Monday, November 11, 2013

Approaching the Anniversary: The Documentaries

While I've tried to keep up with the various television documentaries about Kennedy over the past decade, I find this year fascinating if for no other reason than the sheer amount of television coverage of the assassination anniversary. This is my brave attempt at pulling together all of the various documentaries. There is also a list available from the Washington Post of the programming for the anniversary, a schedule from USA Today and a guide from Mediaite. We'll see Bob Scheiffer, Kevin Spacey, Dan Rather and Tom Brokaw and see a program produced by Tom Hanks. We'll have assassination conspiracy theories and reminders of how much people have to say about the Warren Commission even now. And then there will be the more humble attempts to explain what the assassination meant to Americans and how it impacted American life. Those, I personally think, are the most fascinating.

My humble and undoubtedly flawed attempt at compiling a schedule of assassination programming:
Nov. 7: JFK: A President Betrayed (DirecTV's Audience Network, 8 p.m. ET; DirecTV on Demand, Nov. 14)
Nov. 8: JFK: The Smoking Gun (Reelz Channel, 8 p.m. ET and midnight ET)
Nov. 11-12: American Experience: JFK (PBS, 9 p.m. ET); (12) Capturing Oswald (The Military Channel, 10 p.m. ET)
Nov. 13: Nova: Cold Case JFK (PBS, 9 p.m. ET, times may vary)
Nov. 14: The Sixties: The Assassination of JFK (CNN, 9 p.m. ET)
Nov. 16: As It Happened: John F. Kennedy 50 Years (CBS, 9 p.m. ET); Fox News Reporting: 50 Years of Questions: The JFK Assassination (FOX News, 9 p.m. ET)
Nov. 17: The Day Kennedy Died (Smithsonian Channel, 9 p.m. ET); Letters to Jackie: Remembering President Kennedy (TLC, 9 p.m. ET)
Nov. 18 & 22: My Days in Dallas - a Remembrance with Dan Rather (AXS TV, 8 p.m. ET); (18) Frontline: Who Was Lee Harvey Oswald? (PBS, 9 p.m. ET)
Nov. 20: Costas Tonight Special — No Day for Games: The Cowboys and JFK (NBCSN, 11 p.m. ET)
Nov. 21: JFK: The Lost Tapes (Discovery, 7 p.m. ET)
Nov. 22: JFK Assassination the Definitive Guide (History, 8 p.m. ET); Tom Brokaw Special: Where Were You? (NBC, 9 ET); JFK: The Day That Changed America (MSNBC, 7 ET); The Kennedy Brothers (MSNBC 8 ET); 50 Years of Guns (MSNBC, 9 ET); Up Late with Alex Baldwin, interviews Mark Lane (MSNBC 10 ET).
In addition to this new programming, there will be various previously released documentaries and movies airing. Turner Classic Movies will air the four Kennedy documentaries by Robert Drew (Primary, Adventures on the New Frontier, Crisis: Behind a Presidential Commitment and Faces of November) as well as Mel Stuarts's Four Days in November and the documentary PT 109 all on November 21st and 22nd. 

On final note on the assassination programming: As I linked to in a previous post, Dan Rather was not invited to take part in the CBS special on the Kennedy assassination. As a thirty-two year-old newsman working for CBS News, Rather's reporting on the assassination of Kennedy is some of the most remembered and recognizable reporting outside that of the network television anchors of the time. At the time of the assassination, Rather was the CBS Southwest bureau chief in Dallas. Rather was one of the first to view the Zapruder film. He reported everything from the assassination to the burial and then followed the case of Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby. Without his on-the-ground reporting on the assassination, Rather may never have become the CBS White House correspondent. It was truly his first national test and he passed with flying colors.

It is my opinion, one I share with many, that Rather would have solidified the CBS coverage of the anniversary and would have brought to their coverage something that he will now take on air on AXS TV--gravitas and the living memory of one of America's darkest hours. It is unfortunate that CBS declined to offer an olive branch to Rather, ignoring his tumultuous departure from the network, for the sake of history.

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