PBS is hoping to turn its most iconic series into a Masterpiece de résistance. And they're enlisting Gillian Anderson to aid in their antiquation-busting quest.
After 37 years, the people's broadcaster has unveiled plans to overhaul their staple and increasingly staid anthology series, Masterpiece Theatre, signing the erstwhile X-Files babe up to host the first of three new miniseasons when the pedigree show returns on Jan. 13.
"I am a huge supporter of Masterpiece Theatre and the quality and integrity of its programming," Anderson said. "And if my hosting the first season brings a new generation of viewers to the classics, then I'm proud to be a part of it."
Rather than the mash-up of genres the series has previously scheduled, come 2008, the show's featured content will be divided into three separate blocks of programming: period pieces, mysteries and contemporary dramas.
The first bundle of TV movies, dubbed "Masterpiece Classic," will be hosted by Anderson and is set to run from January through May. Anderson is no doubt already a familiar face to loyal Masterpiece Theatre viewers, having starred in its Emmy- and Golden Globe-nominated adaptation of Charles Dickens' Bleak House back in January 2006.
Anderson's ascension to the hosting gig marks not only the first time a woman has hosted the show, but the first time anyone has since 2004, when former New York Times columnist Russell Baker stepped down from the emcee gig. Veteran journalist Alistair Cooke was the series' inaugural host, introducing the program from 1971 until 1992.
PBS execs noted in announcing the changes to the program that they were not altering the quality of the series, rather just its presentation.
"What won't change is the caliber of our programming," executive producer Rebecca Eaton said.
Anderson's hosting tenure will begin with The Complete Jane Austen, a showcase adaptation of all six of the writer's beloved novels. Her miniseason will also include Miss Austen Regrets, a biography of the novelist; My Boy Jack, with erstwhile Harry Potter Daniel Radcliffe starring as the son of Rudyard Kipling; Cranford, a three-part miniseries starring awards-bait Judi Dench; and a new adaptation of E.M. Forster's Room with a View.
The second miniseason, dubbed "Masterpiece Mystery!," will debut this summer, while PBS will round out the year with the fall cycle, "Masterpiece Contemporary," featuring modern dramas. Both installments will feature a different host, who has yet to be named.
Anderson's 10-film season kicks off Jan. 13. She joins David Duchovny, director Chris Carter and newly cast costars Amanda Peet, Xzibit and Billy Connolly in filming on the long-anticipated X-Files sequel later this month.