certainly living up to its mandate as America's alternative network.