Ken Burns’ ‘Country Music’ Previewed by Producers, With PBS Premiere Date Set for September

Variety | 2/1/2019 | Chris Willman
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Get ready for a grand ole doc’ry.

Country fans have been thirsty for years just to get a release date for, much less see, Ken Burns’ characteristically epic documentary on the genre. A delivery date for “Country Music” was finally provided Friday in PBS’ presentation for the film at the Television Critics Association conference in Pasadena: It’ll air across eight nights in the Sept. 15-25 time frame.

Country - Fan - Details - Doc - Response

And you know you’re a true country fan if you look at the details unveiled about the doc and your first response is: Only 16 hours?

“Sixteen and a half,” corrected writer/producer Dayton Duncan, one of Burns’ longtime filmmaking partners — happy to have snuck even a few extra minutes in — as he spoke with Variety after the TCA panel. The only way to get it down to that length was by cutting off the history the film covers in the mid-1990s, with the rise of Garth Brooks, and avoiding the subsequent two and a half decades of changing trends and new superstars.

Burns - Projects - Amount - Sepia - Number

Unlike some of Burns’ earlier projects, there’ll be a limited amount of sepia, and an even more limited number of on-screen historians. Only one scholarly author of the country realm was interviewed for the project (Bill Malone). Country breeds its own avid historians among its most thoughtful artists, so most of the talking will be by familiar faces discussing their forebears as well as themselves — among them, the late Merle Haggard, Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Dwight Yoakam, Vince Gill, Reba McEntire, Rosanne Cash, Emmylou Harris, Ricky Skaggs, Brenda Lee, Naomi and Wynonna Judd… and, of course, the artist who could give an impromptu lecture on country history in his 16-hour sleep, Marty Stuart.

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