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TV programs explore JFK anniversary

Published: Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

"Don’t let it be forgot,” goes the plaintive song from “Camelot.”

It won’t be, at least not on TV, where the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination and the end of an era posthumously christened Camelot, is being remembered this month.

More than a dozen new documentary and information specials are among the crop of TV commemorations pegged to this half-century mark of a weekend when, as viewers will be reminded again and again, everything changed.

For anyone who has watched JFK anniversary programming at previous milestones (for instance, there were more than a dozen such shows in 2003), the categories will be familiar.

There are the tick-tock shows, tracking the final hours of Kennedy and/or his alleged assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald:

• “As It Happened: John F. Kennedy 50 Years” (CBS, Nov. 16 at 8 p.m.) is anchored by Bob Schieffer, who covered the story in Dallas that weekend.

• “The Day Kennedy Died” (Smithsonian Channel, Nov. 17 at 8 p.m.).

• “JFK: The Lost Tapes” (Discovery, Nov. 21 at 6 p.m.) supplements the tragic sequence of events with newly released audio recordings from Air Force One and remastered on-the-scene audio from the Dallas Police Department and other sources.

• “Lee Harvey Oswald: 48 Hours to Live” (History, Nov. 22 at 9 p.m.).

Another category of JFK coverage inevitably dwells on the questions that persist surrounding the assassination:

• “JFK: The Smoking Gun” (Reelz, repeating throughout November) is based on the work of retired Australian police Detective Colin McLaren and the book “Mortal Error: The Shot That Killed JFK” by Bonar Menninger. It proposes that a Secret Service agent in the motorcade accidentally fired one of the bullets that struck Kennedy.

• “The Assassination of JFK (1963)” (CNN, Nov. 14 at 8 p.m.) is part of “The Sixties,” an upcoming 10-part documentary series co-produced with Tom Hanks. This first edition will explore the key conclusions of the Warren Commission.

Further investigations into the Kennedy presidency are offered by these programs:

• “JFK: A President Betrayed” (available on DirecTV on Demand starting Nov. 14) reveals how Kennedy halted a proposed pre-emptive nuclear strike against the Soviet Union that had been planned for 1963.

• “Kennedy’s Suicide Bomber” (Smithsonian Channel, Nov. 17 at 7 p.m.) tells the story of a would-be assassin who targeted the president-elect a month before he was sworn into office.

And finally, the public is heard from, both then and now:

• “Letters to Jackie” (TLC, Nov. 17 at 8 p.m.) invites a roster of celebrities to read a few of the 800,000 condolence letters sent to first lady Jacqueline Kennedy and her family in the two months following the killing.

• “JFK Assassination: The Definitive Guide” (History, Nov. 22 at 7 p.m.) offers polling results of thousands of Americans to reveal what they do and don’t believe today regarding the shooting and who was responsible (in the process uncovering what the network says are 311 distinctly different conspiracy theories).

• “Where Were You?” (NBC, Nov. 22 at 8 p.m.), anchored by Tom Brokaw, combines archival footage with first-person accounts of those (including famous Americans and ordinary citizens) who lived through it.

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