“There's milestones in your life that make you really appreciate what you're doing, and that was one of them,” says Idina Menzel of being asked to perform before the Obama family for PBS’ In Performance at the White House: A Broadway Celebration, premiering Oct. 20. The Tony Award winner for Wicked won wider fame last season as Rachel’s birth mom Shelby on Glee, and she may soon reprise that role. “She was caustic and strong and assertive and she had all this emotionality and passion,” says Menzel of the character. Married to Private Practice star Taye Diggs, she’s the mother of a year-old son, Walker, and shops with him in mind. “We buy everything organic, including the soap,” she says.


Coming to PBS’s Masterpiece Oct. 24 in Sherlock, the three-part BBC modern update of Sherlock Holmes, Benedict Cumberbatch (pictured right) was excited to take on the 21st century version of an iconic hero. “The hook was the level of reinvention, that I would have the possibility of putting my own stamp on it. I think I would have been more concerned about doing a late-Victorian Holmes,” he says, relieved he doesn’t “have to worry about the deerstalker and the pipe. It’s a mixture of the new and old,” he adds. “The plots, the deductions, the characters and their relationships are very much drawn from the original. There’d be no point in messing with what ain’t broke.”

The actor, who rides a motorbike around hometown London instead of driving a car, says he’s “pretty eco-friendly. I try really hard. I irritate my girlfriend with recycling. I use dishwater to water my plants. I use eco-friendly detergents, and I offset my air miles.” With several indie films in the can, Cumberbatch is now working on Steven Spielberg’s War Horse, a World War I epic told through the eyes of a cavalry horse. He plays a British major in the movie, due out next August. 


How green is actor Scott Patterson? “Very. I have a solar-heated pool. I separate my plastic from everything else. I don’t drive very much. Sometimes I ride a bike to work,” when not on location, he says. Previously best known as Luke the diner owner on Gilmore Girls, he’s now caught up in the tricky mystery that is NBC’s drama The Event, playing Michael Buchanan. “He’s a regular, suburban family guy but he’s got some secrets,” says Patterson (pictured left). “His family is torn apart in a very violent way, and he is compelled to do something that few people in the history of the planet have ever contemplated doing when he boards that aircraft.”

As for what’s ahead, “They’re spoon-feeding it to us, not giving us the Full Monty, so to speak. We’re in the dark, just like the audience. We’re a couple scripts ahead, but we actually have more questions because of that, and fewer answers.” Patterson will also play a husband and father in The Frankenstein Brothers and a sheriff turned mountain man who tracks his missing son to Chicago in Concrete Canyons. “It has a bit of a McCloud vibe,” he describes, “a cowboy in the city.”


Tune In: Using CGI to chronicle the origin of species, natural scientist Sir David Attenborough explores the history of life on earth in the Discovery special First Life with David Attenborough, premiering Oct. 24. Animal Planet’s Wild Japan, debuting Oct. 21, looks at the Asian country’s creatures, some of them endangered by urbanization. On Planet Green, Dean of Invention follows Dean Kamen, inventor of the Segway, insulin pump and robotic “Luke Arm,” as he investigates the latest scientific breakthroughs in energy, environment, and medical technology. Premiering Oct. 22, the first two of eight episodes focus on cancer-fighting nanobots and advancements in prosthetics. Read more about the show in our interview with Kamen.

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Additional photo credits: Benedict Cumberbatch by Hartswood Films/BBC; Scott Patterson by Joseph Viles/NBC.