LOS ANGELES -- PBS said Thursday its fall season will open with a binge-viewing opportunity: a seven-part Ken Burns documentary on the Roosevelt political dynasty.
"The Roosevelts: An Intimate History," will air as two-hour episodes over seven nights, beginning Sept. 14. Each episode will be repeated nightly and the show will be widely available for post-air online viewing, said Beth Hoppe, PBS chief programming executive.
"I think it’s the best thing Ken’s done since ‘The Civil War,"’ Hoppe said. "He thinks it might be the best thing he’s ever done."
"The viewer experience is changing and we’re trying to dish this up as an epic binge," Hoppe said of the series about U.S. presidents and cousins Theodore and Franklin D. Roosevelt and FDR’s wife, Eleanor.
The Burns family itself will be well-represented on public TV’s schedule, with brother Ric Burns’ "The Pilgrims," airing Nov. 25, Thanksgiving week. The "American Experience" film will examine what compelled English men and women to voyage to a new land in 1620.
PBS, whose average household rating for the season to date puts it at No. 7 among all broadcast and cable channels, won’t have drama ratings champ "Downton Abbey" back on until January. But there’s a full slate of fall alternatives.
Among them is "Death Comes to Pemberley," based on novelist P.D. James’ sequel to Jane Austen’s "Pride and Prejudice" and starring Matthew Rhys ("The Americans") and Anna Maxwell Martin. It airs Oct. 26 and Nov. 2.
Bill Nighy will return as British spy Johnny Worricker, seen in 2011’s "Page Eight," in two new stories. He’ll be joined by Christopher Walken, Winona Ryder, Helena Bonham Carter and Ralph Fiennes in the shows airing Nov. 9 and 16.
Arts programming will remain the focus of PBS’ Friday night schedule, with two series, "Live from Lincoln Center" and "Austin City Limits," marking their 40th anniversaries.
A March performance by Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel in "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street," in concert with the New York Philharmonic, will open the "Lincoln Center" season on Sept. 26.
PBS’ announcement preceded commercial network presentations of fall schedules to Madison Avenue next week. PBS and its stations are supported by a combination of funding that includes private donations and other sources, along with federal funding administered by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting that provides about 15 percent of local station budgets.
Other PBS fall highlights:
n A production of "Porgy and Bess" from the San Francisco Opera on Oct. 17, starring Eric Owens and soprano Laquita Mitchell.
n "How We Got to Now with Steven Johnson," about the people responsible for remarkable ideas that shaped modern life, including what we eat and where we live. The series debuts Oct. 15.
n Season two of "Finding Your Roots," with Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. helping people identify unknown ancestors. It debuts Sept. 23.
n "Makers," a six-documentary look at groundbreaking American women in the arenas of war, space, business, politics, Hollywood and comedy. It begins Sept. 30.
n The "Masterpiece Mystery!" showcase, which includes the Sept. 21 return of "Miss Marple," starring Julia McKenzie, and a seventh season of "Inspector Lewis" with Kevin Whately and Laurence Fox, starting Oct. 5.