Summer Documentaries on PBS
And now for something completely different, as they say on "Monty Python," PBS is airing several promising documentaries over the next month or so.
The Man Who Drew Bug-Eyed Monsters (Wednesday, July 17, 10 p.m.) considers the life and work of Reynold Brown, whose movie poster art virtually defined the look and feel of post-World War II America. "Creature From the Black Lagoon," "Ben-Hur," "The Incredible Shrinking Man" - posters for these movies evoke the attitudes, images, and dreams of moviegoers during that period.
Movie trailers from some of the era's most absurd films - like "Attack of the 50 Ft. Woman" and "I Was a Teen-age Werewolf" - are screened during the show.
Shore Things (Wednesday, July 31, 8 p.m.) is a kind of TV scrapbook full of things that make hanging out at the beach so irresistible to so many people. Not just the sand and surf, but picnics, boardwalks, lifeguards, and sand castles.
The show travels from California to South Carolina as it scavenges for sometimes-unexpected shoreline attractions - like a big building shaped like an elephant that bathers can climb into at Margate, N.J.
Anyone doubting that heroes still exist in our midst should see the one-hour documentary called Searching for Heroes on "The Merrow Report" (Friday, Aug. 2, 10 p.m.). The program considers the lives and careers of six people who have committed themselves to helping kids and teenagers. The work ranges from a social worker who operates a storefront after-school program for inner-city youths to a conductor who has inspired youngsters to develop their musical talents.
Britannia: Palace at Sea (Wednesday, Aug. 7, 8 p.m.) pipes you on board Queen Elizabeth's royal yacht for a 40-year tour of the ship's lavish history. Prince Charles and the Duke of Edinburgh reminisce a bit about what life is like on the vessel, and archival clips illustrate times past.
They don't exactly rough it: The yacht carries some 21 officers, 229 crew, the Royal Marines Band, and a chef from Buckingham Palace to prepare banquets.
Edward on Edward - (Wednesday, Aug. 7, 9 p.m.) - is an old story from an unusual perspective. Prince Edward presents a documentary he has written himself about King Edward VIII, his late great-uncle, and Wallis Simpson, the American divorce for whom he abdicated the throne. His frank documentary includes the controversial trip to Germany made by Edward - by then the Duke of Windsor - as the honored guest of Adolf Hitler.