Few presidents loom larger in the contemporary American imagination than John F. Kennedy. His brief presidency has been dubbed "Camelot" by popular history and his tragic death has spawned shadowy conspiracy theories that still permeate the American psyche. As the 40th anniversary of that fateful morning in Dallas approaches, a slew of attendant shows are about to hit cable.
History Channel's JFK: A Presidency Revealed, Discovery Times' Kennedy & Castro: The Secret History, and Court TV's The JFK Assassination: Investigation Reopened, present a good cross-section of what will inundate viewers this week.
History's Presidency Revealed, a three-hour documentary, is the best of the bunch, cutting through myths to give a thorough overview of the Kennedy administration.
Historical documentaries must often find creative ways to repackage old facts, but Revealed works with recently released materials, including declassified documents, White House audio tapes and an oral history recorded by Robert Kennedy shortly after his brother's death. These materials give new insight into Kennedy's thought processes.
Discovery Times'Kennedy & Castro, another worthy effort, also makes use of newly declassified materials to examine U.S.-Cuba. relations in the early 1960s through the involvement of Kennedy, Cuban leader Fidel Castro and reporter Lisa Howard.
Howard worked to bring the two nations into secret negotiations following the Cuban missile crisis, and Kennedy & Castro reveals just how close the two nations were to peace.
Court TV's The JFK Assassination unfortunately covers well-trod ground. The special uses modern methods to explore the evidence and examine the "magic bullet" and "second shooter" theories of the assassination. Court TV adds a computer-animated reconstruction of the shooting and an in-depth re-examination of a tape recording that has long been thought to contain the sounds of four gunshots in Dealy Plaza that day. But much of the info here is the same stuff that surfaces every November on shows like Dateline NBC.
JFK: A Presidency Revealed debuted on the History Channel Nov. 16.; Kennedy & Castro: The Secret History bows Nov. 25 at 8 p.m. ET on the Discovery Times Channel. The JFK Assassination: Investigation Reopened premieres on Court TV Nov. 19 at 9 p.m. ET.