“Retro Report” makes sense of the present by revealing the past. Celeste Headlee and Masud Olufani connect the present to the past with stories from “Retro Report,” and New Yorker humorist Andy Borowitz adds his signature wit.
The series premiers Oct. 7 and 8 at 8 p.m. and continues Monday and Tuesday nights, through Tuesday, Oct. 29.
In today’s 24-hour news cycle, with breaking headlines, all-news networks and online outlets constantly competing for attention, “Retro Report on PBS” aims to widen the discussion, revealing the story behind the story, providing new insights into how today’s events have been shaped by the past. Each episode will explore four distinct stories, closing with “Now It All Makes Sense,” a special segment featuring the wit and wisdom of author and comedian Andy Borowitz.
Topics to be explored include how decades-old research on human behavior shows that social media’s addictive power is by design rather than chance; why half a million children still have dangerously high lead levels even though it was banned from gasoline and household products decades ago; how the sex education policies of today are informed by failures of programs created during the Clinton era; and why mandatory arbitration agreements enacted on Wall Street 20 years ago have negatively impacted today’s #MeToo movement.
“Today, more information is available than ever before, and it’s coming from countless sources — with varying degrees of credibility,” said Perry Simon, Chief Programming Executive and General Manager, PBS. “’Retro Report on PBS’ takes viewers on a journey into the most important stories of the day, looking at them through the lens of their often surprising historical roots, providing new insights while correcting the record and exposing myths along the way.”
“Public media has always set the bar for objective, balanced news coverage,” said GPB President and CEO Teya Ryan. “As our world becomes more infiltrated with different mediums and an increasing desire to stay informed, ‘Retro Report on PBS’ explores the deeper context of stories and empowers viewers to discern facts and overarching themes in society.”
PBS will partner with its member stations to develop localized content that is inspired by “Retro Report on PBS” and aimed at telling stories that connect local communities with their own unique histories.
Monday, Oct. 7
Explore how social media’s addictive power today might be explained by psychological experiments from the 1950s. Discover how recent NFL protests have ties to 1968. See how Wall Street women fought harassment before #MeToo, and learn why pythons are invading the Everglades. Andy Borowitz compares political ads to cigarettes. Watch online.
Tuesday, Oct. 8
See how data pulled from DNA websites is solving cold cases and how drug rules stem from one pill’s side effects. Learn how a screen addiction cure is rooted in the past and why Americans are ambivalent about robots. Andy Borowitz objects to “no news.” Watch online.
Monday, Oct. 14
Dig into bystander behavior and learn how a decades old murder can shed light on how we react to online violence. Explore the surprising connection between the Navy’s 1990s Tailhook scandal and the decision to open combat roles to women today. See why psychedelic drugs like LSD, which sparked fear in the 1960s, have now become a promising treatment for depression. Follow the voyage of a trash barge in the 1980s that persuaded us to recycle. Andy Borowitz highlights lunar hoaxes. Watch online.
Tuesday, Oct. 15
President Trump’s strategy for dealing with the press may seem new, but it’s strikingly similar to the path taken decades ago by a previous president. Learn the origin of vaccine fears and why measles cases are soaring. Discover the origins behind free agency in sports, which date back to a baseball pioneer, and the unintended consequences of a law intended to rescue wild horses. Andy Borowitz bemoans the no-apology apology. Watch online.
Monday, Oct. 21
Learn why texting may be able to reduce suicide rates based on by forgotten research from decades ago and why surrogate parenthood is still being shaped by the Baby M. case. Investigate why lead, banned years ago, is still a danger, and why a solution for global warming may come from a Cold War concept. Andy Borowitz recalls a flaming river. Watch online.
Tuesday, Oct. 22
Discover the lessons from a 1970s public housing experiment and understand the roots of routine newborn testing. Explore head injuries in pro sports and see why too few people, not too many, is a problem. Andy Borowitz takes on Space Force. Watch online.
Monday, Oct. 28
Learn how risks are measured after the Challenger disaster and how current immigration controversies echo the past. Discover the truth behind the infamous lawsuit over hot coffee and the origin of special ops forces. Andy Borowitz tackles TV bullying. Watch online.
Tuesday, Oct. 29
Discover how current sex education programs are informed by past failures and how a myth about juvenile crime has now been debunked. Uncover the story behind new AIDS hot spots and learn the legacy of Napster. Andy Borowitz looks at Anita Bryant’s unintended influence. Watch online.