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PBS Kids round-the-clock TV, online channel launches Monday

PBS is launching a round-the-clock children's channel that will be available on member stations and digital platforms.

The free PBS Kids channel starting Monday is aimed at youngsters who are 2 to 6 and their families with educational programming including "Nature Cat" and "Bob the Builder," PBS said. The network called it critical for kids in low-income households that have spotty Internet access or connect only via mobile devices.

But why 24-7 programming for children?

"Believe it or not, there are many children that are up at night," PBS chief executive Paula Kerger told a TV critics' meeting Sunday. "Many are in hospitals. And as we started talking about a service that we would build, we actually heard from caregivers who said, 'You know, we are at a loss sometimes to figure out how we can keep children calm and entertained,' and so we feel that it's a great service."

PBS said the channel will launch on 75 PBS licensees and is expected to reach 90 percent of U.S. TV households on 108 licensees by the year's end. It will be available as a live stream on pbskids.org and on the free PBS KIDS Video App.

PBS: No 'red flag' on funding under Trump, but it's early

PBS is waiting, but not quietly, to see what the Trump administration's impact on public broadcasting and its federal funding may be, PBS chief executive Paula Kerger said.

"It's too early to tell. But there's been no red flag," Kerger said in an interview Sunday.

Given that change always presents uncertainty, she said, and "in this case, more uncertainty," PBS and its member stations are conducting a vigorous effort to remind lawmakers about public television's value.

"We're spending time talking to as many people as we can — but particularly legislators, both sides of the aisle, Senate and House — making sure they understand the role we play in civil discourse" and in providing meaningful programming, Kerger told a TV critics' meeting. "Stay tuned," she added.

The effort coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Public Broadcasting Act that created what Kerger called "the best public-private partnership."

"For about $1.35 a citizen a year, we provide an extraordinary service," she said.

Federal money represents 15 percent of public TV stations' funding overall, with the rest provided by private and corporate donors, PBS said. Most of that approximately $400 million is divided annually among 1,500-plus locally owned-and-operated TV and radio stations nationwide.

Individual TV stations' reliance on federal funds varies widely — for those in Alaska, for instance, the money represents as much as 50 percent of their budgets, Kerger said.

Government support for public broadcasting periodically comes under scrutiny.

Many Republicans vowed to eliminate subsidies in 1995, but the effort fizzled. In 2005, Republicans controlling the House tried to cut subsidies for PBS, National Public Radio and hundreds of public radio and TV stations by $100 million, igniting an outcry from fans of "Sesame Street" and other defenders of public broadcasting. That bid failed, as did the most recent effort in 2011.

Kerger said a "rigorous reassessment" of how federal dollars are spent is always legitimate, with lawmakers taking into account what their constituents think about PBS' value.

She called children's programming the most "powerful argument" for public broadcasting, especially with half of American children lacking access to preschool.

On Monday, PBS is launching a round-the-clock PBS Kids Channel on member stations and live-streamed on digital platforms. The free service will serve youngsters aged 2 to 6 and their families with educational programming including "Nature Cat" and "Bob the Builder," PBS said.

Vietnam doc makes Ken Burns, Trent Reznor partners

Ken Burns and Trent Reznor would seem two unlikely collaborators, but both describe their recent work on the upcoming PBS documentary on the Vietnam War as among the most satisfying of their careers.

Reznor, the Nine Inch Nails singer and Academy Award-winning film score composer with partner Atticus Ross, made the score for the 10-part series that debuts this fall.

They came into the project after Burns' production partner Lynn Novick saw the movie, "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo." Captivated by the film's music, she stayed through the final credits to learn Reznor and Ross were responsible for it, and contacted the composers to see if they'd be interested in working on the Vietnam documentary.

A meeting was set up, and Reznor watched film footage they had gathered to tell about the war that divided Americans in the 1960s.

"For most of the clip, I'm trying not to start crying and wondering what my voice was going to sound like when the lights came up," Reznor recalled on Sunday.

Reznor said he initially found the idea of working with Burns' team intimidating; Novick, meanwhile, thought they'd never be able to rope in a pair of in-demand, Oscar-winning composers. But the marriage was made, and 18 months later a dropbox of music arrived in Burns' and Novick's email queues. She downloaded it, took a long drive and popped in the music, and had to pull over to call Burns.

"Our minds were collectively blown," she said.

Burns said the music evoked the harshness and divisiveness of the times, yet with a strong underlying melodic sense. Rather than place the music atop already existing scenes — the way scores generally work — the documentarian said he was able to build scenes around the music itself.

