Sunday, October 11, 2009

TV Alert: "JFK: 3 Shots That Changed America"

Part 1 of "JFK: 3 Shots That Changed America" airs 9-11 p.m. EST Sunday, October 11; Part 2 airs Monday, October 12 on The History Channel (check local listings).

by KEVIN McDONOUGH / Syndicated TV Columnist

OK, I groaned a little when I got the press material for "JFK: 3 Shots That Changed America" (9 p.m., Sunday, History Channel, concluding Monday). I thought I had seen every scrap of footage related to the Kennedy assassination far too many times already.

Boy was I wrong. "JFK" presents a remarkable parade of clips of home movies, raw news footage, police dispatches and local Dallas coverage -- much of it never before aired. And it does so in chronological order and entirely without narration.

The lack of voiceover gives the stream of footage incredible power. Nobody's telling you what happened or how you're supposed to interpret it, and this frees the viewer to re-experience a moment of local chaos, national trauma and a time when the fledgling medium of TV news was just figuring itself out.

While presented in a minute-by-minute fashion, the clips arrive weird, raw and jumbled. The documentary often seems like a video version of an archaeological dig, with the editors trying to make sense of so many broken shards of pottery.

A stripper from Jack Ruby's Carousel club appears on a talk show just hours after the arrest of the assassin's assassin. We hear a clip from a radio broadcast of a Philharmonic orchestra as the conductor announces the president's murder to a thunderous gasp from the audience, before leading the musicians in an impromptu performance of a Beethoven funeral march. A friend of Jack Ruby suggests that he saw Lee Harvey Oswald in his nightclub just a week before the assassination. Local correspondents insist on calling the alleged shooter Lee Harold Oswald.

We also learn from a number of clips that, contrary to TV legend, Walter Cronkite did not break the news of the president's death, but that it dribbled out from various sources, with the tentative nature of a horrible rumor nobody wanted to believe.

Again, take this from a jaded Kennedy buff, confirmed history nut and professional media junkie: "JFK" is hypnotic, powerful, spellbinding stuff.

JFK: 3 Shots That Changed America (Part One)

Just hours before his death, John F. Kennedy appeared before a crowd in Fort Worth, Texas in what would be his final speech, delivering one last homage to American freedom.

This poignant moment is part of a vast historical record of sights and sounds captured on camera during those catastrophic days. The Zapruder film is only the beginning; much more archival material of the events surrounding the assassination exists.

This two-part special uses unique, rarely seen and heard footage to document the Kennedy assassination and the nearly 50 years of speculation and controversy that changed America. This material comes from a range of sources including eyewitness home movies, Dallas police dispatch radio recordings, and raw news footage. Part 1 is a shocking, unflinching look at the assassination of the President and the days that followed.

JFK: 3 Shots That Changed America (Part Two)

The second part examines the aftermath, and the enduring controversies that emerged as succeeding generations of Americans struggled to comprehend the sudden murder of an unforgettable leader.


Unknown said...

i have been watching this on and off tonight. it is incredible. i was 16 when president kennedy was assasinated. ill never forget that day as long as i live. i was in an american history class at the time and we were discussing lincoln. a kid opened the door and said "the president has been shot!" the teacher, donald shumway, thinking it was a raz by one of his fellow teachers, said "yeah, right!" then the announcement came over the loudspeaker that president kennedy had been assasinated in dallas texas. the whole place went silent. ill never forget it. he was a great man!

Anonymous said...

A question occurred to me after watching the series - Oswald used a revolver to kill officer J.D. Tippit. Four spent casings were found at the scene. I thought revolvers didn't eject their casings automatically - and if so, how did those casings end up at the scene? Has this ever been answered?

Dale K. Myers said...

Oswald was seen by several eyewitnesses removing the shell casings from the revolver and discarding them as he fled the scene.

Paul Baker said...

Is there any way I can watch this in the UK, without resorting to grainy ten minute segments on YouTube?

Thanks for an intelligent, common sense blog Mr Myers. I first came across your excellent reconstruction work when I saw a documentary on the BBC, 'Beyond Conspiracy'. I'd already made up my mind by then, but - for me - you hammered home the final nail in the coffin of the conspiracy theorists.

Dale K. Myers said...

Paul, looks like "JFK: 3 Shots" is available on DVD from, but only for Region 1 (US & Canada). No PAL version yet.

Unknown said...

If you set up an american itunes account you can purchase the 2 parts for $4. Excellent quality.

I have seen many documentaries on the JFK assassination and have seen or heard much of the video/audio presented here - but the way this is put together without a commentary males it is by far the best documentary out there on the subject.