JFK 50th anniversary: TV specials and documentaries guide

killing-kennedy-nat-geo.jpgThe 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy is on Nov. 22, and TV programming related to the anniversary will be hard to escape all month long.

Here's a rundown of some of the specials, movies and other retrospectives on JFK and his death that are airing in November. All times Eastern.

Friday, Nov. 8


"JFK: The Lost Bullet" (Nat Geo, 7 p.m.): Using remastered home movies from the scene of the Kennedy assassination, this hour-long special looks for evidence that may have been missed in earlier viewings.

"JFK: The Final Hours" (Nat Geo, 8 p.m.): Actor Bill Paxton, who as an 8-year-old saw Kennedy deliver one of his final speeches in Fort Worth, Texas, on the morning of Nov. 22, 1963, hosts this two-hour documentary retracing the final day of JFK's life via accounts of those who were with him.

"JFK: The Smoking Gun" (Reelz, 8 p.m.): The channel that aired "The Kennedys" miniseries presents this special (first aired Nov. 3) arguing that while Lee Harvey Oswald did shoot the president, an accidental shot by a Secret Service agent was the fatal blow. Australian detective Colin McLaren picks up a theory first put forth by ballistics expert Howard Donahue, who died in 1999.

Saturday, Nov. 9

"50 Years of Questions: The JFK Assassination" (Fox News, 9 p.m.): Bill Hemmer hosts a special looking at the controversy surrounding the investigation of Kennedy's death, the Warren Commission report and the various conspiracy theories that have sprung up as a result.

Sunday, Nov. 10

"JFK: Inside the Evidence" (Reelz, 7 p.m.): A companion piece to "The Smoking Gun" hosted by Bill Kurtis that looks at "key elements" of the theory presented in the earlier special.

"Killing Kennedy" (Nat Geo, 9 p.m.): Based on Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard's book, this two-hour movie examines the parallel stories of Kennedy ( Rob Lowe) and Lee Harvey Oswald ( Will Rothhaar) that led them to Dallas in November 1963. Also starring Ginnifer Goodwin as Jacqueline Kennedy and Michelle Trachtenberg as Oswald's wife, Marina.

Monday, Nov. 11

"American Experience: JFK" (PBS, 9 p.m.; check local listings): A two-night, four-hour portrait of the president's life (part two airs Tuesday, Nov. 12) that includes interviews with Kennedy family members and historians.

Tuesday, Nov. 12

"Capturing Oswald" (10 p.m., Military Channel): Interviews with former Dallas police officers and detectives about the manhunt for Oswald in the hours following Kennedy's death.

Wednesday, Nov. 13

"Nova: Cold Case JFK" (PBS, 9 p.m.; check local listings): The long-running science series explores whether present-day investigators could do a better job with the evidence in the Kennedy assassination than those who were on the case at the time.

"JFK: One PM Central Standard Time" (PBS, 10 p.m.; check local listings): George Clooney narrates this special that looks at news coverage of John F. Kennedy's death on Nov. 22, 1963. It includes archival footage of Kennedy and CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite and interviews with former President Bill Clinton and NBC anchor Brian Williams.

Thursday, Nov. 14

"The Sixties: The Assassination of JFK" (CNN, 9 p.m.): The first installment of CNN's documentary series "The Sixties" focuses on the assassination and the impact it had on Washington and the country at large.

Saturday, Nov. 16

"48 Hours Presents: As It Happened: John F. Kennedy 50 Years"
(CBS, 10 p.m.): "Face the Nation" host Bob Schieffer, who was a reporter for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in 1963, hosts a one-hour special on the Kennedy presidency and the aftermath of the assassination, using first-person accounts of those days. 

Sunday, Nov. 17

"This Week with George Stephanopoulos" (ABC, 10 a.m.): A tribute to Kennedy and a discussion of his legacy 50 years later.

"Letters to Jackie: Remembering President Kennedy" (TLC, 9 p.m.): Jessica Chastain, Mark Ruffalo, Laura Linney and more read some of the hundreds of thousands of letters sent to first lady Jacqueline Kennedy in the wake of her husband's death.

"The Day Kennedy Died" (Smithsonian Channel, 9 p.m.): Kevin Spacey narrates this documentary combining archival photos and film footage and interviews with, among others, the doctor who tried to save Kennedy's life, a Secret Service agent on the ground in Dallas and a woman who learned the man she gave shelter to the previous night was Oswald.

Tuesday, Nov. 19

"Frontline: Who Was Lee Harvey Oswald?" (PBS, 10 p.m.; check local listings): PBS re-airs its biography of Oswald (originally shown in 1993, the 30th anniversary of the assassination), which tries to get at what put him on the scene in Dallas.

Thursday, Nov. 21

"Good Morning America" (ABC, 7 a.m.): Features a first airing of newly released audio of from the scene in Dallas, in conjunction with the Discovery special "JFK: The Lost Tapes" (see below).

"JFK: The Lost Tapes" (Discovery, 7 p.m.): The story of Nov. 22, 1963, as told through recently released recordings from aboard Air Force One following the assassination, remastered audio from the Dallas police and radio recordings of reporters who were at the scene in Dallas.

"The Lost Kennedy Home Movies" (H2, 8 p.m.): Home movies of John Kennedy and his siblings as they grew up, through Kennedy's presidency and time with his own children, Caroline and John Jr.

"The Kennedy Assassination: 24 Hours After" (H2, 10 p.m.): Re-airing of a 2009 special that pieces together the chaos following Kennedy's death and the transfer of power to his vice president, Lyndon Johnson.

Friday, Nov. 22

ABC News: "Good Morning America" will air live from Dallas, and "World News Tonight" and "Nightline" will feature segments on Kennedy's life and legacy.

"JFK: The Day that Changed America" (7 p.m., MSNBC): Re-airing of a 2003 documentary featuring interviews with Hillary Clinton, Sens. John McCain and John Kerry, Gore Vidal and Kennedy speechwriter Ted Sorenson, among others.

"JFK Assassination: The Definitive Guide" (8 p.m., History): This two-hour special examines the many conspiracy theories surrounding Kennedy's death -- there are 311 distinct theories, according to the show -- and contemporary beliefs about what happened on Nov. 22, 1963. Historians and Kennedy experts lend their perspective as well.

"Kennedy Brothers: A Hardball Documentary" (8 p.m., MSNBC): Chris Matthews interviews Kennedy family members, biographers and historians about John, Robert and Edward Kennedy in an effort to "deconstruct the myth and legend" surrounding the family. First aired in 2009.

"Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis" (8 p.m., Military Channel): Re-airing of a 2012 special on the president's actions during the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962.

"Tom Brokaw Special: Where Were You?" (9 p.m., NBC): This two-hour documentary combines archival footage with first-person accounts of people who lived through the Kennedy assassination.

"Lee Harvey Oswald: 48 Hours to Live" (10 p.m., History): As implied by the title, the special traces the last two days of Oswald's life from Kennedy's killing to his own death at the hands of Jack Ruby, filming at several locations visited by Oswald after the shooting and re-creating his interrogation by Dallas police.

Photo/Video credit: National Geographic Channel
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