Gillian Anderson, the red-headed scientist hottie from The X-Files, will replace the fogey male journalists who have hosted PBS’ signature show Masterpiece Theater for the past 37 years. Ms. Anderson is part of a major overhaul of the show, which will begin its new season on Jan. 13 by airing a bunch of Jane Austen period costume movies.
John Boland, the chief content officer for PBS, said the extensive audience research showed that viewers singled it out as one of six programs that defined public television for them. With that in mind, PBS and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting allocated extra money for the overhaul and promotion of the series this season. “Every jewel needs a little polishing now and then,” Mr. Boland said.
While the goal is to attract more viewers, he said “the relaunch certainly can’t hurt” efforts by PBS to find a new corporate sponsor for the program, which has been without underwriting since 2004 when ExxonMobil ended its support of about $9 million annually. Even without a sponsor PBS is “committed to ‘Masterpiece Theater’ for the long term,” Mr. Boland said.