"His music explores things that are very difficult to put into words and sometimes shy away from putting into words," Novick said.

The score will work along with a full soundtrack of music from the era, Burns said. The documentary from the team behind "The Civil War" will unfold over 18 hours.

Reznor and Ross won an Oscar for their score of "The Social Network." Within the past year, they've been working simultaneously on music for the movie "Patriot's Day," the documentary "Before the Flood" and for a new Nine Inch Nails disc, Reznor said.

'Get Smart' actor Dick Gautier dead at 85

Actor Dick Gautier, who gained fame playing an Elvis-like singer in the Broadway musical "Bye Bye Birdie" and went on to play Hymie the Robot on TV's "Get Smart," has died. He was 85.

Gautier died Friday at an assisted living facility in Los Angeles County, his publicist Harlan Boll told The Associated Press.

Gautier, who started out as a standup comic, was nominated for a Tony for his stage turn as Conrad Birdie.

"He was proud to be amongst those nominated for the Tony" for the role in 1961, Boll said in a statement.

Boll said "it was when he played the character of Hymie the robot on Get Smart (a Mel Brooks and Buck Henry production) that he gained more notoriety than ever."

In addition to his popular role on "Get Smart," Gautier appeared in films including "Divorce, American Style," ''Billy Jack Goes To Washington" and "Fun With Dick And Jane."

Gautier, who was also a cartoonist, worked as a voice actor for cartoons including "Transformers" and "Smurfs."

"Throughout his life, Dick was always painting, sculpting and drawing, Boll said. "One of the things he became particularly good at was caricature."

He is survived by three children, four grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

'Reality TV' campaigning is part of new political world

Donald Trump proved you could ride reality TV fame to the White House. Former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner proved that having a film crew around can just compound the embarrassment of a political freefall.

Now, a young Republican is following in their footsteps by allowing a documentary film crew to shadow him as he considers a run this year to unseat New York City's mayor, Democrat Bill de Blasio.

Eric Ulrich, a 31-year-old city councilman who favors rights to abortion and gay marriage, has yet to declare his candidacy in what could be an uphill battle on overwhelmingly Democratic turf.

The unscripted show recording the realities of the politician's daily life would probably air before the Nov. 7, 2017, election — if it gets picked up by a television network in time. The New York-based company making the show, Left/Right, which produced "Mob Wives" for VH1 and other programs for Showtime, AMC and the History Channel, is still shopping it around.

"It's a great gimmick, but we're in a new world of communication. Look at Trump," said political analyst Mickey Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. "The basic point is, attention is good for politicians."

Ulrich is in his second term representing parts of New York's borough of Queens. He is one of only three Republicans among 51 City Council members. In 2014, against de Blasio's opposition, he introduced a bill to create the city's Department of Veterans' Services.

Earlier this month, Left/Right producers Brad Trackman and Johnny Russo shot two days of Ulrich's activities for a "sizzle reel" that television networks can see for possible purchase.

Quinnipiac's Carroll says such documentaries are part of a dramatically changing world from the time when political and news organizations delivered what he calls "neat and compartmentalized" information about candidates.

"Now, forget it. People make their own rules. It's all over the place, and you might as well get used to it," said Carroll, noting that success is gauged by the number of social media hits.

Campaign documentaries have been linked to both victory and defeat.

Cory Booker's 2002 run for mayor of Newark, New Jersey, against Sharpe James is captured in the 2005 Oscar-nominated film titled "Street Fight," whose searing scenes of raw politics weren't forgotten when he campaigned for a U.S. Senate seat and won in 2013.

The same year in New York, a camera trailed Weiner, a Democrat, as he campaigned for mayor. That documentary chronicled, in deeply personal detail, the embarrassing end to his political career following a series of lewd tweets to women.

Democratic political analyst Doug Muzzio said a reality show can be an effective stump tool.

"I think that if done right, it shows a candidate in unguarded moments," he said. "You could get a feel for the character; it tells a story and it highlights the character in a way that almost any other medium just can't do."

Ulrich's wife and 4-year-old daughter may appear before the camera in Ulrich's politically conservative section of Queens.

"Eric is a solid guy, but I can't see him being a formidable mayoral candidate," said Muzzio, who knows him from Baruch College, where he teaches and where the councilman received a master's degree.

Ulrich did not support Trump, a fellow Queens native, but Carroll said Trump's victory shows that anything can happen — especially in New York.

