tl;dr: Big Bird Wants YOU to Watch PBS Videos

Over the course of the next few weeks (or months, if I don’t get lazy), I’m going to be blogging about media that educates and entertains. My goal is to introduce weekly themes and write a couple of posts each week with film and video recommendations that relate to that theme. I’ll have posts dedicated to women’s reproductive rights, mass incarceration in the US, Israel and Palestine, and more.

To kickstart this project, I’d like to introduce some more broad recommendations. The following is a list of TV series and YouTube channels that cover a variety of topics:

1. PBS Digital Studios. 

PBS Digital Studios is PBS for the internet. They have over 30 channels discussing art, science, technology, history, and more. Odds are, if you consider yourself a Nerdfighter, you’ll be a fan of PBS Digital Studios. In fact, a lot of Vlogbrothers* content is produced by PBS.

Why You Should Watch It: 

Big Bird Wants YOU to watch PBS videos. Don’t disappoint Big Bird.

Seriously, though. PBS Digital Studios does an awesome job of being a nostalgic PBS series (Reading Rainbow remix anyone?) while also embracing new media (they even have a Tumblr). Some of their best work includes:

My Favorite: The Idea Channel

2. Crash Course 

Speaking of PBS Digital Studios, Crash Course recently received funding to continue their educational series on YouTube. Started by the Vlogbrothers, Crash Course is a series of YouTube shows dedicated to providing short education courses for free on the internet. They currently have 11 different educational series: World History, Biology, Ecology, English, US History, Chemistry, Psychology, Big History, Anatomy and Physiology, Astronomy, and US Government and Politics.

Why You Should Watch It: 

Don’t you want to watch Wheezy Waiter explain how the US government works to your children? No? Just me? Okay. I’m going to let John and Hank give you some more reasons:

My Favorite: Catcher in the Rye, Parts 1 & 2

3. POV

POV is an Emmy award winning documentary series that airs on PBS. Their goal is to feature innovative documentaries with fresh perspectives, or “points of view,” each season.

Why You Should Watch It: 

I worked there! Support my shameless plug! But also, it’s a fantastic idea and it pulls it off well. The documentaries they choose for each season are all over the map in terms of content, so you’re pretty much guaranteed a good two hours of doc that is not only informative and well made, but there will be a diversity in opinions and perspectives every week.

My Favorite***: Cutie and the Boxer

Where Can I Watch It? 

Most POV films (including Cutie) are available on Netflix, and are from time to time free to stream on POV’s website. Season 28 will premiere sometime this summer, so keep an eye out for it on your local PBS station!

4. Independent Lens

Can you tell I have a PBS bias yet? Independent Lens is very similar to POV, but has an even greater variety of films. It’s currently in its 13th season and airs approximately 25 episodes per season (as compared to POV’s typical 12 or so).

Why You Should Watch It:

Ditto what I said for POV. Also, watch this trailer:

My Favorite: How to Survive a Plague

Where Can I Watch It? 

Many Independent Lens films are available on Netflix (including How to Survive a Plague), and are also available through PBS’ streaming service. They are currently airing on PBS on Monday nights at 10pm EST.

5. TED 

The only non-PBS product on this list, TED showcases “ideas worth spreading” through a series of short presentations on a wide variety of scientific, cultural, and political topics. From talks on prosthetic limbs to a presentation on sexuality in Islam, if you can think it, TED probably has it.

Why You Should Watch It: 

Anyone reading this has probably put “Watch more TED Talks” on their New Year’s Resolution list at some point, so I’ll keep this brief. TED has a knack for picking great speakers talking about interesting topics from fresh perspectives. They’re masters of performance, which has garnered the organization criticism as well as praise. Check it out to find out for yourself.

My Favorite: The Power of Introverts


Where Can I Watch It? 

TED talks are available on YouTube as well as through TED’s website. There are also multiple TED playlists available on Netflix.

Let me know if you have any recommendations to add to this list!

That’s all for now. Check out the blog next Monday for a series of posts on gender representation in media.

*Watch Vlogbrothers now if you haven’t already (they probably could have had their own entry in this post, but I can’t pick a favorite).

**Hosted by John Green’s wife, Sarah Green, otherwise known as The Yeti.

***Probably not actually my favorite POV film, but it is in the top 5 and I doubt I’ll have an opportunity to feature it in the future of this blog.


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