As expected, both cable and broadcast networks plan a host of specials this week to note the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963. On Thursday, Turner Classic Movies is offering a special night of vintage films charting Camelot from its optimistic origins to its abrupt and tragic end, most seldom seen in recent years. All were done by documentarian Robert Drew.
The night begins at 7 p.m. with Primary, a 1960 examination of the Wisconsin Democratic primary battle between Kennedy and Hubert Humphrey. (New Yorker critic Richard Brody discusses it in the clip above.) Adventures on the New Frontier (1961) at 8:15 is taken from the ABC series Close-Up! and examines his early period in office. Crisis: Behind a Presidential Commitment (1963) follows at 9:30, documenting the struggle Kennedy faced with then Alabama Gov. George Wallace over the integration of the University of Alabama. After those come Faces of November and Four Days in November (1964), somber portraits of the impact the assassination had on random Americans.
For those who only want to see at most one special, The Discovery Channel airs JFK: The Lost Tapes at 9 p.m. Friday. The show is culled from government tapes taken aboard Air Force One, featuring radio recordings from the Dallas Police Department that have never been heard before on any program.
If you want a sense of the desperation and anguish that wracked the country on one of its darkest days — recorded for posterity by television when it was still in its formative years — tune in.