Houston Public Media wants to help Houstonians celebrate their favorite novels. To facilitate that goal, the station is launching a new series called Cover to Cover that will serve as a companion to the Great American Read, a new PBS series devoted to the country’s 100 favorite novels.
Similar to the way Manor of Speaking provided a forum for conversation after each episode of Downton Abbey, Cover to Cover adds a local perspective to the Great American Read. Each episode airs immediately after the PBS show, starting on Tuesday, September 11 at 8 pm.
Host Ernie Manouse and a panel of local guests will discuss their own favorites within the show’s themes: Who Am I, Heroes, Villains, Love, and Other Worlds. Since the first episode of the Great American Read recaps a special that aired in May, the first episode of Cover to Cover focuses on books about Texas.
“What I always said about Manor of Speaking was, when I was watching Downton Abbey, I always wanted to talk to someone about it,” Manouse tells CultureMap. “These shows give you the opportunity to share with other people. ‘These are the books PBS came up with, but what are my favorite books?’ We had fun with it, and I think the audience will enjoy it.”
In each episode, Manouse and the panel, which includes local celebrities like Great Day Houston host Deborah Duncan, former Houston First Lady Andrea White, Big Brothers Big Sisters Lone Star CEO Pierce Bush, and America’s Got Talent contestant Christina Wells, discuss the merits of each individual genre. From there, each person shares a favorite book in that genre. Finally, they compete in a trivia quiz called LQ that’s inspired by the popular app HQ.
“We went around and tried to come up with four guests for each show,” Manouse says. “I wanted each show to have a recognizable name. We also wanted an author. We wanted a superfan that was kind of an everyday person . . . Each group was four fun people who had chemistry and could share their theories on those topics.”
One of those everyday people is the Houston Spider-Man, the cosplayer whose efforts to help children after Hurricane Harvey earned national acclaim. Of course, he appears on the Heroes episode, where he touts The Little Prince as his favorite book.
“It’s fun. It’s sweet,” Manouse says. “It also makes books fun, so that they’re not seen as ‘[only] boring people read books.’”
Cover to Cover airs on Houston PBS every Tuesday from September 11 to October 16 at 8 pm.