Frequently Asked Questions

Masterpiece

What changed on Masterpiece in 2008 and why?
What happened to the old theme music?
Can you tell me more about an actor I've seen on Masterpiece?
Who are the faces in the new Masterpiece classic opening?

Program Scheduling

When will a program air? When will it repeat?
Are programs available on demand from my cable company?
Can I watch Masterpiece programs online?
Can you re-air a program from the past?
You must still have master tapes of old programs. Why can't you air them?

DVD/Video

Is (program name) available for purchase on DVD/video?
Why are old titles available on VHS not also available on DVD?

Schedule

What is the schedule for next season?

Technical

A narrator is describing everything that happens in the program. How do I make it stop?

Other Frequently Asked Questions

Why isn't (program name) included in your Masterpiece Archive database? I'm sure I saw it on PBS years ago!
Do you accept books/plays/ideas for consideration as future Masterpiece projects?

Masterpiece

What changed on Masterpiece in 2008 and why?

In 2008, Masterpiece unveiled a new look, new scheduling, new hosts, and a redesigned website.

To help make the programs more accessible, the year is now broken down into three "seasons." Each season has its own host, graphics, and fresh take on the series' famous theme music. In winter and spring, Masterpiece classic features signature period dramas. In summer, Masterpiece mystery! presents the best British mysteries, and in fall, Masterpiece contemporary showcases dramas set in modern times. What has not changed is the caliber of the programs. We remain steadfast in our commitment to offer the best in literature-based drama, mysteries filled with eclectic characters, and groundbreaking contemporary works.

What happened to the old theme music?

The Masterpiece Theatre theme was introduced at the inception of the series in 1971, and became widely recognizable for more than 30 years. The original theme was written by Jean-Joseph Mouret (1682-1738), and is the first movement of Mouret's "First Suite in D," from his second book of Fanfares for Trumpets, Kettledrums, Violins and Oboes (published in Paris, ca. 1729). In 2008, Masterpiece introduced a fresh take on the series' famous original theme music. Each of the three yearly "seasons" of Masterpiece will have a variation on the theme music. You can hear the original theme music and the new Masterpiece classic theme on this website.

Can you tell me more about an actor I've seen on Masterpiece?

Masterpiece regularly features top-caliber talent; frequently actors who have appeared on Masterpiece in the past. To learn more about the characters in a particular program and find credits for the actors playing them, see each individual program page within the Masterpiece site. You can also consult the Archive or Search.

Who are the faces in the new Masterpiece classic opening?

Gillian Anderson as Lady Dedlock in Bleak House
Damian Lewis as Soames Forsyte in Forsyte Saga
Eamonn Walker as John Othello in Othello
Keira Knightley as Lara Antipova in Doctor Zhivago
Colin Firth as The Master in Turn of the Screw
Helen Mirren as Jane Tennison in Prime Suspect 6

Program Scheduling

When will a program air? When will it repeat?

The broadcast schedule on this website lists national airdates, but each PBS member station (and there are over 300 of them around the country) is free to determine its own broadcast schedule and repeat schedule. If you have a question about broadcast schedules or repeat broadcasts, you must check your local television listings.

You can also use the PBS Station Finder to connect PBS Online directly to your local public broadcasting member station. You'll be able to enrich your experience at this and other PBS sites with local content — including your local schedules — provided directly by your station.

Once you've selected the PBS station that you watch most often, you can easily access your local listings for Masterpiece from our website. From the Schedule, click on the "Customize Schedule" link on the right — you'll see the dates and times of scheduled Masterpiece broadcasts on your local station over the next two weeks.

Are programs available on demand from my cable company?

Masterpiece may be available in your area from your local cable company. Check your local PBS station to learn more or contact your cable company directly.

Can I watch Masterpiece programs online?

Currently, many Masterpiece programs are available for online viewing as they are broadcast in the national schedule. However, due to rights restrictions, the programs are only available to be viewed online for a very short time. Check the Masterpiece site homepage to see what is available at any given time, and Sign up for the Masterpiece newsletter to be notified of any upcoming opportunities to view Masterpiece online.

Can you re-air a program from the past?

Unfortunately, we no longer hold the broadcast rights to many favorites from the past. And acquiring rights to those shows would preclude our ability to schedule new productions in the Masterpiece line-up. However, many older titles are becoming available on DVD/home video.

You must still have master tapes of old programs. Why can't you air them?

We don't "own" any of the Masterpiece programs outright. Rather, we license programs for a period of time — 3 or 4 years usually — after which time the rights revert to the original owners, typically the UK producers and/or distributors such as the BBC or Granada. As noted above, if we acquired rights to these titles again, it would be at the expense of new productions. While a few select titles hold up over a long period of time, many television dramas can look slightly faded, especially when juxtaposed to today's television.

DVD/Video

Is (program name) available for purchase on DVD/video?

If you haven't already done so, we encourage you to visit PBS Shop. Here you'll find a list of all titles currently available. Unfortunately, not all Masterpiece titles from the past are currently available on DVD/video. Others are available, but we do not retain the rights to sell them; you may be able to locate them via a search at an online retailer.

Why are old titles available on VHS not also available on DVD?

Masterpiece doesn't control the home video distribution of most of the titles that aired as part of our series. As such, we can't speculate on why certain titles migrate from VHS to DVD and others do not. As with nearly all such decisions, it's a good bet that market economics are a factor in the decision. If VHS sales of some titles appear to be weak, then likely DVD format distribution is a low priority.

Schedule

What is the schedule for next season?

You can download a PDF of the current Masterpiece "season" schedule from our website and also learn more on the Schedule page. Many titles for upcoming "seasons" are also listed on this site, along with programs that are currently in production. The schedule for Masterpiece is revised and updated frequently as it is in ongoing development throughout the year.

Technical

A narrator is describing everything that happens in the program. How do I make it stop?

You likely have inadvertently activated the Descriptive Video Service (DVS). You can easily disable this feature.

Most newer-model TVs with stereophonic sound systems are able to receive a Second Audio Program (SAP) channel that provides enriched verbal descriptions of what is heard and seen on a TV's primary audio and video channels. The SAP channel is designed for use by the blind and other visually-impaired persons.

Most TVs and VCRs require you to turn on the SAP channel in order to receive and record DVS. The selector is usually labeled SAP, MTS, Audio 2, or Audio B on your TV panel, remote-control device, or on-screen menu. De-selecting the SAP channel should eliminate the Descriptive Video Service and solve your problem.

Other Frequently Asked Questions

Why isn't (program name) included in your Masterpiece Archive database? I'm sure I saw it on PBS years ago!

Many people believe certain programs aired on Masterpiece when, in fact, they did not (although they may have aired on PBS). Some of these frequently mistaken programs include Brideshead Revisited, The Pallisers, and the first version of The Forsyte Saga (1967). Check the Archive and Search sections of this site to learn more.

Do you accept books/plays/ideas for consideration as future Masterpiece projects?

Masterpiece programs primarily originate with our producing partners in the UK. We're always reviewing books, scripts, and plays for possible co-production, but they come to us from those partners who can provide the majority of the financing for any given project.

Still have questions? Email us!

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