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Masterpiece Theatre

Masterpiece Theatre is the title of a long-running TV series that premiered on PBS on January 10, 1971. The show has allowed a large number of award-winning television miniseries and made-for-TV movies, most of them British productions from the BBC or various ITV companies, to air on American television. The show was hosted by Alistair Cooke from its premiere until Cooke retired in 1992 at the age of 83. Since then, the host has been Russell Baker.

Masterpiece Theatre is best known for a large number of adaptations of famous novels into episodic TV mini-series, and for works of a biographical nature, but it also shows original television dramas. Famous stories to have aired on the show include I, Claudius, The Six Wives of Henry VIII, Elizabeth R, The Jewel in the Crown, and many others.

The show has been financed by the Mobil corporation since its inception. In December of 2002 the corporation (now Exxon Mobil) announced they would no longer fund the show after 2004.

The famous theme music to the show, played during the opening credits of each episode, is taken from Rondeau by classical composer J.J. Mouret (1682-1738).


Masterpiece Theatre: A Celebration of 25 Years of Outstanding Television by Terrence O'Flaherty (1996), paperback ISBN 091233374X