BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- The 50th anniversary of the 1963 civil rights March on Washington that included Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech will be featured prominently on cable networks over the next week, and PBS will have its own effort, "The March" (9 p.m. Tuesday, WQED-TV), a one-hour film narrated by actor Denzel Washington.
Director John Akomfrah interviewed a host of civil rights leaders, supporters and ordinary citizens who attended the march, and he rounded up newly discovered and familiar film footage of the event.
"There were some extraordinary bits of footage that I had no idea existed," he said earlier this month at a PBS press conference. "And some came in literally as we were about to finish everything."
That includes footage from three sets of home movies made by attendees.
"I was surprised at the lack of material as well as the abundance," Mr. Akomfrah said. "A lot of the TV coverage has been lost, quite a bit has been trashed, frankly. And it surprises you because you think that something that iconic would be preserved."
Mr. Akomfrah said more important than finding lost footage was hearing stories from people who were there.
"When you sit down with 25 people and they talk to you about an event which happened when you were 21/2, you're left with this major ethical responsibility," he said, "because the question then is how are you going to make it faithful to what they've all said. To have 35 hours that has to boil down into an hour is not easy."
Stanford University history professor Clayborne Carson, a march participant, said he marvels at changes over the past 50 years, saying getting a job as a college professor was not on his radar as a possibility in 1963.
"I might as well have said [I would be] living on Mars," he said. "The notion, in 1963, that someday I would come back to Washington to build a memorial for that person who was up on the podium on the platform at the Lincoln Memorial in 1963 [was inconceivable]. And then, of course, coming back in 2009 and witnessing the inauguration of an African-American president and remembering that day how far away from power we were in 1963. We were literally as far away on the Mall as you could get from the Capitol. And that physical distance was representative of a power difference between where we were."
Roger Mudd, who covered the march for CBS News, said the march sent a signal to the nation that the civil rights movement was a national movement.
"With the assassination then of President Kennedy, President Johnson was able to use that assassination as a major lever to get the civil rights bill through," Mr. Mudd said. "I don't think any of that would have happened without the March being as successful as it was."
Clarence Jones, an aide to King at the march, said the "I Have a Dream" speech was not the speech King had intended to give.
"As he was reading from the text of his prepared speech, there came a point when Mahalia Jackson, who was sitting on the platform, said, 'Tell them about the dream, Martin. Tell them about the dream,' " Mr. Jones recalled. "Now, I had often speculated that she had heard him, in other places, make the reference to the dream. On June 23, 1963, in Detroit, he had made a very express reference to the dream. But when Mahalia shouted to him, I was standing about 50 feet behind him to the right and to the rear. And I watched him just take the text of this speech and move it to the left side of the lectern, grab the lectern, and look out. I said to somebody standing next to me, 'These people don't know it, but they're about ready to go to church.' And I said that because I could see his body language change from the rear where he had been reading, like giving a lecture, to then going into his Baptist preacher mode. So the rest of the speech was spontaneous and extemporaneous."
In addition to the PBS telecast of "The March," additional online content at www.pbs.org/black-culture/explore/march-on-washington/short-story-vignettes/gallery/ includes interviews conducted with march participants by PBS member stations, including Pittsburgh's WQED. Local interviewees posted online include Phil Hallen, Paulette Potter and Sala Udin.
Other network programming about the march will include MSNBC reports from Washington tonight and Saturday, including a two-hour special at 6 tonight hosted by the Rev. Al Sharpton. MSNBC continues its coverage at 8 a.m. Saturday with live reports from a 50th anniversary march on Washington.
Don Lemon hosts CNN's "We Were There: The March on Washington -- An Oral History" (10 tonight), which includes an interview with U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), who spoke at the original event.
"PBS NewsHour" began its coverage earlier this week and will continue it on its nightly broadcast next week.
Fox News Channel will air "Beyond the Dream: 50 Years Later" at 5 p.m. Saturday.
BET will cover the 50th Anniversary March at 11 a.m. Saturday.
'Sullivan & Son' renewed
This week TBS renewed Pittsburgh-set bar sitcom "Sullivan & Son" for a 13-episode third season expected to air next summer.
TBS also renewed "Men at Work" for a 10-episode third season to air in early 2014. TBS also ordered a 10-episode second season of prank show "Deal With It" to air in 2014.
'Ed Show' back to weekdays
Just a few months after moving Ed Schultz's show to weekends, MSNBC announced that next week "The Ed Show" will shift back to weekdays, airing at 5 p.m. Prior to April, "The Ed Show" aired at 8 p.m. weeknights.
"Hardball With Chris Matthews" now will air only at 7 p.m.; previously it aired a live hour at 5 p.m. with a rerun at 7 p.m.
The "MTV Video Music Awards" air live at 9 p.m. Sunday on MTV with Lady Gaga performing a world premiere of her new single, "Applause." ... The HBO documentary "Glickman" (9 p.m. Monday) offers a profile of the late sportscaster Marty Glickman. ... Variety reports MTV has renewed "The Real World" for a 29th season that returns the series to San Francisco 20 years after the program's first stint in the city. ...CBS's "The Young and the Restless" will have a two-part episode memorial service for Katherine Chancellor, played by the late Jeanne Cooper, on Sept. 3 and 4. ... NBC has ordered a 10-episode second season for "Hollywood Game Night." ... Discovery Channel is developing a remake of the hit 1980s miniseries "North and South" based on the trilogy of novels by John Jakes. ... Season two of Disney Channel's comedy "Dog With a Blog" debuts at 8:30 p.m. on Sept. 20. ... The fourth episode of WQED's "iQ: smartparent," "Tune In, Tune Out" (8 p.m. Thursday), explores the impact of TV, movies and music on children's behavior. ... Next week Pittsburgh Transportation Group president Jamie Campolongo will appear on the Food Network's "The Shed" barbecue show (10 p.m. Monday) to showcase a barbecue sauce he developed with two partners.
Tuned In online
Today's TV Q&A column responds to questions about "Downton Abbey," "History Detectives" and "Parenthood." This week's Tuned In Journal includes posts on "Trek in the Park," "Breaking Bad," "Game of Thrones," "The Walking Dead," "Modern Dads" and "Ghost Shark." Read online-only TV content at post-gazette.com/tv.
This week's podcast includes conversation about the end of "Being Human," "True Blood" and "The Vampire Diaries" and its spinoff "The Originals." Subscribe or listen at http://old.post-gazette.com/podcast.
TV writer Rob Owen: email@example.com or 412-263-2582. Follow RobOwenTV on Twitter or Facebook for breaking TV news. First Published August 23, 2013 4:00 AM