PBS's AMERICAN MASTERS on WSKG TV, Wednesday, July 1 at 8pm
– Documentary Takes a Candid Look at the Private Man Behind "A Prairie Home Companion" –
America's foremost humorist and social pundit, Garrison Keillor, takes his skits and monologues across the country in his popular radio show "A Prairie Home Companion." AMERICAN MASTERS trails this yarn-smith and his crew of actors and musicians as they spin stories and song into American gold in "Garrison Keillor: The Man on the Radio in the Red Shoes," airing Wednesday, July 1, 2009, 8:00-9:30 p.m. ET on PBS.
Through the course of a year, an intimate lens captures Keillor on- and off-stage as he mingles fact and fiction to create America's collective hometown, Lake Wobegon, ona radio program that carries bonafide nostalgia. The result is a fascinating inside look at the enigmatic raconteur and the way the imaginaryworld he created became a real place in America.
"Keillor is an American institution," says Susan Lacy, creator and executive producer of AMERICAN MASTERS, a six-time winner of the Emmy Award for Outstanding Primetime Non-Fiction Series. "His stories of Lake Wobegon speak to our inherent patriotism and bring back memories of a simpler time."
On "A Prairie Home Companion," Keillor's running commentary about the human condition has the uncanny ability to home in on the pulse of America. Inventing his own brand of quirky small town stories and everyday characters, mixed with a witty dose of social politics and philosophy, Keillor relates a deeply felt reflection of ourselves, somehow familiar to us all.
"His writing is never from an elevated space, so he connects with his audience," said Peabody and Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Peter Rosen. "But the production value of his show is highly elevated, and the novelty for viewers of this film will be to see how the magic happens."
An author with more than 20 books to his credit and a syndicated weekly column, Keillor also is a highly sought after speaker and lecturer. He is credited with reviving the virtually lost art of live radio entertainment in America; his weekly radio show, started in 1974, has more than four million listeners and is broadcast on 590 stations. Keillor and his characters leapt onto the big screen and won an even wider global audience in Robert Altman's 2006 film, A Prairie Home Companion.
Keillor's down-home commentary and love of heartland America have made him into an "everyman philosopher." His highly entertaining radio show is written with a poet's heart. While comparisons will be made between him and America's great humorists and essayists — from H. L. Mencken to Mark Twain, James Thurber and Will Rogers — Garrison Keillor is unique. In this untraditional biography, the viewer begins to see how and why.
■ To take AMERICAN MASTERS beyond the television broadcast and further explore the themes, stories and personalities of masters past and present, the companion Web site (pbs.org/americanmasters) offers interviews, essays, photographs, outtakes and other resources.