"I'm trying to remember when the normal calculations ever applied in New York," said Carroll, chuckling. "Funny things have happened here."

'Sherlock' season finale leaks online 1 day before premiere

There's a little less mystery about the season finale of the television series "Sherlock" after a Russian version of the episode leaked online.

The show's official Twitter account urged fans to refrain from sharing details of the episode "The Final Problem" before it airs Sunday. Images that appeared to be from it were being shared Saturday on social media.

The show stars Benedict Cumberbatch in a modern take on Sherlock Holmes and Martin Freeman as his sidekick Watson.

The leak was announced two days after a preview screening of the "Sherlock" fourth season finale at the British Film Institute, where audience members were asked not to give away spoilers.

Producer Sue Vertue appealed to fans, tweeting "Please don't share it. You've done so well keeping it spoiler free. Nearly there."

Guest lineups for the Sunday news shows

Guest lineups for the Sunday TV news shows:

ABC's "This Week" — Reince Priebus, incoming chief of staff to President-elect Donald Trump; Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.; Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah

___

NBC's "Meet the Press" —Priebus; Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif.; Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga.

___

CBS' "Face the Nation" — Vice President-elect Mike Pence; Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.; former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

___

CNN's "State of the Union" — Denis McDonough, chief of staff to President Barack Obama; Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky.

___

"Fox News Sunday" — Pence; CIA Director John Brennan

Katie Couric's evolution, Legend on Trump, Perry on Kennedy

A roundup of news Friday from the Television Critics Association winter meeting, at which TV networks and streaming services are presenting details on upcoming programs.

____

UNDERGROUND RAILROAD

President-elect Donald Trump has two more Hollywood critics: singer John Legend and the creator of a television series on history's Underground Railroad where slaves were led to freedom.

"This country was built on racism and sexism, and I think our soon-to-be-president is again going to be racist and sexist," Misha Green, a creator of "Underground" on WGN, said on Friday.

She and Legend, a producer for the series who also appears as abolitionist Frederick Douglass, were asked about whether their show had adjusted anything for its upcoming second season with the election results in mind.

Green said she hoped the heroes in the series who were fighting injustice would be an inspiration for people today.

Legend said the lesson of the election — and the television series itself — is that even when people see progress, it's not guaranteed to remain.

"We're going through a period where Donald Trump has promised to make us a less just and less free country, and those who believe in justice and freedom are going to have to stand up for it," he said.

____

COURIC'S EVOLUTION

Katie Couric, slammed three years ago as insensitive during an interview with transgender women Carmen Carrera and Laverne Cox, says she has evolved.

"We can't be afraid to make mistakes on our journey to educate ourselves," said Couric, host and executive producer of "Gender Revolution," a two-hour National Geographic special airing next month.

On an episode of Couric's former talk show in 2014, she asked model Carrera if her "private parts" were different now. The model said she was uncomfortable with the personal topic.

When Couric raised the question with Cox ("Orange is the New Black"), the actress called it unhelpful given the problems of anti-transgender discrimination and violence.

In a Q&A session with TV critics Friday, Couric said the exchanges could have been edited out of the taped show but she chose to leave them in as a "teachable moment" on appropriate or inappropriate ways to have such conversations.

The critical reaction didn't make her shy away from the topic but instead compelled her to become better informed, Couric said.

"Gender Revolution: A Journey with Katie Couric," airing 9 p.m. EST Feb. 6, is described by the channel as an exploration of the changing concept of gender in the realms of science, society and culture.

Couric interviewed scientists, activists, families and others to delve into the role of genetics, brain chemistry and modern attitudes on gender identity.

She said the "personal stories are what make this documentary."

Among those featured in the special are JR and Vanessa Ford, parents of a transgender child who was being raised as a boy but who told her parents at age 4 that she was "'a girl in my heart and my brain,'" Vanessa Ford said.

She said she hoped the project would help people get to know her family and relate to them.

"'Hey, here we are. My kid won't eat vegetables either,'" is part of the message, Ford said.

___

MENZEL AT THE BEACH

Idina Menzel prefers creating roles rather than following in someone else's footsteps. Yet when it came to a remake of "Beaches," the Broadway veteran couldn't turn it down.

Menzel tackles the role played by Bette Midler in the 1988 theatrical film for the Lifetime TV version co-starring Nia Long that airs Jan. 21. She also recorded Midler's No. 1 hit from the movie "Wing Beneath My Wings," a 1990 Grammy Award winner.

