American Experience: Season 22 (2010)

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Season 22
American Experience

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Episodes

Air date: Nov 2, 2009

Discover how President Franklin Roosevelt addressed the pressing economic and environmental challenges of his time in this documentary about the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), the agency founded to shape up our economy by creating jobs in natural resource conservation. The year was 1929: The stock market had just crashed, unemployment was rising, and the Midwestern farmers were losing valuable topsoil to the first winds of the Dust Bowl. Realizing that drastic action was needed in order to prevent an all-out economic collapse, President Roosevelt proposed the CCC and put 250,000 Americans to work in the first two months alone. By day the workers would construct flood barriers, fight fires, plant trees, and maintain roads on both private and federal land; by night they would attend classes designed to educate them and instill them with valuable job skills. In July of 1942 the economy was on an upswing and the program was dissolved, but the impact of this important agency can still be felt today by the millions of American families who frequent our national parks every year.

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Air date: Jan 25, 2010

Discover the true story of iconic Wild West lawman Wyatt Earp in this installment of American Experience. His reputation as a deadeye quick-draw cemented during the shootout at the O.K. Corral, Earp would later rise to the status of folk hero thanks for his tireless efforts in taming the west. But Earp wasn't always the do-gooder the legends made him out to be. In this documentary, filmmakers eschew the myth in favor of the man, tracing the troubled youth of a drifting opportunist who married young, then fell in with a lawless crowd following his wife's untimely death. It was precisely those underworld ties, however, that helped to establish Earp's credibility as a lawman, and led him straight to the 1881 gunfight that historians are still talking about today. Later, after avenging his brother's death and fleeing to Los Angeles, Earp spend his last days searching for redemption, and a means of reclaiming his tarnished image.

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Air date: Feb 8, 2010

Producerdirector Zvi Dor-Ner meditates on the moral dilemma of war by revealing the incredible destruction inflicted on German cities by Allied forces during World War II. September 1, 1939: as Europe plunged into war, President Franklin D. Roosevelt implored pilots on all sides not to drop bombs on areas with large civilian populations. Flash forward six years to a time when Germany was in rubble, and roughly half-a-million Germans had lost their lives as a result of a relentless bombing campaign waged primarily by Britain and America. Interviews with historians and World War II pilots combine with archival footage to highlight the dilemma faced by leaders who remain determined to win the fight despite their distaste for civilian casualties.

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Air date: Mar 1, 2010

A profile of Dolley Madison (1768-1849), the spouse of fourth U.S. president James Madison, who transformed the role of president's wife and became America's "first" first lady. The biography includes remarks from Cokie Roberts (Founding Mothers), historian Catherine Allgor (A Perfect Union), presidential historian Richard Norton Smith, and first lady biographer Carl Sferrazza Anthony.

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Air date: Apr 19, 2010

"Earth Days" tracks the flowering of the modern environmental movement, including the first Earth Day in 1970, through the eyes of nine of the movement's pioneers, including Whole Earth Catalog founder Stewart Brand, biologist Paul Ehrlich ("Population Bomb"), renewable-energy visionary Hunter Lovins, former interior secretary Stewart Udall and astronaut Rusty Schweickart.

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Air date: Apr 26, 2010

The incident is synonymous with unchecked human depravity, but the details surrounding it and belying it remain poorly understood. What prompted a battalion of ordinary American soldiers, stationed in Southeast Asia, to torture, rape, mutilate and murder an entire village of innocent Vietnamese civilians on March 16, 1968? This event, of course, became known as the My Lai Massacre, and it arguably qualifies as the nadir of Vietnam War insanity. As produced by WGBH Boston and originally aired on PBS for the American Experience series, the documentary My Lai asks probing and penetrating questions about the cause of this unthinkable event - if the soldiers, as they later claimed, were just following orders, of if the line between enemy soldier and civilian had become so blurred by the broader conflict that ethics were suddenly difficult for many of the participants to ascertain. This feature-length program takes an unflinching look at the horror itself, explores the vile cover-up that ensued, and pays homage to the courageous handful of soldiers who broke ranks and defied orders, in an attempt to put an end to the madness.

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Air date: May 3, 2010

This earnest but deeply disturbing chronicle from PBS's American Experience documentary series travels back to the 1960s to recount events leading up to the violent intersection of two lives: that of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., civil rights pioneer and one of the greatest Americans of the 20th century, and that of James Earl Ray, a trained assassin whose bullet ended King's life and arguably signaled the end of an era. The program also explores the events that ensued and led up to Ray's capture and imprisonment. In telling its heartbreaking story, the documentary draws upon eyewitness accounts from members of King's inner circle, as well as extensive interviews with Hampton Sides, author of the tome Hellhound on His Trail: The Stalking of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the International Hunt for His Assassin.

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Air date: May 10, 2010

Actor Willem Dafoe (The Last Temptation of Christ) narrates this feature-length documentary examination of America's 400+-year infatuation with the science and industry of whaling, which originally aired as an episode of PBS's American Experience series. As written and directed by Ric Burns, the film posits the idea that whaling is as traditionally integrated into "Classic Americana" as virtually anything else. The program approaches its subject chronologically, beginning with a look at whaling's role in the early 17th century, and tracing the pursuit through mid-19th Century, Civil War-era America, when close to 80% of the whaling ships in the world originated in American ports. The film also touches on issues economic and environmental. Special features include a panoply of deleted scenes that take a closer look at whales, the whaling industry and the history of Nantucket Island, and a wealth of bonus reenactment footage that features sea shanties sung aboard a whaling ship christened The Charles W. Morgan .

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