Nothing says Chicago like the rumble of an ‘L’ train overhead. Featured in countless movies and television shows, the ‘L’ is recognized worldwide as an iconic part of the city’s landscape and an easy, affordable ticket to explore Chicago’s diverse neighborhoods.
Chicago by ‘L’ with Geoffrey Baer, a new documentary and website that will debut on Wednesday, March 4 at 7:30 pm on WTTW and wttw.com/L, tells the fascinating stories of the ‘L’ and unexpected adventures found at its citywide stops.
In this newest of Geoffrey Baer’s tours of Chicago, the award-winning host and producer rides the entire spectrum of the CTA’s color-coded lines — Red, Blue, Green, Brown, Orange, Pink, Purple, and Yellow.
Join Geoffrey as he hops off the train to meet local people and hear the real stories of Chicago’s neighborhoods. He will explore Chicago’s immigrant communities; architectural and historic treasures; and colorful murals and public art in stations along the lines.
There are street festivals, magnificent houses of worship, local oddities, and hidden gems to explore along the way, and Geoffrey will also share the surprising and sometimes scandalous history of the Chicago ‘L.’
ALSO READ: ‘Check, please!’ returns to WTTW
On the website — wttw.com/L — find an interactive map to explore Chicago’s neighborhoods and both the history and future of the ‘L’. Watch stunning drone footage and video extras on the CTA’s 4000 series heritage train built in 1929 and the special crew of volunteers and operators who keep it running. Go behind the scenes at the Skokie maintenance center, where the ‘L’ cars are serviced. Discover what it’s like to ride on the CTA’s annual holiday train (with a surprise guest!). Enjoy an interview with the two people behind the CTA’s lively Twitter account. Get an animated neighborhood “explainer” that explores the difference between wards, community areas, and neighborhoods. Also, watch the show and discover a gallery of the art on the ‘L.’
“As a kid, I remember staring out the windows of the ‘L’ in wonder as we passed perilously close to buildings through the rich and complex quilt of Chicago cultures. And I still love it today. It’s like touring the world for the minimal price of a train fare,” says Geoffrey. “Just steps from each station is yet another fascinating personal connection to be made, a restaurant to try, a business to explore, or a landmark to admire. This is a program for the ‘train geek’ inside all of us.”
A network of Chicagoans
As Geoffrey makes his way around the city and suburbs reachable on the ‘L,’ he shares stories about architect Mies Van Der Rohe’s modern architecture at IIT and Frank Lloyd Wright’s history in Oak Park. He gets a tour from Kaaron Johnson, co-founder of Boxville, an innovative outdoor shipping container mall in Bronzeville used by up-and-coming entrepreneurs. He talks with Eleazar Delgado, founder of Pilsen’s Jumping Bean Café. He asks residents who live inches from the ‘L’ how they cope with its sometimes intrusive presence in their lives. He grooves with CTA attendants to the music coming from the new DJ booth at the 95th Street Red Line terminal, and much more.
“Working on this program gave me an entirely new appreciation of everything this incredibly diverse city has to offer,” said producer Eddie Griffin. “I hope that our journey, and the wonderful people we met will show viewers just how interconnected we all really are in Chicago. It’s an excursion like none other.”
Cast and crew
Chicago by ‘L’ with Geoffrey Baer is hosted, written, and executive produced by Geoffrey Baer. The television program is produced, directed, and co-written by Eddie Griffin. Associate Producers are Brendan Brown and Yasmin Rammohan. Director of Photography: Tom Siegel. Edited by Paul Thornton. The website is produced by Meredith Francis, designed by Jenny Macchione, developed by Justin Henderson, and executive produced by Anne Gleason.
Leadership support for CHICAGO BY ‘L’ WITH GEOFFREY BAER is provided by BMO Harris Bank with major funding from Peoples Gas, Joyce and Matt Walsh, and Patty and Dan Walsh in memory of Richard Gray and in honor of Mary L. Gray. Additional support is provided by Ann and Rich Carr, The Joseph & Bessie Feinberg Foundation, ITW, and Jim and Kay Mabie, and by the following donors: Susan and Stephen Baird, Peter Kelliher II, Judy and John McCarter, Mollenhauer Progressive Philanthropic Fund in honor of Ida Mollenhauer, Ken Norgan, Joan and Paul Rubschlager, Daniel J. Hyman and Millennium Properties R/E, Carl Buddig and Company, and Anonymous.
WTTW is the PBS member station in Chicago, committed to creating and presenting unique media content across distinct television and digital channels – WTTW11, WTTW Prime, WTTW Create/WTTW World, WTTW PBS Kids 24/7, wttw.com and the PBS/WTTW video app. Recognized for award-winning journalism and local productions such as Chicago Tonight, Chicago River Tour, Check, Please!, digital-first series Chefs Off the Clock, Urban Nature, and Foodphiles and national productions 10 That Changed America and Nature Cat, WTTW presents the very best in public affairs, arts and culture, nature and science, history and documentary, and children’s public media content. Connect with WTTW on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.