"I have been singing this song my whole life, ever since I was a wedding singer and bar mitzvah singer," she told a television critics gathering on Friday. "Every single 13-year-old boy danced with his mother to 'Wind Beneath My Wings.' I was trying to find my own spin on it."

Menzel first gained fame for Tony-nominated roles she originated in "Rent" and "Wicked," for which she won a best-actress Tony. After leaving those shows, Menzel was replaced by other actresses.

"I have learned that the show goes on without you; that people are very talented, and that if something is written beautifully, you can be great, but there's always somebody right there that's just as good," she said. "Sometimes that's hard for me."

____

PERRY ON KENNEDY

Between a dialect coach who told him to exaggerate the accent and recent experience in a London play that required him to loudly project his voice onstage, Matthew Perry was a little over-the-top when he began filming his role as Sen. Edward Kennedy in a new television miniseries.

"I sounded like Foghorn Leghorn," he said Friday.

The former "Friends" star appears with Katie Holmes, who reprises her role as Jackie Kennedy in "The Kennedys — After Camelot," which premieres April 2 on the Reelz channel.

Perry said playing Kennedy was the most challenging role of his career. "I took this job because it scared me," he said.

Perry's most recent sitcom, CBS' remake of "The Odd Couple," is not likely to return. He said he's drawn to writing, which he expects to be a big part of his career moving forward. He wrote and starred in a play, "The End of Longing," in London and he expects to bring it to New York.

He describes it as a dark comedy with emotional scenes.

"One time I went to my computer to see how many times I could write the f-word," he said. "It was 138. Don't bring your children, but please come."

____

Associated Press writers David Bauder, Lynn Elber and Beth Harris contributed to this report.

Informed Katie Couric offers 'Gender Revolution' special

Katie Couric, slammed three years ago as insensitive during an interview with transgender women Carmen Carrera and Laverne Cox, says she has evolved.

"We can't be afraid to make mistakes on our journey to educate ourselves," said Couric, host and executive producer of "Gender Revolution," a two-hour National Geographic special airing next month.

On an episode of Couric's former talk show in 2014, she asked model Carrera if her "private parts" were different now. The model said she was uncomfortable with the personal topic.

When Couric raised the question with Cox ("Orange is the New Black"), the actress called it unhelpful given the problems of anti-transgender discrimination and violence.

In a Q&A session with TV critics Friday, Couric said the exchanges could have been edited out of the taped show but she chose to leave them in as a "teachable moment" on appropriate or inappropriate ways to have such conversations.

The critical reaction didn't make her shy away from the topic but instead compelled her to become better informed, Couric said.

"Gender Revolution: A Journey with Katie Couric," airing 9 p.m. EST Feb. 6, is described by the channel as an exploration of the changing concept of gender in the realms of science, society and culture.

Couric interviewed scientists, activists, families and others to delve into the role of genetics, brain chemistry and modern attitudes on gender identity.

She said the "personal stories are what make this documentary."

Among those featured in the special are JR and Vanessa Ford, parents of a transgender child who was being raised as a boy but who told her parents at age 4 that she was "'a girl in my heart and my brain,'" Vanessa Ford said.

She said she hoped the project would help people get to know her family and relate to them.

"'Hey, here we are. My kid won't eat vegetables either,'" is part of the message, Ford said.

___

Lynn Elber can be reached at lelber@ap.org and on Twitter at http://twitter.com/lynnelber.

Idina Menzel tackles Bette Midler role in 'Beaches' remake

Idina Menzel prefers creating roles rather than following in someone else's footsteps. Yet when it came to a remake of "Beaches," the Broadway veteran couldn't turn it down.

Menzel tackles the role played by Bette Midler in the 1988 theatrical film for the Lifetime TV version co-starring Nia Long that airs Jan. 21. She also recorded Midler's No. 1 hit from the movie "Wing Beneath My Wings," a 1990 Grammy Award winner.

"I have been singing this song my whole life, ever since I was a wedding singer and bar mitzvah singer," she told a television critics gathering on Friday. "Every single 13-year-old boy danced with his mother to 'Wind Beneath My Wings.' I was trying to find my own spin on it."

Menzel first gained fame for Tony-nominated roles she originated in "Rent" and "Wicked," for which she won a best-actress Tony. After leaving those shows, Menzel was replaced by other actresses.

"I have learned that the show goes on without you; that people are very talented, and that if something is written beautifully, you can be great, but there's always somebody right there that's just as good," she said. "Sometimes that's hard for me."

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