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American Experience Season 20 Episodes

10 Episodes 2007 - 2008

Episode 1

Oswald's Ghost

Mon, Jan 14, 2008 87 mins

For the Baby Boomers, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy took on the same sense of tragedy as the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks did for Generation Y -- not only for the effect that it had on the nation's morale but for the conspiracy theories that would follow in its wake as well. In the aftermath of the assassination, President Lyndon B. Johnson plunged the country into a divisive and questionable war in part due to paranoia, thus creating an atmosphere of distrust and disillusionment that would linger for decades to come. Later, following the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy, President Richard M. Nixon's flagrant abuse of power seemed to be the final nail in the coffin of American idealism. In this documentary, acclaimed filmmaker Robert Stone (Guerrilla: The Taking of Patty Hearst) speaks with such renowned figures as Norman Mailer, Edward J. Epstein, Tom Hayden, and Gary Hart in order to explore the malaise that still lingers since the Kennedy assassination while drawing telling parallels between that pivotal event and the aftermath of the September 11th tragedy.

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Episode 2

The Lobotomist

Mon, Jan 21, 2008 57 mins

An intriguing look at what the New York Times once dubbed "surgery of the soul"---the lobotomy---and its champion, Dr. Walter J. Freeman, who saw the procedure as a chance to leave his mark on medicine. The documentary features a wealth of archival footage and photos, plus remarks from author Jack El-Hai ("The Lobotomist"), UCSD sociology professor Andrew Scull, Freeman's sons, the children of lobotomy patients and Howard Dully, who was lobotomized by Freeman at the age of 12.

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American Experience, Season 20 Episode 2 image

Episode 3

Grand Central

Mon, Feb 4, 2008 57 mins

The construction of New York City's Grand Central Terminal, which opened in 1913, is recalled. The project required the demolition of some 200 buildings and excavation of more than three million cubic yards of rock and dirt, plus the relocation of 25 miles worth of water and sewer lines. The documentary also details how a 1902 train accident that resulted in the deaths of 17 people spurred the project. Included: comments from John Belle, the chief architect of the Grand Terminal restoration.

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American Experience, Season 20 Episode 3 image

Episode 4

Kit Carson

Mon, Feb 18, 2008 87 mins

A profile of legendary frontiersman Kit Carson (1809-1868), who---among other achievements---helped map the Oregon Trail. At the same time, he's remembered for the scorched-earth campaign he led against New Mexico's Navajo people in order to force them on a 300-mile journey to the Bosque Resdondo reservation. Included: remarks from authors Hampton Sides ("Blood and Thunder") and Sally Denton ("Passion and Principle"), Western historian Paul Hutton and Navajo historian Harry Walters.

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Episode 5

Buffalo Bill

Mon, Feb 25, 2008 57 mins

A wealth of archival photos and film footage accents this impressive profile of Buffalo Bill Cody (1846-1917), the legendary frontiersman whose Wild West Show introduced millions in the eastern U.S. and Europe to the American West. The bio includes remarks from Gary Dull Knife, whose grandfather worked for Cody; writers Bobby Bridger ("Buffalo Bill and Sitting Bull") and Louis Warren ("Buffalo Bill's America"); and historians Paul Fees, Patricia Nelson Limerick and Juti Winchester.

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Episode 6

Minik, the Lost Eskimo

Mon, Mar 31, 2008 57 mins

"Minik, the Lost Eskimo" tells the intertwined stories of Arctic explorer Robert Peary and Minik, a 7-year-old Inuit child, who, along with five adult Inuits, was brought by Peary to New York's American Museum of Natural History in 1897 to be studied. Within months, Peary departed to continue his North Pole quest, four of the adult Inuits died and the fifth returned to his native land, leaving Minik to be adopted by the museum's superintendent, William Wallace.

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Episode 7

Walt Whitman

Mon, Apr 14, 2008 117 mins

A profile of Walt Whitman (1819-92), the self-educated poet who sang the body electric in mesmerizing free-flowing verse, given voice here by actor Chris Cooper. Accented by archival photos and materials, the biography explores Whitman's stints as a newspaper reporter and, during the Civil War, a hospital volunteer, and recalls how the first edition of his seminal "Leaves of Grass" collection, which he published himself in 1855, was dismissed by critics. J.K. Simmons narrates.

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Episode 8

Roberto Clemente

Mon, Apr 21, 2008 57 mins

A profile of baseball Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente (1934-72), who's remembered as much for his humanitarian work as for his on-field exploits. Interviewees include his widow, Vera; biographer David Maraniss ("Clemente"); George Will ("Men at Work: The Craft of Baseball); Hall of Famer Orlando Cepeda; and former teammates. Jimmy Smits narrates.

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Episode 9

George H.W. Bush

Mon, May 5, 2008 117 mins

Part 1 of 2. Archival footage spices this insightful profile of the 41st president, George Herbert Walker Bush, which also features interviews with friends and family, including wife Barbara, son Jeb and daughter Doro Bush Koch. Part 1 covers 1924-90, including his WWII military service, Texas wildcatter days and entry into politics, as well as his later stints as UN ambassador and RNC chairman and his presidential runs in 1980 and 1988.

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American Experience, Season 20 Episode 9 image

Episode 10

George H.W. Bush

Tue, May 6, 2008 87 mins

Conclusion. President George H.W. Bush's freefall from an 89 percent approval rating in 1991 to 37 percent of the vote in the 1992 election is chronicled in this thoughtful profile, which covers the second half of his presidency and beyond. As detailed here, although Ronald Reagan is often credited with "winning" the Cold War, it was Bush who secured the victory with deft handling of the USSR's final days. Included: interviews with Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice and Brent Scowcroft.

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