PBS’ ‘Pioneers of Television’ begins 2011 by scanning sci-fi genre

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Spock (Pioneers of Television on PBS)Arizona Eight PBS, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2011, kicks off the year with new episodes of a documentary series that goes behind the scenes of television’s early days — starting with the final frontier.

Pioneers of Television premieres Jan. 18 with an episode that explores the early use of the sci-fi genre to present morality plays on the small screen. Star Trek stars William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy (pictured) and Nichelle Nichols offer their perspectives. Also discussed: Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, Rod Serling (The Twilight Zone) and Irwin Allen (Lost in Space).

The episode will air 8 p.m. Jan. 18, and encore 11 p.m. that same evening, midnight Jan. 20 and 3 p.m. Jan. 23.

The second installment a week later delves into the popularity of Westerns such as Davy Crokett, Daniel Boone, Maverick, The Big Valley, Wild, Wild West, Gunsmoke and Bonanza. Installments stretching into February will finish the series with a look at crime dramas and children’s television — including, notably, Arizona’s own Wallace and Ladmo.

The first season of Pioneers, which looked at late-night shows, sitcoms and variety programs, will be rebroadcast when the current season is finished in mid-February.

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