Meredith Vieira may have to read from ‘50 Shades of Grey’ on PBS
The Great American Read
Tuesday, 8 p.m., PBS
Meredith Vieira is on a mission to get us all back to bookstores and libraries. “You read as a kid and then maybe you don’t read so much [now] and you forget your connection to books. They’re like old friends,” said Vieira, who hosts the new eight-part PBS series “The Great American Read.” To find out which novel Americans consider their favorite, PBS polled more than 7,000 readers and narrowed down their picks to a top 100. The choices span the ages, from classics such as “Don Quixote” to the best-seller “Gone Girl.” Tuesday’s premiere includes celebrity interviews — “Game of Thrones” author George R.R. Martin weighs in on his favorite book. Viewers can vote for their theirs (at Pbs.org/The-Great-American-Read/).
Vieira, 64, spoke with The Post from London, where she co-anchored “Royal Wedding Watch,” a joint PBS/BBC show covering the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.
What is the goal of the show?
We want people to read and share their favorite book with somebody else. Start a book club. Talk about the book amongst your friends. And if your favorite book isn’t on the list, we want to hear that, too. It’s really about getting people interested in reading and hearing about authors they might not have known before.
Were you surprised “50 Shades of Grey” made the list?
PBS might have been a little shocked, like, “Oh, no — ‘50 Shades’?” All I can think is when the finale comes, that’ll win and I’m going to have to read an excerpt [laughs]. But you know what? The books come from all over the world and reflect everyone’s tastes.
You mention your affinity for “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Why does the novel still resonate?
When I read it, I was a teen and didn’t really know [about] racism — I hadn’t experienced it in my little world in Rumford, RI. I learned how awful people can be and how courageous people can be. It’s the kind of story that keeps haunting you 20, 30, 40 years later.
Have you read many of the top 100 novels?
Maybe a third. PBS might have thought, “You’ve probably read many of them.” Oh, not so much.
What book on the list do you want to read?
“Lord of the Rings.” That genre has never been my taste. But I’m watching these people talk about it and I go, “I’m missing out on something; maybe I should put aside my bias and pick the book up.” So I promised a friend of mine who’s a big fan of that series that I’m gonna read it.
Pulitzer winner Junot Díaz is on the list and interviewed on the program. He is being investigated for sexual misconduct. How does PBS square with recognizing his work?
[PBS] did not remove “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” because it was selected by the American public, but his presence was [originally] much more in the series than it will be now because of sensitivity. They’ll continue to watch the allegations and it will be reviewed. … It’s tricky. [Díaz’s book] stands out because it’s fresh and current and has to be taken seriously.
— Eric Hegedüs
And here’s what else to watch this week:
Tuesday, 8:30 p.m., ABC
Series finale. After nine madcap seasons, a Heck leaves the nest and the family takes a road trip to Denver, where Axl (Charlie McDermott) will start his new job — and life away from home. Starring Patricia Heaton and Neil Flynn.
Picnic at Hanging Rock
Series premiere. Three Australian girls disappear from their boarding school in this mystery series starring “Game of Thrones” actress Natalie Dormer. She plays the headmistress of Appleyard College in the six-episode series.
Saturday, 10 p.m., HBO
Meet Jennifer (Laura Dern), a woman who comes across a story she wrote at age 13 that makes her reconsider her first sexual relationship. “The Tale” is based on director Jennifer Fox’s own experience. Co-starring Common as Jen’s fiancé and Ellen Burstyn as her mother.
Season premiere. Learning that the Hamas militant he thought he killed is still at large, veteran Israeli operative Doron (Lior Raz, below second from right) comes out of retirement to hunt down his foe. In Arabic and Hebrew with subtitles.
Sunday, 8:30 p.m., Fox
Season finale. It was almost “Curtains!” for this Andy Samberg comedy when Fox canceled it. Then NBC saved it from the TV cemetery. In the finale, Jake (Samberg) and Amy’s (Melissa Fumero) wedding day is threatened. Meanwhile, Terry (Terry Crews) nudges Rosa (Stephanie Beatriz) toward a new love interest (Gina Rodriguez).
Wednesday, 10 p.m., FX
In the penultimate episode of the series, Philip (Matthew Rhys, below left) has an encounter that turns into much more than he had bargained for while Elizabeth Jennings (Keri Russell, below right) wrestles with competing loyalties.
Wednesday, 10 p.m., Sundance
Series premiere. Three sisters who are also divorce lawyers face personal upheaval when their estranged father (Anthony Head) returns after a 30-year absence. Hannah (Nicola Walker) and Nina (Annabel Scholey) are leading family law lawyers working for rival firms, while Rose (Fiona Button) is still searching for her place in life. Set in London, the capital of international high-profile divorces.
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