American Playhouse
Directed byPerry Miller Adato
Robert Allan Ackerman
Paul Bogart
Kirk Browning
Jonathan Demme
Bill Duke
Peter H. Hunt
David Hugh Jones
Barbara Kopple
Jack O'Brien (director)
Philip Leacock
Marshall W. Mason
Vivian Matalon
Sharron Miller
Joanne Woodward
ComposerDavid Amram
Country of originUSA
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons11
Production companiesKCET, South Carolina Educational Television, WGBH, WNET
Original networkPBS
Original releaseJanuary 12, 1982 (1982-01-12) –
December 22, 1993 (1993-12-22)

American Playhouse is an anthology television series periodically broadcast by Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) in the United States.[1][2][3]


It premiered on January 12, 1982, with The Shady Hill Kidnapping, written and narrated by John Cheever and directed by Paul Bogart. Its final broadcast, In the Wings: Angels in America on Broadway, a rerun of a behind-the-scenes look at Tony Kushner's award-winning play in two parts, aired on January 1, 1994.

The series proved to be the springboard for the careers of numerous performers, including David Marshall Grant, Laura Linney, A Martinez, Conchata Ferrell, Eric Roberts, Lynne Thigpen, John Malkovich, Peter Riegert, Lupe Ontiveros, Ben Stiller, and Megan Mullally.

As part of WGBH's development of the Descriptive Video Service (DVS), American Playhouse was one of the first U.S. television programs to air with audio description for the visually impaired on the Secondary audio program (SAP). After trialing the system during previous seasons, the 1990 season was the first to offer it as part of their wider rollout of DVS, initially through 32 member stations.[4][5][6]

Notable productions


Season 1 (1982)

Season 2 (1983)

Season 3 (1984)

Season 4 (1984–1985)

Season 5 (1986)

Season 6 (1987)

Season 7 (1988)

Season 8 (1989)

Season 9 (1990)

Season 10 (1991)

Season 11 (1992–1993)

Season 12 (1994)

Season 13 (1995–1996)

Notable cast


Some of the productions won multiple Emmys: one from Robert Morse in Tru,[17] Outstanding Children's Program for Displaced Person[18] and technical achievements for The Meeting alongside many nominations.[19]

Academy Award recognitions included El Norte's nomination for Best Original Screenplay[20][21] and a Best Actor nod for Edward James Olmos in Stand and Deliver.[22][23]

American Playhouse also won a Peabody Award in 1990.[24]

Episodes like Nothing But a Man, The Thin Blue Line, El Norte and Stand and Deliver were each inducted into the National Film Registry.[25]


  1. ^ The New York Times
  2. ^ The New York Times
  3. ^ The New York Times
  4. ^ Gibson, Gwen. "Words worth 1,000 pictures". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2019-04-22.
  5. ^ Molotsky, Irvin (1988-01-13). "New TV System Offers Descriptions for Blind". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-04-22.
  6. ^ Ellis, Katie (2019-02-01). Disability and Digital Television Cultures: Representation, Access, and Reception. Routledge. ISBN 9781317627845.
  7. ^ The New York Times
  8. ^ The New York Times
  9. ^ The New York Times
  10. ^ The New York Times
  11. ^ John Corry (August 28, 1985). "Les and Bess, A Play About Radio, On PBS". The New York Times.
  12. ^ John O'Connor (May 5, 1986). "Odets's 'Rocket to the Moon on 13". The New York Times.
  13. ^ Charles Isherwood (November 11, 2006). "A Square Caught Up in a Love Triangle". The New York Times.
  14. ^ Don Shirley (1988-02-17). "Television Reviews : 'Revolt of Mother'; 'Pigeon Feathers'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2016-10-17.
  15. ^ The Los Angeles Times
  16. ^ The New York Times
  17. ^ TRU (AMERICAN PLAYHOUSE)|Television Academy
  18. ^ Displaced Person American Playhouse|Television Academy
  20. ^ 1985|
  21. ^ Robert Benton and Peter Shaffer winning Writing Oscars®-Oscars on YouTube
  22. ^ 1989|
  23. ^ Dustin Hoffman Win Best Actor: 1989 Oscars
  24. ^ "American Playhouse". Retrieved 2019-03-02.
  25. ^ Brief Descriptions and Expanded Essays of National Film Registry Titles | Film Registry | National Film Preservation Board